My son, at the ripe old age of five, is currently working on “kindergarten light.” However, fleshing out- and discovering- our vision of the perfect homeschool is still a work in progress.
I haven’t quite decided where I land on homeschool philosophy yet. I went through all the education classes and student teaching when I became a PA state-certified K-12 music teacher. My husband teaches junior high and high school classes at a private classical Christian school. Between the two of us, you might imagine that we have this whole education thing fairly well nailed down.
However, we have both become disenchanted with the mainstream way of doing school. Between paperwork, classroom management, social pressures, parent-teacher relations, extracurricular school functions, and standardized testing, it seemed that there isn’t too much time allotted for actual learning. We wanted something different for our kids if at all possible.
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What kind of different? We were left floating somewhere between a serious classical education (a la Susan Wise Bauer and The Well-Trained Mind), a Charlotte Mason education focusing on lots of outdoors time and real-life academics, and an unschooling-bent education without actually losing all formal studies. If you’ve looked into any educational philosophies, you’ll know that there’s a good bit of variance between these ideas.
Since my son is too young to enter formal kindergarten, we decided that this would be a test year to figure out what worked best for our family. I started by ordering some kindergarten curriculum for reading, handwriting, and Bible. I purchased math workbooks from the dollar store and supplemented with games on Starfall.com. We take home a huge stack of children’s books from the library each week, and work our way through classic chapter books one at a time. (Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, and James and the Giant Peach are a few of the ones we’ve read together.)
After a couple weeks of focusing on these curricula, I was soon reminded that my son learns more quickly and amiably when it’s not out of a workbook. While I don’t discount phonics exercises and writing practice, I have come to value more and more the beauty of letting children learn like children.
A five year old boy isn’t made to sit down to do abstracted subtraction problems for 30 minutes at a time. However, he can easily subtract apple slices as he eats them! Real life “stealth” learning is often the most effective: Baking is math and science, a walk outside can quickly become a nature study, and reading and counting can easily be practiced at the grocery store. If I am intentional in thinking about it, it’s simple to find valuable learning opportunities in everyday activities.
Of course, everyone is always worried about the socialization of those poor, cloistered homeschool children who never see the light of day. Never fear- my son does see other children, and probably has a much more balanced socialization than his conventionally schooled counterparts.
He attends a weekly gym class at a local university and a weekly art class at a local movie theater/community center. We are also part of a homeschool cooperative that focuses on extracurricular activities and field trips. Our co-op is open to members of all beliefs and educational philosophies, and includes families of diverse ethnicities, age range, and walks of life. And that’s not even mentioning the cousins, church friends, and an elderly friend that my son sees on nearly a weekly basis.
(Who says homeschoolers aren’t socialized?)
Sorry, I think I got on a tangent there. Back to the topic!
While I’m still figuring out exactly how I’d like to structure our day (especially right after having a baby), we are working on developing a routine that works well for our family. Our days, in theory, go something like this:
- Academic school time (sometimes with one of our curricula, sometimes more “real life” focused)
- Activity for the day (gym, co-op, art, library, outside time, etc.)
- Reading together
- Nap/quiet time
- Outdoor play/creative play indoors before dinner
You should know that this is currently my goal for a routine, not a perfect schedule. I’m still working to get into the swing of things after baby- plus I’m going back to teaching a couple nights a week, so that will provide new challenges as well.
This year is definitely a trial year of schooling, but we are gradually finding what works and doesn’t work for us. One day, when I figure it all out eighteen years from now, I’ll write a post on how it would look for us if I could do it all over again. 🙂
What does your school year look like?