Friday, August 23, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The First 7 Things I Loved About Homeschooling

So, we officially began homeschooling with SuperSam this week. We have been easing into it for a couple of weeks, and our generally curious lifestyle (frequent google searches and trips to the library for information he HAS to have on a given day) set us up well to be successful as a homeschooling family, I think.

The first week has gone really well. I didn't expect things to feel quite as different as they do now that we are officially "in school." I think we are both liking the change. SuperSam is excited and proudly tells people that he is in Kindergarten but doing school at home.

Although I also didn't expect to feel so tired at the end of the day (and to fall so behind on housework!), it has been a good week.  We haven't changed much about what we are actually doing, but something about the intention of it (thinking of it as school and loosely keeping track of what we're reading and studying) has taken more energy than it did before. I know I'll figure out the balance and that the good will keep on outweighing the bad. I just can't believe I never folded the three loads of laundry that are still stacked in my bedroom.


Here are the first seven things I have loved about homeschooling this week:

SuperSam's quote of the week: "The best thing about homeschooling is that I can still go outside as much as I want, even after school starts."

Our classroom has been outdoors this week more often than it has been indoors. Walking on the Greenway, observing butterflies in the backyard, watching the groundhog that has made a burrow under our neighbor's shed, sketching a praying mantis on our back deck, studying earthworms, and counting dead monarch caterpillars on a walk have all been opportunities for learning. We have freedom to study whatever is interesting where we are, and we have the flexibility to pursue those interests wherever they lead, no matter how long it takes.

We love that.

Staying home for school means that most days, we have no rush to be on time. On days when we have to be someplace at a certain time (like Sundays!), the extra stress of getting everyone out the door makes me tense and more likely to yell. When we can start the day in a leisurely way, I don't have to worry about how long it is taking SuperSam to get ready, and I can relax and enjoy his company. He's an awesome kid to hang out with...just don't ask him to put on his shoes quickly.

We have been reading and reading and reading. SuperSam loves to read on his own, but he has been reading a lot to the Sisters this week, too. He and I have been working our way through The Hobbit a bit at a time. I've even been reading my own books while he reads (either the Magic Treehouse series or nonfiction books about sea creatures and ocean life) in the afternoons after his nap time while the Sisters are still sleeping. I love that reading with and to him is such a big part of our day...and since I don't have to teach him to read, some of the pressure is off for me for this year.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite things so far is doing Bible stories with the kids. Of course, we have always told them Bible stories and read to them from Bible story books. Since we've decided to make it part of our curriculum, though, SuperSam and I have read or retold the same story of Jesus calling Simon Peter every day this week. On the second day, I remembered a little song about it from my childhood Sunday School days, so I taught it to them. They've been singing it every day since. Our story even inspired a science activity (I'll get to that in a minute).

It's easy to forget as an adult that the stories of Jesus' life are exciting and kind of magical. They're fun to tell and fun to act out and fun to draw. We grownups get hung up on what Big Spiritual Benefit we are supposed to be getting from them. "What does this mean in my life?" we ask. To our kids, though, they are just some really cool stories. As SuperSam said, "Jesus was, like, totally awesome."

(And Lucy responded, "Baby Jeezus tode-ly ah-suhm.")

Kitchen sink science has got to be one of the coolest things about homeschooling. We're thinking about Simon Peter's fishing boat? Let's make a boat and see if it floats. What can we use? Oh, aluminum foil, ok. How should we design it? Hey, let's make three different designs and see which one works best. Now let's pretend these pennies are fish and count how many fish each boat can hold before it sinks. Let's draw a chart and fill in the data. Wow, these pennies look dirty. Let's wash them with soap. That didn't help? Let's try vinegar and salt and see what happens...and on and on it goes.

I love watching SuperSam's brain work, figuring out what questions it wants to ask and how to answer them. Mostly, I just say, "Oh, okay, what do you think you need?" or "How could you fix that?" and see what he comes up with. It's never dull.

The Sisters want to do school, too. I didn't expect this. I love that they want to be in on what SuperSam is doing every...single...minute...but it is making me a little crazy. Trying to come up with ways to keep them engaged and occupied is going to be the hardest part about this whole thing. It doesn't help that they are in a stage of constant competition with one another.

Our best successes this week happened when I moved things outside. Taking the easel outside and letting the Sisters draw while SuperSam works in his playhouse has been a great way for him to get some space to himself.

So this one isn't so much MY love, but SuperSam's: my kid loves math. Really, really loves math. I don't know where that came from, but it is my duty not to squash it or to in any way suggest that he should not love math. I take this responsibility seriously, even if I wonder whose genetic material caused this strange love of numbers. He certainly didn't inherit it from either of his parents.

Much to my surprise, he has been grasping math concepts quickly and naturally and asking for more every day. I wasn't even going to really do a formal math curriculum with him, since we do so much "real life" math with cooking, measuring, telling time, counting money, playing with shapes, etc. Now I'm wondering if I should let him go ahead since he's so interested.

That's the first week for you- so far, so good. It's not going to be easy, but there is a lot to love about homeschooling here with my family, and I'm certain that it's the right decision for us at this time.

If you don't think so, please don't tell me this week. :-) I'm very tired now and I don't have the energy to defend our position with a smile on my face. Wait a while until I've gotten my homeschooling bearings...then I can take you on properly.

Oh, and lest you fear for his social development, SuperSam will be on a soccer field for the first time tomorrow morning (in the cutest little cleats and shin guards I have ever, ever seen.) We'll let you know how it goes.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!