Homeschooling, How Do You Do It? @Maria Goretti Children’s School…

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To be perfectly honest, I never planned on homeschooling. I sent my eldest and second born to our neighborhood co-op preschool, and my eldest to a lovely charter school for Kindergarten. What I found was, the standards that the school had for their youngest students was crazy intense. Since my day, when Kindergarten consisted of play- doh and finger-painting, apparently a lot had changed… I wasn’t comfortable putting my child in a situation where she felt “dumb” for not being able to read when she had just barely turned five. So, I prayed hard. I told Jesus He really needed to give me a clear cut (obvious) sign that I should homeschool, because even though I had several friends who homeschooled – it seemed intimidating, a lot of pressure for the Mom!

The same day that I muttered that halfhearted prayer, I got a phone call from my dear friend, Darcy. She says, “Jen, you have got to get over here because there is a school that just closed, an they are giving stuff away by the carload!…. I thought you said you were going to homeschool!” So of course, I took that as my sign, and on the way home from filling my car for thirty bucks, I got this overwhelmed feeling. Now that my minivan is stuffed full of paper, paint, glue, community playthings, wooden toys, puzzles, and so much of everything I needed, I would actually have to do this!! AHHHH! Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, and many days around here begin with me resisting the urge to pull the covers over my head and travel back to dreamland. It is a lot of work and there are good days, but even on good days we have messes that aren’t easily cleaned up, feelings that get hurt, and there is never enough time to do all the things I want to do!

If you were to ask my kids why they like homeschool they would say: Judah (12), “I like the laid backness of it, it’s easy going, I can go off and do my work on my own, and I like learning with my brother and sisters, too, depending on the day. One thing I didn’t like about formal school was not knowing how my friends were doing with their work, I always felt like I was waiting for them to finish.” (Judah went to a local Catholic school for one semester in fifth grade and chose not to return, she had a basically good experience, but wasn’t accustomed to classroom management, and didn’t enjoy being away from the fun of our homeschool projects).

Eva (11), “I like that I can be with my little sisters and brother and do fun stuff at my homeschool co-op, mostly Ballet with my favorite teacher Miss Olivia!”

Mira (8), “I like having extra time in my day to play and work on my piano playing.”

Those are my big kids! I would suspect that the little kids would just smile and say nothing because they do very little formal schooling (2-3 hours each day) and mostly they play and do crafts. They are all learning and surpassing my efforts at teaching them to knit (thanks Ellen, dearest Fiber Friend)! Which is a great way to keep antsy children to sit still and listen to the Mama/teacher read. We do our Science, History, Spanish,and Scripture reading as a group.

Here is a link to teach your kids finger knitting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3LKAlDz9ig

I have heard a lot of reasons NOT to homeschool over the years, and maybe it’s not for you, and that is totally cool. Sometimes I feel like God gave me too much to handle, even though folks are always saying he never does that. One of the common complaints that I often hear from people, is the socialization question. We all want our children to have the perfect environment to learn and be productive lovely adults. Well, to those who wonder about socialization I ask, “What do you think the benefits are for a child to be surrounded by other children of the same  age?” I think it’s a bit like the blind leading the blind. Most work places are not relegated to a specific age group, it makes sense to teach multiple ages so that the younger children can have something to work towards, and the older children can reinforce what they already know by helping the younger ones. I kind of love my one room schoolhouse where the six year old knows details about Julius Caesar because he listens in on the big kids history lessons. And I have to laugh: my four year old reads, simply because she is a big girl and all the other children read, so she should too! I haven’t pressed her at all, she just taught herself! HA! Who would have thought?!

I know the pressure is killer in terms of finding out what to do, and how to do it, it’s not a small question. I so admire and thank God for my dear friend Clare, without her patience in listening to all my anxieties, I would never have had the courage to continue. I got the book “Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum”, by Laura Berquist, and I pretty much follow her recommendations, because I have been so happy with everything she has suggested. If I had to label my style I would say Classical/Charlotte Mason combo.  I use A beka and Teaching Textbooks for math, and now a little Khan Academy too (thanks Uncle Jaime!), we use Primary and Intermediate Language Lessons for Language Arts, Bob Books to teach reading, A beka for spelling, Story of the World and the American Girl Books for History, Gods Marvelous Works by Rod and Staff Publishers for Science, and a lot of Charlotte Mason style Nature Study in between. We love listening to Audio Memory CD’s for Geography and History Songs. We are learning Spanish, using fun You Tube Videos! We stick to Mrs. Burquist’s book lists, specified by grade, as well. There are a lot of other things we have tried, and every kid is different, so certain things will work for some that won’t fly with others. I trust that they will let me know:)

I want to note that a couple of years ago my husband and I had a conversation about house work. We decided that we would be doing the kids a disservice if we didn’t teach them how to be good stewards of our home, and this began a huge “chore chart,” which he regulates with the kids.  They have 3-5 age appropriate jobs each day, and they get points depending on the time it takes them. Each point is worth twenty five cents, and each Saturday he pays them in cash. It’s been a great hands on lesson, if they don’t do their job, they lose money, they can make more money by doing additional jobs, but only after all their regular jobs are completed. I thank the Lord everyday for my husband, and especially for his support in this way. The kids are very motivated to please him, and I am hoping this is the case for quite sometime. That being said, my house is not immaculately clean at all.

