Wednesday, January 21, 2009

what kind of homeschooler am i? aka a very "word-filled" wednesday post

juli asked me this question the other day and i figured i'd share the answer here, just in case anyone else is wondering what my style is.

well, i am probably not very stylish because first and foremost, the liturgical year is always at the center of our learning. and because we love our faith dearly, so much of what we learn is faith based. therefore, the church year, the saints and even the seasons are taken into consideration whenever i do any planning. and i only plan 1 month at at time.

i guess you could say i am a bit eclectic because i don't use a packaged curriculum or lesson plans. i usually write my own and/or we go wherever the wind takes us.

now this free-spirited attitude does not apply to math or language arts, but only with regards to social studies, history, science and art.

because i NEED some kind of accountability,the older three are and have been enrolled in charter schools for about seven years.
(yes, i know i am accountable to God for what i do, but HE doesn't often show up in an email or at my house saying, "so, what have the kids been learning?")

i realize that charter is not for everyone, but in my case i appreciate the SAT testing, the scoring helps me to make sure we are at least staying on track in the event that any of my kids want to go to college and i also like for someone else to keep attendance.

my kids have always gotten great SAT scores-not in all subjects, except for my oldest, who does quite well in all his subjects, but they are usually phenomenal in language arts and reading. the middle two struggle with their math a little, but are at grade level, so i don't worry too much about it. they learn when they are ready and some things come with maturity.

i only use textbooks for math and right now i am using saxon 4/5 with my daughter and teaching textbooks for middle son, as oldest son is now going to classes 3 days a week and littlest son is 4.

i like both saxon and teaching textbooks because of the teaching CDs, which supplement the curriculum, giving the lecture for the lesson just as they would receive in a classroom setting. this has given me loads more free time to think about other things and i don't take the whole day just to explain math. this became especially invaluable when i had three students doing three different levels of math and a brand new nursing baby.

i started out using lesson plans from our lady of victory when my oldest son was in kindergarten and i have always purchased certain things from them. i love the old-fashioned look to their readers and some of the other books they carry, everything they have is very solidly catholic and is from the 1950's so i don't worry about any "iffy" stuff in their content

unit studies work best for us. i have learned that slow, steady bits of consistent information over a period of a few weeks or even a few days work best. they retain so much more of what they are learning if they are steeped in a subject, doing things that appeal to all of the five senses.

i have and still do purchase curriculum/books from chc, sonlight, beautiful feet, rainbow resource, to name just a few.

i did read the well-trained mind about two years ago and spent a whole summer getting ready to completely follow their method, i bought most, if not all the books listed for each grade and after doing school until 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening most days, because that's how long it took for us to train our minds, i realized that it just wasn't going to work. i don't know what i was doing wrong, but i found it very overwhelming and we were all getting burnt out. now, i don't want to be overly negative about TWTM, because my kids learned ALOT from story of the world when we did units on egypt and rome using said method and i LOVE many of the books recommended in TWTM, but it just wasn't for me. i am not a super-structured person and i can't live that way.

after all, i'd kept my kids out of school just so we could be more flexible and so i took what i could from TWTM and the rest i just had to let go for the sake of my own sanity. that's where the balance comes in.

i don't think we should ever expect to find any method perfect. instead we should just take what we can from a given program or curriculum, sifting through the ideas proposed and then move on, otherwise it is just a big waste of time for you and your children. that is what i always liked about the mother's rule of life written by holly pierlot. she is very specific about encouraging you to find your OWN rule, prayerfully, your own way. not every family situation is the same and we should not expect to fit into another family's mold.

i have been very fortunate to have a best friend, who is my mentor, godmother to my youngest son, who was also a teacher once, degrees and all. and she has always helped steer me towards real learning. i met her my first year of homeschooling and her experience has been like gold to me. but since she is human (and has 6 kids of her own), whenever she goes to far the other way, usually i help bring her back, being her protoge and all. and if i am leaning too far in the wrong direction i know i can call her and have her remind me why it is that we are doing what we are doing, which is EDUCATING FOR ETERNITY (this is chc's slogan, and i love it!) and all the good books and science projects we may or may not experience along the way and the times that our kids really impress someone by how smart and polite they are-are just a few of the little blessings that the Lord gives to us for being fatithful stewards.

