Should I homeschool?
Every year I have wrestled with this question before commencing.
Its not because I don't enjoy to homeschool.. but as any parent can attest, carrying the weight and responsibility of raising kids - and especially their education - is no light matter. I don't believe we should dismiss the learning process with cliche answers such as "learning is life" and "learning happens as life happens". Absolutely discovery does. But learning is far more than discovery. It is the development of a child's giftings, character, strengths and awareness for the purpose of fulfilling their God given calling. Is it enjoyable? Yes! Is it handwork? Yes! Do yourself a favour and knock on the head any pretenses you held that homeschooling mothers possess an extra measure of grace, patience, or divine heavenly sweetness. Comparison is a bad place to start.. "The cause of much insecurity is the human inclination to compare ourselves with one another. Success lies in what we are becoming, not in what we are accumulating, or achieving." David Riddell
Do I enjoy it? Yes I do love it. Teaching is in my bones. I spent my childhood teaching my teddy bears on a rug and when my kids were toddlers, I loved taking them on field trips and creating learning opportunities. I love to research and to understand what makes people tick. I will mention David Riddell a few times in this blogpost, and Ill explain why soon.. but it is he who said something that hasn't left me: Success is first and foremost good mental health... "You may become powerful, wealthy or popular, but you can’t take any of it with you! Think carefully about your definition of success – you won’t be in this world much longer".
I enjoy to create memories and an environment for my kids that nurtures and enables them to grow and discover their strengths. I love to learn alongside them. Our days are full and often creative and we are ever discovering new ways to relate to each other and love Jesus. Homeschooling offers us the opportunity to have healthy relationships with each other, and the kids with their siblings. I often remind them: If you can get along well with each other, you will do much better at getting along with your peers and employees as an adult. The greatest strength, in my opinion, of homeschooling is being able to stop at any given obstacle, difficulty, thought or moment in a day and talk to Jesus. I personally believe the best learning environment, is the one where what He says, believes and thinks about you, matters most. Being able to provide an environment where I can constantly bring back our goals, character growth, difficulties and struggles, to the truth? YES IM WINNING.. because there is nothing more valuable, more healthy, more brain growing and real than Gods truth.
Okay moving on to resources for them:
We don't use a set curriculum and I don't use any resource that is ill fitting to our dynamics. By way of routine I try to move the kids co jointly through their subjects so there is a cohesiveness in the home. Thats what works for us.
We use math u see which is a book and DVD and progresses through levels. I am so impressed with this resource! It's thorough and manageable.
I also use the games (found online) for the NZ Numeracy Programme, at TKI, to reinforce mathematical skills for Amy.
I heard it said that a group of successful homeschooled students described that their two key learning successes were; being read to aloud and unit studies (projects). So if you can read books to your kids and you can take a current event, a topic of interest or a query and turn it into a project.... You're capable of being a homeschooler!
I read 20-30 minutes every day to the kids together while they draw and I constantly scour out good books to read together. We use the library a LOT.
I also have the kids choose one novel a week to read, and at least one non fiction- they often choose a dozen. I get all Amy's early readers plus story books from the library also and each day we read 2. One she reads to me, the other I read to her.. The next day she reads me the book I read to her the day previous. I also read a lot of picture books to her also. In addition we progress through a series called Phonic Readers which is a small set of 4 books. They are absolutely brilliant! Amy also does Jolly Phonics and the accompanying activity sheets. We will transition her to activity sheets working with blends as she gets more proficient (blends being sounds like Sh, ch, tr etc).
There are SO many great writing resources and Ive changed and swapped amongst many of them.
My favourites are:
Handwriting Without Tears (and despite 'experts' saying that computers are replacing handwriting, I disagree that its an unneeded skill.
Draw.Write.Now. I use this teaching the kids to learn to write and draw. Its a copying exercise and simple, but helps them develop awareness of letter formation, pencil grip, sentence structure etc.
The Writing Book by Sheena Cameron. I love this resource. Its so thorough and multi levelled and full of ideas, writing planning sheets and examples to follow. I use this a lot to compliment our project and personal studies. For instance, when we focussed on Autumn, I followed all the toolkit ideas to develop a unit around poetry.
