October 10, 2014

thoughts on homeschooling (and resources I'm currently using with Eisley)...

It may be news to some of you that I was homeschooled from sixth grade through high school (completing my first year of college during my senior year of high school). My youngest sisters have been homeschooled almost exclusively their entire lives. And I must say that I am so, so grateful for having the opportunity to be homeschooled. I fully understand that this style of schooling is not for every family or child, but I can say with certainty that it was the best choice for me, personally—especially during those middle school and high school years. I absolutely loved it. Because of my own positive experience, I've always had a spot in my heart for homeschooling. I always wondered if it would be something I'd pursue with my own children, and whether or not I'd be able to do it with as much grace and patience as my own mom had (and continues to have!) for my sisters and I.

But because it's hard to really have an accurate view of what this style of schooling looks like unless you've been there yourself (or are close with someone who homeschooled), I know certain stereotypes remain.

As a teenager, I always felt the need to address a few things: No, I didn't know anything about cows or horses. Yes, I was allowed to watch TV and read books other than the bible. No, I didn't make a habit of wearing denim jumpers or wearing my hair in a braid that brushed the floor. Yes, I actually had friends, extracurricular activities, and socialized with many other people aside from my immediate family.

Now, I could write for days about the idea of over-sheltering a child, or the importance of socialization, or the arguments for or against homeschooling, but I'm not exactly here for a debate—instead, I hope to just share a bit of what I'm currently doing to educate Eisley, since we aren't enrolling her in preschool at this point in the game. She is obviously still very young (having just turned 3), but I am constantly asked whether or not she is currently in preschool. I always have this sheepish feeling when I tell people "no" because I almost feel like I have to defend myself (even though I'm sure that is rarely the case).

The thing is, Eisley loves learning. And I'm grateful to have the opportunity to stay at home with her. It just makes sense to keep her at home and encourage learning in any way I can! Who knows what we will decide to do down the road (my husband is still rather skeptical when I mention homeschooling past the kinder years), but for now, it's been rather fun. Many people assume she is already in school because of her language and social skills, so I'm not worrying about what she may or may not be missing in an organized preschool setting. Right now, we're just going to roll with it and enjoy it as much as we can!

See below for just a handful of the resources I'm currently using with my daughter and have found helpful during this stage of learning:
5 early learning resources I'm using for age three! | yourwishcake.com
1. Brain Quest Workbook — A few months ago, I picked up this workbook from Costco, and this is the resource that we use most often during the week. After lunch, she always asks to do "school" and we get out this book. It's broken up into many different sections: letters, vocabulary, science, etc. We can easily do one page from each section in about 20 minutes each day. Eisley loves it, and it's something that is fun to do with her, too! I wish I would have picked up the Kindergarten version, too, because I have a feeling she will be able to easily transition into that one after she completes the preschool version. (That's not to toot my own horn; I've just found that, in general, things aimed at 3-4 year olds tend to be very basic. Just something worth noting!)

2. Scissors — I purchased these from Amazon late last year, and she continues to love using these safety-scissors. They're not something I want her to use forever and ever amen (because they have a much different feel than "real" scissors), but they're the perfect thing to get her used to the idea of cutting lines and such. (And I don't worry about her slicing her fingers off when I look away for five seconds, which is a plus.) She typically joins me in my weekly coupon-clipping session, which is great practice for cutting out basic shapes.

3. Brain Quest Card Deck — We have the "threes" version of this popular card deck. In my personal opinion the questions aren't too terribly challenging for most children this age, but Eisley still loves it. We received this deck as a freebie from our local library, and have been using it since she was 2. We have used it to death and she can now go through it and ask me the questions, because she's grown so familiar with it. It encourages critical thinking and problem solving, which I love, and I recommend it as something to keep in your purse or diaper bag for on-the-go!

4. Dry Erase Tracing Book — I won this book at one of my weekly mommy group get-togethers last year, and I love it! For this age, I recommend anything dry-erase. I know Eisley loves using the markers and feels extra-fancy when she uses this book.

5. Super Why — It may seem weird to be recommending a TV program on a list like this, but I have to say that this is the one show Eisley watches and actively participates in. She'll yell out the letters and letter sounds with the characters (and, of course, belts out the theme song like no one's business). Each episode teaches a lesson and encourages pre-reading/early-reading skills. If there's a show I want to put on for her to watch while I get dinner ready, this is always a good choice because I know it is educational. And it is currently on Netflix, which works perfectly for us.

Later on, I'll share some ways I encourage learning with Eisley aside from workbooks and a short period of "school time" during the day. In the meantime, if you'd like to follow my Homeschooling Happiness board on Pinterest, feel free to do so! I've come across so many fantastic ideas that I'm eager to try once I get a tad bit more organized with everything. Of course, at this age and stage of learning, I love that we can keep things a bit more easy-breezy and not worry about having a rigid schedule. It's all about keeping things fun and exciting. Which is a good thing, if you ask me.

