Based on the title you might think my children are causing me stress during our homeschooling journey, but they are not.
I’m causing my own stress by worrying I’m not teaching them correctly and comparing our journey to the journey of other other students, homeschooling and otherwise.
Or at least this is what I had been doing for part of our school year but in the last month or so, something clicked and I realized my children are following their own educational path and that’s not only okay, but a good thing.
In addition, the students who are attending public school around us right now aren’t even receiving a consistent education with students being pulled in and out of the classroom and tossed onto virtual learning on a whim. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for public school students right now to figure out whether they are coming or going in their subjects.
I think some parents who do not homeschool their children, see homeschooling parents as being foolish, unqualified, and unable to provide their children an actual education. In some cases, this may be true, but in the majority of cases, a parent truly can provide a very well rounded, high quaility education for their children at home. One reason they can do this is because of the plethora of homeschooling and educational resources available to parents, students, and teachers in book form and online.
Another reason they can do this is because of all the support available within the homeschooling community. Homeschooling parents love to see other homeschooling parents succeed, no matter why a parent has decided to homeschool.
One thing I have had to overcome with the idea of schooling at home is my preconceived notion that children have to be sitting at a desk with school work for six hours at time to be properly educated . This really isn’t realistic and isn’t even how children are taught in public schools. In public schools there are breaks for recess and lunch and extracurricular activities, so a child isn’t strapped to a desk for such long periods, but somehow new homeschooling parents seem to think our children should be.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that it isn’t traditional schooling, which means it doesn’t have to operate like traditional school.
I find that Little Miss (6) does much better with short spurts of learning and breaks in between for art, creating or playing. Since we are homeschooling, we have that luxury and flexibility to allow that for her.
She’s also learning a lot more with this style of education than I first realized.
During the beginning part of the school year, I really felt like I was failing her because she is behind on her reading, or at least I feel she is behind. On one particulary frustrating day I wanted to cry I was so frustrated. I gave up on reading for a bit. Instead, I handed her a paper about sea animals and said she could color the animals. The paper suggested the child look at how plants and animals rely on each other, but also how some animals rely on another animal to survive.
I explained this to her and she said, “Oh, you mean like this Oxpecker bird and the crocodile.”
I looked at her with wide eyes and waited to see what else she would say.
Without prompting she said, “So, the Oxpecker bird helps the crocodile because it cleans its teeth and the crocodile helps the Oxpecker because it gets fed. Symbiotic.”
“Their relationship. It’s symbiotic.”
Symbiotic? Whoa. Where had that word come from?
“Where did you hear that word?”
“Wild Kratts,” she announced.
If you don’t know, Wild Kratts is an animated show on PBS about wild animals. It is a shoot off of other shows with the Kratt brothers (Zomoomafoob, etc. ). The brothers travel the world (or at least pretend to) and encounter different animals and teach their young viewers about the animals. Wild Kratts presents them as animated characters who have joined with other characters to rescue various wildlife.
It wasn’t only that she had learned the word that startled me, but that she had retained the information, was able to repeat it clearly, and also remembered the rather large word to describe the relationship.
She moved on as she pointed to a fish on the page and slid her pencil across the paper to indicate it was related to the shark on the page.
“So this is a Remora fish,” she announced, pointing to the picture of the fish, which was not labeled. “Remoras hang on to the shark and when the shark kills something there will be little bits of food for the Remora to eat. It swims underneath this shark because it gets the pieces of food that drop from whatever the shark is eating. They have a symbiotic relationship. Their relationship is kind of different from the others. I mean, Remora is a fish and the shark is eating fish so it’s a little weird for him, but it still gives him a meal and it’s still a symbiotic relationship. It’s good for the environment. It’s how everyone survives.”
I just sat and stared at her and wanted to cry, this time from joy. Thirty minutes earlier I had been in tears because she was writing her “c” backward and blanked on identifying “s”, but here she was now defining symbiotic for me. And when she couldn’t figure out I wanted her to combine the sounds of letters together to create words? I was like “Oh my gosh. She probably has a learning disability.”
Mind you, this was the first week we were really focusing on blending sounds so why my mind went to her having a learning disability, I have no idea, other than I knew I’d have to research how to teach her differently if she did have a learning delay. I wanted to nip it in the bud early so she doesn’t struggle later.
I should have realized she is learning a lot more than I thought by how she speaks about activities or crafts, such as when she was making slime and was explaining to me, “You mix it until, well, you know, you get the right consistency.”
She couldn’t explain what consistency was with an official definition, but she knew that her slime had to be either thicker or thinner and knew that was somehow related to the word consistency.
My son was similar at her age. Reading letters wasn’t really his thing but his comprehension and verbal skills were way beyond his age. It’s the same now, which is why at 14 I have him reading books he probably wouldn’t be reading until 10th grade, at least at the public schools in our area.
Right now we are reading Lord of the Flies, which I think I read in 10th grade, but maybe 9th. I can’t remember.
In the first part of our school year we read Silas Marner by George Elliott, which isn’t really a book I hear about a lot of 14-year old boys reading.
We will read To Kill A Mockingbird in the last half of our school year.
In addition to reading and comprehension, I will be starting a new math program through The Good and the Beautiful with my daughter once it arrives in the mail. The program incoporates storytelling in teaching math and since Little Miss loves storytelling (making them up, reading and watching them) I think she will love this curriculum. I bought it on sale last week because they are going to be phasing it out for a new curriculum sometime this year.
We have also started a science program that I can use for both of the children. It offers an extension for my son to answer questions from for additional information from each lesson. It is also through The Good and the Beautiful.
For my son’s history, we continue to use Notgrass’s From Adam to Us and I continue to supplement with various videos, books, web sites, or activities. We also use resources they provide through their history site.
Two weeks ago I started adding open-book quizes to his History lessons by developing the questions and answers myself. I allow him to use his books to find the answers as I feel it will help to solidify the information for him. It means I have to sit and read every section I assign him and take about 30 to 45 minutes to develop the quiz, but I like the idea of getting even more out of the reading than he can simply by reading the section.
I am trying to add more to his schedule, but I am also trying to not stress if he either misses an assignment or we both forget to complete one. I have learned that homeschooling is a journey in education and the more relaxed we are about it, the better the kids and even I learn, because through homeschooling I am also learning more about the subjects they are studying.
I either forgot a lot of what I was taught in middle and high school or my school did a horrible job at teaching history especially.
I would like to add a government course to my son’s classes in the spring, but we will see if that happens or if we push that off until the fall. With all that is going on in the world I think it would be a good idea for him to know how our government is supposed to work instead of how it is working right now, which isn’t great.
I’m finding one of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to take the time to show my children what actual adults should act like and that bullying, while glorified now by Hollywood and all of the media, is not what we should be doing. In some ways I am sheltering them from this by keeping them in a home education environment versus a public one but in other ways I am exposing them to the cruelty of the world in a slower, less overwhelming and panic inducing fashion.
There are a lot more the kids are learning this year that I haven’t mentioned in this post, but I plan write about that in some separate posts in the next month or so.