Friday, September 14, 2012

What I've Learned in My First Four Weeks as a Homeschool Mom

"But I wanted things to move faster. So I followed my instincts."

She learns best by doing
Four weeks into our homeschool adventure both Bear and I have already learned so much. Actually, I've probably learned more than she has, but don't tell her that. 'K?

In no particular order, here are a few of the things that have become evident to me so far (and this is by NO means a comprehensive list):

Bear does not respond well to rote work

Okay, so I knew this already from years of helping her with her homework, but it was really driven home when I tried to implement some of it. She just shuts down and we both end up frustrated and nothing is really learned. However...

Mini marshmallows go well with vocabulary and spelling

And Bear has NO problem hollering out definitions when there's a mini marshmallow on the line. I still have her write out her own flashcards and look up the definitions herself, but she finds that far less tedious when she knows she's going to get to munch on puffs of sugar for her efforts. Once in awhile, anyway. ;)

Learning does not have to take eight hours a day

We;re generally done in about an hour, total. This freaked me out a little at first, but then I reminded myself that I'm working with one kid, at her own pace, according to her attention span and learning style. And another reason not to worry is that I've seen firsthand how learning does not stop when the "schooling" does. We may pack up our notebooks and log off the computer, but...

Evidence of learning does not require a written exam

Again, I knew this (I think we all do), but seeing it firsthand is incredibly rewarding. For our first unit, we read The School Story. It's about two 6th grade girls who scheme to get a book published. It's really cute and it's a great way to learn a bit about the publishing industry on a kid's level. We took our vocab from the story, did a few journal entries based on what we were learning, and even did an art project to design a cover for the protagonist's book. That was all fine and good, but I really saw the lightbulbs going off for Bear when she began "playing" the book. She adopted a pseudonym (like in the book) and began writing her own novel. She'd also sit in her room and play out the story. She's always done this with books and movies she loves, and I believe that for her, that's where the real learning takes place. When she can take what she's heard or seen and process it into play, she's "getting" it. It was so, so awesome to see, and I'm so happy that I get to be the one watching that happen now.

It's okay to make up missed or abandoned lessons on Saturday...or not at all

Sometimes our days get away from us due to unforeseen plans, trips to the library or grocery store, or just life. But with just one child to work with, it's very easy to make it up on Saturday, or decide something (like a day of journaling) is okay to skip this time. It's not like learning isn't taking place when we're not sitting at the table, so I don't feel like Bear is getting behind if we have to put off fractions for a few days. Again, that's one of the rewards of homeschool—working at our own pace. And setting it.

Reading together is my favorite part of school

I think compiling our reading list was my favorite part of the planning process, and reading together is definitely my favorite part of our learning. We love a lot of the same types of books, and I'm really excited to tackle some classics together, especially those that I've never read myself. And Bear is a really great reader, so even if Bug is being a little clingy and my arms are occupied, we can still enjoy the story together.

I'm really, really glad I didn't drop hundreds of dollars on curriculum

So. Much. FREE STUFF. There are fantastic websites out there for just about anything you could want, and even entire lesson plans you can use or adapt. Sure, piecemealing a curriculum takes a lot more planning that purchasing one that's ready to go, but it also allows us to study whatever we're interested in in more depth. And then there's the public library, which takes me to the point that...

We might have the best library in the country

Kenton County is consistently ranked in the top libraries in Kentucky, but seriously—what a resource. In addition to the fantastic collection of books, they have curriculum packs (Bear grabbed a massive duffel bag brimming with fraction activities), a website that leads to a plethora of incredible other sites, and a staff that is not only capable, but ready and willing, to assist in any way possible. They have programs specifically for homeschool families (last week Bear made a geode from an eggshell and got to open her own real geode, too—for free), and plenty of programs for all ages.

Seriously. I am in love with our library. I feel so, so lucky to live where I do.

Kids really do learn more when they give a crap about the subject matter

I loved seeing the light go on in my little budding meteorologist's eyes when I told her we were going to be doing a weather unit. She eagerly watched the DK Eyewitness Weather DVD (which we got from the awesome library), not even losing interest during the drier parts. She eagerly looked up the difference between cirrus and nimbostratus clouds. And she's very excited to build our rain gauge and begin our weather journals this week.

It's okay to change the plan if it's not working

We started out with a math program I was really excited about it, but Bear was bored to tears and found it FAR too easy. So I pulled up Time 4 Learning, an online curriculum program. When I showed it to her, she got very excited and exclaimed that they'd used it sometime at school for fun computer time and that she loved it. SCORE. It's $20 a month, but you get everything (not just the math) for that price. So we have access to all the lessons across a variety of topics, which will be great when we have one of those inevitable weeks where I've been too busy or flustered to chart a decent plan or when we feel like we're not quite hitting a subject adequately. I don't want to use T4L as our primary curriculum (I like planning our school around Bear's interests rather than a set plan), but it's a terrific supplement and well worth the money since she enjoys it. 

I cannot imagine taking on the challenge of educating twenty-five children at once

I feel great about my ability and my decision to educate my child. My hat is still off to the teachers who report to our schools day in and day out, pulling out all the creative stops they can muster to educate dozens of children in a system that not only gives them little to work with, but that actually works against them. That's dedication. 


  1. Really interesting stuff. I was excited for you guys when you said you were going to start homeschooling so I'm really glad it's going well. Definitely gonna keep reading the blog as it goes on, it's helping to change my views about homeschool-though I highly doubt I'll ever be able to do it myself when the time comes.

  2. Thanks, Chey. I never, ever thought I had it in me. We had a variety of reasons for deciding to make the switch, but one of the biggest delights for me has been realizing how much I enjoy my daughter's company. Having her home has been awesome.

    That said, there are many educational options out there. When that time comes for you, you'll be able to figure out what the best one is for your kids/family. Even within homeschooling, there are a gazillion different approaches.

  3. Annika is in school during the day, but we have been reading "A Wrinkle in Time," a book I always wanted to read but never did, together at night. We're loving it - just in case you were looking for another book to add to your list.