As I told you before, we decided to homeschool Ava this year. She would’ve been going to Kindergarten but based on how advanced she was from preschool, I started her off at a first grade level (and if anyone ever asks me I just say she’s in first grade).
There are numerous methods out there for homeschooling and I was able to research many of them through meeting with other moms, the internet, or the homeschool convention. The idea that spoke to my heart the most was Thomas Jefferson’s Seven Keys of Great Teaching:
- Classics, Not Textbooks
- Mentors, Not Professors
- Inspire, Not Require
- Structure Time, Not Content
- Simplicity, Not Complexity
- Quality, Not Conformity
- You, Not Them
Before I go any further I want to make sure to add a disclaimer: what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. One of the greatest advantages that homeschooling offers is the ability to tailor your child’s learning style to their education. Ava is on-fire for learning things that interest her and I want to keep it that way. Now my challenge is how to interest her in other things that I think are important.
We “started” homeschooling the first of September, basically patterning our calendar off of the preschool calendar for Lily and Piper (who I do send to an in-home preschool twice a week which they love and I think the teacher is ah-mazing!). I had it all planned out (naturally!) that we would take one week off per month for catch-up purposes and homeschool mostly in the afternoons, during naptimes. I mapped out what I wanted to teach and where I wanted to go. And I went.
And their were lots of tears the first week. On both my side and Ava’s.
OK, back to the drawing board.
Here are some things I learned: Ava really hates to sit down and “do homework.” Yes, there is a time and place for everything, but if it is like pulling teeth to get her to copy spelling words, is there a better way? I also realized the structured nature that I naturally fall into and wanted to put in place was not really conducive to how I wanted this to go.
I received some great ideas from family and friends and used Pinterest (an invaluable tool) to get even more ideas (there are whole Pinterest boards out there just for first grade math!) and we started doing some of them.
I had purchased a book called Character Sketches to teach all of the girls, but realized on Day 1 is was a little too advanced in its thinking (my thoughts anyway). The three older girls also started attending AWANA’s, so I combined Bible Verse memorization with handwriting – Ava now writes out her verse each week. We also have family prayer time at night with our Prayer Pail.
Ava hated copying spelling words, so a friend suggested letting her use pom-poms to “cheer” them. So I picked up some pom-poms at the Dollar Tree and now we have had her do a little cheer as she spells the word (Shark S-H-A-R-K Shark!). She is much more willing to spell now. I also taught her about contractions.
Besides writing out her Bible Verse I have also been having her write letters to Grandma (sorry Grandmas, they haven’t actually been mailed). This lets her write what she wants to and she works out the spelling (with my help) by sounding out words she doesn’t know.
I picked up a few Abeka Modern McGuffey Readers at a garage sale this summer and Ava reads at least 1/2 story (3 pages) to me most days. I have been very happy with the reading level these provide and she has been excelling. The stories are moral and ask questions at the end to talk about the behavior of the characters. Sometimes she gets fidgety (a lot of the time actually) but this is an instance where I tell her that we have to finish and I will just sit there (we sit together on the couch) quietly until she is ready to focus. It usually only takes a minute and then she is back at it.
During the month of September we read quite a bit about the Revolutionary War. I thought “where do you start with history?” and thought we would just start there. We read lots of books from the library, watched some kids PBS shows on the topic, and even a few YouTube videos on the ride of Paul Revere. Then one night she emphatically declared to Elliott at bedtime “I HATE the Revolutionary War!”. OK. Well, I don’t want her to hate it, so we’re gonna put that on hold for awhile. I am thinking we will shift our attention to studying some of the states, as she likes and understands the United States map and is curious about certain states. We’ll see how that goes…
Ava has a proclaimed love of dinosaurs and bugs. I am pretty sure we have read every juvenile non-fiction book on the subject from the library. But since I am a little burned out on the topics, I am trying to send us in a different direction. The girls have shown some interest in volcanoes and tornadoes, so I think I am going to head down a learning path I am calling “Natural Disasters.”
I also took them to the planetarium last Monday in the hopes of jump starting some topic of conversation (which worked, as they excitedly told Elliott all kind of space facts at bedtime that night).
I know (based on Pinterest boards no less) where we need to go for first grade math: addition, subtraction, less/more, fractions, double addition and subtraction. If we get through all of that, YEAH US!
Well, we started with addition. Ava had a general idea of what it was and meant, so the concept was already there. I started by finding a few worksheets, but quickly learned that that is Ava’s least favorite way of learning. So I turned to my Pinterest boards for inspiration and found lots of fun ways to make math exciting. Her favorite was just to take a deck of playing cards and flip two cards over. Then she would have to add them together. Once she grew in confidence, I switched us to addition flashcards – which she loves! She loves knowing the answers and is so proud of herself.
Now we have begun subtraction. Again, she has the concept, but is growing in speed and memorization. I have had her do a few worksheets, but also discovered a fun website which has basic subtraction game she can play (and learn) and have been using dominoes this time around to subtract one number from the other.
Our schedule has really morphed from one week off per month to one day per week. This way it allows us all a little more freedom to explore and enjoy life – because that IS learning!
We have been filling our Mondays with homeschool hiking field trips (nature, P.E., geology – you name it!), other field trips (Planetarium, fish market), playing with friends (hospitality), laundry and cooking (Home Ec.) and there have definitely been weeks that we just get really backed up or I am just burnt out, and those days I employ my DVR programming to watch Dinosaur Train, Sid the Science Kid (science), or Team Umizoomi (math) with lots and lots of coloring or playdough (art) thrown in.
I have been trying to read to them more, working our way through some of the Newberry Medal winners or classics. We recently finished Caddie Woodlawn and I borrowed Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm from Grandma. I also have lots and lots of pins on Pinterest with lists of books about autumn I am working our way through and bought Honey for A Child’s Heart, which also contains numerous lists of essential children’s books (including ones with beautiful illustrations).
I have joined several homeschool support groups (my area has numerous Yahoo Groups depending on what city you live in, so I joined all the ones close to me) including a statewide Christian group, who we have used to find out about several field trips. There are many other families at my church who also homeschool, allowing the girls built in socialization with friends they already know from Sundays. And I have been participating in a local group called Homeschool Chic, which is interfaith and meets once per month for a guest speaker. I have really been enriched by this particular group and encouraged by the ladies in attendance. At the last meeting the speaker challenged us to know WHY we homeschool. She had an amazing list which mirrored mine in many respects but the main one I came up with for our family is this:
TO KEEP THE JOY IN LEARNING
So that’s where we are going. I’ll keep you updated and share any future awesomeness we discover along the way.