Sunday, August 17, 2014

5 Things I Learned My First Year Homeschooling

The official school year is fast approaching! Every few days I find another sweet "First Day of School" picture in my Facebook newsfeed. The fresh faces full of anticipation for the new adventure: a school year!

We've continued to do "school" all summer, settling in, enjoying slow summer days of learning together. It's been a wonderful, wonderful summer!

With all those reminders of the coming seasons change, I find myself looking back over the past year.  I wanted to verbalize the things I've learned this past year.

So here they are:

5 Things I've Learned My First Year of Home Schooling...

1. Set loose Goals.
 Before the school year begins set out a SHORT (especially if your kids are young) bullet point list of the basic age-appropriate things you hope to learn together. Last year for example,I wanted to introduce these concepts and see where my oldest landed. Some of these might be too academic for some familes, and others might find my list too simple. These were things she had expressed interest in the concepts and we worked towards it and she "got it" to varying degrees.
My list looked some thing like this:
  • count well to 100
  • by 10's 
  • by 5's 
  • understand the concept of counting to 1,000.
  • understand basic addition and subtraction.
Our goals for the rest of our curriculum were...
  • to love and enjoy reading together even more.
  • to read through the entire Bible (in general stories) from Genesis to Revelation.
  • To give her a general idea of world history and the concept of time and dates.
  • To really understand Seasons, Months, and Days
Our Seasons and Months Art Project. Our boxed curriculum had a great way for teaching Months of the years and all 3 of the kids can chant the rhyme pretty well- the littlest in her own way! :)
2. Ask any one you can what they do for school and follow a few homeschooling sites on FB.
This is a pretty personal one. All personalities are different and another homeschooling Mama might find this completely AWFUL. This is just my preference, I like to know about ALL the options, have a general sense of what they are, and be able to evaluate on a gut level if they'd be a good fit for one of my kids.
I have a binder that I call "All the Things Learning" and I have a section of the Binder that is just for this information. I have a plain piece of note book paper with each curriculum or resource I find as the title. I fill the page with bullet point snippets about the curriculum (from websites and online reviews). I may never use the curriculum, but if I wrote a lot about it I probably hope to! And it's there when I'm circling around to a new school cycle and am weighting my options for each child.

For *me* this is helpful. I don't find it overwhelming and I tend to only keep detailed information on curriculums that really catches my fancy. There are probably about a hundred times that one click on the website told me it wasn't a good fit, and I only wrote it on a list of "math curriculum options" or whatever. A glance at a website can often quickly tell you if it's worth any time for your child.

3. Just DO IT. 
You don't have to know all the curriculum out there. You don't even need to have a curriculum. Set some loose goals, and search (google and pinterest are handy!) for ways to make it fun and relationship building.

4. Know your child...Guiding them to Discovery brings JOY!
This is probably my favorite part of homeschooling. These are my favorite people, and discovering what interests them and what doesn't adds this beautiful dimension to life together. I want my kids to be interested and invested in whatever we're learning together.
This year we were using Heart of Dakota "Little Hearts for His Glory" and it was great! I loved it! It was open and Go and I would advise any first time homeschooler to get a "all in one" home school curriculum.
*Not because you'll use it all.
*Not because it will enable you to teach all the things it says your child will learn.
*Not because it is the best way to home school.

None of that was true here! But it gave us an awesome baseline. It said "this is what you can introduce to your child today...give it a shot!"

A lot, I discovered, my kids didn't like. They didn't want to do handwriting. They disliked some of the hands on activities, they looooved others!! They disliked math work sheets or being given a big thick book full of un-done work (one piece of paper please!). I learned a hundred more things about how they learn, what works best and all with in the frame work of that all in one homeschool curriculum.

We made paint together and learned about mixing colors...

We took a field trip together to a local Museum and got a hands on look at local History
I discovered SO much, and I am so glad for the experience. I also learned an "all inclusive" curriculum isn't a good fit for us right now. We need eclectic! We need to be interested! We need to be asked "what do you want to learn this week?" and then head off to the library, youtube, pinterest, and google to discover what's out there on the subject!

Which brings me to my next and final "thing I learned"...

5. There is no right way to homeschool...or unschool!
It's completely individual. The awesome and awful part -as with all things in parenting- you just have to dive in and figure out what's right for your family. Read books about it. Ask older home school Mom's to hear what they're doing and what their kids have enjoyed.  Also, home schooling doesn't have to be any thing like a class room.
 For many kids and parents learning together isn't going to involve a straight path of objectives and check marks. Learning is cyclical. It's a spiral. You introduce a concept, you find creative ways to help them practice new skills. It's holistic, you're working with a whole human being here, with many other areas of life they're growing in as well. Some months new math skills aren't going to be a good thing to investigate. If it's not working, if there is refusal to get involved, if there is upset over a subject...Step back! Ask yourself, "Do they HAVE to know this NOW to survive?"
 Learning happens, really happens, when the person is wanting to learn and invested in the knowledge. No one wants to grow up and be ignorant! Just like they learned to walk, and feed themselves, and talk- they'll do it! We all want to  know things.
Balancing the "they need to know this now" pressures from the outside can be tricky. "Does your 6 year old really need to know how to write perfectly and tidily, NOW? Maybe playing some letter shape games together with chalk or on a chalk board would be a better use of hand writing practice time. It doesn't have to fit in a box, learning is learning...and it is only learning if it is really LEARNED. :)
hand writing practice: playing Doc McStuffins together...She'd copy the words or sound out her own when it came to writing the "Diagnosis" in the Big Book of Booboo's. :)

Okay I lied, there's a #6
6. Challenge yourself.
What do you want to learn more about? Are there novels you've never tried to read before? Time periods you'd like to discover? Take some time to educate yourself, for fun! It really really is fun, and it is probably the most rewarding part of home education: you get hungry for knowledge too!

Next Post! 4 Resources I found helpful to me as a Mom on this learning Adventure...

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