“With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Ask not for whom the homeschool bell tolls....
This morning it tolled for our household.
Today was the first day back to formal studies. All summer the kids have learned a great deal through osmosis and observation. Lucas has declared every spider in the yard his best friend and watches them with rapt fascination.
I know unschoolers who don't give the kids an iota of guidance. Some are friends of mine and I just tell them we'll just have to agree to disagree when they say curriculums and guidance are both unnecessary for homeschooling.
We aren't dictatorial; the kids have always been allowed to do their subject by order of personal preference, and to spend as long on what they like with the understanding that covering everything is still a requirement. I've noticed that as they mature and their self-discipline increases, they spend as much time or more on the subjects that challenge them without being told to do so. In that respect, I suppose we do "unschool" a bit.
But curriculum isn't evil, and doesn't constrain kids unless you limit their learning to the book in their hands. There's nothing wrong with learning beyond what you read by exploring elsewhere or seeking verification elsewhere if you doubt what you've been told. Larry's taught the kids that already; when we're watching some on reptiles he'll point out misidentifications when he sees them, and there are plenty.
Homeschooling does require a time committment both at home and in the community. Our homeschool group is very active and meets twice a week - once for history club and enrichment activities and other for general educational activities. Friday is the kids' favorite day. We have homeschooling enrichment in the early afernoon and after picking John up from his autistic program head to either the bookstore, aquarium or movie.
This year, Alex is taking creative writing, Saxon math, biology, typing, history, geography, art and photograhy. Lucas is especially excited because he's now oficially a "student," complete with his own little curriculum. It's Pre-K and kindegarten level stuff, most of which he already knows, but he just beams with pride when he colors shapes or correctly identifies numbers. I purchased a good reading readiness program for him, as he's not quite ready for intensive phonics yet and there's no need to push. I also found a great game I'd recommend for anyone looking to teach number identification and early addition. It's the Thomas Number Game based on Thomas the Tank Engine. There are four train boards with a number at the end of the car. The child fills the empty space in between with numbered pieces that add up to total the end-of-car number. Lucas caught on right away and has been enjoying filling the cars with various combinations of numbers it takes to get the correct total. It really is a brilliant design.
For me, being a homeschooling, working mom has meant telling my news editor that I'll only be available two nights a week to edit copy at the newspaper, and switching my daily freelance writing schedule to late afternoons and evenings and weekends so days will be available for the kids.
It's a bit of a juggling act to homeschool and earn a living, but it can be done. And we wouldn't have it any other way. Educating the kids ourselves isn't some religious calling for us, but an option that works best and is most rewarding for our family. And it's a team effort.