Homeschooling for Real
Monday, October 20, 2008
Before we started homeschooling, I read books. I read blogs. I envisioned a peaceful life full of bookish children who would teach themselves (Robinson curriculum, anyone?) It would be serene and filled with a glow of happiness, love of learning, and developing spirituality.

God did not give me peaceful, bookish children. God gave me Dennis the Menace, to varying degrees.

Our homeschooling is influenced by Maria Montessori, who emphasized the dignity of the child. I'm an eclectic homeschooler, taking the best of many methods and leaving things that don't work for us behind. My shelves are filled with books and blackline masters and games that might be integrated, someday.

We are not unschoolers, but we are not traditional homeschoolers, either. I don't have a strict schedule, although we have a rhythm and flow to our days. I call school off completely sometimes - like when we have guests. Or the public schools are out and every kid in the neighborhood wants to stay at our house for the day.

Our school day begins late - 10:00 am, more or less. That's the goal, anyway. I have 4 students - two 3rd graders who are not twins, a 2nd grader, and a 1st grader. The 4 yo loves to plow through worksheets, the 2 yo and the baby wander in and out at will.

We gather and pray. We say the Apostle's Creed everyday, and then I have a book of devotions to St. Joseph that lists several psalms to pray through the week. The children have folders with their seatwork listed, but it can still be a challenge because I have one set of texts and the third graders must work together and cooperate. They cannot both do their spelling at the same time, so one must work on math or handwriting.

I give them a verse of the week, which they must write everyday after writing their spelling words. For the first month, I chose verses about joy and cheerfulness. This month, we're reviewing the Ten Commandments. We REALLY need to review them, if you know what I mean!

Previous verses included:
"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart."

"Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs."

"Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise."
If they must do copywork to practice their handwriting, it should at least be useful or encouraging.

I don't always do everything I would like to - detailed illustrations of the Epic of Gilgamesh, staking out a wild area for nature study throughout the year, and copying Ben Franklin's admonitions for great character have all been dropped. Better things have displaced my well-laid plans - better because they are what my children want and need to learn right now.

Hunting a local dirt dump and finding animal skeletons, observing (a little too closely) wasp nests, spiders, and ants, and experiments in imprinting and fossil creation have crowded out other plans.

I get discouraged. There are days when we end up with the bare minimum, and sometimes even the minimum drags on into the dinner hour. There are days when I feel I'm on Homeschool Throwdown: Cranky Kid Edition. Sometimes I have to fish Cuisenaire rods out of the baby's mouth and tell a brother a little too sharply that his math lesson is just going to have to wait and doesn't he have anything else productive to do?

We read our Bob books on the front lawn while the littles play. I ditched the official readers for books titled "The Dinosaur Hunter" and "Little Wolf Hunts." How can Dick and Jane compete with that? I allow StarWars for silent reading. Sometimes I forget to write the current date on the board.

Other times, I feel like I am in over my head, but I know I'll eventually get my feet under me for that particular circumstance. Right now, I'm wondering about my 10 year old third grader. I think he may have a visual processing delay. He often adds things when he reads. He'll say "this" for "his", "worker" for "work". He can do horizontal math problems but not the same problem stacked vertically. But I know how to find resources and how to advocate for him now. I'm not worried, just temporarily ruffled.

Homeschooling is not an exercise in perfection. It is an exercise in love.

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 10/20/2008 08:40:00 AM | Permalink | |