Friday, August 30, 2013

The Beautiful Imperfections of Homeschooling

When my girls grew to school age, we made the decision to homeschool for reasons most here reading this will understand.  Oh boy, we were going to get SOOO much accomplished, they would be ready to graduate and head to college at 10 years old (well, maybe 14), and every day was going to be an incredible amount of fun...right?

Here we are 6 years later, and my girls are ELATED to start school this year - and I know it's genuine, but that did not come without ironing out some HUGE bumps in the road.

  • I purchased sooo many great books over the years...that did not get finished.
  • I have had some knock down drag out fights with my daughters...and work would not always get accomplished.
  • I planned on being sooo scheduled...then we had to move, or deal with LIFE & distractions, and the schedule would go to pot.
Some years I felt were an EPIC fail. I'd feel so defeated and I'd have to lick my wounds. BUT, to attempt to rise to the challenge, I'd bust out the cheer pom-poms, and Hoorah us on for another "GREAT YEAR" (through gritted teeth at times).

What I've learned - all through failure I must admit:

1. Don't set your expectations too high:  
I would look at some amazing blogger's homeschool schedule that is fine-tuned down to the minute, see all the wonderful subjects & lessons, art, music & geometry...and I'd think to myself, "I need to do ALL THAT to be successful!"  Then I'd tie myself into 12 knots trying to make that work for us, having to CONSTANTLY adjust my lesson plans (and eventually I just left them blank not knowing if I'd get ANYTHING accomplished), get grumpy at my girls because they couldn't meet my expectations, then feel like a failure because I couldn't accomplish it A-L-L.

The lesson I learned while trying to untangle myself is this:  One of the reasons we homeschool is because each family is UNIQUE, each child is UNIQUE, so we can tailor our curriculum, schedule, and style to fit the individual & family.

2. Involve your kids in the planning process:
Sometimes it was a battle to get my girls to do their work, and the reality that our system was NOT working was when the tears started to stream down my beautiful daughter's cheeks.  This was NOT the experience I wanted for them to remember as they look back at their homeschool years.

When I would start asking questions like, "Would you like to do THIS one, or THAT one?" I was amazed at their eagerness & response.  I'd offer choices in style of work, topics, and books.  When they felt invested in their learning, they were far more motivated to accomplish their work.

3. Encourage their individual learning style:
I have a daughter who can't sit long without fidgeting - so I will let her stand, and I'll have munchies at her desk so she can accomplish a lot if she's not forced to just sit still & concentrate for long periods of time.  I also will occasionally allow them to go long periods of time on one topic, rather than switch every hour - they do better that way (at times) when there's one week we may do all math to get to a certain place in their book, and another week may be a large variety of subjects.

4. Start simple (if you need to):
When I first thought of homeschooling, I started doing my research, and there are SOO many great resources out there - but for my type of personality, TOO MANY that caused me to short-circuit.  I wanted to do it ALL and be the mom/teacher to the next brain-y-ac. 

What I found the most peaceful was to start simple. The basics. Do the type of curriculum that is simple, and lays out the foundation very easily.  I purposely dodged homeschool conventions, curriculum catalogs, and magazines.  Now, I  AM a researcher, but to get a fire hose full of information when I was a newby was NOT helpful, in fact it was down-right overwhelming.  Now, this is ME, and to all you "MEs" out there, find peace in simplicity.  I found "shutting out" what many people considered the "norm" helpful for a season until I could learn MY girls, and style - and build from there - once I grasped the basics, I started adding upon my core work & style year after year.

SOOOO...Here's to our (and your) 

This Year, my girls are in Grade 5 & Grade 6.

What we're doing for Math, & Language Arts is a basic curriculum called Rod & Staff.  It's old fashioned, but extremely simple.  They have it set up where the girls simply do one lesson per day, per subject - but spelling is only once a week.

For Science, because we had some "hiccups" in our year/schedule last year (traveling, moving...), I'm still finishing up Apologia's "Exploring Creation" and LOVING IT!

We have so much fun with the experiments - from clay people, to edible cells, and watching their teeth rot in coke!  Then when we're done this one, we'll discuss what science topic we'd like to explore next!

For History & Geography, We're doing America The Beautiful...and it has been most excellent so far ;)

The girls have been loving coloring the maps, writing creative stories, and doing the crossword puzzles in their workbook.  We'll be building the Iroquis log house at the end of the week!

Finally, for Bible studies, we're doing Apologia's "Who is my Neighbor" which teaches a bit more history, and the Biblical view of servanthood. This is another one we're finishing up from last year.
This has lap books, puzzles, drawings, and scripture memory.  They LOVE all the ways this teaches stories, and interacts with the lessons.

Here are my AMAZING students/daughters on their exciting first day of school of the 2013/2014 year!!!

We ended our school day doing Apologia Science - A skeletal system demonstration.  We made clay models with skinny arms & legs to see how floppy they are without structure...then we made them WITH toothpicks so they could be held up. 

My husband made Gumby.

5. Seek God's Direction
The last thing - but it's really the first thing to do while working on, and planning a school year is PRAY.  I dedicate my year & daughters into God's care, seeking His direction for their learning and growing. 

Each year, He leads me to what seems like (to the natural eye) "stumbling upon" what we need to do for the year.  For example, as I was preparing & praying for this year, I started looking for some type of History lessons that would fit my girls learning style.  Literally AS I was deep in this thought, prayer, and scouting out some curriculum, my friend Sarah over at MY JOYFILLED LIFE posted a review of America the Beautiful. When I read it, and showed it to my hubbs, we both agreed that was the last missing piece of our school year puzzle.  I had the girls read up on it to get their "thumbs high", and the rest is HISTORY ;) and we're loving it. 

As a side note, being a Canadian living in the USA, I think I'm doing most of the learning!