Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Homeschooling, Well Meaning Advice and the First Two Months

I feel like my brain has been humming along, almost to full to think of blogging these past couple of months.  You see usually I have all these ideas swirling around about things I'd like to post, but apparently all that blog idea energy has, of late, been directed towards our homeschooling days and the creativity that usually goes into my writing has been going into lesson plans and hour long conversations about volcanoes and the planets and answers to questions like "why do you think God made that like that?"

So as the second month of our first homeschooling year comes to an end (tomorrow, which is a very special day in our house for several reasons: Assumption, Paul's Birthday and Christian's Birthday) I thought I'd write a post about these first eight weeks and how things have gone so far.

The first thing I noticed when we began homeschooling was the terrific number of people who discouraged me from starting.  Oh, I'm not talking about people who were discouraging me from homeschooling our children.  No.  These were homeschoolers who felt the need to send me a note or a comment to tell me I was screwing my kids up by starting school when she was five (some people have been nice... but others... well... let's just say people are passionate about their homeschooling views and how very, very wrong I am!).  Clearly I was damaging her psyche and her creativity and not letting her play enough and "hey just let your kid be a kid."

And I was like... "Um...  Okay...  So... Let me explain..."  Except every explanation just sounded like I was rambling or annoyed and so I decided to put that post off indefinitely and it's still festering somewhere back in the draft bin.  But maybe a little bit of that post will be in this post, because the reason we began homeschooling back in June has to do with all of that.

You see, I wasn't planning on starting our school year the Monday after Sadie's birthday.  But when she turned five she seemed to think that she was just going to die if we didn't start school that very day and it was hardly fair because she was five now and five year olds do school Mommy!

Why not?  I thought.  Let's jump in with both feet.  All our school supplies had already arrived.

"Let her play!"  I have also heard.  And we do.  She plays all day long.  But she also asks questions and brings me books and wants to learn.  She's excited about school.

I'm not exactly sure when playing and school became mutually exclusive.  It's not as if the child is chained to the dining room table all day.  And I have to say, she'd be very unhappy if my response to "let's do school" was "Oh I'm sorry sweetie.  There's people all the internet who say that you shouldn't do any sort of formal education until you're seven, lest we damage your sweet little creative mind.  Put that book away and go back to playing."

"What's your goal in starting so early?"  Was another question I received.  "Are you planning on sending her to college when she's twelve?"  To which the answer is a hearty "No."  Is what she can learn in the next thirteen years finite?  Is there a certain place we'll come to when we say, "Opps, we've learned everything you can learn at home!  Can't do any more!  Off you go!"?  Absolutely not.  I'm hoping to install a love of learning in our kids, just as my parents passed on a love of learning to me, that doesn't end when the school day or year (or years) ends, because there's always more to learn.

But it's worse than that.  You see now I have Maggie, little whirlwind Maggie, sitting at the table next to Sadie for entire lessons.  Two days ago the poor little three year old actually collapsed sobbing at the table over a worksheet (just wait for the explanation though).

Didn't I mention the worksheets.  You see, apart from the little Singapore Math book I got, I didn't buy many consumables.  After reading the Well Trained Mind twice I had so many ideas bursting to get out (oh yes, Sadie's not the only one who's excited) and worksheets didn't play a huge roll.  But... I have not one but two kids who love worksheets.  So I went over to pinterest and found a bunch.  And now I'm printing a math sheet, a writing sheet, a tracing sheet, a saint coloring sheet and a themed coloring sheet for each day of the week (one of each subject per day that is) for Sadie and Maggie.  It takes them about a half hour to do all of them.

Sadie thinks they're fun... but Maggie... Maggie loves them.  And those tears I mentioned above.  They were because she doesn't have a Singapore Math workbook (and she has two years to wait for hers because those things aren't so cheap I'm giving her one to color in) and she just couldn't believe it and she wanted Sadie's so badly that the crying started... until I pointed out her really neat coloring sheet and she grudgingly went back to it, but not without trying to steal the Singapore Math book a few more times before the day was over.

As for what our days look like, here's what we do.  On Monday through Thursday we "do school."  That is, we do writing and reading (we're doing the BOB books, which Sadie love) and four pages in her Singapore Math workbook.  Sometimes we do some additional simple math with beans (math is really clicking with her and she thinks it's fun like her nerdy Mommy).  Then we do her "faith formation" class, which is her favorite part of school.  She gets out her Bible and Saint Book, one of her treasury books and we read a few pages of her Bible and four saint stories and one treasury book.  A few days a week we do the first grade religion book we got from CHC, although it's kind of basic since it's stuff we've been talking about for so long.

