So here I am, just getting started in homeschooling. I’m about a month and a half into this gig, I’m reading my first book on homeschooling (The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer) and I’m listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and connecting with other homeschool moms. I’m still figuring out the lingo. My google search is filled with things like, “Charlotte Mason vs. classical theory.” We are using Sonlight’s P4/5 core (because I ordered it 1.5 years ago and it took a year to get here) with the pre-Explode the Code books and Primer Math-U-See.
In any case, I’m learning about the uniqueness of my kid. He’s great with math so far, which was a relief because math was hard for me from first grade on. We are loving the Math-U-See curriculum. He has zero interest in arts and crafts so I am not pushing the creativity. He likes to do things his own way – for instance, “drawing a line” means drawing a weaving path all over the page before arriving at the intended answer. Just because. He’s always been resistant to answering questions, but as we get into a rhythm he’s pretty willing to work and try things (yaaay!).
I’m learning about theory. Seems like the currently popular movement is towards less schooling in the early years and towards imaginative play and outdoors interactions. However, as I read Susan Wise Bauer, she’s having preschoolers do 30 minutes of phonics work every day with the intention of beginning reading at 4 years old. Very different. She stresses teaching without images and loading up on grammar and facts in the early years. As I research I have to figure out what path I want us to take. I think my approach is to move with the developmental stage of my kid (which is why we are in K now at 5 ½ and move steadily, stressing phonics for learning reading and then also basic math. We do this with minimal time every day, leaving most of the day for play. However, when we are doing school we are very uncreative. I just teach the concept and we use workbooks (but good ones!) to reinforce. Quality over quantity. And then, reading. We read lots of books. I agree that being surrounded by reading and good books is a huge part of educating children.
I’m learning about me and my style. I am a planner and organizer, so that’s no problem for me. I SUPER appreciate having a plan and a set curriculum here in the beginning. When I read about “unschooling” it sounds great and I totally believe you can teach little kids most things they need to know through play. The trouble is that I totally stink at playing with little kids. I am not creative; I am bored after approximately two minutes of imaginative play. So, having a curriculum helps me to know what to teach, it gives us quality time together, and it gives structure to our day. I love it. I’m also super flexible and have no trouble at all deciding to give up a book the kids are bored with, put off a day’s work when the baby is fussy, or switch around the way the curriculum has suggested dividing up a book. Each week once I see that Judah has grasped a letter and sound or a math concept, we skip the rest of that section and move to the next one. I make it my own, and when the kids are playing together happily and building or playing make-believe, I never interrupt.
I am learning about curriculum. The curriculum I ordered, Sonlight, is heavy on reading. That’s great, because I believe in the importance of reading, and with the program you get all the books in one package. It’s pricey, though. For next year I bought a used set of Sonlight Core A, and that’s good because I want lots of reading and an emphasis on reading. I agree with Susan Weiss Bauer that the primary goal of grades 1-4 is fluent reading and writing. I won’t bother with teaching cursive for a while and will use the Handwriting without Tears next year. I am happy with Explode the Code and will continue (though I am tempted by Logic of English). I will use Handwriting without Tears for handwriting. I like Math-U-See and will continue with it. I am interested in Apologia science but might not add it in yet. The two add ins I will choose are typing (I believe in keeping up with technology, not banning it!) and art. Although neither Judah or I are creative, I actually love to draw. I’m purchasing a program that teaching drawing rather than expecting kids to just create from nothing. The other program I’m interested in is Calvert. I’m keeping that in my back pocket for now.
So, so far it’s going well. We’re keeping it simple and so we’re getting it all done. Judah is learning. It’s amazing to watch him already ready for the math, and it’s amazing to watch the lights go on as he learns to sound things out and figure out which letter is which. It challenges me to incorporate learning into our daily life and to be more hands on.
We are not fancy. I look at beautiful homeschool setups with envy, but learning still happens in a non-visually appealing room! I am trying to incorporate lots of activity and outside time, but that is admittedly hard when it’s really hot in the day and we are still working with a colicky baby.