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  1. Have you heard of the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons?? I HIGHLY recommend it! We are currently homeschooling Henry, who is in 1st grade, and he did that book last year for kinder. Seriously, it's as great as it sounds: he was reading fluently at the end of 100 lessons. If I am remembering right, it was originally produced for 3-4 year olds. You might not be interested in Eisley reading anytime soon, but I'd definitely recommend the book for kindergarten.
    Also, denim jumper?? Kiera and I always laughed about the denim jumper stereotype growing up. In fact, someone gave me a one for Audrey as a gift when she was a baby and I could only put it on her ONE time because I just laughed about it too much.

    1. I was so excited to get your reply, Annali! Your family was the first homeschooling family I ever met and I love that you're homeschooling your own sweet son. I haven't heard of that book you mentioned, but I am definitely going to see about picking it up! I think Eisley will definitely be reading before she turns 4 (she has always loved books and definitely already shows an interest in the words and letter sounds and such). I think that book would be right up our alley! Thank you so much for taking the time to recommend it. :)

      And now that I'm really thinking about it, I totally had at least one denim jumper that I wore in my early homeschooling days. Did I repress that memory or something? I'm going to go with yes. ;) Eisley actually has one, but I've decided that since it's from Baby Gap it should be considered a trendy denim jumper…haha...

  2. I've always been very anti-homeschooling, mostly because it's clear that the kids I know who grew up being homeschooled did not receive appropriately in-depth educations. Most of them were homeschooled for religious reasons, many of them by parents who had no business serving as their primary educators. Aside from separate socialization issues, these kids never learned some of the very basic stuff that we learned in school, from science to history to reading, & I was always horrified to learn of the religious bunk they were taught instead. I didn't live in an area with a great school system, but I maintain that any public school setting is better than keeping your child home for fear of sending him or her out into the world because you believe the rest of the world is full of sinners & heathens.

    That said, my mom is a children's librarian in my hometown, & her insistence on the goodness & aptitude of many of the homeschooling parents in our area has convinced me to soften my view. A close friend of mine is homeschooling her kids & seems to be doing a fantastic job. Her kids love learning, & she sees lessons in everything they do, which is, frankly, how parenting should be AND how education should be, & it seems like her kids are flourishing. But still, I can't help but worry about all those people who are still homeschooling for the wrong reasons - & homeschooling poorly, on top of them - that give all homeschoolers a bad name. Another girl I know from high school is homeschooling her six (!) kids, & I'm pretty sure she's in that camp... & it just makes me sad.

    It seems like you're doing a great job with Eisley! Whatever you guys choose for her going forward, I'm confident that she's going to grow up to be a smart & socially savvy kid. :) Thanks for writing this post & helping me open my mind about homeschooling a little bit more.

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback, Kate! Your kind words really touched me—thank you. :)

      I completely understand where you're coming from when it comes to your original thoughts regarding homeschooling. I can think of a few people from my past who I know weren't educated well (due to laziness/inexperience of a parent) or were those extremely sheltered children who were never prepared to anything outside of their very small circle of church/friends. I definitely saw more of the homeschooling for religious reasons when I was growing up, but it's interesting how the homeschooling community has changed a lot in the past decade and really varies depending on where you are in the US. My mom homeschools my youngest sisters in WA (near Seattle) and she has told me how a large portion of the homeschool community isn't religious at all. (They are more modern-day hippie, un-schooling sorts.) Apparently jean jumpers are no longer the rage…who knew? ;)

      In any case, I completely agree that there are terrible ways to homeschool and there are beneficial ways to homeschool. Homeschooling should always benefit the child (which is why I don't think it's for every family or kiddo) and there are certainly people out there who are giving a bad name to the whole thing. I love that there are so many women I've discovered who are giving a new voice (and hopefully better reputation) to homeschooling these days.

      And I must say, you mom is totally living the dream. What an awesome job that must be! I've always thought being a children's librarian would be the best. :)

  3. This is a perfect idea for you and Eisley. I don't think preschool is even necessary, really, and it's not cheap! So if you can give her the basics at home, that's awesome. There are plenty of other (free) places to provide socialization.

    I think Super Why is so cute and I have tried several times to get M to like it. So far though, she remains unimpressed with anything on TV except Frozen and The Little Mermaid.

  4. I must say that I grew up with BrainQuest books and I'm so glad they're still around and still amazing. They seriously were the best way to pass time on a road trip or while hanging out at home.

    I haven't really thought about homeschool, let alone if I'll even be able to be a SAHM but I admire those that do and do it well. And I know that you are doing a great job!

  5. I did school with Topher earlier this year - we did it during Ellie's nap time, it was a good way to keep him quiet so she could sleep :) He LOVED it, we used a similar work book, did some crafts and fine motor skills, practiced writing and numbers in dry erase books ... I second the recommendation for the "100 Easy Lessons" book, Topher was sounding out words on his own by the end of the 10th lesson. We haven't finished the book yet and he's already reading! Topher's in morning preschool two days/week this year - he enjoys it, and I enjoy the one on one time with Ellie, but I'm considering homeschool for kindergarten. I'm interested to read more about your experience!

  6. Thank you for these suggestions! Eli turns three in November, and between that and Christmas, we've been trying to come up with gifts for him that aren't just *more* toys to add to the pile. I think he'd love the BrainQuest stuff, and we definitely need those scissors so he can be my crafternoon sidekick! So great how much Eisley loves 'school'!


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