Monday, March 03, 2014

first day of school

Today was our first official day of homeschool! The kids were so excited! Even though Milan is only in preschool and isn't required to do anything except play, he joined us for the majority of our activities.I didn't do quite all I had expected and time went by way faster than what I thought it would, but overall I'm happy with our first day. We all woke up a little late and didn't get breakfast til 9am and school started til 9:30. My goal is to get us started at 8:30 or 9 so we can get in the 3 hours before lunch and be finished for the day.

3 hours a day doesn't seem like a lot but when lessons range from 20-30 minutes each, it's surprising how much materials you can cover. My homeschooling style is still developing, but as I read and research and gather lessons plans, books, online materials, worksheets, etc. I realize that my style is eclectic. I have Montessori hands on materials and love child-led learning. I am always attentive to what they talk about, what questions they ask and then I guide them into discovering more about those things. When one starts asking questions about animals that live in holes, we get a chance to read books about rabbits, foxes, moles, etc, watch documentaries and educational videos from national geographic, we talk about them, draw pictures or sing songs about them. All these kinds of things help cement learning. and it's fun. We've gotten to learn so much about science this way, and just this summer they have learned about nocturnal animals, herbivores, carnivors, hibernation, colonies of ants and so many other things.

They also love math. I think most kids learn a distaste for math by seeing their parents or peers dislike it. But when they can see that math is interesting, they just want to learn it all on their own. I have a list of numbers on the wall and every time Milan (when he was still only 3 year old) walked past, he would count. Now I hear him counting everything and sorting things into groups and patterns by number or color, biggest smallest.  Isabella loves numbers too and is already able to figure out word problems with addition and division. She is a problem solver and really is growing in her critical thinking skills.

But I'm not all Montessori either... I don't let them lead the way all the time. I plan to give them a routine, which I think give kids security in knowing what comes next. I also will challenge them to do the things they may not want to do that day. It is not child-led in those moments, but some day in the future when they are at a job where they just dont feel like going to work or don't want to do something their boss tells them to do, they will have the skills to submit in the correct moments to challenge themselves and do their best even when they don't like it.

There are some pieces of Charlotte Mason that I really like, too. The writing and literature. Other parts of my homeschooling style are classical, using workbooks and worksheets with quizes and tests. But on the opposite of this scale is the unschooling part of me. I know Isa will learn through the daily activities of life. Homemaking, cooking, cleaning, learning to take care of our garden or pets, visiting elderly, learning to talk to different people, at the store or a restaurant, or feeling confident to talk to a police officer or talk on the telephone. These types of social skills are not taught in schools. Children who sit all day with 40 other children their own age do not get as many opportunities to interact with older and younger people. In fact, the older kids are "too cool", it's not okay for interacction. And the younger kids are "babies", and also not cool to interact with them. Adults are "boring" and elderly are "scary and wrinkly". I'm glad my children have the opportunity to make relationships with all types of people. I would even say they are MORE socialized that schooled children.

Homeschooling gives me the chance to let my kids experience what they are learning. We learn about shapes by encountering shapes in our every day lives, we learn about nature by going out and touching it. Learn about number by counting how many tomatoes are on the bush.We learn geography when we get out a map to see the places we've been and will be going this year. We talk about history when we learn what the Bible says about the beginning of man, or when we want to know why some cultures dress, talk or do the things they do. When we talk about why they eat different foods than we do, instead of just talking about it, we get to visit places, museums, and cook and eat those foods to make it an entire experience.

More than anything, I think the importance of early education lies in character formation, developing a sense of the world around them, and encountering a love to learn. As they grow they will be able to teach themselves because they will know how to learn. And above all else is to teach an awareness of God who is all around us, that they will discover His interaction in their lives, and recognize His love for them and their own need for Him.

It is a lofty goal to homeschool but just as lofty to be a mom. I want to join in my children's learning. I hope to model the way, by showing them patience, love and respect and expect the same in return. The goal is not for them to be little adults, but rather to have an amazing childhood that lasts as long as possible. While growing up will happen naturally, so will all the other developmental aspects of learning. Having fun, loving live. Loving each other. That's what I want this year to be.