Thursday, August 25, 2011

10 Days In and Questions Answered

We are 10 days into our first (real) year of homeschooling, and I figured I better record my initial thoughts of the process and what has stuck out to me.
  • I am blown away by how much a young child can learn and retain.
  • I am blown away by how long of an attention span SC (my girl) has.
  • I am slightly overwhelmed at the amount of planning that has to go into making sure we have our schedules taken care of for each day. If my planner would get here already I don't think I'd feel quite so overwhelmed.
  • It takes up a lot of time outside of the "teaching" times. Printing, planning, gathering supplies, working in the 20ish minute drives to the library, etc.
  • There is nothing quite so amazing as seeing the gears of a young brain start turning.

High points:
  • SC has taken to saying, "You know, when something is hard, you just have to think it through." She'll tap her temple as she says it (I think she picked it up from Wordworld). But regardless of where she got it from, she has put it into practice. The other day she was counting up to 100 by 3's, and I could see her little mouth whispering numbers as she worked her way up. She was fully engaged, thinking and deducing.
  • I showed her on a flat map where Spain was and traced the trail Columbus sailed to the Caribbean. The next day when we pulled out her globe, I pointed out Spain, and before I could do another thing, she goes, "Hey, I know where Columbus went!" And she traced the whole trail herself.
  • I love seeing the marriage of learning + memory. She's memorizing lots of facts, but she's also making a giant effort to learn as well.
Even though my brain has turned into nothing but, "School, school, school!" I'm having a great time. I have been blessed with such a wonderful child who loves to learn and strives to excel at everything she works on.

And now for the long part of the post... :)

Many of my friends have had lots of questions about our choice for her education. So for anyone who has been curious, here's my answers to the most common questions I've gotten.

Why homeschooling? What's wrong with public school? Before I jump into why we chose what we did, I just want to put out there that I don't believe there is any one "right" way that will fit every single family. The beauty of the freedoms we have in this country is that those freedoms allow us to make the choices that we feel are best for our families. So just because this is working for us (for this year, at least) doesn't mean it is what is best for you or your family. I myself am a product of 13 years of public school, and I went to college for free (actually, they paid me) because I received an excellent education in the public school system.

So with my great past experience, why homeschooling for us? One reason is the condition of the public schools here, which, despite attempts by the city & parish to reform, are still sorely lacking. It's a pretty common thing in New Orleans for parents who can afford to have their children in the private or Catholic schools, or in the event they can actually get in, the nicer charter schools. Private schools were not an option to us. We don't have the money to cover the tuition for even the cheaper private schools. That left only public, charter, or homeschooling. Another concern was how soon SC would be exposed to things that we find objectionable. We don't want her to be naive by any means, but at the same time as her parents we are responsible for protecting her innocence for as long as possible. The things that young children are exposed to these days blows my mind. We've even had to quit having the TV on ESPN at night just because of some of the commercials. I want to protect my child from the deceptions and manipulations of this world for as long as possible. We also wanted to make sure that whatever she was taught was taught in line with our faith.

What curriculum do you use? We joined Classical Conversations, which is a wonderful program where the kids actually "go to class" one day a week. They have a "tutor" there to introduce all the information to them. For SC's grade (kindergarten) they do a lot of memory work. They study history, geography, English, science, and Latin. They complete art projects and perform science experiments. They also have a presentation they have to make each week to the class to foster public speaking skills. They have P.E., recess, and lots of fun things to do throughout the day. The parents are responsible for teaching the rest of the material the remaining days of the week. We have to supplement a reading and math program in addition to the CC materials. For reading we are doing the Learn to Read program at Hooked on Phonics. For math, we use the Singapore 1 math program.

Did you have any concerns about homeschooling? Absolutely! This was not a decision we entered into lightly! My two biggest concerns were the socialization aspect and myself (yes, me!).

