Wednesday, September 02, 2009

This Is The Way We Go To School

For more reasons than I care to get into on the blog, Joshua and I made the choice to home school our children. It was not a lightly made decision, nor is it without much apprehension on my part as Teacher/Mommy. However, it is the right choice for our family. I have spent much of the last two years poking about and looking into curriculum and homeschool-ology and trying to grasp what home schooling would look like for us.

The curriculum, so far, has been the easy part. I taught at a pre-school for several years prior to marriage, and while there, became quite familiar with A Beka's phonics and reading program. Having seen the method in use and how well the vast majority of children took to it, it was a simple decision for me.

With that in mind, we started letter recognition and phonics two years ago. The only way I knew to cope with little ones who were asking for something to do (or getting into things because they were 'bored') was to start tossing learning at them. It stood us in good stead. We picked up
The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading for Thomas this year and have been breezing through it for four or five months now. In fact, we skipped through the first 25 or so lessons in less than a week, due to the foundation Thomas already had with reading. Now we are well into it, and the moment he sees me pull out that blue book, he gets all excited about reading a 'story'. I am forever thankful that he is doing as well as he is, but I must confess to sending him off to find Granny or Daddy to read through the stories a second, third, or twentieth time. My patience wears thin after we stutter our way through it once.

One of my hang-ups in life is that I like books to stay nice looking. To that end, I adopted the method of writing out each story on this printable kindergarten lined paper. (I like this paper because it encourages proper spacing) Each night, I copy out the next day's stories (or for several days, if I am feeling industrious) and set them aside. Thomas and I then do our lesson the next day and he reads the story. After he reads it to me, he takes it and traces the entire story. This gives him a little extra practice with proper letter formation as well as keeping my book nice and neat looking. It also allows him the freedom to roam around with his story and read it to anyone or anything who will listen.

Speaking of handwriting, we are using A Reason For Handwriting. Or I guess I should say we will start that sometime in October. It was another favorite of mine from the pre-school days. Thomas is anxious to get started in this book (he just loves the idea of adding another book to his desk!) but continues to work diligently on tracing. This may be overkill, but I would still rather that he spend just a little more time on the tracing. When left to his own to write, he still writes in all capitals. The tracing is reinforcing the idea of small letter and large letter, among other things.

For Math, I chose yet another curriculum I was familiar with (again, from working at the pre-school (which actually went up to second grade)). We are using the Saxon Math series. At first I was hesitant about going with this math, because of how in depth the morning meetings were at the school. When I started looking, though, for homeschool, the meeting is much shorter. All the points are there, but for one kid rather than 15. Thomas loves pulling out our Meeting Book and going through the routine of the calendar, patterning, etc. It takes just a couple of minutes, and then we are off to the lesson.

I am supplementing his actual math learning with the A Beka Numbers Writing Tablet. This isn't something that we do every day. Maybe once a week, again, just for the extra practice. And, again, Thomas loves that he has another book in his desk.

Lora Lynn sang the praises of Five In A Row so loudly that after I poked around in her book, I opted to use this curriculum as well. The kids all gather around me each afternoon (or often, evening, so that Daddy can be with us) and we read the book selection for the week. Then we pull out a lesson or two each time and refer to what we have already learned that week. FIAR offers a bundle of lesson suggestions for each book including math, science, Bible, art, language, and social sciences. Plus, there are invaluable online resources that have helped us find music and additional books to go with each week's book. The kids love it, I love it, and they are learning so much. Their favorite part is when I pull out the map and show them the part of the world that the book is set in. It makes learning so much of a game that they have no idea how much information they are storing away. Sometimes neither do I!

For Sarah Grace, we are using more A Beka stuff. ABC-123, Readiness Skills, and other odds and ends that I have picked up at curriculum fairs or consignment sales. She and Elizabeth and Thomas all love the Animal Alphabet cards. Elizabeth's attention doesn't hold out for it yet, but the older two love to hear all about the animal featured with each letter. The back of the card holds all kinds of information and songs and poems.

And that about covers it. We don't adhere to a strict schedule but rather have a loosely framed routine. It allows us the flexibility to actually be a family in the middle of all the schooling. We spend a lot of time reading, and because of the FIAR, the kids have learned to dissect each story into meaningful pieces, so I count that as a huge part of our day.

I know that in years to come, things will have to be a bit more structured, but for now the intentional time spent with the kids is building what I hope to be a good Teacher/Mommy foundation. I really thought that being 'teacher' would be hugely different from being 'mommy'. The simple fact, though, is that home schooling starts the moment they are born. I have been teaching them all along. It's just that there are now a few books and crayons and pencils and maps thrown into the midst of it.

Yes, homeschooling is definitely the right choice for our family.


Jana (sidetrack'd) said...

Thanks for posting this, Aubrey. We're in the process of deciding on some early preschool activities to do with Little (she's 3) and your suggestions and why you chose those things is very informative.

The Bouldins said...

Love it! Thanks for all the suggestions.

LRAQUILA said...

You are definitely on the right track!! I love the Ordinary Guide....but I am a big "classical" advocate. I assume you have read "The Well Trained Mind" ? Sounds like your kiddos definitely are getting a super foundation :)