Monday, September 3

Our First Week of School

This past week was our first week of school! Beth started kindergarten this year, and I'll break down exactly what we're doing for school later on in this post, but I wanted to say how excited she's been.  She has been looking forward to this all summer- probably in part because we've had a slow summer and she thrives on a consistent and predictable schedule.  But Beth loves to learn, and she devours new information, so she has been ready to "officially" start school.  She's told me her favorite subject is math, and she's always been an artist and I think she's been quick to pick up on handwriting (she's been writing forever now!).  She's beginning to read but she loves being read to- always has.  She would sit and listen for hours if we could take it!
Monday!  She was so excited!
Since home education is something we've been contemplating for about three years, I've had ample opportunity to research and study the different methods of homeschooling.  I've read all sorts of different perspectives, from people who homeschool because they think the educational system is built soley to turn out rule-following mindless government-worshipping drones, to other people who homeschool because they live out in the country and don't want to drive into town.  I know everyone has their own personal reasons, but I've enjoyed having time to read so many different things to develop my own feelings on the subject, and decide how best to educate our children.

Ryan and I both attended public school (with the exception of one private school year for me) for our educations, and when I personally reflect on my school time I realize I never developed a passion for learning.  I studied for the grade, usually made the good grades, and that was enough for me.  I had friends who were homeschooled and they left good impressions on me- I never thought they were weird or antisocial or whatever other stereotypes come along with homeschoolers!

As Beth grew older and I made friends in our parish, I realized there was a huge group of homeschoolers in our area, and that there was a great support system.  I started to read more about it and realized that it was such a diverse group of reasons why people decided to keep their children home to teach them.  I agreed with so many reasons, and developed my own ideas of what an education should encompass.

First and foremost, I believe that as the mother of my three children, it is my job to get them to heaven, through my example and prayer.  I know that I have only a few years of their lives in order to lead them to our Lord, but forming their consciences and their faith lives is my first God-given job.  When I consider public schools, what I've heard and seen, I don't think that it's beneficial to their souls to be in an environment like that as little children.  I think that a strong foundation- a strong faith- must be laid before I turn them out into the world!

Tuesday: You know the boys are done when...

Secondly, I believe that no two children learn the same. I think public schools are doing their best to get by, but in order to be efficient, they can't take the time to focus on each child the same way that I could.  I'm not angry at schools or the government or whatever, I just think that since I know my child, I can provide better learning opportunities by tapping in to her own interests and talents.  In addition to this, the public school we feed into has had some less-than-stellar reports...

Similarly, I believe that children should be able to play.  That school shouldn't just be letters and numbers, but learning about life.  I think they learn about life by playing, and that a nature hike is just as important as a lesson in history. Experiences like interacting with kids of all ages, learning manners at the library, visiting the graveyard to pray for the souls of the deceased, hiking and enjoying the beauty of the world that God created and gave to us.  Sure we could do those things on the weekend, but for us they will be a part of an education.  For me, education is so much more than sitting down and completing worksheets until the book is finished and she can recite math facts.  I want them to learn how to learn, to be passionate about learning, and to find the things in our world that give them meaning.  To see the beauty in our world, beauty that points them to God.

Wednesday: finally a project for all three of them: scissors!
Finally, I'm not convinced that the public school route provides the rich, classical education I want my children to have.  I am heavily influenced and love the thoughts of Charlotte Mason, who believed that children should learn from "living" books instead of textbooks, that comprehension can be "measured" through narration instead of tests, and that art, music, and especially nature should play a heavy role in education.  She believed in teaching children good habits

So that being said, here's our plan for this year.  Last year Beth went through a good portion of Mother of Divine Grace's kindergarten curriculum, so this year we're actually going with the first grade lesson plans of Mater Amabilis (but this is still her kindergarten year).  I am changing it up a bit though.
For religion, we're using Image of God: Who Am I? because I already had it and like it just fine!  We are also working our way through the old testament, one story per week, which she illustrates and narrates back to me as I write it on her illustration.  We read about one saint per week, and will also use Catholic Mosaic to follow along with the liturgical year.

For math we are using A Beka kindergarten math, though I think we maybe should have ordered first grade.  I have extra manipulatives to use as we want, since this program doesn't have them built in but I think learning hands-on is pretty important for Beth.

She does copywork and dictation each twice a week, and this includes writing letters to family members and penpals!  We're using Alphaphonics for her phonics program, but I'm not impressed and she's not interested, so I'm up for suggestions if anyone has any.  100 Easy Lessons was great for the first 30 or so lessons (we did that 2 years ago!) but she doesn't like it anymore either.

