We interrupt our regular programing to bring you.... The Homeschool Chronicles! Taaaa da daw, da daw da duh da....Taaaa da daw, da daw....
Lately readers have been asking me how I manage both blogging and homeschooling. Yeah, I wonder sometimes too!
Actually, in all seriousness, I think about that a lot. As much as I enjoy sewing and quilting, parenting (and by extension, homeschooling) matter more to me when push comes to shove. Now I don't want to downplay the incredible privilege it is to be able to express myself creatively in my job. It's amazing! Still, my mama-heart whispers an insistent reminder that my blogging is to serve my homeschooling. Stitched in Color makes staying home possible. That's the simple truth. The direction of my priorities.
Two months of the school year have already slipped on by. In between August 1st and now I've changed tactics, books, schedules, discipline approaches - you name it. I do love that homeschooling allows for instant flexibility, change and improvement, but sometimes it's easy to get lost.
So, here's what I'm thinking. I want to try chronicling a bit of our schooling journey in monthly or perhaps quarterly check-in posts. I'll admit it - these are more for me than for you. Blogging about homeschooling could be good as a record, at time for reflection, and even a kind of accountability... I think. I mean, it may not work for me at all. But, my mama says it never hurts to try. And for you? Maybe interesting? Or, it may bore you to tears. If that's the case, you just pass on by those posts, ok? No hard feelings. We'll still be tight.
I've got to start with more of an introduction to our homeschool style for those of you who actually want to follow my train of thought. Another day, I'll check-in with a post on how things are going this year so far. Ok, here goes...
Where We Started
To begin, let's put out there that my first goal in homeschooling is to keep alive my child's natural love for learning. My success is not how much they know, but how able they are to learn and do anything they set out to do. In today's information-saturated world, I believe there's not as much need to fill their head with information as to help them become creative, kind, problem-solving people.
Liam, my kindergartener, began the year so full of excitement for "school." I've been careful to meet his level of excitement, even though I tend to feel that our kind of kindergarten isn't really "school" at all. I've subscribed to a "better late than early" view of academics for years now. So, I won't be teaching Liam to read or write (much) or add or subtract this year. Let's see, my goal notes from summer prep read:
*Recognize letters by sight and sound
*Morality (as in work on honesty, gratitude, self-control)
*Scripture memorization (for morality and brain exercise)
Not on my list are totally critical ingredients like art exploration, music, cooking and other practical house skills. Since we embraced Waldorf-style parenting when Aria was little, these things have been part of our family lifestyle. Amanda Blake Soule's The Creative Family set us down that path.
Since Liam will naturally compare his "school" to his big sister's, I plan to meet my goals for him with more structure than I consider necessary. For example, I didn't use a single workbook for Aria's kindergarten, but we've got them coming out the wazoo for Liam to keep him from feeling left out. That said, all of Liam's workbooks are self-paced. He can opt out any time. I honestly believe his time is better spent in imaginative or artistic play than at any workbook!
Whereas I taught Aria her letters and sounds through casual conversation, via picture books and the like, Liam has not been one bit interested in letters until now. I'm glad he is now! We're using the Explode the Code books A, B and C to introduce letter sounds at a gentle pace. These workbooks have cute illustrations and require minimal teacher interaction. Score. (The links to resources are Amazon affiliate links. Just, FYI!)
For handwriting, we have the Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting Series Book A. Now I didn't formally teach Aria proper letter formation until first grade, a la Waldorf philosophy. I regretted that because she formed some bad habits from years (really years!) of avid writing before that time. (Bad habits like starting in the wrong place while forming many letters, which slows down writing.) Muscle memory is hard to reverse. So, even though Liam is not as "into" copying books or writing notes as Aria was, we're doing this intro to writing now to get his letters started right.
The state of South Carolina requires homeschoolers to include "math, science and social studies" in the school year. However, there are no grade-level mandates or testing required, leaving us free to pursue these studies as desired. In our kindergarten, math involves learning to count to high numbers and understanding concepts like fractions and measurement through real life happenings. Our science for Liam comes across in high quality nature stories (like those by Clara Dillingham Pierson) and our history through read alouds as well (often by Usborne).
Liam is an artist and I love it. I want to encourage him in his art by making habits to color, watercolor paint and set up art/process projects. We do that some through playgroup, where I plan a bi-weekly art project. This year I've scheduled 2 months with art as a focus, rather than trying to work it in weekly. Our first month for art is December!
Aria enjoyed a relaxed kindergarten with even less academics than Liam. Last year in 1st grade she made great leaps once we applied ourselves to "the books". She now reads chapters books and is speeding ahead in math. She's always been a storyteller, a leader and chock full of big ideas.
Here are my goals from summer prep, along with my plans for meeting them:
*Continue Enjoying Math. I expect her to complete Math-U-See Beta, the 2nd grade book in a hands-on math program. We did the 1st grade book in this program in one spurt at the end of 1st grade. I like that Math-U-See includes video instruction by a super-fabulous math teacher that Aria and I both really like.
*Introduce Grammar. It seems like time to teach capitalization, punctuation and all that jazz so that this storyteller can move towards putting her thoughts on page! I purchased Easy Grammar, a straightforward, minimalistic grammar workbook. I loved grammar as a kid, so I'm totally looking forward to going there.
*Creative Writing. We don't want to get too bogged down in the details that she misses the creative part of writing. Somehow, I want her to start putting stories on page. I'm hoping Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye will be of some help. The months that we focus on art, Aria will also focus on creative writing.
*Learn to Summarize. In the past Aria was asked to retell a story in her own words to demonstrate comprehension. Now I'll want her to learn to pull out key details in a concise summary. When we study ancient history this year through a collection of "living" books and readers, I'll ask her to create a summary for each civilization we cover.
*Reading/Phonics. We did not start a traditional phonics program until midway through first grade. Now that she knows how to read, phonics will improve her spelling and reading unfamiliar words. We're continuing with Explode the Code 3.
*Scripture & poem memorization. More of the same for her faith and for brain exercise. We have lots of children's poetry at home from which she or I will choose.
*Improve Handwriting. Aria has not used a handwriting workbook yet and I feel she needs one to make improvements in her writing. She'll start with the Getty Dubay Book B this year. She's really eager to do cursive, but I want to see improvement on her printing first.
This year, for the first time, Aria is going to a homeschool co-op called Arrows Academy that meets Tuesday and Wednesday. Liam has a sports program on Wednesday too. Those 2 days will be my "work" days, when grandparent's will watch the children so I can do Stitched in Color at home.
That leaves Monday, Thursday and Friday for homeschool. We'll start the day with Bible time at the couch, when I tell a weekly made-up story about a key virtue (like honesty), we discuss, sing and pray together. Then it's to the table for either Handwriting, Grammar or Phonics (each happens once per week). After that workbook time, we do our "main lesson". This whole process takes about 2 hours each morning.
One thing I loved about Waldorf education is the block system. Our main lesson will alternate on a monthly schedule between math, history/science and art/creative writing. We have 4 months of math on the calender, 2 of history/science and 2 of art/creative writing.
Aria's also learning to play the penny whistle with Brandon one night per week. During that time I'll read to Liam some stories particularly geared to his age.
But that's just the schedule. Real learning happens all the time, every day. It's unstoppable!
I'll pick up this train of thought in a week or 2 to share with you how things are going this year so far. Which plans have changed. What's worked and what hasn't. If you have any questions about our homeschooling, don't be shy! While I'll not be posting frequently about homeschooling, I may be able to address your question in the comments or in a future check-in post. We'll see how this goes!