Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not Quite Newbies Anymore

We began our official homeschool journey on September 8th of last year.  It's taken about a year for me to fall into this role, to be comfortable without feeling like that means I'm being lazy.  Here are some things that I've learned on the way, information I wish I could have given myself a year ago.  By the way, my kids are all under the age of 7, so there's a good chance I don't know what I'm talking about.  Homeschool moms of olders, I will be reaching out for your hands in the future.  Be prepared to hold me!

Don't interrupt playtime.
Playing is learning, for kids or adults.  Don't mess with it too much.  There are times during the day where I tell them to finish an assignment, but if they are in the middle of creative play, I usually just let that happen.  So much learning comes from that.

Let Dad help.
There are days when D gets home and we have not finished our homeschool work for the day, usually because of playdates or because the twins cried foul on everything we attempted by peeing in the floor or demanding roasted chick peas by making incoherent grunting sounds.  If it's been one of those day, then D takes Ash and Eo and I spend 15-20 minute with the older two wrapping up.  D also takes on some of the teaching when he is off, and the kids love it.  We school on weekends sometimes, and D jumps in and takes them on learning adventures I would never even think to explore.

Use the Bible. 
During our reading of Genesis 2, we discussed the creation of humans, where babies live in a woman's body (Wren: since the baby is in your stomach, does it just float around with all your food?  Me:  you have a uterus.  Let's discuss.) and how ladies get pregnant, why men can't.  I believe that covered the science of reproduction and the digestive system, as well as a birds and bees talk that ended with us telling Sammy, "Don't worry.  You don't have a uterus so you can't carry a baby, but you can get your wife pregnant someday."  Sam was like, "Solid."

Don't assume it's all about the curriculum.
The first question most fellow homeschoolers ask when they find out you're a kindred spirit is, "What curriculum are you using?"  Don't be intimidated by this question.  Know that at this point in the game there are more curricula on the market than you could ever fully research.  Do some homework then choose.  Or wing it for a while, like us.  We don't use a curriculum at all right now, at least not one we pay for.  I base what we study loosely off of this.  There are also free resources like Khan's Academy and Easy Peasy Homeschool.  We might actually purchase the Mystery of History curriculum this semester, but it's all I'm planning on investing in right now besides flashcards and some Spectrum math guides from the book store.  We've also been gifted with tons of workbooks by the teachers in my family.  Basically, we read, we write, we study math, we live at the library, and that's what I tell people when they ask.  Kids are natural learners; there's no need to interfere with that much, especially when they're little.

Build community.
I have found the homeschool community in this area insanely supportive and transparent, just like good community should be.  We aren't going to a co-op at this point, but we are a part of some homeschool groups, and the friendships and advice I've received are priceless.  After agonizing about trying to get all four kids to co-op while the twins were still young and having issues with separation, one of the moms from our group gave me some great advice:  Forget it.  She wisely reasoned that until my little ones are at least in preschool, what I would have to deal with trying to get all four of them out the door and acclimated so one can learn at co-op while the other three are basically baby sat is ridiculous.  This same thought had run through my head many times, but being given permission to feel this way by another person helped me drop the guilt about the situation and move on.  That's good community.

Let your kids see you do hard stuff, and fail.
This is true whether you are homeschooling or not.  For years we teach our kids to challenge themselves, set goals, practice what's hard until it's mastered.  As adults, we don't always model this.  We either get in a rut where we are afraid to try something new or we embark on a journey without including our kids in the process.  And it's all about the process.  Once I saw Wren have her 6000th breakdown over not doing something perfectly, I started talking to her about my attempts to learn Spanish.  I let her know it was hard, I got frustrated, but I also let her see me talk my way through it, grab other resources for help, keep going.  When she was having trouble memorizing multiplication facts, she said, "But I'll keep trying like you keep trying Spanish, because it's hard, but we're both working our brain muscles, so that's good."  Showing is better than telling.

Make your kids the teachers.
Asher and Eowyn have served as students since Wren and Sam started homeschool.  Wren reads books to them; Sammy shows them how to color and organize numbers.  We have built a "tent" out of chairs with a comforter hanging over it and had story times led by the older two that can last forever before finally devolving into pillow fights.  This keeps the twins involved in a process that could make them feel left out.  It helps Sam and Wren solidify what they've learned by teaching it to others.  Win-win.

We're still winging it, but I'm comfortable with that.  Each of us is learning more about how we learn and how we teach every day.  It's a blessed little adventure.

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