Friday, September 17, 2010

Homeschooling: a few weeks in

If you're a homeschooler, maybe you can relate to the following scenario:

{You think through all sorts of curriculums, imagine how the year will go, plan out said year, the year actually beGINS...and a good 40% of your ideas go out the window.}

So far things are going quite well.  Yosef and Biniam LOVE homeschool, and they love their once-a-week Kindergarten class through the public school system too.  They are such happy, eager students.  Yay!

Anna is also loving homeschool again, as well as her First Grade schedule through the public school.  She's having a blast, building lots of confidence, etc.

The Story of the World (we're doing Ancient History this year, so Volume I) is turning out to be a big hit.  The kids beg to do History and get pretty indignant about it if I say, "not today."  We're checking out lots of library books that correspond with what we're studying, and the kids are intrigued.  We've done some mapwork and coloring pages from the activity guide too.

Literature is something I always hope is a priority in our home.  We just finished Little House in the Big Woods and are now on to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Many times after or during dinner Kevin or I (or a visiting grandparent!) will read a chapter or two...or three.  The kids are always begging for more.

One insight I've had about something that needs tweaking is that Biniam's fine motor skills are just not quite at a place where the math curriculum I chose is going to work out.  (Good thing it was free!)  Singapore Math requires a bit of number writing, and on top of that, I'm not that impressed with it in general.  I don't feel like it's really equipping them with good thinking skills, the way that Saxon Math (which includes lots of manipulatives, and that I used with Anna) did.  SO, I've decided to go back to that curriculum and do it with both boys (though I'll have them do the workbooks they already started just for fun sometimes.)  I made the decision to switch in the first place just to try something new, and I thought the boys would enjoy the workbook aspect.  Apparently sometimes it's best to stick with the tried-and-true! 

I honestly haven't done much formal reading instruction with Yosef and Biniam yet this year.  I finally got the book from the library that I want to use, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  We've done a little in this book in the past (I checked it out over the summer for awhile) and the boys seemed to respond well to it.  I think it will work for them.  (I tried The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading but it wasn't a great fit.  Very systematic in its approach and my boys just weren't getting it.)  Getting a child reading is really, really important to me.  That being said...and this is where some of my unschooling-ish tendencies come out...not all kids are ready to read fluently at age five.  Maybe you can work super, super hard to push them to do it, but certain skills may just not be clicking yet.  Perhaps some children, developmentally, are more ready at age seven, or eight.  And that's okay.  One benefit of homeschooling is allowing your child to develop and learn at his or her own pace.  Reading should be enjoyable and fun, not a drudgery, and there's no law that says that every child needs to be able to read by age six.

Another thing to throw in the mix is the fact that Biniam has ADHD, which does affect his learning.  His brain works so quickly that reading instruction can prove tricky.  Yosef has occasional issues with auditory processing and as a result has a difficult time memorizing things etc.  But both of my sons are extremely bright, and LOVE learning, and have such natural curiosity, that I'm not overly concerned.  I think we'll just need to make sure we find the right methods, and give them time, and be patient.  (Plus, I think academic acheivement is given way too much priority in our society.  But that's another topic for another time.)   

So as we try to find our groove for the year, I'm envisioning a lot of history and read-alouds, time spent with each of my sons cozied up on the couch working on reading, and just having a lot of fun.  (Anna works independently on math for now, asking for help here and there if she's stuck.  Which is kind of rare.  She will probably be way better at math than I ever was.)  Things feel low-key and laid back, just how I like it.  The kids are learning and loving school and we even just took a field trip to a farm to pick berries and learn about bees.  There's lots of time to play and do things around the house.  A great year up ahead for sure! 

And of course, the ultimate thing we hope to instill in our children is a love for Jesus and a love for others.  That's kind of the whole point, right?  Loving God and loving others.  That can unfortunately get lost in the shuffle of daily life, and so we hope to get into some good rhythms and routines--reading the Bible over breakfast, encouraging the kids to have alone time with God (more on this later), and Anna is now participating in a Wednesday night GEMS club right across the street from us (more on that later too.)

I'll keep you all posted on any other changes we make or tweaking we do.  Homeschooling is really just like anything else with parenting--you sort of learn as you go, and make adjustments as necessary.  And, we love it!


Renee said...

Love hearing about your school. You are a great Mom!

Jodi said...

blogger just ate a comment I tried to post, but I love your blog

a math recommendation I have (based on what you've written here) is Math-U-See. Great thinking skills, manipulative instruction, very work-at-your-own pace.

(as a caveat, I've only seen it in action with other people's children, as we are a few steps behind on our homeschooling road)

Anonymous said...

Saxon K is great- beyond that, it's pretty workbook-y... If that's a word... :-)
I've heard great things about Math-U-See, too.
SOTW, great book! Love the activity book, too.
My oldest 3 learned to read during "100 Easy Lessons", but honestly, I'm not sure if it's because of the book or because they were just "ready" like you said. They all loved having me all to themselves as we went through it. I also bought the BOB books at Costco and each time they did a lesson, they got to read a new BOB book, too.
Check out the Eyewitness books from the library on all things ancient. We studied that last year in school, and those books were AWESOME.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you asked for advice, but I'll give some anyway! :-)

My kids are a little older and if I could go back and re-do homeschooling thru. the elementary years, I would do less and not more. (academic wise) There is so much time and it is so easy to panic about not using it wisely, but it just isn't necessary. ENJOY this time, when the upper grades come you'll be able to be more academically focused!

Good Luck to your beautiful family!


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