Saturday, May 10, 2014

Homeschooling for Dummies: What One Day Taught Me

I'm pretty sure the process of homeschooling is just that. . .a learning process for both the child and the adult. It certainly is never a decision that is made lightly and one that needs to come with a lot of thought and research. When my husband and I decided to give it a try, we had been praying and thinking over it for quite a while. It made sense, as we are raising our two boys abroad in Nicaragua and are on a "missionary budget", if you will. They were currently enrolled in a private international school here and the school days were extremely long (8 hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) leaving not a lot of time for family and one-on-one attention from us. It was/is a fantastic school, one that encourages learning through play, cultural diversity, and extracurricular activities. We are not against public and private schools. But both of our kids, though learning a LOT, were still not learning the native language and were lacking attention from us. They needed US more. Not to mention that private schools, even in third-world countries are quite expensive. Financially speaking, it made sense for us to try this new approach to our kid's education. I would encourage all parents to think VERY thoroughly before making academic decisions for your kids. You can never have enough information and not all popular ways are right for your own family. We all have very diverse needs.

We decided to wean onto homeschooling, since I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what I'm doing. I did not go to college myself, yet always desired to be a teacher. The idea of homeschooling my boys seems like one I will personally enjoy, but I know that there are pros and cons to all situations. We decided to keep the boys in their international school for two days a week and have them home for three to see how they would do on a trial run. Would they like the schedule that I established? Would we have enough time (or too much) for all the things that I would want to cover in a day? How would they respond to my instruction in a teachers capacity? Will I have enough patience for this? These are all questions that ran through my mind the entire first day of homeschooling. And I have to say, I realized one very important thing. Not all homeschooling experiences look the same. There are also many kinks to work out. That first day, I did my best to prepare a lesson plan and schedule and took notes throughout the entire day as I saw things that did/did not work. For example, we did PE Exercises first thing in the morning because my initial opinion is that the kiddos would need something to wake them up and get them moving and thinking before we sat down to do computer work. After further review, I've decided that after an hour of computer work (Reading, English, and Math), my son needed a "movement break". It was after sitting that he needed some physical stimulation and that would be a better time to do our PE Exercise time. We adjusted the schedule for Day 2. I kept a notebook of all of the little things that I noticed all day long and I will use those notes to re-evaluate my lesson plans going forward. After day 2 and 3, I'm realizing we will continue to have more notes and things to change, and that's okay. I think the problem lies in seeing how one family/blog/curriculum tells you to do it, and not understanding that those insights are just a springboard into finding out what works for your family specifically. Homeschooling seems to be a learn-as-we-go process.

Here is our Day One Experience:
I have two boys who are very different playing fields when it comes to where they are academically. My seven-year-old is right on-course if not ahead of most kids his age in Math and Reading. My four-year-old is still learning all of his letters and their sounds. Splitting up the day to accomplish the needs of each was a challenge, but we did the best we could. Both are also very technologically savvy so we knew we wanted an online curriculum and "game times" to be a part of their homeschool routine. We got started at 9 a.m. and did PE Exercise time. (Again, I do not think this was the right time of day to do this and will push it back to mid-morning in the future.) After that, we all did Spanish together. They both responded well to doing this early. The day continued with me breaking the two of them up. One would do puzzles and mazes and games on the kindle, while I worked with the other on online curriculum. Then after 45 minutes, we would switch. Then we met back up to do coloring worksheets catered to their age together at the table. After lunch, we did more interactive games. ABC matching games for the little one, and card games with the older. We wanted to get to and Art History lesson and a Science activity, but we were already burned out and needed outside playtime again. We went to the beach to collect rocks and to swim for a bit instead. And I realized then that it's important that I give them ample time to be active. A lot of sitting in front of a computer or doing worksheets and even interactive activities will not compensate for their need at this age to MOVE. Maybe we can find other parents who are homeschooling in the area and get together for activities with them throughout the week.

Overall, what I learned on Day 1 of homeschooling:
*The schedule you begin with will never be exactly the schedule that you end with. You may need to adjust the curriculum and routine to suit your children.

*Taking notes on how to improve is always helpful. Always be evaluating how you can make this experience better for your kids.

*Comparisons are not allowed. Seeing how this mom or that mom accomplishes this job of homeschooling and may seem to do it better than you, will only stunt your growth. You are learning right along with your child and with practice and an open mind, your Day 2 will be better than your Day 1.

*Your enthusiasm for learning the materials makes a world of difference in how the information you are teaching will be received by your child.

*PLAY is just as important as academics. Developing a love of learning early is important. Make every effort to make all the material FUN for your child.

*We are all doing the best we can.

One whole week of homeschooling is now under our belts and we are still very enthusiastic about it all. The boys think it's exciting to do their schoolwork in the pjs and so do I. We are learning a lot already and cannot wait for week two. :)

1 comment:

  1. You are right that not all homeschools look alike. I was terrified when I began homeschooling...what if I missed teaching my daughter something vital? I gained a lot of confidence with our homeschool by using an online curriculum (we use Time4Learning). And I found out that playing games was such an easy for my daughter to learn and review! I'm so glad you discovered the play thing so early!! If you are looking for some education games you might check out It's a great site for early elementary games. I actually love QWERTY Warriors for keyboard practice. Best of luck with your homeschooling endeavor and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!