It’s been months since I posted. That’s typical for me as blogging is a side hobby that is low on my list of “needs-to-get-done-immediately.” I did, however, want to give an end-of-year update about what I was able to study before we began, what we’ve tried and how we got to a routine that worked for us.
I was able to read Apprenticeship in Literacy. It was a great book and gave me lots of wonderful ideas for readers and writers workshops. I very much recommend it as a foundation for how to go about measuring needs, preparing for, teaching, and evaluating reading and writing. I wound up also purchasing used copies of a variety of Words Their Way books. After pre-assessing my son, I simply started with the spelling unit that aligned with his needs. It’s worked out wonderfully and I definitely recommend these regular classroom books for homeschooling families.
I lost steam on the early childhood books simply because my time is limited and I knew I could use it as a resource as I had time and need. I refer back to general education and developmental books as I have time, but usually I rely on my education background as a foundation and seek out resources when I come to something on which I would like more theory or information.
Initially, I began planning lessons a month in advance. That was a waste of time as I had to rewrite lesson plans as I learned what my son needed most and at what times and in what ways. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely need a plan; however, thinking big picture and then figuring out what we need to move toward in the next week or two of time worked out better for us. This is probably because I can get fixated on the plan rather than my kid and the heart of the reason we are homeschooling. My revised approach looks something like this: (1) Focus on our vision. What are the big pictures for why I want to homeschool? What is at the heart of what I want to cultivate? Sketch out that vision and some broad goals. (2) Think through the big picture for what I want my kids to gain through each area of study. This is to focus my efforts in meaningful ways. This helps me tremendously when I need to determine if it’s okay to stop doing something that is difficult or persevere with it because it is central to our vision and goals. I’ll report back to see if this next year is any different with that approach versus my more detailed and all-encompassing planning approach last year.
My “Compost” Aha! Moments
I’m on a learning curve. Brand new to homeschooling my children. Going into this, I didn’t feel anxious because I looked at this endeavor as an opportunity to conduct action research. If I saw a problem, I took note of when, how, and why it occurred, then made incremental changes until I found something that worked for us.
Our schedule went through several iterations. We hit some trouble areas with how I structured our day. I set it up based on what I thought would be most practical and meaningful. It just didn’t work with my son’s needs. So we changed it. And changed it. And changed it again. After several tweaks and periods of trying and evaluating the functionality of the schedule, we landed on a routine that worked for us for a specific season (literal and figurative).
The academics changed as well. Truthfully, I was pushing too much, too fast initially. Just because my son was capable of doing work that was 1-2 grade levels above his age, didn’t mean it was in his best interests for us to do so. His needs are not just academic. It caused undue frustration to push him academically without equally weighting his other needs. I had to constantly remind myself of my philosophy of kindergarten. I want my kids to do lots of playing, lots of exploring, enjoy nature every day, stay in love with learning, and learn how to be kind and considerate and helpful. I made incremental changes until I got us to a point that I thought was a worthy use of our time. And, I’m still working on changes. It’s a process.
Another unforeseen hurdle was when my 4 year old daughter begged to do school with her older brother. She was so determined, that it was starting to get difficult to find some one-on-one time with my 6 year old. While I don’t feel comfortable pushing young kids into academic work too early, I definitely saw her heart-cry for some time with me doing school-type activities. So I let her decide what and how much we played “school” each day. She loved it. She also happily played with her younger brother while I gave one-on-one instruction to her older brother because she knew her time for “school” was coming later in the morning.
So what do I think about homeschooling after our first year? I love it. Yep. During the difficult days, I always think, “Yikes, I’m really glad we have the time and space to walk through all this together!” And on smooth, meaningful days, well, I feel the same excitement and energy I did when I taught my middle and elementary school students or helped teachers in a workshop. Bread and butter. Most of all, I love the extra time to for us all to be together. I’m looking forward to continuing this journey next year and I’ve got some new things I’m excited to try.