Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homeschooling: The Practice Run


Some of you darlings may know about the decision Jeff and I have made to homeschool our kids once they are old enough. Considering that baby number 1 isn't due for another 5 months or so its safe to say that we have some time to prepare and decide what curriculum (or curriculums since you can use more than one program to achieve what you want) will be right for our family. I had been feeling overwhelmed by this decision, but after reading recent news headlines (a kindergartener brought heroin from home and decided to share it with his classmates, another kid commits suicide because of bullying, attempted school shootings, problems with the education system, etc.) I am feeling more at peace than ever with this decision.

My younger sister Kiersten has been eagerly researching preschools in our area and has found that the programs are either too expensive for her budget to handle or they require so many volunteer hours for a reduced rate that she is unable to register her daughter anywhere. Kiersten and I had discussed her preschool woes. She expressed how nervous she was that her daughter would be behind once she started Kindergarten if she couldn't get into a good preschool. The topic of homeschool came up and what had led Jeff and I to our decision to commit to homeschool before our first child was even born. As I had volunteered at several preschools while I was pursuing a music education degree, I told her exactly what a preschool curriculum most commonly consisted of and how easy it would be to teach her little girl at home and prepare her for Kindergarten (if Kindergarten even exists in the state of Idaho by the time Raylee starts school as our state superintendent has been pushing initiatives to get rid of Kindergarten) Kiersten was surprised at how easy it could be but expressed that she envied me and my belief that I would have the patience to handle something like that.

We left the conversation at that. I filed it away and kind of forgot about it. Then, a few weeks ago, Kiersten approached me and offered to pay me a certain fixed amount each week and for all the necessary books if I would be Raylee's preschool teacher. She had been stressing about it, and just knew that she couldn't afford preschool, or devote the necessary volunteer hours with another little one at home to take part in the Head Start Program of our local school district. I was delighted to say yes. Not only will it be an awesome opportunity for me to spend some wonderful quality time with Raylee, it will be a great opportunity for me to learn how to put a curriculum together.

I buckled down and decided to spend my morning today researching curriculums. I was actually inspired by a blog that I read. The amazing woman that writes it homeschools ten of her eleven children. She had written a blog asking for suggestions for new curriculum for the next year that would be affordable because they didn't like the curriculum they had tried this year. People commented in droves! I decided to follow the links that they left and check out the programs they suggested. Someone even pointed her in the direction of a free website that helps you build your own curriculum based off the Charlotte Mason method (Charlotte Mason was an educator turned homeschooling maven when she found that the local children were not excelling at the local public schools. She turned her home into a classroom and allowed her neighbors to bring their children to her for schooling. This occurred at the turn of the century. She stressed the importance of play in early childhood education as a means of teaching them what they needed to know and also stressed the importance of them being able to speak intelligently about events of their day. Vocal composition is a huge part of the beginning of her method.) Based off of my reading, and ideas that I have been getting reading about different homeschool curriculum programs you can buy for preschool, I'm pretty sure I can come up with a very affordable, very effective program catered specially to Raylee and her educational needs.

I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to gain the knowledge from the ISU education program that has made this possible. I feel so confident! I may not once we start...but right now Raylee is super excited that Aunt B. is going to be her teacher and that we will get to have some one on one time, and was eager to get a headstart. We even had a little mini lesson this morning on the number 1. Raylee can count and say her alphabet, where she lacks skills is in recognition of the symbols. That is easily fixed with the right approach. I found a great website with tons of free worksheets for preschool and kindergarten to help with being able to draw the letters and numbers, and while we're at it, we will work on phonics and sight words so that she can maybe even start reading in easy readers before Jeff and I leave for his new job (hopefully we find out soon if he got it).

I am so humbled by my sister's faith in me, and even more humbled by the love of my special little niece who is so eager to learn! I'm thinking we will likely start in July. Raylee is 4 and while she can count to 20 and say her alphabet there are other ways that she is behind and I figure she will catch up quickly. She is one smart little girl! She amazingly knows things that no one has made an effort to really teach her. Take today for example. A bee landed on a flower out on my parent's porch. Raylee shouts, "Aunt B.! Aunt B.! Look! There is a bee on the flower outside!" She watched the little bee fascinated by what it was doing. I said, "Raylee, do you know why bees need flowers?" Raylee smiled and said, "Of course I do silly, they use flowers to make honey!" Charlotte Mason method at work!( and on the first day that I read about it too!) I then said, "Yes Raylee, that is right. Bee's use the nectar from flowers to make honey. " She smiled and continued to watch the bee until it flew away.

She then saw the worksheets on my screen and shouted excitedly, "Aunt B.! I want to color that!" She pointed at a worksheet on the number 1. It had lines to trace the number, practice writing it, and then a caption about how there is only 1 boat in the picture. I ran and printed it for her, we went over the worksheet. She excitedly traced the number 1 and cried out, "Look Aunt B.! I did it! Its the number 1!" I then said, "Can you hold up 1 finger for me?" She held up 1 finger. She was getting it, and so quickly!

This is going to be fun.

Hugs, loves, and educational adventures until next time darlings!


Mommy, RN said...

I am completely and utterly speechless. Amazed at your awesomeness. Excited for you and Raylee. Envious of your education and knowledge of homeschooling. And severely wishing I could send my Andy to you for preschool! We've decided to homeschool Andy for almost the exact same reasons. I am 100% less than confident in my abilities.... even my ability to find a curriculum! Give me a cardiac patient or neuro patient and I'm all over it. Boo-boo's and scrapes, done. Simple. Knowing how to teach this wild, smart, crazy, loveable Andy? Clueless, unconfident, scared spitless, and more. While I love nursing and am glad I chose that as my profession, when it comes to being a stay at home mom, education would have been smarter to go into... makes knowing how to teach the kiddos quite a bit easier... and gives confidence.... like you! :) Best of luck, I wish I was you!

The White House said...

I just did my first full year of preschool. I started it for my 2 yr old at the time so it was usually short and involved a fun craft. By the end of the year we could go longer, sing a song, write all our letters.
I wanted to suggest the library for sources. A friend from college said the Shelley library is a hidden treasure trove of homeschooling resources. This might help keep the price down and allow you to see what works too.
Oh and one last thing that I learned. If she is bored writing on paper for her letters we did a chalk board or white board. It was very exciting for them. When the weather warmed up we went outside and wrote letters with chalk or wet sponges on the sidewalk. I guess your niece probably isn't as easily bored as my boys! Good Luck, you will have lots of fun.

Daniel said...

That is awesome you are wanting to homeschool. We have been homeschooling our kids and now have one entering into 2nd grade. There are so many resources it can get confusing. If you want to physically preview some of the different curriculum let me know. You are welcome to preview ours. We have loved teaching our children in the home. We have just completed our 3rd child through preschool and find the work very rewarding. Good luck and remember the blessings are endless!

Daniel Call

Haeli Mae and Jae Jae said...

ok...first off: CONGRATS! You are going to be an AMAZING mother! I'm so impressed you have a midwife and are doing things old school! So jealous! and second off...I already know first hand that you are a terrific teacher. So: amazing momma + terrific teacher = amazingly, terrifically, smart kids!