July 12, 2016

maybe I've always been a homeschool mom...

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Every time I think about homeschooling Eisley this autumn for her kindergarten year, I feel a little more excited that I think I should be. Shouldn't there be a bit of fear or insecurity or second-guessing the entire thing? Shouldn't there be more worry about whether or not I'm making the right choice—about whether or not she'll have enough friends, socialization, educational challenges? Because truly, I don't generally worry about any of that. And perhaps that's the greatest indication that the choice we're making is the best choice after all.

I technically homeschooled Eisley for preschool this past year, but there have been times I've thought that maybe I can't say that officially. She didn't have desk time (or, you know, kitchen table time) five days a week, and I don't have a drawer overflowing with her completed art projects. However, the more reading and research I do on teaching young children and the benefits of homeschooling, the more I'm realizing that I've essentially been homeschooling her in one way or another for her entire life. School isn't necessarily let's-sit-down-and-do-this-workbook or recite-for-me-the-ABCs or it's-time-for-sight-word-flash-cards. The biggest things my daughter has learned in the past four years (almost five, come to think of it) have been the result of intentionally making learning a part of daily life—whether or not we were sitting at the kitchen table with a workbook or not.

We read several times a day (I read about to her before rest time and bedtime, and she reads to herself throughout the day), we work on math skills and phonics at the library or in the kitchen or while driving to the grocery store, I'm able to address social issues and character qualities based on whatever we are faced with on any given day, she writes thank-you notes with help, we look at maps, she helps me measure ingredients while baking a special treat, she runs around the apartment measuring things with a measuring tape, we do puzzles and games and, yes, workbooks.

I purposely kept things simple for her preschool year for a few reasons—the main one being that I knew adding a baby to our daily routine last year was going to be a challenge, and I didn't feel like checking off a bunch of boxes for school every weekday would be beneficial to anyone (and honestly, I didn't need another checklist in my life). What I did end up doing was making a list of goals for her preschool year. I wanted her to learn to read, to count to 100, to work on bible memorization, to work on character qualities, to write upper and lowercase letters and be able to write a sentence, and a couple other things. Everything else aside from those would be icing.

And even with all the madness of the past year—even with moving, having a baby, dealing with stress and sleepless nights and struggles with defiance—I was almost shocked this summer when I revisited this list and realized we had accomplished 100% our goals. Not by a rigid schedule, but mostly making learning an active part of our life at home. Of our life anywhere we happen to be.

It's crossed my mind a lot during the last year, how I've kind of always been a homeschool mom. I've always had a teaching mentality, regardless of what I'm doing with my daughters or where we happen to be—something I'm confident I learned from my own mom, who was always teaching my sisters and I, even when we were in public and private schools throughout our younger childhood.

For the past school year, the best moment was when Eisley learned to read. She has known letter sounds for years now, and we were beginning to work on sight words when one day it just clicked. This spring, she picked up a book we hadn't read in ages and surprised me by reading the entire thing—needing help with only a few words. I knew reading was just around the corner for her, but seeing her just do it without prompting from me was incredible. Being there for that moment was the best. And since that day, her vocabulary and comprehension and ability to read a book with gusto (yes, this is important to me, too) have all continued to improve at an incredible rate. Which made me realize that there are times a child can learn to read—possibly the most important, landmark skill of childhood—without being "taught" to read. We've been laying the groundwork for years, but it's not as though I did any curriculum specifically to teach her this skill. Hour upon hour of reading aloud every single day, and making books a priority and a joy—those things are what taught her to read.

Which is a little odd as a teaching parent, because I feel like I should have somewhere specific to point when explaining how my daughter learned to read in preschool. It's almost as though she taught herself to do it, and all I had to do was read her stories every day. (It feels lazy, when I know it's the exact opposite of laziness.) I read recently that this is the way many children end up learning to read, which I never expected. And after a recent conversation with my mom, I learned that I started reading at age four in the exact same way.

This is not a broad, sweeping statement on every child and every family. One thing I'm sure of is that homeschooling is not for every child and every family—and even if we homeschool during these early years, there's no knowing what the future holds for us. You do what fits. And if homeschooling fits, you then move forward and figure out how each of your children learn best. And you figure out how you teach best. And from what I hear from veteran homeschool parents, you just move and shift and try and fail and succeed and take it one year (or month, or week, or day) at a time.

Which feels a lot like regular parenting, honestly.

