Homeschooling: What We Do
This is not an exhaustive blog post on methodology, but an overview of what homeschooling looks like for us first year (newbs), during the first couple of months. If only the internet had more articles from people who kind of know how to do something, huh? Seriously though, baby steps are important, and too often go unnoticed. So here's ours.
The days are flexible. We get everything done before lunch most days, which leaves us with a lot of free time. Read alouds happen often which are my favorite. It takes me back to simpler times when Ori was a toddler and we didn't have a tv and we would curl up in the recliner and read books together throughout the day. Those were such sweet moments, some of my absolute favorite memories, and it thrills my heart to have that time with him still. And because we follow a literature-based curriculum, Ori's reading skills have already improved. He has enough endurance to sit and read for an hour or two at a stretch.
I've also been blown away by the local homeschooling culture. I had no idea it even existed, but homeschooling moms have been popping out of the woodwork, and they have been so encouraging and kind to me. When at first I was worried that Ori wouldn't have enough opportunity to socialize with other children and adults, we are now almost overwhelmed with it. I started a local Wild + Free group to encourage connection and community in my area, and I've been graciously welcomed to a local co-op with like-minded mamas that I already adore. Having prayed for strong support and community, God immediately opened those doors for us.
Homeschooling is a lot of work, and it's not for the faint of heart. I'm not doing it because I thought it would be easy, but it's been more of a challenge in ways that I didn't expect. It is not a passive endeavor-it takes whole-hearted intentionality. I knew that, but I didn't really know that. Some things you only realize when you're in the thick of experience.
Although I love the idea of creating my own curriculum, I've also felt really inadequate in surprising ways. While Noah, my public-school 3rd grader, is in school from 8-3 and comes home with 30 minutes-1 hour of homework each night, it can easily feel like I'm not doing enough for Ori. While they are learning bits of American history, I've decided to focus on ancient history with Ori to lay a foundation. Instead of formal grammar lessons, we are reading advanced literature and practicing penmanship and copywork. Instead of science lessons from a textbook, we are practicing observation through frequent nature walks, nature journaling, and keeping a nature box of goodies. This is much different than anything Ori would have done in public school, and while it is refreshing to have that freedom, it can also feel really scary to go off-grid.
And this is where I talk about sin.
Homeschooling has a way of pointing fingers at all your weaknesses, and I realized very early on that God intends to sanctify me through this endeavor. Although I thought I was a patient person, I'm not. Turns out, when most of my time is spent homeschooling and taking care of other people's needs, my patience and kindness wear out really fast. But God is using this season to show me where there is lack, and fill in those areas with what only he can provide. And I never would have known if it wasn't for homeschooling.
Around the second week, I second-guessed myself hard on making this decision. Was it worth giving up my days? Can I possibly give Ori what he needs or will I ruin his chances at a good education? Was it worth the personal struggle with my own sin issues and feelings of inadequacy? Although there has been hardship, God reassured me quickly-just because something is difficult does not mean that I made the wrong choice. Being in God's will takes us out of our comfort zone so much of the time, and comfort should never be the gauge by which we make decisions.
So challenge accepted.
Math: We use Saxon Math 3. If math is not your thing, this is a great program. I bought it after hearing how awesome it was from other homeschooling moms, and it lives up to the hype.
Science: We steer towards the Charlotte Mason philosophy of homeschool, which relies heavily on nature study as science. We use a simple cheap journal for sketching our finds, a nature box for goodies that keep well, and various local field guides for studying flora and fauna. It is very informal and natural in our home, and enters conversation easily because of Ori's robust interest in all things science-related. Outside of nature study, I let Ori choose what he wants to pursue because I trust his ability and desire to learn in this area. We make frequent trips to the library and stick to living books for the most part (written by a single author who is passionately invested in the material and relates it in a narrative style).
History: We are reading through Volume 1 of The Story of the World. This book covers ancient history from early nomads to the last Roman Emperor, and it's written in story-form. In addition to this, we have also been studying ancient art and architecture, and the material remains that these cultures left behind. I plan to introduce early American history next month, but I'm still working on lesson plans and curriculum. As we're reading through this book, we are recording dates in a very simple book of centuries.
Language Arts and Literature: Most of Ori's school day involves reading. On his own, he has already read Charlotte's Web and The Call of the Wild (in the last month or so). Together we are reading The Yearling (and have learned a ton about the flora and fauna of Florida). For vocabulary practice, I have him write down 10-20 words each week from reading and look up the definition. And copywork happens every day. He will copy a passage of good literature, bible verses, or poetry to improve penmanship, learn punctuation and grammar, and get in the habit of writing.
Music and Art: Ori is taking formal piano lessons once a week for music class, and practices 30 minutes a day. Art is very informal. We have a book that we're using to learn how to draw (myself included), and I have a craft box with an odd assortment of stamps, watercolors and paints, washi tape, card stock, etc. Outside of requiring him to learn drawing techniques and practicing in his nature journal, I let him do his own thing and have been pleasantly surprised by his innate creativity in making all sorts of stuff, mostly as sweet gifts for me.
Bible and Catechism: Ori reads a chapter (or more if he wants) a day in his Bible. It is the ESV version. He is almost through Deuteronomy and was very excited and proud of himself after I told him most adults really struggle through the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). I keep it simple for the most part, getting both of my boys in the habit of reading the Bible for themselves, but also looking for ways to discuss the text and bring it up often, throughout the day. Talk of God saturates our conversations, and trust me, if your kids are reading scripture, you're not going to be the only one bringing it up. They will come to you with lots of questions. This is why knowing the Bible for ourselves is so important, moms. But that's a separate blog post entirely.
A catechism is a good way to teach essential doctrinal truths to your kids, and we love New City Catechism. Not only does it come in a functional app, it also has helpful commentary from modern and historical sources, scripture that goes along with each question + answer, and a song to help your children (or you) remember it. We tackle one new question and answer a week.
Handicrafts: I love handicrafts! I knit, crochet, spin yarn, make my own soap, dabble in herbalism, garden, and cook from scratch. I love learning new and useful skill sets, and I think it's a blessing to be able to pass them onto your children. Ori is currently learning to knit and crochet, cook and chop veggies, make soap, and has been a huge help in the garden. He loves to help me do anything, honestly, and is eager to learn.
Narration instead of worksheets and fill-in-the-blank: So far, the only worksheets Ori has had to complete were math worksheets. He has not had any tests or fill-in-the-blank forms to test his knowledge. Instead, we use narration after he reads (except for literature, which should just be enjoyed). Charlotte Mason philosophy relies heavily on narration with little guidance from the teacher. In order to narrate back what he/she read, the student must sort through the material in their heads and make sense of it. It is a way of synthesizing the information and making it their own, digesting it in a way that sticks and giving them the tools that they need to be able to read more difficult subjects and make sense of them. Oral narration happens while they are young, with older students incorporating written narration.
So there you have it. This is what our baby steps have looked like. I'm sure we will add/take away/modify the existing curriculum in some ways before the year is out. I'm still getting a handle on things and discovering what works best for our family. And I'm giving myself lots of grace in the process, trusting that God has his hands all over it.