Monday, May 15, 2017

Homeschooling Thoughts After the First Year

We are almost done with our first year of homeschooling. Judah was in kindergarten and Elly tagged along wherever possible. We used Sonlight, although we ended up with P4/5 since my order for preschool was delivered a year late (long story). I added in Getting Ready for the Code for reading preparation, and Math-U-See Primer for math. After finishing with the Code, I ordered the Kindle version of "How To Teach Your Child To Read" by ___ and have been creating our lessons each day on my own.

Along the way I have done some reading and research on the Charlotte Mason method and Classical educational philosophy.

I've learned some. My own style is to be extremely flexible. If I look and see that the activities in P4/5 are a bit young for my guy and I'm not that interested in doing them, I throw them out. I look at a week's schedule for reading and completely mix it up. I start a book, decide it's a bit too advanced, and bump it back to the end of the year. I feel completely unconfined by the boxes and do not at all feel the pressure to get it all done at the exact time or in the exact way it is listed. However, I really like having a pre-set structure to begin with that I can modify freely.

My kiddo is a very active guy and I completely believe that is most healthy for him to have lots and lost of play time and outside time right now. Plus I've had a newborn this year. Free play is the vast majority of their time, especially building with legos, constructing forts, and running around the house and yard. We go on walks. My kids play with neighbor kids for hours every day. I totally encourage his activity, being outside, and free play.

However I am not an unschooler. I believe that because he's so active and not prone to sit down and color or read, I believe in building in bits of structured teaching. I don't want him to sit down and be forced to learn for hours and hours every day, but I want to consistently teach a bit every day so that the building blocks are being put in place for when his brain is ready to put the pieces all together. So yes, I do discipline him to sit and learn with me even when he's not inclined to.

I am not anti-technology. Judah LOVES movies and shows and the ipad and games. So does his daddy. I believe technology can be harnessed and used to teach as well as to simply have him exist as a part of this brave new world in which so much is technology. So, I am trying to find shows and games that are high quality and educational (but they don't have to be blatantly educational if they are well made). Then, the time watching and playing is limited. If it's unlimited, I think he'd be a total couch potato. So I try to make quality technology and media available and then be sure he's limited in his access.

In terms of curriculum, Sonlight has been good but not like I think it's the best ever and can't be topped. I have twice had shipping issues with them. For P4/5 I have grown to love some of their books that I didn't start off liking, and some of them I have LOVED from the beginning. There are some that I'd switch out and just don't care for much. Math-U-See has been fantastic for us. We'll be moving on to Math-U-See Alpha for first grade and Judah really enjoys math. So far although both the workbooks and my teaching book by ____ have been good, Judah doesn't love phonics and reading. I am not sure if that's just because he's an active kid or if I might find another curriculum that would hit that sweet spot. Some have recommended All About Reading?

I am just fine teaching my kids at this point. The main point to me is to get them reading and doing basic math, keep them active, expose them to lots of books and interesting things, and to teach them discipline and character. Now that it's summer we will continue on doing some basic teaching even though we are through the curriculum. I want to emphasize some habits and life skills. We haven't pushed a lot of chores yet except cleaning up their toys, but I want to get my kids in the habit of setting and clearing the table, sweeping the floor, and doing some basic cooking. And since daddy won't have the same work hours, we'll be doing more family walks. I love art, though I am not particularly imaginative, and I plan on doing more drawing and art this summer.

What is tough for me about homeschooling is the lack of a break overall. I love to read, to write, to walk by myself, to have adult conversations about politics and theology and how people are personally doing. I like quiet desk work, measurable outcomes, being part of a team. While I'm fine with homeschooling, the fact that I am a homeschooling stay at home mother with no end in sight is a bit dismaying. We might work here indefinitely, there is no quality school in this city, and at the moment there is no school for expatriate kids. I would not want my kids at a boarding school for quite a while, if ever. So, I am fine with homeschooling.... but I wish I had another option available for a few years from now so that I could expand other areas of my life and work eventually.

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