Last week, I was inspired to share with you about us beginning our latest adventure – homeschooling. As I tried to discuss fears and hopes, it sort of turned into a sort of postpartum/post-Josie confessional. Not exactly what I was going for, but much needed. Sometimes the muse knows better than we do what is relevant to the time. This week, you get to hear all that I’m excited about instead!
My friend Annie, the one who home schools her four kiddos, has been doing a Homeschooling FAQ series on her blog, and I am loving it! Stuff like doing math every day and what to do with your toddler while you are teaching your older kids. Another fellow blogger/inspiration has been CitySister from the City Sister Country Sister blog, who started homeschooling last fall and has been generous with information on their journey as well.
One big catalyst for our decision to commit to kindergarten for Henry was the realization that I wouldn’t have to be giving lessons eight hours a day to Henry. I got this concept in my head of course, but I just hadn’t fully wrapped my mind around the fact that I could teach him in small increments throughout the day, when it worked. And then I realized, I’ve been homeschooling for a long time now. Like since he was born. GASP! I am being completely genuine here, this was a huge revelation to me, and now I feel like it’s funny that I never realized it.
Annie’s FAQ have reinforced this for me, and I am feeling pretty excited and confident about starting “the school year” this fall. Although I’ve already been changing some things up this spring and getting into a routine that’s been working pretty well so far.
Since Henry is four and a half, we’ve “started” slow. We made a chore chart with things like brushing teeth, picking up his toys and clearing away the dinner dishes. These are things he was already doing, but we are wanting to move a bit from having to remind him about them to him doing them on his own – taking responsibility for them and getting into more of a routine, so we can have space for learning. It’s tough to think (at least it is for me) when I know the table is a mess or that I’ve got to clean it before we can do anything on it.
He’s a smart kiddo, and already knows his alphabet and can count pretty high. We play math games and word games all the time. It was only when I committed in my mind to homeschooling that I realized we were already doing it. For example, Henry asks, what rhymes with ‘dog’ and then proceeds to tell me all the things he can think of that rhyme. Or we take turns. When one of us is stumped, we pick a new word and then think of everything that rhymes with it too. We can play this game for a long time – usually in the car. Or what starts with L – and then he lists everything that starts with L.
For math, it’s stuff like how many forks do we need to set the table? How many would we need if Granny and Mano came over for dinner? What if Mano had to work and didn’t come? How many plates do we need? What if everyone had two plates, then how many? He can answer all these questions, without counting out loud.
He’s been practicing writing since he was three. We made lots of thank you notes together. On a separate paper, I would write “Dear Grandma, thank you. Love Henry” and he would look at the paper and copy it onto his drawing that he was going to mail to Grandma. Now, instead of me writing and him copying, he asks, “How do you spell Mr. Mitchell.” And then we talk about the sounds as I tell him the letters. He writes the letters himself at the table while I’m folding laundry on the couch. As you can see, we started a long time ago, before we knew what we were doing.
So a big change for us will be adding a bit of discipline to this – as in moving from just doing it when it pops into our heads to doing a little bit everyday. Sort of like the chore chart. Practice using our math muscles everyday.
The latest thing that I’m really excited about though is reading together. A few weeks ago, Henry and I started a new routine. After lunch, I put Emmett down for his nap, and Henry and I read books together on the couch until Emmett is asleep. Then I can have Henry lay down too, and they both nap!
Now I’ve always been excited about when I could read out loud to my kids. Not picture books, but actual novels. My mom always read to me, even through high school, and I loved it and have always looked forward to it. I tried about a year ago to read Stuart Little to Henry but his attention span was just too short, and he never remembered what we read the day before. But about three weeks ago, we were reading a picture book called The Biggest Bear, in which a boy named Johnny feeds an adopted bear maple sugar. Henry has a bit of a sweet tooth and proceeded to ask me lots of questions about maple sugar. Where does it come from? How do they make it? And I remembered that in Little House in the Big Woods, the Ingalls family makes maple sugar, and the book explains the whole process.
So I offered to read a long book to Henry. I explained that the book didn’t have pictures and that he’d have to imagine the pictures and that it would take us many days to finish reading the book together. He said he would like to. And he has liked it!! Everyday for a week, after tucking Emmett in, I would offer to read him pictures books or “the Laura book,” and he’d chose the Laura book. He remembered what we’ve read and asks questions (what is an attic?) and was totally into it. When we finished, i wondered how much he really absorbed, until he took the book and flipped every page looking at the few illustrations telling me exactly what happened in that part of the story (“…and this is when the wild cat chased Grandpa on the horse and he had to run very fast and then got his gun and shot the wildcat because it jumped on the horse’s back…” I’m over the moon!
So, at this point, this is all we’ve done towards homeschooling. But it’s a start and I’m really excited about doing more. We’re still very much in an informal stage, but we are working towards a routine and eventually we’ll incorporate some curriculum (especially for things like math). Does your family home school? How did you get started? Do you use a curriculum?