Monday, November 30, 2015

Homeschool Direction (Our Plan)

I want to document our homeschool journey, and I also have friends who ask, so I'm going to try to write from time-to-time about what we are doing for homeschooling and how it's going. I'll start this post by reminding you that I am still a newbie on this homeschool journey. I have done a lot of research and reading, but with my oldest being just four years old, I am only experiencing the beginning.

There are many different methods and styles of going about homeschooling. And within those methods and styles, there are numerous curriculums. The Lord has drawn my heart to a method known as Charlotte Mason. I am not an expert on this method, but I am continuing to read books and articles and blogs and listen to podcasts to become more knowledgable on what this method looks like. 

Here are some reasons I was drawn to this method:

- It focuses on "living books." This means that rather than a student learning from a textbook, which is often dry and boring, they learn from a book that has a single author who is knowledgable and passionate about the topic he or she is writing on. These books are well-written, and range from children's books to complicated novels. They include language and ideas and sentence structure that challenge the student and broaden their current knowledge.
- It encourages imaginative play and not pushing formal education too early. 
- It values the beauty and importance of nature and allowing students to have time in it each day. 
- It sees memorization as important, but not just for the sake of memorizing a bunch of facts. It encourages memorizing that which has beauty and truth, like Bible verses and poetry.
- It sees habit training as an important part of training a child. Teaching children manners and responsibilities is an important part of education.
- It focuses on teaching a broad amount of subjects for short amounts of time (specifically for young students). Younger kids are not able to focus on one subject or idea for a long time, so for a student to truly listen and grasp what is being taught, the lessons should be kept short. Short lessons teach the habit of attention. 
- It values narration above a fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice test. Narration is where a child is able to share back (in writing or out loud) what he or she learned from a book (or audio or other type of lesson). This encourages the child to listen well, to sift through the information he or she received and repeat back what was important, and in speaking and writing skills.
- It encourages learning handicrafts. Handicrafts is a term that can include a wide-range of activities, from cooking, to gardening, to sewing, to finger painting, to woodworking, to photography, to scrapbooking, to knitting. Because these skills should carry through an help them into adulthood, they can include changing a car tire, mowing, plumbing, vacuuming, first aid, and computer skills. I love this part of Charlotte Mason because I think it encourages children to have something to do with their time other than electronics, and it allows them to learn how to work on something with all their heart so that it is beautiful and something they are proud of (even if it's just a pile of folded laundry). 

Charlotte Mason's ideas go deeper and wider than this. She has six books that she has written, and so certainly her theories and ideas include more than this. But these are the things that have stuck out most to me at this point.

I think what I have learned and would encourage other moms in as they seek what direction to go in with homeschooling is to find what makes them excited. Pray and trust that if God has led you to homeschool that he will lead you to a method that excites you and works for your family. Honestly, there are some methods and curriculums that I would not enjoy. Homeschooling would be a drudgery. But this method feels so right to me. I feel peace about it, and I believe in all that is encompasses.

I have been trying to keep this year really simple. Sophie loves learning, and I love watching her learn, so we are starting to do some formal work, but for the most, part, I want her to enjoy being a child while she still has the freedom. So much of her day, she plays and creates and imagines. But here is what we are doing:

-We are reading lots of good books! I get my ideas for good books from Ambleside Online. They have a (sort of) curriculum for those who wish to homeschool in a Charlotte Mason way, and so they have many great book suggestions. You can find the lists I gather from here and here. Five in a Row also has great book suggestions, and you can find those on their website here. I also check out some other curriculums occasionally, like My Father's World and Sunlight, to get other ideas for good books. I get most of them from the library, but some I borrow and some I buy.
- We read from a Child's Bible every day. We are in love with the one we are using. You can find it here. It is detailed and focused on truth and has some great application points from time to time. And it points to our need for Christ in beautiful ways :)
- Sophie is learning how to read from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which you can find here. We have really liked this book. Sophie is on lesson 60 of 100. She has done well, although we have come to a few bumps in some of the lessons from 40-60 and have had to slow down a little. Sometimes she breezes through lessons so easily that I have to remind myself that she is only four on the days that are harder for her. She really is loving learning to read, though, and I think this book does an excellent job of teaching how to do so.
- We have done some nature journaling and study, and we also have been learning to identify some countries on a globe.
- We have done arts and crafts and some cooking.
- She's memorized some verses and learned some songs.
- She practices her writing by making cards for friends or just writing out words or letters.
- Sophie is also in a Homeschool Co-Op that meets every other week and she is taking swimming lessons.

I would like to improve in the following areas:

- Coming up with a good method and being more consistent with learning Bible verses. I currently don't have a good rhythm down.
- Habit Training. Sophie makes her bed and puts her dishes away, but not consistently. I would like to find consistency with this.
- Math. I don't plan to start an official curriculum until next year, but I would like to do more unofficial learning, by teaching her measurements in the kitchen and using a scale to learn weights and counting things. 

I would encourage moms with kids younger than six to let much of their "school" be informal. It's amazing how much can be learned without sitting down and lecturing. Here are some ways we have found:

- Read good books and talk about them! Read them over and over again.
- Don't "dumb down" your vocabulary for your kids. Use regular words when you talk to them and find picture books that include great vocabulary. When your kids ask what a word means, tell them. Use google if you have to :)
- Have a map or globe that you can use to point out locations to your child. You can share places where you have been, places where people you know live, or places you read about. They may or may not remember them, but share anyway. Brielle (2) doesn't remember anything at all, but she enjoys being a part of this time with Sophie and I, and I trust that she's learning something even if it's not evident right now. 
- Talk about the trees and animals in nature. When your kids are curious and you don't know (which is often the case with me), do a little research and educate both of you :)
- Point out colors and shapes whenever you see them (I never worked formally on colors with Brielle, but she suddenly knew all of them a couple of months ago).
- Count things whenever you have an opportunity (when you're putting away socks, when you're eating crackers, when you're looking at your toes, etc). If you're measuring something, include your child. If you're using measuring cups or spoons, include your child.
- Talk about the weather and seasons as you walk or drive outside.
- Coloring is great for the imagination and for building hand strength.
- Point out letters on signs and in books and t-shirts and anywhere else you encounter them. Mention the sounds that a letter makes.

And if you're interested in looking into the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, I recommend you begin by reading the book "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. 

My favorite part of homeschooling is that I get to be a part of Sophie's life every day, and she gets to be a part of ours. I love seeing Sophie and Brielle form a sister bond. Of course, this could happen without being homeschooled, but if Sophie went to preschool every day, they would miss many of their sweet playing moments in the morning. These two girls are so different, but I love that they can learn to interact kindly and love one another despite their differences in age and personality. All the time they spend with one another gives me many teaching moments too. We've learned lots of verses about being kind and forgiving and doing to others as you would have them do to you.


  1. I sure do love these sweet girls. You and Ben are doing a great job of parenting them! An idea for math that Sophie might like is to make groups - for example: divide these pennies into 3 groups of 5, etc. Love, Mom M

  2. Just a suggestion for bible memory :)