For Literature we're reading the Blue Fairy Book, starting with Beauty and the Beast, Aesop's Fables, and Mr. Popper's Penguins.  We're also using the Harp and the Laurel Wreath for poetry.  We read from The Book of Virtues during our afternoon snack time, and talk about ways we can apply it to our daily lives.

I've completely ditched MA's history suggestions after I found Beautiful Feet Books, and Beth is doing Early American History.  We're also going to do the suggested family geography project, so we'll be studying different parts of America and hopefully be able to visit some of those places throughout the year so we can actually go experience them.  We have the family tree workbook and will be interviewing family members to complete this, starting with my nearby grandmother!

For our nature walks, I plan to go as often as I can, but it will wind up being a couple of times per month probably.  We're also reading Pagoo, a story about a hermit crab, so I hope that when we're done with that we'll be able to take a trip to the beach!

We're skipping foreign language for now, though occasionally we incorporate Latin.  For all of the different arts, I'm using The Story of the Orchestra to learn about music (and have an October 1 field trip planned to the orchestra!), Come Look With Me for art study, and additional various "how to draw" books that Beth has and wants.  I'd love to get the Oxford First Book of Art if I can get my hands on a cheap copy!  I'd love for Beth to start piano lessons, but first we'd have to have a keyboard or piano!

I have so many little additional things to add, mostly coloring pages and small crafts and projects, because that's what Beth likes to do.  More importantly, I have no problem going off on a tangent if Beth is pulled to learn about something new!

I know  this sounds like a lot, but it's really only two hours of our morning, four days a week! We school in the morning and have afternoon activities planned several days a week.  Monday is ballet for Beth, Tuesday is gymnastics for Luke, and the other days are a combination of activities, depending on the day of the month.  Beth will be involved in an elementary-aged girls group that teaches them little arts like sewing and crocheting, manners, and from what I understand,  sort of what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman.  She's REALLY looking forward to this, she's been talking about it for months!  I also have planned a once-a-month cooking class for her and a few friends, here at our home, where we'll be learning about kitchen etiquette and baking skills!  We will also attend daily mass at least once a month (hopefully more often than that if I can get my act together), park days with other homeschooled kids, and random other events that happen throughout the year.  We will not be bored at home, lack activities, or have issues with "socialization."  This seems to be the current buzz word of the anti-homeschool camp, but as you can see (or if you want, take a peek at my calendar), there will be ample opportunities for interactions with other kids, boys and girls and moms and dads, of all ages!

Thursday: a beautiful morning so we played outside and delayed the start of school for about 45 minutes.  Totally worth it.

I have a plan set up for the rest of the semester, and then I'll re-evaluate what's working for us and what isn't.  This plan isn't only for me, but for Ryan too, since he'll be in charge of school if I'm called out to attend a birth during a school day.  We had our first chance to practice that this past Friday, when I had planned a nature hike with a friend and her children at a nearby nature preserve!  While I cancelled with the friend, Ryan took the kids on a hike with a picnic lunch while I spent my morning laboring with a client.  What a special day for them!
Friday: Nature walk and picnic with Daddy
Luke is working through a handful of activities I have planned for him, including a letter-of-the-week workbox filled with worksheets, manipulatives, and games.  I also have printed out a checklist of potential activities he could do to work on letters, numbers, motor skills, and imagination.  I don't have a specific goal for him- I'd like for him to learn how to write his letters and numbers, but I'm not going to freak out if he's not writing perfectly anytime soon.  He's a completely different learner than Beth, and I know I'll have to plan something completely different for him when he's ready to start kindergarten!  I just want to make sure he's entertained, learning, and making progress of some sort!

I am super impressed if you've read through this entire monster post, but I also want to have on record what we're doing and what my plan is. :-)  I am very well aware that this plan might not work out for us, and that we might need to do something else, but for now I feel like it's worked well for Beth and the boys this past week. I am flexible, and I love that I can be homeschooling affords that to us!

So if you think I'm crazy, I guess you might be right.  While friends are sending their kids off to school, I'm prepping for another busy and loud day! But I hope I don't offend anyone who chooses not to homeschool, it's certainly not my goal.  Ryan and I have discerned this to be the best choice for our family for so many reasons, and we plan to take it year by year, child by child.  It's hard to think of what we'll be doing in four, six, or eight years from now, since I have no idea what will be happening in our lives! 

Wish us luck!


Melissa said...

glad to see the old green couch is being used! Keep acting and reacting from your heart Steph. Can't be wrong.

Neen said...

Very well said. I needed to read this to help motivate. I love homeschooling and really believe it to be the best for a million reasons. Heaven is the goal with every thing else being the gravy.

I love your plan. I find that using the Riggs phonic cards works great for phonics and for handwriting. We are having much success the past three weeks, anyway.

Keep it fun, mom. That way everyone learns. I so enjoyed seeing you the other day. I only wish I had more time to chat!

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