Get Real is a 6 week series collaborated by a handful of bloggers, inspired by Tonya (Plain and Joyful Living) and Adrie (Fields & Fire), to open up the wide abyss of realness. The realness that lies behind the pretty pictures and face value of each and every one of us. The realness that we all struggle with at times. Get Real is a little peek behind the scenes; talking about what different areas *really* look like in our life, while juggling our families, work, and personal needs. We would love to have you share in the comments. This week’s topic:
I had begun researching homeschooling when my oldest was less than a year old. The whole concept of sending my baby away once she turned five just didn’t settle right with me. Just as I gave birth to her at a birth center to welcome her gently into this world, and practiced attachment parenting, homeschooling seemed like a natural extension to the connective bond we had begun to form together. She didn’t want to be away from me. I didn’t want her to be away from me. I just couldn’t imagine it any other way.
That first year homeschooling was a bit rough though…emotionally for me. When the time came, and everyone else I knew was sending off their kids off to kindergarten, I felt like I was doing something “wrong”. Even though the decision to home school made sense…I had this looming feeling as if I were going to get in trouble or something. Was it okay that my five year old was sleeping past eight fifteen? Did I need to be shuffling her out of bed at 7am and rush her to eat her breakfast just because that’s what most everyone else was doing?
As the years went by I started to feel more secure in myself and my children’s ability to be home schooled. The first big hurdle for me to get over, however, was letting go of other’s expectations of what they felt I should be doing.
Do my kids have desks? Do we sit down and do lessons for 6 hours Monday through Fridays? What subject matter does my six year old like best? My favorite was when people would ask my oldest what grade she was in, to which she would oddly stare back and say, “I am not in a grade. I am home schooled.” No, we don’t sit at desks and no, we do not do “school” for 6 hours a day…and no, we don’t even officially do school every day. Homeschooling finds a unique rhythm for each and every homeschooling family. That’s the novelty of it. It can look different for everyone and fit into wherever and however in your life. Sometimes we do school on the weekends, holidays, and get this…all summer long!
In my homeschooling approach, I really do not feel like there needs to be very much directed learning if any at all before second or third grade. I have witnessed all of my children naturally begin to tie their own shoes, learn to read and do basic math, etc. all by themselves. I always find it interesting when it comes time to do the third grade standardized tests. My children know all the material on the test. Why on earth would I waste their time (or mine) to drill them over and over again with the same boring information every single day, that they already know, when we could be using that time to explore the world around us and be busy learning new and exciting material? I feel like as a parent and an educator, it is my job to enable my children to be able to operate within the outside world on their own as well as expose them to limitless opportunities to learn educational material.
My second hurdle to get over was more of my own, which is… I am not a Waldorf homeschooling mom. I purchased two Waldorf inspired curriculum, which to look through, I loved. I just do not have the time to sit down with each child and do what it takes to home school them in a Waldorf fashion. It’s just not a reflection of me or where I am at in my life. I struggled for a long time over this thought because in a way I felt like I was saying, “I don’t have time to sit down with each of my kids one on one every day”. Or, that I loved it, but just didn’t feel like doing it or that my kids weren’t worth it. I felt pretty bad about feeling that way. It took me two years to move along past that.
Honestly, I love worksheets. I never thought I would say that, but that is what it has come to. The reality is that I have 5 kids. Thus far, I have always had a baby on my hip, and when I find myself free…my attention is usually already being demanded in some other way. I don’t have time to be as attentive with my younger children as I may have been able to do when my older two were little. But after getting over the feeling bad about it part, I have since realized that my older kids take the younger ones under their wings and have adventures of their own. I might find them busy tight rope walking, dreaming up circus acts, making mud pies and dirt castles, planning and planting their vegetable gardens, tending to farm animals, gathering bits of nature, sewing, finger knitting, videotaping their own dance videos, reading to each other, cleaning and doing chores, etc. My kids are together, enjoying each other 85% of the time.
My kids read every day. I believe that every child begins to read when they are truly ready. Kayla didn’t start fluently reading until she was 9. Bella started around 7. Hawthorn started around 5, but he still isn’t at the point where he wants to sit down and read a whole book all by himself. He is too busy playing, which is really what I feel 6 year old boys should be doing anyways. For the past two years I have been printing off worksheets from education.com for subjects across the board, especially for using to put into portfolios at the end of the year. For most of our home schooling we have a pretty loose look to things, however periodically I will get out the grade level materials and have every one run through what they “should” be able to do just to make sure.
Some of our current supplemental educational favorites are:
Education.com: Free worksheets for all subjects Pre-K through high school.
Khan Academy: “Learn almost anything for free”… a good place to go for 3rd grade to adult.
Brain Pop: Offers a wide array of all subject matter for grades K-12th. *They have a whole free section too, including a daily video.*
Math IXL: Math concepts broken down by grade level and topic Pre-K through 8th, plus Algebra and Geometry.
Raz-Kids: Leveled online books; helps with reading fluency and comprehension K-6th grade.
I did a few free trials of the above programs. I am going to have to say that I love math xl. Raz-kids is good too, but my kids got a little goofy with the recorded reading part. Brain Pop, like I mentioned, has a whole bunch of free stuff for all subjects, but I am thinking of getting the family access plan soon. Either way, I feel like as long as we can do a check in several months out of the year and make sure everyone is at or around where they “should” be grade level wise, I don’t sweat much about it anymore. Homeschooling is a just a way of life. It is just as much a lifestyle as it is educational. I love having my family together; watching the sibling bonds grow every year; I like being able to pick up and go if we want to go on a trip somewhere fun; I like being able to put together our portfolios at the end of the year and amaze myself with how much we accomplished in such a short time.
Some other resources we love are:
For beginning readers: Bob Books
Native American Myths and History for the younger child: Keepers of the Earth
U.S. History for the older child: A Young People’s History of the United States
Math Manipulatives: Pattern Blocks and Developing Mathematics with Pattern Blocks, Grades K-5
When looking through my photos from this past year, I tried to capture a little bit of everything that we do and consider educational; everything from inoculating shiitake mushroom logs at a local skill share meeting to catching injured birds and identifying them to worksheets and pen pal writing. Measuring and seeding the garden, cooking, drawing, creative writing, reading, science and nature, etc. I have a hard time labeling what type of home schoolers we are. I heavily identify with un schooling, but as I have mentioned before, I don’t like that term at all, because it signifies that something is lacking or not being done. I guess if I had to put a term on it, we make sure we are at grade level throughout the year by using worksheets and supplemental resources, but also leave most of our days wide open for a lot of child-led learning as well. That of course does not mean we do nothing, but instead, it means we do everything.