I did not want to become one of those families where the child is closeted within the house all the time. I don't believe that would have been healthy for me or SC. I wanted my daughter to have a healthy social life. Starting her in dance classes last year helped her get over her shyness and she has really come out of her shell. By joining CC (and also having a thriving Sunday school & Wednesday night class at our local church), SC is getting good classroom experience. We have also signed up with an additional 2 co-ops where she can participate in activities such as art, P.E., Spanish. She'll also be able to take field trips with all three groups. I'm trying not to freak out over how busy we'll be once everything gets underway. (This is why I need my planner by yesterday.) ;)

The other issue was (is) me. I was terrified of being responsible for her education. I'm not the most organized person. Truthfully, the only thing I keep organized are the different folders on my computer. I have a very hard time finding systems that "work" for me, let alone can incorporate the other two peeps in my house. I knew this would be a huge challenge and would require beaucoup self-discipline on my part. That is why I like CC so much. It's structured. It tells me, "Hey, this is what you need to teach this week." It also provides accountability. I know I have a responsibility to teach her throughout the week because there will be review periods the following week. I realize that makes me sound like an awful homeschooling mom, but my point for saying it is that it keeps me from saying, "Well, it's OK if we don't get to everything today," if we're both tired and one (or both) is a bit cranky. It gives me a schedule I have to stick to.

What have you learned so far? Balance. I've discovered that SC can go for about 3 hours before she needs a brain break. I've learned that if she's on a roll with math that day, let her keep going, and maybe do extra science the next day. I do try to get in a bit of each subject each day, even if it's just going over her memory work.

What are your favorite resources? Two things: the internet and the library.

The internet is a wonderful place to find crafts, activities, printables - pretty much anything you need to supplement a lesson! There are also so many wonderful teachers who have blogs and give descriptions of the things they do in class and offer (free!) downloads. I started boards on my pinterest page to catalog everything I'd found. Now when I need to lesson plan, I just hop over to pinterest, click around for a bit, then plan & print.

And then there's the library. I'm spoiled because I have access to two very awesome, very large libraries. Usually what I do is spend an evening scouring Amazon for books that correspond to what we're studying that week, make a list at each library from what I've found on Amazon, then request the books. Then I just go and pick up the books off the reserve shelf when they're ready. So easy! See, I am spoiled. :)

What does your day typically look like? Ah, that's the true beauty of homeschooling! (I kid... kind of.) My family has the notorious reputation of being night owls. We are, and we own it. We are not morning people at all (although my hubby, bless his heart, has been waking up early each day to do Bible study and class study before work). 6:30 AM breakfasts and 7:30 AM school days do not work in our house. My daughter usually drags herself out of bed anywhere between 8:30 and 9, and it takes her about 30 minutes to eat and "wake up" (poor child... she gets it honest). Once she has finished breakfast, dressed, and we've straightened the house so we can work, we get started. We usually do small things before lunch - mostly memory work where she is reciting what she's learned. Then we have lunch with Daddy, which is a nice break. In the afternoons we do more concentrated work: reading books, coloring maps and doing puzzles, flashcards, worksheets for math, craft projects, etc. We usually wrap up around 4 or 4:30 because that's typically when she's had enough, and my hubby will be coming home shortly after five. Again, I'm so thankful that she enjoys learning for so long. On days where we have P.E. or art, we'll have to adjust our schedule accordingly. Our study schedule is: devotion + prayer, history, geography, science, Latin, English, math, phonics, art, and reading for fun (i.e. a Fancy Nancy book to wind down).

Anything surprised you? Any misconceptions? How time consuming it is. I know, I know. DUH! Of course it's time consuming. I just didn't expect it to be this time consuming. Also the expense. We've spent over $1,000 already (which is barely 1/5 of the cheapest private school tuition I could find, so... not complaining). Obviously if we'd gone a different route our expenses would be different. But that's been a big adjustment this summer.

Anything about it you just love? The amount of knowledge SC is gaining. The fact that she can continue to learn at her own pace. The late mornings. ;) The flexibility of our schedule. The many opportunities for social gatherings.

I think those are the most common questions I get asked. And I feel a little ridiculous for writing this after only 10 days, but these are the initial answers to the questions. Ask me again in May if I still feel this way. ;) We're very excited about this year, and I can't wait to see how much SC is going to learn and thrive! I just hope I can keep up with her! :)

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