so i definitely recommend TONS of real books, encyclopedias (i like kingfisher)and any and all usborne books are great for notebook pages, we do a lot of notebook pages, take trips to the library, outside digging in the dirt/bird watching/sky gazing/rock collecting time, snuggling and reading on the couch, nature journals, art projects, listening to classical music and stories on cd-jim weiss and the classical kids series, feast day and history related cooking.

i recommend and reiterate that CHORES are school. home management, pet care and yardwork does count because these things do help to make decent human beings, so don't ever discount any of those activities.

and you know your kids are learning when in their free time they start to ask for johnny cakes for breakfast even when it's not george washington's birthday and while building a log cabin fort they remember snippets from that biography you read on lincoln. they read highlights magazine for fun and build rocket launchers from cardboard boxes and plastic water bottles.
some of our best days were days like this.

if you are reading this s, you'll remember our peach and blue day where i brought the story and the art supplies, we picked peaches from your trees and made peach cobbler, we painted trees and read that great story about friendship.

i have been so blessed with many wonderful women in my life, women who love teaching and learning and i can't stress enough how important it is to cultivate and maintain these relationships even when life gets busy.

unfortunately our homeschool group does a lot of things which requires at least a 45min. drive for me and this can be hard, especially when mass is an hour and 10 minute drive almost every sunday. but luckily i do have a few friends who are local and we do what we can, when we can.

i have recently implemented a no t.v. while there is daylight rule. we don't have actual t.v. service, we haven't for about 4 years now. i know for some of you mamas with multiple little kids that might be impossible, this rule has not always been in place, but i noticed little son was getting a bit addicted to movies, any movie he could watch, sometimes putting them on secretly. and so now, if the sky is not "black-with-stars" he may not ask me to watch anything.
even if the schoolroom is messier, now that he has joined us ALL DAY, it is a sacrifice i am willing to make.

our learning does tend to spread throughout every room in the house, it cannot and should not be confined to "the learning room", but at least we finally have somewhere to put everything!
i homeschooled for years using our kitchen as my schoolroom, so i've been there..........but it is nice to have a place for all the books, papers and projects which pile up quickly when multiplied by 4.

and then of course there is the praying every day. i don't want to make anyone feel bad, because there are certainly times when we don't, but saying the rosary EVERY day is really the ONLY way to get anything accomplished. the blessed mother is so faithful, she will not let you down. her help is vital to being a good homeschooling mama. i know that without her i am a miserable wretch and it is just better for everyone when we pray as we ought. even though with a certain teenager lately, it can be like pulling teeth!

so in conclusion, my kids probably remember the food and books the most. the intimate moments where learning was on the couch or outside. the times when it just so happened that we abandoned whatever book work we were doing because someone heard a hummingbird at the feeder or we went off in the direction of the art of making a good paper airplane because we were learning about birds and flight. sometimes one thing leads to another and we deviate from the "plans" i've made, but many times, the "plans" are just there so that i have an idea in my head about where we are planning to go. it's kind of like our life is a road-trip, we are taking the scenic route and so you never know when we might stop to smell the daisies or take off on some undiscovered path. i know i've said before that we have had a lot of tragedy in our lives thru the years and that has really affected how seriously i take life and homeschooling. i take them very seriously, but just not in the way that you might think.

i know i am kind of rambling, so i'll stop. but i hope this helps if, maybe you're stuck in a rut and you need to be a little more flexible or if you're too flexible and you need some inspiration to make a few plans. but wherever you're at, just know that i've been there. sometimes my homeschooling journey feels more like a roller coaster ride, but as in every other area of my life, God always provides what i need to keep going.

and so that, my friends, in a nutshell is the kind of homeschooler i am!