One of the questions I often get, is do you go ANYWHERE? Don’t you get bored being at home all the time!? The answer to that is yes, we go EVERYWHERE! I am becoming more and more appreciative of my time at home as I get older, but I still go somewhere with the kids almost everyday, sometimes we have to institute a Loaf Around the House Day! We do Atrium, Catechism Classes and Piano Lessons, Adventurers Homeschool Co-op on Thursdays, Irish Dance, and lots sports (gymnastics and soccer are the two going on now). We do absolutely nothing on Sundays except for Mass, eating, and sleeping (in, hopefully)!

There are so many great curricula out there, it doesn’t seem to make sense to pick just one, I say try some things out, and use what works! I can’t stand these people who are convinced there is a right and wrong way to homeschool! I have friends who Unschool by using everyday experiences to teach their children. I love it. Go for it! If it works for your family, I think it is a wonderful blessing, and don’t ever feel silly for using a book or an idea that no one else you know is using! The reason God gave us these kids is so that we could KNOW them, and learn from them, part of the learning is realizing that your attention is enough. There is no good teacher out there who doesn’t take the time and energy to really develop a relationship with his or her students! It is essential to spend the effort really getting close to them so that when they struggle you can point out the things they are honestly good at. It’s hard to encourage someone you don’t know.

I have used this "writing without tears" letter set for three kids in a row now, and I'm starting the three year old. It's very simple and not frustrating to the child, which goes a long long way in my world. I have no idea how I produced perfectionistic children, but I think this is God's sense of humor at work, again!

 
I have used this “writing without tears” letter set for three kids in a row now, and I’m starting the four year old. It’s very simple and not frustrating to the child, which goes a long long way in my world. I have no idea how I produced perfectionistic children, but I think this is God’s sense of humor at work, again!

Sometimes the more fun, the better, and keeping the child ready to learn the next time you sit down to read is more beneficial than pushing her so hard she loses the joy in it, and NEVER wants to come back and try again. I think being there, sitting close to them, reassuring them that they are making a good effort is critical. If they feel your love and support they will want to please you by doing a great job. Usually.

Do you have a play kitchen set in your home? Where do you like to keep it? I have tried it in my kitchen, so the kids can wok alonside me, but I was tripping over fake sushi and cake waaay to often. Then it took a trip to the basement, which is apparently quite scary to my littles, so, it's in the living room...
Do you have a play kitchen set in your home? Where do you like to keep it? I have tried it in my kitchen, so the kids can wok alonside me, but I was tripping over fake sushi and cake waaay to often. Then it took a trip to the basement, which is apparently quite scary to my littles, so, it’s in the living room…

The best part about being a child is having a chance to play. The play is their work. Maria Montessori said to number your words and prepare their environment. I try to practice the art of shut-up, it doesn’t always work! But  I do get a chuckle thinking about how I used to lecture Judah and Eva so much when they were little. It was waaay over their heads, I realize now, and why did I do that? I think because I was afraid if I wasn’t nice and respectful to them they wouldn’t like me. Now I understand that it’s not my job to be their friend, and I need to stop seeking acceptance from them. My role in their life is to be a good example. I can speak respectfully, but I don’t need to speak at them quite so much. The toys we have are not always prepared in terms for being as Montessoried up as I would like, but I do try to keep their work at their level, and to teach them to return it where they found it.

This is one of the baby's favorite places to hang out in our schoolroom (we call it "the Goretti," after our school's patron saint: Maria Goretti). My mom-in -law got the super cute bunny rug for me at a thrift store, and I just think it's so sweet. Anya sits on it and plays with my collection of wooden cars. Where is your favorite corner?
This is one of the baby’s favorite places to hang out in our schoolroom (we call it “the Goretti,” after our school’s patron saint: Maria Goretti). My mom-in -law Rebecca, got the super cute bunny rug for me at a thrift store, and I just think it’s so sweet. Anya sits on it and plays with my collection of wooden cars. Where is your favorite corner?

I love to switch out their toys periodically so that they feel new, and more interesting. I am learning to not put out so many choices. Just a few toys can provide endless moments of blissful quiet from your young ones! And if it’s pretty simple to  pull out they can have the satisfaction of getting to put it back just so! I like to have something sensationally sensory for the little kids to feel with their tiny fingers… favorites include rice pouring, play doh, sponge painting, watercolor pencils, painting rocks with water, snow play, bean spooning, what other things can you share that keep the babies busy?

Hard to believe, but my kids spend hours playing with these, making designs and flowers....if you don't already have some, get on the bus.
Hard to believe, but my kids spend hours playing with these, making designs and flowers….if you don’t already have some, get on the bus: Geometric Tiles Rock!

I would love to hear your reasons for homeschooling, and what you do that works in your one room schoolhouse!

I love love Charlotte Mason, but you know here in the Mitten State we have a lot of, well, weather. So why not bring the nature study indoors? We have been known to bring in bowls of snow when I can't muster the energy to dress so many little people in snowsuits only to undress them in 10 minutes! I just put pinecones and acorns and shells in this basket just for fun!

May your school days be fruitful, your children be well taught, and may your legacy be faithful friends of Jesus who take the time to love their own little ones! May your toes be warm, your mittens dry, and may your children grow up knowing about Christ by your kind example.

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