On the other subjects we mix things up day to day.  Some days she'll wake up talking about the planets.  Her favorite joke right now, which she greeted me with this morning was "Hey Mommy!  Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune..." (a pause for effect and then...) "Pluto!" followed by hysterical giggle because she obsessed with the fact that Pluto "was a planet" when I was little but is "only a dwarf planet" now.  Other days it's volcanos or jellyfish or my rock collection which my dad packaged up and sent to us a few weeks ago.  Sometimes we watch documentaries and sometimes we pull out one of the science books we have and stare and the pictures and talk about what they say.

Dinner time often turns into geography time, because of the huge maps on the wall in our dining room.  There's a good chance that the travels of the last years will come up, or Sadie will point out something on the kids' map (which has little pictures) and that will launch a family discussion for the night.  Since she tracked our cross country progress on the map quilt I'd made her, she knows where a good number of the states are and likes to talk about what she saw in each one.

In addition to that we snuggle on the couch and read a lot.  We've made it through the Little House on the Prairie books and have been reading the "Rose" books (we're on the third one now) together.  It's not uncommon that I have three babies on my lap during reading time, so turning the page can be a challenge, but it's also pretty awesome seeing Maggie listen to a story that is that long!

Friday is my favorite day of the week.  On Friday we go on a field trip in the morning.  This week I'm leaning towards going to one of the planetariums in our area since she's been on about planets all week (I spent a couple hours on Sunday answering questions about dwarf planets with the help of my friend google and a few YouTube videos).

And that's what we've been doing, along with playing outside and being the only swimmers at a very cold lake yesterday (where the lifeguard trudged out in a parka to watch us).

As I've gone through these months, and have thought over all the advice I've been given, I've begun to believe more and more that knowing your child is the most important thing when figuring out your strategy for homeschooling.  Many of us are homeschooling because we believe that we know our children best and we hope that we'll be able to offer them the best education possible with that knowledge.  It's not one size fits all.  So it might not be the best idea to tell someone with a child you've never met how to homeschool their child (or that they're ruining their child's creativity, or something like that, with all those books they keep reading to them).  I think that most parents are making the best education choices they can and while I understand the enthusiasm I have to say that the "this is the only way" notes I've encountered are probably not the best way to encourage fellow homeschoolers.

Still, I have to say, that so far (and maybe it's because we're in the honeymoon phase, or maybe doing school when it's nice outside is actually just a really good fit for us) this has been really fun.  We've had our crazy days (which were crazy because a certain brother and sister were in fine form) but for the most part I'm enjoying doing this more than I ever expected to (and I was looking forward to it!).  Now on to month number three!


  1. Wow, I can't believe people are already berating your decision to homeschool! If you chose public school, she'd be prepping for her first day of school right now to carry a heavy backpack and be chained to a desk for a good chunk of the day! Don't these people know that a big perk of homeschooling *is* the ability to let your kids be kids - since school only takes a few hours - by taking random Friday field trips, nature walks, and etc?

    Arguably, you start homeschool your children the moment their born: tummy time, collecting leaves outside, singing the ABCs, Mae playing in the rice/sand box, are all educating your children in some way. Structured learning doesn't stop growth: arguably it encourages it since kids love structure and routine!

    I can't wait to start homeschooling Abigail and she's only two! Every time we go to the bookstore, I swoon over these pre-reader color flashcards...and one time they had these cute counting bears on Zulily...

    Anyway, there's my rant for the day too : )

    Be strong in the face of the know-it-alls!

  2. I don't see anything wrong with starting at five if the child is ready and excited about learning. We started formal lessons with my oldest when he turned five and he was reading and doing addition within two months. He was ready to learn and wanted it. He's going to be six in a few weeks and is at the point now where he asks to do school work on non-school days because he loves learning so much, especially math. It's just his personality.

    My four-year-old is not that way at all. I try to incorporate him into our lessons and he will sit still and do the fun stuff with us, but worksheets and flashcards bore him to death. I have a feeling he won't be ready for formal work at age five and that is fine with me. He can continue to listen in and do the fun stuff until he is ready.

    An excited and interested learner is going to learn, whether they are three or six. When you start is totally dependent on the child. I'm glad you are following Sadie's cues!

  3. "knowing your child is the most important thing when figuring out your strategy for homeschooling."