I also have begun using Institute of Excellence in Writing which has been highly recommended. In retrospect I wish I had of commenced my homeschooling with this under my belt, as it is really thorough.
We also do diary writing (recount) a lot of time, speed writing and use Fix It Grammar and Excel books to work through writing skills.
In addition I also frequently have the kids memorise poems and practise impromptu speeches in front of one another.
We do a lot of spelling as a process of correction in writing and incorporate these words into their learning. In addition we use the online game, Spellodrome and the book series "Spelling Workout" found online at Book Depository.
We have a combination of resources:
At preschool level I use Suzys World and a book called Mugpies and Magnets, which is really fun. Its short lessons that incorporate an awareness of science around us.
Ive used Winter Promise in the past to do some neat science topics, but hands down my favourite is "Apologia". Its not cheap, however it comes with accompanying activity books and presently I am progressing all four of my school kids through Physics and Chemistry.
I love Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It comes with an activity book which includes maps, games, puzzles, projects etc.
I try to have the kids work through one project or topic of interest a week and generally I give Fridays to project day. Over the years, we have used current events to create some amazing learning projects. When Catherine and Prince William were getting married, we studied the Westminster Abbey, created our own 2D replica, explored the ringing of the bells and their significance. When Christchurch had its earthquakes, we collected newspaper articles and researched earthquakes, survival kits and stories of survival to create a scrapbook that is every bit a history record in our home. When the ship Rena was grounded, it launched a study into ecology, marine life and environment. After watching the movie Paper Planes, we studied paper plane designs, flight techniques and had our own paper plane competition. Hands down, projects are the most fun in our home. This week our theme is Pizza. A friend gave us a cheese making kit so we are going to make our own Mozzarella, study Italy and have a Pizza Party. And I cannot recommend enough, this resource for project ideas that will blow you away: Amanda Bennett.com
We enrol the kids into swimming lessons over the summer period, and the boys attend the Aspire Gym once a week. Amy attends ballet also. We enrolled the kids in music lessons last year, however this year we have reduced our schedule significantly and given that a break. I have had seasons of doing many activities, and seasons of none. My recommendation is try not to do more than one or two activities a term per child.. set a limit. Music is often a very pushed subject, and its important but remember; not everyone has to learn an instrument as a young child, and you are never to old to learn to play. Some of the most gifted musicians I know are self taught so think and look beyond the boxes.
Ive put this last but it isn't last in our home. We start the day praying and we often take seasons where we read through devotionals daily. I haven't done it a lot recently but I love starting our learning day reading one proverb and discussing its meaning, then copying into our Bible book.
Finally, the question I get asked most... what about ME time???
I think the greatest gift you can give your kids as a homeschooling mum, is looking after yourself.
Exercise daily and eat healthy!! I do 30 minutes a day through the app Sweat With Kayla. In the past Ive walked, attended the gym, ran, done bootcamp etc. Just move! Its good for you :)
Regularly pause and slow down. If you don't, don't be surprised when you get burnt out and run down. This message changed my life!
http://bethlehem.org.nz/sermons/sunday-nights-rhythms-sabbath/ along with the resources he recommends in the message.
Take time to play! Its easy to stop enjoying the kids when the balance gets lost. Don't lose the balance. Have good boundaries and take time regularly to create memories, go on mini breaks. Sometimes I just do simple things like sneak out for breakfast on my own, or take an hour to write, walk or create beauty.
Having a healthy self awareness is so vital to coping as a homeschooling mum. In a way, as a homeschooler you live in a glass bowl with many people (rightly so) viewing, observing, and noting your journey. You don't get an annual report, you get a weekly assessment by way of the older woman in the shopping supermarket, the other mums in the local playground and the people you bump into on your daily walks. Most of the time its really positive. And sometimes the greatest criticism is the way you interpret a look you got, or the things you tell yourself. How you cope with that, will very much depend on your ability to not take things too personally, know your beliefs and values, take control of your thoughts, identify and lower expectations, and live in the grace of God. One of the most life changing things I have done for myself, at the recommendation of our insightful Pastoral Care ministers in our Church, was to study "Truth Coaches" by David Riddell. I did the online course and I truly believe it is the first resource any homeschooling mum should get her hands on... well any parent full stop!
I hope that helps and Im always happy to answer any questions I get asked.