So, I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide whether to start a new blog about my foray into homeschooling. Alas, I thought about the 5+ blogs I am either managing solely or contributing to and I nixed the idea immediately. I am also going to be helping my daughter run her blog that will be up and running soon at http://www.thathappyhomeschooler.blogspot.com. So, I am going to just settle on posting every now and again on my experiences as a homeschooling mom.
I’m less than a month in…officially anyway. This past summer has been filled with learning– from beginning her Saxon Math curriculum in July to visits to the museum– yes, but, as a slave to habit sometimes, I decided to make the official start date mirror the public school system my daughter just exited. We started about two weeks ago.
These weeks have actually sped by. Already it seems that we have a bit of a routine. I’ve home-schooled briefly before, however, my daughter is five years older and I came to the table a tad bit more nervous. Despite this fact, I was able to find some semblance of structure by relying on my professional experience as an educator and having my daughter give input as we approach home-school as a student-centered experience. Here were some things we decided early on:
Naming Our Home School
My soon-to-be 10 year-old is all about naming. (I know this is common for creatives, even when it comes to naming themselves, and I wrote about that before here). She spends hours naming her characters in the stories she writes before even beginning to write the story. She names dolls, stuffed animals, purses and sticks. She named our dog five years ago, naming her Bella, an Italian version of her own middle name. So, without forethought, we took to the task of naming our intention. She picked the Flower Academy Learning Center. She made a sign for the door to the room we call “the learning center” that houses the table she works at sometimes, the tons of art supplies and books we are using as well as the bulletin boards that display her school work and art.
Becoming Curriculum-Using Unschoolers with a Splash of Montessori
So, if you have researched anything regarding homeschooling lately, you have become hip to terms that are out there regarding the approach that some parents choose to take when teaching their children. While there are many terms thrown about, you will come across more readily the camps that believe in Unschooling and those who are all for ready-made curricula.
I knew from the beginning that there was no curriculum already established that covered every topic that I wanted to teach my daughter. I also knew that I wanted her to have some input into how we approach learning, if only to give an idea of what she did NOT want learning to look like. I realized that Math was the only area I wanted a set curriculum for because if that curriculum was already established, then I could use my expertise in the other areas that I have experience building curriculum for.
This approach has led to me actually developing outcomes for the year that I would like to see but literally planning each week the Sunday before it begins. I’m taking into account how she responds to certain things, what she finishes quickly, what she struggles with etc. and am able to modify each week to her specific learning needs. This is by far much more easier than when I once taught a classroom of more than 25 kids and even today as a college instructor. I was able to incorporate elements of the Unschooling method of allowing the child to come up with their own topics of study by including the expectation of a question of the day where she literally conducts research every day on a topic of her choice, sharing it later in writing in summary form. She doesn’t realize that she is conducting an archive her “research” to be later called upon for bigger projects such as Science Fair, Public Speaking, etc.
Using a Syllabus for Each Week
Although it may seem contradictory to this advice I gave a few years ago, we’ve found that having a syllabus for the entire week allows her to work on assignments as she chooses. There is no order requirement, just the requirement that they are completed before the end of the week. I provide instruction on new concepts and the paperwork or computer assignment she then works on reinforces it. We’ve had one project-based experience that was interdisciplinary in nature that built her skills in applying skills from different areas on one project, but, for the most part, assignments are distinct to their subject area, listed on a syllabus checklist that she is responsible for using as she manages her own time. This skill is a challenge for my college students who are often 18+. It was definitely a challenge for my soon-to-be 10 year-old the first couple of days, but she has already mastered using it, waking up and automatically grabbing her syllabus and deciding what she wants to get started on first. I am no longer required for kicking things off.
Making Art a Part EVERY DAY
My daughter is a creative in every since. Art is essential to her well-being. Her learning center is largely made up off art supplies for her to use for just about every assignment she has. I allow her to add pictures to just about every writing assignment. She can present oral summaries to me utilizing visual aids she’s created. Glue, paper and markers are used just about every day. She has told me that she likes this arrangement most of all when it comes to homeschooling.
The video below is what we created after she created drawings depicting scenes in her favorite folk tale she read during our past weeks learning about the Akan people of Africa and folk tales.
Thanks for all of the support and encouragement from those of you who were aware of my intention to home-school. Wish us luck as we begin this new journey!