Sunday, July 24, 2011

Going With My Instincts and Against the Crowd

I base much of my parenting on instinct and what just "feels right". For me it really feels wrong to drop off one of my children with strangers. Yes, I know that everyone starts off being a stranger until you get to know them, but it's not just the teacher that is a stranger. It's the class full of children that are strangers as well. As a parent, why should I want my child to hang out with a group of children their same age for 7-8 hours a day, 180 days out of the year? Is it not better to allow shorter periods of socialization with a widely diverse group of people? I think so and research proves it is so.

The paragraphs below are from "Homeschooling Step-By-Step" by Lauramaery Gold & Joan M. Zielinski. In this part they are discussing the transitions involved when children start off in public school and then are home schooled.

"First, you and your children have become strangers while they were in public school. They were gone all day and were under the extended control of homework-assigning teachers all night. If your children were in school for a prolonged time, you may not even like one another all that much. Don't worry. This will pass. As you and your children learn again what it means to be a family unit--a group of people who actually live and eat and play and work and learn together --you'll soon find yourself enjoying their company, discovering their personalities, and learning to like them all over again.
Second, your children may not trust or like you. They've been 'sent away' to strangers where they were taught habits and beliefs and mannerisms that just don't sit well with mom and dad. It takes time and trust for them to unlearn bad habits, to learn to interact with adults and to appreciate your commitment to teaching them. Give it a chance. Those strong ties that existed when they were young are still there, and they'll spring back into place given sufficient love and nurturing."

Reading these paragraphs really breaks my heart. I do not want my children to become "strangers". I also cannot imagine missing out on so much, like watching their faces light up when they figure something out. As for homework, school teachers already have the children for 7 hours each day, why should they have to be burdened with even more school work at home? (I'll answer my own question here.) Because the students CAN'T learn everything in school. There are too many distractions and interruptions, not to mention an often overwhelming feeling of boredom or failure.

We all know there are good teachers and not so good teachers, but the truly GREAT teachers have a way of taking a child's least favorite subject and making it FUN! Yes, it is truly possible! I really wish more teachers would be enthusiastic about what they are teaching. Enthusiasm is catching and almost any subject can be turned into fun and interactive games with some effort. Re-arrange the desks into a circle or a few small squares. Instead of teaching AT children, ENGAGE them in the discussion and INVOLVE them in the educational process. Get out of the chairs and stand in small groups around the room to answer questions. The different ways to make a class more fun are boundless. It just takes enthusiasm and effort.

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on how the school system is not for us and why I've chosen the path I'm on. There is no way that a child can learn better in an environment surrounded by their peers than they can when surrounded in a loving, home environment. Numerous studies (do an online search to find them) have shown that home schooled children not only learn MORE, but they tend to have a love of learning that continues into adulthood. Plus it cannot be denied that the teacher- student ratio of 1:2 is better than any public school in the nation. :o)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Getting Organized and Keeping a Loose Schedule

I've been wanting to write this for a while now, but just now found the time. About six months ago I wrote about getting things ready for homeschooling first grade. Well we started homeschooling first grade back on May 25th and the children have been learning 4 days a week since then. (Side note: I firmly believe that children are learning all the time and learning doesn't stop for weekends and holidays, however we have what I like to call "official school days" 4 days a week during the summer.) So, now that I'm about 6 weeks into homeschooling I can tell we definitely need to be more organized in some areas.
I found this really cool storage box at a missions yard sale a few months ago. It was just too awesome to pass up and now I'm so glad I have it. I've organized our homeschooling materials in the slots by subject and since there are way more slots than subjects I've filled the others with supplemental magazines on art, science and geography. I've read online that most homeschooling families use a filing cabinet. Well this box is my "filing cabinet" and it doubles as a bench or play table in the kids room. I think it's a great use of space!
As for organizing a schedule, many homeschooling families have a strict schedule they follow. Example: 8am Science, 9am PE, 10am Math, 11am Science, and so on. We have a much looser schedule than this because I've found that life on a farm with young children will always bring daily surprises. We start our school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and Lord's Prayer then our first grader works on handwriting and spelling words while our 3yr old works on a page or two out of a preschool book. After about 20 minutes of this we go to another room and play some math games on the floor (counting/adding marbles, pattern blocks, addition bingo, telling time, etc.). The math games usually take up 30-45 minutes, but I never stop if we're all having fun. I don't think learning should be about watching the clock, it should be more about being in the moment and learning what is going on around us. After the math games we will either have indoor PE, music, or art depending on what day of the week it is. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how enthusiastic the kids are about what we're doing.
After our morning lessons we usually have a snack around 10:30 and then
play educational computer games (Jump Start, Math Blaster, Raz-Kids, etc.). This allows me to get some housework done or help them where they need it. Most of our Science and Bible lessons are after lunch. If we have a Science project to do I will read the lesson and let them follow along with me looking at the pictures then we will do the project later after quiet time. Quiet time is from 1:30-3:00 and the children can play quietly in their room, look at books, watch an educational (and calm) cartoon such as Signing Time, or play on their learning laptop (a kids computer with tons of games for ages 5-10).

Pretty much that's it. It's certainly not a "set in stone" schedule and occasionally things have to be shifted around for vet appointments, swimming, impromptu playdates, etc. It is summertime after all and as I said before, learning happens all the time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why Do People Sit There?

Lately we've been eating out more than usual. Not fancy restaurants, but just places like Zaxby's, Moe's, Waffle House, etc. What I don't understand is WHY do so many people eating by themselves sit at a booth that could hold 4 people instead of choosing a smaller table? Many times our family of four is left with trying to rearrange tables (if they are moveable) or pulling up extra chairs. Waffle House is the worst for seating, because they only have 4 booths that will sit a family of four. I can't tell you how many times I've been to Waffle House and had no where for us to sit other than at the bar stools (we have young children so this wouldn't work very well) or at a tiny booth intended for two people. Why do couples feel the need to sit at the larger booths? It shouldn't matter if it's Panera Bread or the local diner. If you are seating yourself choose a table that will appropriately seat you and your party but don't take up the extra space. Be courteous and leave the larger booths for those with more in their party. (Whew! That's the end of my rant.)