Monday, January 24, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

When people find out that we homeschool, the number one thing they usually want to know is how much school we do everyday, or really "what the heck do you do all day". The short answer to that question is 2-3 hours of structured school work daily - give or take half an hour.  Here's the long answer:

Four mornings a week, Bean (7) does RightStart Math Level D (Third Grade), and the literature and science/social studies portions of Moving Beyond the Page (Age 8-10).  After lunch Bean does either Rosetta Stone Dutch, Rosetta Stone Chinese,  or Handwriting Without Tears Cursive, alternating throughout the week. Each of these takes about 20 minutes.

Once the heavy lifting is done for the day, Bean either uses the computer or works on an art or building project.  If she's not on the computer, I pull out various books and read aloud to both Bean and Boo (2).  We read one short selection each from What Your Preschooler Needs to Know, and from the Third and Fourth grade editions, followed by one or two of our library picks for the week, a book from our home library, and anything Bean is researching.  Currently, she is working on a presentation and report about Ethiopia for her homeschool class.  I don't really consider reading time part of our academic work, but it is equally important and I think it's everybody's favorite part of the day.

After all that, we head to the park!  Two days a week, Bean has dance classes in the afternoon instead of park time.  We visit a local library at least once a week, usually one afternoon after lunch and often again on the weekends when Dr. Yap is home with us.  This is another favorite time during the week and we usually try to go to a different branch library each week for variety.

We homeschool through the auspices of our local school district and one morning a week Bean attends a mixed-age 3-4 grade enrichment class.  Each year the group focuses on one subject area and this year the theme is Countries and Cultures, geography.  During this time, Boo and I usually head to our favorite kids' consignment shop to look for used books.

We don't do any school work on the weekends or holidays when Dr. Yap is home.

I discovered early on that morning is the best time to do any focused academic work (or should I say focused academic work that isn't of my daughter's choosing). The only thing about school that seemed to work for my daughter was having a schedule (except when it changed), and she asked me to schedule in "recess," snack and lunch breaks.  We tried this for a few weeks, stretching the day into the afternoon alternating school work with play time, but we realized together that it would work better to just get everything done in the morning.

Theoretically, we start at 8:30, but with one thing and another, it's often more like 8:45.  We're all early risers here, so lunch is usually early too.  If math or literature are long or intense, we may truncate science/social studies - or skip them altogether.  In our house, a lot of science and social studies happen throughout the day in the normal course of things between what we read and things that come up for discussion.  This happens also happens with math and literature, but not as immersively.  I always feel like the only required portion of our curriculum is the 3Rs and everything else is like movable type.

Bean wants to add more languages, but we'll have to restructure our curriculum to do that.  Using a packaged curriculum is new for us, and I may go back to a more DIY approach when we're finished with this "year."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Entry on the Never Say Never List of Parenting

That's it in a nutshell. We never thought we'd homeschool, but almost a year later, here we are with no plans to go back.

I should say, we never consciously planned to homeschool and evenly passionately disavowed homeschooling as a valid option for our family.  But all along, my partner Dr. Yap, had been amassing a collection of educational toys and manipulatives to rival most Montessori classrooms and I had been an expert at uncovering kidlit gems at every used book source in our area.  Seriously, the library of children's books in our house is vastly superior.

When our daughter was underwhelmed with first grade and insisted that she learned more at home, the decision to homeschool, rather than look for other school options, came surprisingly easy.  She went, she saw, she wasn't interested.  We jokingly say that our daughter is a grade school dropout, but in truth, we - her parents- are also elementary school failures.  I realized during the years of preschool, kindergarten, and half of first grade that I had very strong opinions about what and how my children should learn.  I also found the constant need for parent participation in all levels of the school experience to be exhausting.  This might seem odd since I've taken on all of the schooling, but what I do now is all my choice.  I'm not supervising other people's children, I'm not fundraising (whew!), and I'm not overseeing homework whose value I question, and I'm not pretending to be excited about school events and ephemera just to keep my child interested.

So here we are.  Homeschooling a seven year old and preparing to do the same when the two-year-old is ready.