Well, here we are, in 2017, beginning this second week of the new year with a homeschool re-do!
Last August we had planned to start K.K. in kindergarten, but I went in unprepared in every way. To make a very long story short, we quit after two weeks and I was low-key depressed about it for a month or so.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my definition of school was way too narrow. I was thinking that we were supposed to mimic public school at home (which is not only depressing, but enough to make most of us want to jump out of a third story window within seventeen minutes). I was terrified that if we weren’t doing what the public elementary school children were doing (AND MORE BECAUSE HOME SCHOOL), my child would not actually be learning anything. I can’t blame myself, because I just didn’t know that there were any other legitimate ways of doing it.
As these things go, this break-down was the best thing that has happened to me in years. Not the mild depression part, but the part where I hit my knees and asked God for wisdom. I also asked for help from every homeschooling mom I met (and I seem to meet them everywhere). I even put on my big girl panties and asked for a regular baby-sitter!
In the midst of my dejection, my good friend Katie told me about the Wild and Free resource bundles. I went straight home and downloaded September’s bundle of articles and podcasts about Mornings. The first podcast I listened to was homeschool blogger Pam Barnhill talking about her morning basket. I was fascinated! Around this time, my mother-in-law (an early-movement homeschooler) also sent me a link for an interview with Dr. Raymond Moore called “school can wait,” on the subject of homeschool and academic readiness.
Almost immediately after getting ahold of this material, burdens were lifted from my shoulders, the lights were turned on, and joy and hope began to set in. Over these past months I’ve had a true paradigm shift and a new vision for my role as a mother and homeschooler. The things I was stressing so hard about were mostly just social norms that I had accepted without realizing. And the things that I thought were trivial or secondary I began to recognize as the things that would be the most essential to my children’s success.
When I first entertained this concept of homeschool, I honestly believed that to have a good outcome, I would need to stress out and make up a complicated academic plan which would span from day one to the next twelve years. I don’t know why I do this; but I tend to think that a good outcome means stress and complication. (How backwards is that?) Because of course, picking up a book and reading together on the couch just can’t be real learning.
It has taken six months, but I’ve been able to deconstruct a lot of my old perceptions about academic success. I’m currently in re-construction mode, learning about all the ways besides a traditional classroom that I can give my children an abundant and beautiful preparation for life. (Including university, if they choose to go!)
So here is what we are doing:
At this early stage, we decided to put skill-building and formal education on the back burner. The focus is on habits, character, and having fun together. So no reading, math or handwriting yet. Although most kids K.K.’s age are in kindergarten right now doing these things, she does not really need formal academics yet, and I honestly do not feel she is ready. I do feel that I need to devote more undivided attention to my girls and that they are ready for a more structured routine. I also have some specific habits I want to establish this year.
This week we are implementing Morning Basket. A Morning Basket is sort of like “circle time,” or for some families, kind of like a daily liturgy. In our basket right now is Mother Goose, A Child’s Garden of Verses, the Jesus Storybook Bible and some seasonal picture books. We also have a weekly memory verse and a song. (Sounds like a lot, but the structure is loose and takes about fifteen minutes or so.) If it works for us, it is something that can grow to become the nucleus of our home school later on. (We can add academic subjects that span multiple ages, like history and science, in the form of living books.)
A few days a week we are going to incorporate some activities from Jennifer Pepito’s Peaceful Preschool curriculum, a 26-week Montessori-inspired program based on the letters of the alphabet. My girls really eat up art, kitchen work, and quiet activities at the table, but I tend to run out of motivation and creative ideas. Peaceful Preschool is a way for me to give them some nature-based crafts and “school work” (wink, wink.) I love the simplicity of the format and activities she suggests. Truthfully, I’m hoping that this will help transition me into home school mode for next year. When I say I’m using the curriculum, I mean cherry-picking ideas from the schedule that sound fun for us.
(We are also going to hone in on outdoor time for an hour every day because the scene around here is a little less like “wild and free” and a little more like “tame and confined,” alternatively, “crying about worms and refusing to leave the patio.” So we are about to work on that.)
I really want to give my girls uninterrupted blocks of time for these things I just mentioned, but I can’t do it all. The little kid stage we are in means we have to physically do almost everything for these three small humans. To do this and be fully present as a teacher, I need help. I know that one day this won’t be the case, but right now it is. This time is short, and I want to have no regrets, so I asked for the help I need.
Here is how were are making it work:
Monday has always been our housework/laundry day, and that works out really well. I’m just the kind of person that needs to know I have at least one day a month where my floors will get mopped. We are keeping that in place and alternating it with a grocery shopping day. Even though it is more work than doing it by myself or asking David to do it, I want to involve the girls in these processes. (My real motivation is to get them to do my grocery shopping and floor mopping FOR me at some point…also is making me coffee and bringing it to me in bed considered a “life skill?”)
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be blocked together for being home all day to do morning basket, preschool activities and outdoor time.
On Fridays we now have a wonderful baby-sitter who comes all day so that I can do work, errands, planning/paperwork, make phone calls, meet friends, date my husband, go for a run, and clean bathrooms. Basically, anything else that I would do during the week, I stuff in a closet and save for this day. (I CAN GET SO MUCH DONE IN AN HOUR, GUYS). Not having my time chopped up between multiple tasks is life-changing and I feel more emotionally plugged in during the week knowing that I have Fridays to do all the things.
Of course, this is pretty much an experiment, so I’ll update the blog on how it turns out. In the state of California, children do not have to start school until six, so we will wait until then to do anything formal. Next year is something I’ll start thinking about well…closer to next year.
If you’ve been thinking about home school or are in the midst of doing it and are needing someone to pull back the curtain of mystery and throw the lights on a little, I recommend the following seven resources. These sources are from both veteran and in-the-trenches homeschoolers, teachers, authors, and doctors. I have done a LITTLE BIT of reading these past months, and these are the resources that have impacted me the most so far:
Wild + Free: A Beautiful Homeschool Community
An online community of diverse and experienced homeschooling mothers releasing monthly articles and podcasts about homeschool and family. (My lifeline).
Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
A book about the concept of “schole,” or restful learning and how to implement this in your homeschooling from Sarah, host of Readaloud Revival and mother to eight.
Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education by Dr. Raymond Moore
An introduction to the idea of delayed academics, supported by research from Dr. Moore and colleauges.
Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes and my Journey Toward Sanctification by Cindy Rollins (and companion book, A Handbook for to Morning Times)
Memoirs from Cindy’s thirty years of homeschool experience teaching and raising nine children.
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
The benefits, rewards and importance of reading aloud to children; anecdotes and research.
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Glady’s Hunt
Everything parents need to know about selecting the best books for their children and developing a culture of reading at home.
Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool through Highschool
Takes the mystery and panic out of what your child needs to know and how to find the right learning materials. (First book I read on homeschooling, if that tells you anything about my big concerns at the time!)