Thoughts on home schooling now that we’re doing it (well, sort of)

Oh, hello 2011. Yes, yes, I realize we are now more than half-way through the first month of this year and I haven’t written one blog post yet. I can’t say I have any good reasons other than perhaps because I’ve been obsessively watching the first season of Veronica Mars (via Netflix On Demand) vegging out just a bit and life happens. OK, I confess. I watched the first season finale of Veronica Mars two nights ago – WOW! Now that was a season finale! And now that I know who killed Lily Kane, I feel like I can take a breather for a few days and even write on my blog. Yay! :) (The next time I disappear, it may be because I’m watching season two. Just sayin’.)

I could have sworn I wrote a blog post about deciding to start home schooling Ava this past fall, but wouldn’t you know it, I can’t find it. The way my brain works these days it’s hard to say if I wrote it and just can’t find it or if it’s one of those posts (among many) that I always had the best of intentions of writing and never did. I’m betting on the latter. (I did write “Is homeschooling right for us?” back in 2008, so that’s something, right? *wink*)

Anyway, yes, I am home schooling Ava this year for first grade. We started back in September. I’d seriously considered starting in kindergarten, but after I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and trying to get that under control, the timing didn’t seem to be right so off to public school she went. Little did I know I would be dealing with a tragedy this past fall proving the timing to be off once again, but I’m still happy with my decision to home school and we are forging ahead.

Although I don’t feel that we’d yet found our home schooling groove, we were starting to work in that direction when my sister Carrie died in October. After Oct. 25, 2010, very little formal home schooling took place in our home for the next two months. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. If I wasn’t busy planning a memorial service or two or traveling, I was grieving and trying to hold it together just enough to keep the kids clothed and fed. Admittedly there were plenty of days we stayed in our PJs all day. Hell, that still happens on occasion now! Ava continued to go to the part-time school she attends one day a week and continued with the Lego engineering class she was already signed up for, but that was about the extent of it. I don’t know if I would say that we were unschooling during that time or just taking a break. Yeah, I think it’s safer to say we were taking a break.

Fast forward to the past few weeks and now that the holidays are over we finally have been getting back into our groove again. I feel more equipped to take trips to the library, sit down with Ava and work on different subjects, go on “field trips,” sign up for different classes, attend home schooling functions, etc. We’re still far from finding exactly what our groove is, but we’re working on it. I’m working on it.

Quite honestly, I don’t think we fall into a specific “type” of home schooling family. Eclectic seems to be the best way to describe my “technique” so far. And that’s OK. I like that we/I have the freedom to explore what works best for us and to learn as we go. I like that we were able to take a break when we needed it, even if others might feel it was detrimental to Ava. I don’t think it was.

It’s true she’s not reading chapter books yet, but that’s OK too. We’ve been regularly reading to Ava her entire life. With Jody and I reading to her before bed, we’ve been through the seven novel series of The Chronicles of Narnia and the nine book series of the Little House books — twice — among many, many other books. Does it matter to me if she starts reading really well on her own at age 5, 6, 7 or 8? Nope. It just matters to me that she enjoys books and reading, and she does so far.

With the help of library books and the Internet, I think we have most subjects covered except for math. She knows her numbers and basic addition and subtraction, so I don’t feel she’s “behind” per se (and I try not to think of it like that anyway), but I’m still trying to find a good way to teach/learn math and welcome your suggestions. I don’t feel the need to sit down and drill her with addition and subtraction flashcards on a daily basis, but I do want her to have a good foundation in math — it’s just the figuring out how to best accomplish that where I could use a little help. It could be a curriculum you like, a web site with math games, or anything else really. I’m flexible.

That’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to stay flexible when home schooling. I planned on using X, Y, and Z curricula and doing A, B, and C every day when we started out, only to decide those weren’t the best choices for us. Some days we use books. Some days we use the computer. Some days we do both. Some days we do neither. Some days we bake or explore nature or go to the library or do science experiments or dissect owl pellets or garden or do arts and crafts or play games or a number of other things or all of the above or none of the above. Some of the best learning experiences happen when we just go with the flow.

Oh, and if you are wondering what I’m doing with my 4-year-old with regard to school, he’s currently in a Waldorf-inspired preschool (though not the one Ava attended). I really like preschool for my kids and think it benefits them in a lot of ways. He will likely, however, start home schooling once he’s in kindergarten (which is still nearly 2 years away because of his late birthday). And he participates in some of the things Ava works on now so he’s really already home schooling. (Aren’t kids pretty much home schooling from the day they are born?)

I like that the world is our classroom and I like being with and learning alongside my kids. I don’t subscribe to a particular schooling philosophy. Instead, we do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and that is what works for us for now.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
- William Butler Yeats

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18 thoughts on “Thoughts on home schooling now that we’re doing it (well, sort of)

  1. Hi Amy – I had been thinking about you ever since Carrie’s tragic accident and wondered how the schooling was going. I am amazed at your resilience and am very proud of what you are doing. Please let me know if I can help with any cooking related projects for you and the kids to work on together.
    Keep up the good work,
    Michelle

  2. This is really interesting to read as we also consider what we want homeschooling or unschooling to look like in our family — and if we’ll have the energy/guts/time to do it at all. I think an eclectic approach sounds just about right.

    I hope you and your family are still being supported in this grieving process and that you can find the healing and space to mourn that you need.

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  4. It sounds like you are doing a great job. Just relax and enjoy the time with your kids. If you make learning part of your lifestyle your kids will do just fine. If you want a structured math program with lots of hands-on activities, take a look at Saxon.

