As I indicated in a post a few days ago, I'm not one of the super-organized homeschool moms that you might meet. I don't make file folder games that often, don't have colorful posters with the alphabet hanging in my kitchen or a "schoolroom", and well actually I don't have a schoolroom. We have a kitchen table (for messy crafts) and a large table in our family room (for non-messy activities.) I do have three bookshelves filled with supplies and books, though!
I often think about what is it that I can *really* offer my children that they could not receive in a school environment. Why is it better for them to learn in the context of our home, to learn under my guidance? (And my husband's, he definitely contributes!) And I think about what makes my children smile, what makes them giddy. Which is so simple. Positive attention from me.
Sometimes I really do get caught up in the endless circle of "it's got to get done..." Cooking, laundry, cleaning. I am a bit of a clean freak, I hate to admit. Recently I have been reminding myself, the girls are the reason I'm doing this. What's going to make them happier- a decluttered junk drawer (one choice for my time in that moment) or sitting in my lap to enjoy a story. So I hurry through the basics, maybe just this time leaving a pot in the sink that I could have taken a minute to wash, so that I can go sit in the big chair with two wiggly girls. Or on the couch with them and a cat. Or a new favorite, on the floor near light coming in from our back door. Yes, it's the opposite of what all the "homemaking" books and blogs say, but it's what I need to do.
And then, while I'm enjoying them, snuggling them, noticing them, I see the learning, I see them get inspired and excited. I don't have to convince my 6 year old to work on her handwriting because she is excited about visiting a family friend and decides to spend 30 minutes copying "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Sugar is Sweet, But not sweeter than you!" I rejoice to see her dedication, effort and excitement, and how she is now writing with lowercase letters, instead of all uppercase like she did six months ago. My 3 year old draws a picture of her favorite "subject"- "Mommy, this is a picture of YOU!" and I see how she's adding more and more details and I'm just tickled. At bedtime, my 6 year old picks up the "Biscuit" reader while I'm getting her sister into jammies, and reads almost all of it and then is so excited and proud of herself. I note these things to remind myself that these were unplanned moments, and to me they are evidence that my girls are really learning and growing and thriving. And I'm so glad to be here to see this and to share in their excitement.
I'm sticking with my "plan" but I'm also excited and hopeful that I'm going to continue to be surprised by what they learn and how they learn. And for the rest of this school year, I have a goal. A big goal. I want us to have a lot of FUN, to enjoy lots of GIGGLES and SNUGGLES. And I know they will learn... I have a feeling that the more I love on them, and the more we giggle and chase and I let them make messes, the more they will learn.
I had a "learning moment" today with my oldest daughter. We are "rowing" a really fun book, "Truman's Aunt Farm." The experience today was a bit challenging. First, my 3 yo really wanted to sit in my lap WITH my 6 yo who was already in place. Then she wanted to be 3 yo and touch all the pictures, irritating my oldest. So, great start there. (We took a moment to compose ourselves and try again.) Then, we read the book, and I point out the different in the spelling of the word "ant" and "aunt". Charlotte did notice that. As we read I asked her a couple of simple questions... we came to a phrase that repeated, and I asked her where she had seen it before. She immediately said, oh that was in the envelope in the box, don't flip back. I asked her another question that she quickly knew the answer too. She seemed to be "getting" things really quickly, so I decided to go a step further and introduce the *name* of the concept of ant/aunt, that is, homonyms... well, she did not receive this "instruction" very well! She got very upset and said she didn't like that word and didn't want to know it and hid her head and told me she would never say it again.
She is a pretty emotionally intense child, and she was trying to let me know something. I had to figure out what it was. A little thought on my part, and I remembered that a) she is a beginning reader, so just "getting" the concept that ant/aunt are spelled two ways is pretty darn good, and b) I also noticed that in the manual it mentioned that 2nd-4th graders would be more likely to see the humor in a story with lots of homonyms. She doesn't really need to "know" the word as a kindergartner, even if I could tell her. She was obviously getting the point of things without me inserting that in there. Also she has had some very intense learning experiences recently that have both shaken and increased her confidence. Learning to ice skate for one, and now trying to learn to ride her bike and get ready to take training wheels off.
She was telling me, "Why are you trying to teach me everything? I am just a little kid! I don't really know that much stuff!" I tried to encourage her, and told her, "No, you are a really smart kid, and you know exactly what you need to know! I'm so sorry I frustrated you telling you something you needed to know."
"No, I am NOT a smart kid! You always say that I'm a smart kid but you're just saying that to make me feel better! There are so many things that I don't know! I don't know how to ride a bike without training wheels or ANYTHING!" (So, mommy intuition was right... somehow this all tied together...)