I'm obviously brand new to homeschooling as a parent, so I don't claim to speak with much experience or authority, but I did have the benefit of being homeschooled myself from 6th grade through high school, and I am friends with several second-generation homeschoolers. I am very familiar with the arguments for and against homeschooling, and I count myself lucky to know other homeschool graduates—well-rounded, intelligent, socially-adjusted, and college educated women, at that. And many of these women are choosing to homeschool their own children. Which is kind of fantastic.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about this as we begin our first "official" year of homeschooling this fall. (In our state, children don't have to be enrolled in school until age 6, so we have another year of doing school without having to report anything we do. Next year will hold its own set of challenges, for sure!) But for now, I just have to say that I'm so excited. I can't wait to begin a more structured (but still relaxed) school year with Eisley, and to see all she's going to learn. I'm also eager to begin some tot-school activities with Cora as she gets older during the upcoming school year.

But, for now, before I get ahead of myself, I just had to share that it feels good to be confident in this decision. I know that for now, for our family, for me as a mom, for my daughter...that this is the best choice. And actually, an easy one to make.

6 comments :

  1. This is awesome and I'm so proud of you! I find teaching so incredibly boring and Meredith and I butt heads so much that I know I'd never want to homeschool. Maybe I could do it with a different type of kid, I don't know. And the fact that Eisley is reading already is so amazing. I don't think Meredith even has any sight words yet, and she has been in real preschool. I really don't think it matters, every kid is different, but it's hard for me not to compare sometimes. Anyway, I'm really excited for y'all, and I personally am excited for Meredith to start public school because I think she is so ready!

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Kathleen! And I'm definitely of the mindset that early reading doesn't mean that years down the road she'll be smarter than any other child who started reading a year or two later. It's kind of like the kids who walk at 9 months aren't any different than those who didn't walk until 18 months, when you look at them both at age 5. (This is much easier for me to see, now that I have two kiddos! I'm sure it's been the same for you.)

      I'm excited to hear how Meredith enjoys kindergarten this fall! No matter how we end up teaching our children, these first years are so exciting. In some ways, I know homeschooling means missing out on a lot those first years have to offer with public or private school. I went to both public and private schools during my own early years, and loved it! I guess no matter which way you decide to go, there are sacrifices, for sure.

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  2. So many things here are so familiar to me! I am planning on homeschooling kinder for my 5 yr old son this fall as well and am quite excited about it. He also read on his own at 4 and it was surprising and made me so proud. I'm glad to have a year before officially/legally starting; will have to see how it goes with a toddler and infant on the side too!

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    1. Best of luck with your own homeschooling journey! You'll have to keep me posted on any hits or misses you have, and we can encourage each other along the way. :) Like you mentioned, I'm thankful for this extra year before we have to officially report to the state, because I'm thinking it'll be tough to find my footing with a toddler running around while trying to create some sort of daily school routine! I think it'll give me time to also find other local homeschoolers to learn from and connect with, as well.

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  3. My son & Eisley are only a few weeks apart (if I remember right; my B turns 5 august 6th) and we are homeschooling K too. Our state requires school for those who turn 5 before the cut-off date, so we have to do something. But, I'm thankful that we live in a VERY homeschool-friendly state and there aren't any reporting or #hours/day req's! What are you doing with E? I'm super excited about homeschooling but hope I'm not being too over-reaching in our curriculum. We're doing Rocket phonics & Explode the Code for reading (he's doing ok but it still hasn't clicked) and Saxon math, and then Five in a Row for everything else. I now also have a 3yr old and an almost 1yr old at home, too, so we'll see how we manage things!

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    1. Eisley turns 5 on August 13th, so they are definitely close! :) As I've researched homeschooling, I've been so surprised to learn how different laws are from state to state. Crazy! It seems that CA isn't too rigid with their laws and requirements for homeschooling families, so I'm grateful for that.

      As far as curriculum goes, I think this year I'll continue my wildly eclectic style. ;) I didn't do much actual curriculum with Eisley for preschool (with the exception of some Kumon and other workbooks for letters/numbers/etc.). The one thing I'd like to do is get math curriculum, and I've heard great things about Singapore Math, and loved Saxon when I was homeschooled! I'm not sure yet what we will go with. I would love to incorporate Five in a Row, as well, considering our love of books and reading. (I believe my mom used that with my youngest sisters.)

      I would like her kindergarten year to be a bit more organized/structured than her preschool year, but still not as rigid as I would like her 1st grade year to be. With Eisley's personality and energy level, I think keeping the workbook/sit-down time to a minimum (similar to her preschool year) will be a good choice for us.

      I feel like I need to write an entire post on our goals and expectations for the upcoming year! Maybe I shall... :) And good luck to you, as well!

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