~ I wasn't sure how this adventure of homeschooling was going to go, but we jumped right in last August in an effort to give the best we could to Mary. Danny jumps in and does preschool most days, but can opt out anytime he's busy playing. I thought I'd spend a few minutes sharing our year and some of the best things about homeschooling.
I never thought I'd home school my kids. Never. I always envisioned them climbing aboard the school bus in the morning, heading to a traditional classroom like the ones where I have been a student and a teacher. I thought I'd want to get back to the classroom myself, as soon as all the kids were in school. Life doesn't always turn out as we plan it for ourselves. In my case, I found that my plan wasn't the best thing I could do for my kids. So, on to Plan B.
We jumped into homeschooling last August with a bit of hesitation. Sam was a little bitty fellow, requiring so much attention. Sarah was 2 and into everything. I couldn't imagine Daniel would want to spend much time "schooling." I had wanted to enroll Mary in first grade (she missed the birthday cut-off date by 5 days) at the local school, but found that they were not very interested in even discussing our request. Unless we were willing to cause a lot of trouble, Mary was going to be placed in Kindergarten despite the fact that she was already reading on a fourth grade level. It became very clear to me, that the school just wasn't going to be willing to "go the extra mile" for my daughter. They had bigger problems and busy teachers. At least, that's what the principal told me. Besides, who wants their kid to be the last to get her license and not be able to find boys in her class to date. He really said that.
So you see, I had a decision to make. I could put Mary in school and not make any waves, allowing her to spend her days learning about sight words and the letter of the day. Or, I could take on the challenge and teach her myself. After much frustration, discussion, tears (on my part) and prayer, we decided to try out homeschooling for a year. Despite the rocky start, it's been a very amazing year indeed with so many wonderful surprises!
I spent a lot of time preparing for our home school. I ordered the Saxon Math home school curriculum. I decorated an area of the basement with letters, colors, number charts, bulletin boards and a dry erase board. I came up with the brilliant plan (at least I think it was a pretty good idea) of tying Mary's school experience together with Daniel's preschool by studying one letter per week and picking a topic that started with that letter for the kids to study together. We just completed letter Zz, with a field trip to the Louisville Zoo. Putting so much work into setting things up has been very beneficial, especially to my sanity.
Some things just can't be prepared, and we've had our challenges. On the other hand, there have been benefits that have surprised me along the way. I assume that if you are reading this, you are at least considering home schooling. The following is a list of some of the things I have learned or been surprised about this year. Hope it is helpful to you in your home school or your decision to home school.
1. Time. I thought homeschooling would take up enormous amounts of time each day. We usually finish in under two hours unless we are involved in a big, complicated project that involves glue and paint and construction paper. On those types of days we spend most of the day "schooling." I can usually spend part of our school time working in the kitchen or folding laundry while the kids do their work. I planned to have school during nap time to avoid the invading two year old. This was a good plan and I highly recommend it to all of you with little ones.
2. Curriculum. We used a prepared math curriculum. I chose Saxon Math, because it is what I taught and I knew it would be the easiest curriculum for me to teach Mary. Aside from math, we have developed our own curriculum. Science and social studies comes from our weekly letter subject studies. For letter Bb, we did bugs. The kids had an excellent time finding bugs outside and using a book to identify the ones they didn't already know. We had a blast creating a jungle scene for letter Jj. Art just happens, you see? Language arts has been fueled by our local library and the ton of books we already own. I let Mary choose her books most of the time. I monitor to see that she is choosing a good variety of story books, chapter books, poetry and non-fiction books. She surprised me by her great enjoyment of learning about the presidents, especially George Washington. She loves to write letters and journal. She started recording recipes in her own book. Sometimes, I let her make out the grocery list. Writing happens in very authentic ways around here.
3. Field trips. Eric took the two older kids to the Air Force Museum and we went on a family field trip to the Zoo. I'd like to do more field trips next year, since Sam will be a bit more capable of going along or going to Grandma's for the day. I figure they will get a few more trips this summer with camping and some of the local festivals.
4. The real home school classroom. So much of our learning doesn't occur during "school hours." It is so nice to have the opportunity to teach my kids things they need to learn as we are living our life. Last weekend, Daniel helped me plant some things in the garden. We talked about the worms crawling through the soil and how they help our plants to grow. Sarah helped me hang out the clothes today. She saw a bee and told me how much she dislikes them. I explained (in very simple terms) the bees' role in helping our food grow and how she should treat bees. Mary frequently helps me cook supper. She knows and understands the measurements we use and can add fractions in her head in order to double recipes and/or use the clean measuring cups. :)
5. Our life style. We have a very relaxed lifestyle. At least that's our goal. I like that the kids can run and play outside all day if it's pretty. I love that they can curl up inside with a good book. I think it's fabulous to watch them playing Goldilocks and The Three Bears out on the deck and Going On A Bear Hunt while they walk through the woods. We cook real food. We grow some of it. We go visit family whenever we can. Eric's folks come over almost every weekend. We have play dates with our neighbors and friends. We volunteer time at church. I don't have to get the kids up at the crack of dawn and put them on a bus. I don't have to spend an hour or more in the afternoon doing homework and seeing that all the permission slips are signed. We are going to get some chickens. It's not the life for everyone, but it's definitely for us.
6. Next year. I think we'll do this again. Mary will be second grade, Daniel will be in Kindergarten, Sarah will be in a sort of pre-preschool. Sam will just be Sam. :) They will teach each other things, and I will teach them things as well. I think it will be harder next year because Mary is reaching deeper in her learning and Daniel is ready to read (already reading several simple and/or familiar words). Hopefully (my fingers are crossed, since they keep pushing the date back) the new and closer branch of the library will open, allowing us to be more involved in their programs. Mary will become involved in a few more clubs and activities as she's a bit older now and life with a baby becomes a bit easier for our family.
I really love homeschooling the kids. It's been a great experience for our family.
I will add that I think teachers and schools are wonderful. I am a teacher, after all! Schools provide an excellent resource for our communities and help our kids grow and learn. I'm disappointed that my local lower elementary school wasn't more supportive. We may choose to send the kids to school in later years. I have spent some time in our local schools. I know they are very good. I am especially impressed with our local upper elementary and the high school. I think it's very important to be a part of the local community and do hope the schools will play a role in our family's life. For now, I am glad to be able to provide a rich learning experience for the kids while they are so interested in learning. I want their love for learning to be life-long. When it comes down to it, we all just want to give our kids the very best we have to offer. Love, safety, support, humor, joy and a good understanding of right and wrong are the things we all strive to give our kids. I'm hoping the kids look back and see that we tried to raise them well and how much we love them. I think that is what all parents want. So, if my love for homeschooling offends you, please know that it isn't an attack on school or on parents who send their kids to school. Homeschooling has been the best thing our family could do. It works very well for us.
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