Intuitive Homeschooling | January 2017

Intuitive Homeschooling

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This is a new homeschooling series to share what I’m learning through teaching at home. What’s become apparent to me through this first year or so of homeschooling is the need to focus less on my own idea of what it should look like and more on what my daughter needs. This idea of intuitive homeschooling–discerning what my daughter needs educationally and meeting those needs without my own agenda interferring–reminds me so much of what it’s like to parent a baby. Perhaps I have babies on the brain right now, but when they’re little we learn how to respond to their needs. Is she crying because she’s hungry? Needs a diaper change? A snuggle? Intuitive homeschooling, in my interpretation, is an adaptive, responsive form of schooling that has similar values to the unschooling movement.

In this series I’ll delve deeper into what we’re learning in our home and how my idea of homeschooling changes as we all grow together. To read more on our homeschooling journey so far, head here.

First semester this year was fairly rocky. I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant at the beginning of August with the onset of the worst case of morning sickness I’ve had with all of my kids. I tried to keep up with homeschooling, but most days I didn’t even get out of bed.

My self-imposed guilt over this led us to take V to tour a local elementary school, but ultimately we decided to continue with homeschooling. With that decision I gave myself an extra serving of grace and reminded myself that everything is a season. Including morning sickness and exhaustion!

By October and November we were back in our groove, learning to read and flying through math. She and her little sister became engaged in hours-long imaginative play, and I did not interrupt for school. We simply schooled around those bursts of creativity because I believe there is value in letting that unfold organically.

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We continued to meet weekly with our nature exploring group on Wednesdays, attend storytime at our library, and the girls started ballet lessons. V even participated in our local ballet company’s Nutcracker and was the most adorable mouse.

And now to January: I noticed over the winter break that V was restless and occasionally had these bouts of wild energy. Part of that is from weathering the winter months, often indoors, and partially from lack of social engagement. We decided to be proactive with her need to learn more, be around more kids her age, and learn from another teacher by sending her one day a week to a local homeschooling school a few blocks from our home.

I was surprised to find out when we moved here that such an option actually existed! A local woman, who taught for years at the Montessori but grew a heart for homeschoolers, offers classes in her home. V will attend one day a week  this spring from 8:30am-2:30pm and join a book club course, math, and a quasi-ethics/civics/environmental course for elementary kids.

My hope is that this experience will work in tandem with what we’re learning at home and provide her with another avenue of learning. The rest of the time we’ll continue working through our Charlotte Mason style math book, which she loves, and develop her reading fluency. We began the semester with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and it’s okay. I’m planning to order Reading through Literature Level 1, but would love to hear others’ thoughts.

Other than dialing in on math and reading, we spend most of our day following her interests. Right now we have checked out from the library a stack of books on maps, a few books on the national parks, a U.S. history book for elementary kids, and a National Geographic US maps book. These lessons unfold naturally and are unplanned. So for example, this week we read a story in the history book about the early French and Spanish explorers battling over Florida in the 1500s. We learned some new vocabulary, used our world globe to trace the path of their ships from Europe to Florida, studied the current day map of Florida and located St. Augustine, and then looked at national parks in Florida.

Since our state doesn’t require evaluations or a portfolio for homeschooling, I’m relishing the opportunity to go with her interests. I know our methods of homeschooling will change as she grows older, but for now this is working well. Today is her first day of homeschooling school, so I’ll let you all know in February how that’s working out.

Do you homeschool? Have plans to? Would love to hear in the comments.

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Why I Took My Homeschooled Daughter to Visit a Public School

Intuitive Homeschooling, Values Based Living

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So I had a total freak-out about a week ago and convinced myself I needed to send V to public school.

Seriously.

It all began when my workload with Cohesive Home started getting out of control. Then school was back in session at the university, and I began teaching four sections of humanities online. And all the while I was feeling rundown, and quite frankly, completely out of sorts. Cranky and tired. If you’re a parent, you get it (please tell me you get it!)

We weren’t homeschooling in the way that I envisioned. We also weren’t homeschooling the way others in my Instagram feed were doing it. You know what I’m talking about: circle time with carefully curated classics (ever so slightly watered down for the kindergarten set), inspiring art projects that would make a college level art student weep, engaging science experiments using nothing but baking soda, household products, and the kitchen table.

I convinced myself that 1) I was doing it ALL wrong and 2) my daughter would be happier in public school.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do I feel the need to compare everything I do to people that I don’t actually know?

Melissa, my Cohesive Home partner and BFF, tried to talk me off the ledge. But it didn’t work.

We went to visit the local elementary, which is perfectly nice and a very good school. V had a tummyache the whole time, and I was incredibly nervous and like “WTF are we doing!?”

So I saw Bad Moms with some of my fellow homeschooling mama friends, and they helped me get my head on straight over crappy burgers at a diner afterwards.

They encouraged me to quit worrying about what every other parent is doing and focus on what’s working for us.

You know, not to brag, but V is close to reading. She’s writing words on her own. She knows how to add and subtract, understands skip counting, and is fascinated by and gets the water cycle. And she’s only five. Five!

Just this morning she asked about why the days are getting shorter and colder, and Kirk gave her a demonstration of the earth spinning and rotating with a globe and a flashlight.

She created a “replica” of the stage in Sound of Music while listening to the soundtrack and acting out the scenes before breakfast, measured and made a french press of coffee, and helped serve breakfast.

My guess is that we’re all going to be okay. Homeschooling is difficult, but we can make it more complicated than it needs to be. And I’m going to quit being so hard on myself.

So for now, she won’t be going to public school. And we’re going to live out what we value: slow days full of educational opportunities, plenty of good books read aloud, and yes, some traditional learning at the table.

Who’s with me?