  5. It sounds like you’re doings a great job just being a mom! It’s hard to plan daily activities when you have other “life” issues to deal with. I too, have GAD and it literally took a year away from my life. It took all I had to make it through the normal daily activities of caring for my family – there was no way I could take on more!

    Good luck finding a rhythm and schedule that works best – there’s no hurry, right?!

  6. Oh Amy, I am so happy for you! I remember that you had major qualms/misgivings about public school from the start. I am so glad you have been able to go with schooling at home and are making it fit for you.

  7. I started homeschooling my ten year old this year too. And it isn’t all rosy peachy as I thought it would be. We are following a strict curriculum because I have to prove to everyone and their mother that homeschooling kids actually can get an education. Seems like you are getting there especially with a heartache as big as losing a sister.

  8. Our kids are (still) going to public school, but I got to say that the more I follow home schoolers the more convinced I am that home schooling is WAY superior an education than school could provide. It takes a committed parent who believes in education and loves their children. And kids pick that up and will thrive, rather than be alienated or disinterested, which is the common outcome of a one-approach-has-to-fit-all school class.

    So to all you home schoolers out there, I salute and admire you – you are doing your children a great service of love!

  9. Congrats on still being able to function semi-normally while in the throes of a Veronica Mars addiction. I got NOTHING accomplished until I’d watched all three seasons =)

  10. I agree – homeschooling is something that naturally starts the moment our children are born. Even though I’ve done preschool and now kindergarten, I still think that my kids are learning things from me. The only challenge is to make them lessons I actually WANT to teach them. ;)

  11. Sounds like a beautiful Home/Un-schooling life. Applause… My nine year old son is at home now, learning all the time. His math activities include:

    geometrical manipulatives: (flat colorful wooden shapes), magnetix (magnetic marbles and connectors, watch out for little ones with the magnets), other building toys like legos and k’nex. btw: get legos by the pound on ebay.

    addition and subtraction and division can be learned hands on with cooking, sewing, and any type of building crafts. Making alterations in recipes or sizes is extra learning.

    Counting or lining up and organizing beans, buttons, beads, or whatever is fun for little ones with little hands and can open up the concepts of mutiplicaion.

    Graph paper is a great tool for those who like to draw plans and maps and multi dimensional objects.

    just a few hands on ideas for math at home.

    blessed be

  12. Hi,
    Totally frivolous comment here. I developed a Veronica Mars addiction last fall and I have to remind/warn you that it was cancelled in the middle of season 3. I LOVED the show and I was so angry when I got to that episode and nothing was tied up! AArgh!!
    See? I told you it was frivolous!

  13. I am in the midst of an education crisis right now and this is so interesting to read! I know that homeschooling is not the best option for our family, for a variety of reasons. I love hearing others’ experiences with it though.

    I have heard good things about Singapore Math, but don’t have personal experience with it. Have you looked into that one?

  14. As a public school teacher I can say good for you for realizing that not every child is going to learn the same things the same way and searching for whatever way works best for your daughter and you (always put the kid first!)Though I am as always dismayed when I see comments that paint all teachers as some uncaring, inflexible, disciplinarian.

    I say start showing her how math is used in everyday life. When you are out shopping have her help you figure out change while waiting in line. Talk about rounding by rounding up dollar amounts and estimating how much you spent. (added benefit of teaching her a valuable budgeting tool. Over estimate your costs and under estimate your income). Whenever you have pie or cake teach basic division/fractions. We have 1 pie but if I cut in it half and give you half you have 1/2. If I cut it into 4 pieces and give you a piece you have 1/4. You can learn about geometric shapes by picking them out in the world around (double points for then drawing them) Octagons in a stop sign, square and rectangular boxes, a ball is a sphere, ect. Turn it into a game on who can find the most triangles, etc. Little pieces of math like that throughout the day often work so much better than an hour at a desk with worksheets.

    Good luck on your adventures in education.

  15. Just found your blog. We’re new to homeschooling too, but take an approach similar to you. Not knowing “how” to teach Math and not wanting to leave anything out we’ve been using MEP–Mathmatics Enhancement Programme; http://www.cimt.plymouth.ac.uk/projects/mepres/primary/default.htm

    It’s free. Very hands on, uses lots of manuplatives, oral work etc. It’s a British program, they actually studied countries who excelled in Math to develope the program. There is a very informative yahoo group. And it’s free.

    Good luck on your homeschooling journey.
    J.J.

  16. I agree with Indie. Use your everyday life for lessons. I helped to extra-school my godchildren. When they were very small, we turned each household chore into a game. Folding laundry was all about colors, matching, and counting. Cooking dinner was math time (you would be amazed at how many elbows are in 1 cup of cooked mac & cheese.. and how quickly your student will tell you what percentage of the whole that is!).

    As they grew, the games became more involved. Cooking and laundry became science experiments. Running errands was geography, mechanics, and time management.

    These games saved the sanity of all the adults too! 4 loads of laundry and dinner for 15 hungry people aren’t such daunting tasks with enthusiastic helpers and a new twist on the mundane.

    In your homeschooling journey, don’t forget to learn from your child. And never forget how to have fun!

    -Hazel

  17. Just discovered your blog today. Excited to find another crunchy mama nearby.

    For math have you looked at the Family Math series? Its a series of books full of games centered around math. Apparently my mom did this with me as a kid and I always believed math to be fun and natural. I still relish it more as a fun puzzle than anything else. We’re planning on getting the book for young children in the near future for our little one. Otherwise, we’re just planning on using life, as we have so far. For our two year old its determining how many cookies we have per person or whether we have more chairs or more people. For my 13 year old baby brother its converting recipes from volumes to weights so he can use the kitchen scale while baking.

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