    Yep...totally. And John (who's just a few months older than Sadie) has been doing school since around his 5th birthday, because that's when he started asking for it.
    I think the important thing is not "push" school on younger kids...but many kids are totally ready at that age, and holding them back isn't the best thing either. I firmly believe that things like reading and math skills are as much of a developmental milestone as walking and crawling. Some kids walk at 9 months and some kids don't walk until they are 18 months...and it's all considered "normal." Just like some kids are ready to read at age 4 and some aren't ready until age 8..different kids just reach that developmental stage at different times.

  4. Your daughter sounds like a very intelligent girl who is ready for school! I can't believe people (other homeschoolers, especially) would criticize you for wanting to get started a little early.

    Sounds like you guys are learning AND having fun! Bravo!

  5. I too have had comments about starting on Aug. 1st. During the short time we have been home schooling I have already decided we are going to go "year-round". We are going to take our breaks when the weather is beautiful (which means doing very little) and "go" to school when it is too hot or cold or miserable to be outside anyway. I am in the same boat. Zia is asking even on Saturday..."can we do school now?"

  6. My son will be three in December and we have had structured "school" since he was just over two. He has some speech problems and some minor delays, so his speech therapist, occupational therapist, and I decided that since he enjoys structured learning, we'd encourage it and use it for his therapy.

    It isn't a long time- about an hour a day, focusing on play dough, puzzles, coloring, art projects, reading lots, and yes, flash cards. Our son is starting to use words again, he enjoys his time with mommy and his other teachers, and I get to see how smart my child is... and how much he loves learning!

    I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for the fact that my husband and I truly feel it is beneficial to our son and fulfills his needs. No one gives us real opposition about it either, but I think that is because of why we do it.

    Don't let others give you a hard time. Any mother who puts time and effort into schooling their children has a lot of thought (and prayer usually too!) behind their decision. Good for you and your babies!

  7. I've noticed that people tend to get a lot more nosy when it comes to kids. :/ But what you said is really true: there isn't a one-size-fits-all for any kid, which is one of the great benefits of homeschooling.

    God bless!

  8. There is nothing wrong starting school at five if Sadie was going to public or private school she would be starting at five anyways. If she loves learning let her continue to learn.

    You said you are on you all have finished reading the Little House books and have started the Rose books. Did you know that there are series for each generation of Laura's family. Laura's mother the Caroline years. Laura's grandmother the Charlotte years and Laura's great grandmother the Martha . All of the books in each series are good.

    With the rose years I would consider waiting to read the last one until they were a little older. Unless of have already read the last book. I work at a library and the last rose book is cataloged as a teen book.

  9. Seriously, some kids love to do school. My niece loved worksheets starting at close to three, and the five or ten minutes she spent on a worksheet she loved didn't stop her playing the rest of the day.

  10. Ugh, there are just some things other folks should just butt out of. One of those is parenting choices. No one but you and your husband know what your family and children are really like. We only get snippets of your life on your blog. Even if I knew you really, really well, I wouldn't offer you parenting advice. Each child is different, each parent is different, each family is different and unless you've actually walked in another's shoes, butt out!

  11. Hey! Cam! Long time blog reader and very seldom commenter but I was really excited to read the other part of you and Paul's love story! Did you forget? I am a cradle catholic and love to read conversion stories! Love stories involving conversion are even better! Thanks! Ps. I pulled my kids out of school last year to homeschool and I am shocked that people are giving you grief! Sounds like you are doing it right to me!

  12. I pulled my kids out of catholic school last year to homeschool them at home. We just started our second year and I am shocked that anyone would give you grief! Sounds like you are doing it right to me!
    Also, did you forget to write the rest of you and Paul's love story? I love Conversion stories but love stories involving conversion are the best! Hope we get to see it soon!

  13. Your home school sounds perfect for your family. I wish I were so organized. I love the Well Trained Mind. Singapore Math is colorful and the kids really eat it up, the BOB books are totally cool, and even when a workbook seems a bit too basic, it never hurts to go over the basics again, in an organized form, just to be sure no concepts were missed.

    I already have my books for starting home school back up with my little ones. The older two are off to college and have adult lives. I still worry over them, and hope my son eventually finds a girl with the spunk and faith of one of your daughters!

    But for now, the younger ones are still too young for the books on the shelf-- except for Making Music Praying Twice which is marvelous!

    I enjoy your blog. :)

  14. I can't believe people criticized you for starting homeschooling when your child was 5! In my state, you are REQUIRED to start homeschooling at the age of 5!


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