I managed to settle her down, and assured her that she really was smart and that Mommy would try to remember to only teach her kindergarten stuff, not second grade stuff, and we headed outside to play on swings. While she was swinging, she was full of questions about "Truman's Aunt Farm." "How did Aunt Fran get to Truman's house? Where was Truman's mom? Maybe his mom was really cooking all the food for the aunts." On and on, little questions and thoughts she had about the story.
So, was she learning? Absolutely, yes. And I learned something too...
I come up with such exciting titles for my blog posts, don't I? This is in contrast to some of the lovely and fun titles of books we've read for homeschool this fall and winter. Titles like "All Those Secrets of the World," "Snowflake Bentley," and coming up this week, "Truman's Aunt Farm."
Charlotte is in kindergarten, so I haven't been spending hours and hours planning. I did realize over Christmas, however, that I needed to plan *a bit more* than I had been in order to get more out of the experience. (In other words, if you think you are reading the blog of someone who has it all together, and has some great wisdom to impart, you are not... I'm just sort of stumbling through this!) We use "Five in a Row" which is somewhat "open and go" but since I request the books from the library, I do need to do some advanced planning in order to get the book from the library and any "go along" books that look fun.
I decided I needed a planner that is online, since I invariably lose bits of paper, plus I wanted to be able to have a place to save links and such. I ended up deciding to use Google Calendar, to put each book as an "event" for the week, and then save the info I wanted to refer to in the "event details." Works great, and better yet, it is free!
We are also working through "Reading Made Easy" by Valerie Bendt. We took over a month off from formal lessons, and I think that both Charlotte and I were surprised when I opened the book and she was reading words before I introduced the new word sounds. It has been SO much fun to see her reading skills develop, though she is still definitely an early reader (and lacks confidence a bit, I think.) Still, I get a kick out of asking her to read signs when we are out and about and that she can do it! What an exciting world is about to open up for her.
For handwriting, we are using "Handwriting without Tears." My dilemma with that has been that she has been writing since she was 3 years old, and had picked up her own "approach" along the way. But mostly she uses uppercase letters only. After looking ahead to the next books (We are in "Letters and Numbers for Me" I decided to let her quickly finish out the uppercase letters, and then we will slow down and work through the lowercase letters, since forming them are new for her. She recognizes them all by sight of course. Then we can work in the "Printing Power" workbooks and do copy work, fun things like copying a short poem and illustrating it. (I will be looking to Charlotte Mason resources for ideas for that!)
At this point in time, we don't have a math curriculum. I'm leaning toward a curriculum called "Math on the Level" that is very flexible, but covers everything you need to teach grades K-8. It has a wonderful support group online, and I like that it really does integrate applied learning. Also, the review is basically what the child needs, and reinforces concepts on an as-needed basis. (I am probably not explaining that well, there is a system to it, the parent can gauge where the child is and determine how much review they need, etc.) It would be a big purchase, though, so I am waiting a bit on that. For now, we are doing applied math lessons from Five in a Row and playing math games, plus talking about math in every day contexts.
Gwendolyn is learning her alphabet right now, and just loves to read books and play at this point. She is going to be four in April, so that is just fine with me! When FIAR books are appropriate for her (not too long) she listens into those.
Both girls spend a LOT of time doing art projects, usually painting or coloring with markers. Pretty much every single day! Also they love the usual things like playdough, Crayola "Wonder" coloring books, regular coloring books, coloring on our chalk board. It's so fun to watch the changes in their artwork. Gwen's drawings of people are getting more detailed, and Charlotte's are quite detailed now. And Charlotte has also taken to painting "landscapes" which are fun- yesterday she painted a sunset over the ocean! (Okay, a bit cliched, but hey I'm tempted to frame it and hang it in her bathroom, it would actually match!)
We are VERY on the go, which can be a challenge for me to stay on top of homeschool AND house related stuff. I think at some point... perhaps soon... we need to start sticking close to home more. But we are blessed with some great friends, and it's always fun to do outings with them. And they are usually educational, like heading to a local museum or park. (I think a park is educational!) We are fortunate to have a huge variety of different groups to chose from, and really my challenge is to make the hard decisions about which ones we should be involved with. I know there is a very real risk of getting over committed.
The girls have also been enjoying ice skating lessons! The first week was a disaster (one instructor! too many kids!) but the last two weeks have gone better. Gwendolyn is still not thrilled to be on the ice, but Charlotte really clicked with it last week and is actually skating! I was also glad to have a chance to chat with other moms while she was skating, since they are offering lessons specifically for homeschooling families.
I wrote this in hopes that I can start posting here about different homeschool things we do in the future. I wanted to provide some context, I guess! We'll see if I follow through with that, I have been so busy it is really hard to find the time/motivation to blog. But I do think that doing Project 365 has helped with that, I do have it on my mind to blog more often. (But no guilt for not doing it... I'm at peace with my lack of regular blogging, finally!)