I don't know yet if we will be a 100% homeschooling family this fall or not. Our neighborhood elementary school is right now the street from our house and my son knows its up to him to choose whether he goes to afternoon kindergarten or if he stays home to carry on with our homeschool curriculum. Supposedly, he will make his decision after he gets a tour of the kindergarten classroom later this month.
As we've jumped into things, I am surprised to find that we are doing quite well. By following his lead, we have practiced first grade math skills (counting to 100, counting by tens, addition, subtraction). He's been introduced to multiplication and division and gets the concepts. Physics has also been a big topic in the house (thank you, Angry Birds). Thankfully, he has encountered a surprising amount of learning opportunities and extension activities through the game, including a love for construction, archery/sling shots and storytelling. He claims he wants us to make an Angry Birds birthday cake but we'll see where his interests lay 6 months from now.
We have also been discovery some excellent resources that he is adopting into our curriculum. I love that he is leading his learning and that my daughter who is two years younger is also getting into the fun and starting to guide me to what she is interested in understanding. Between all the materials we've found, I feel confident in my ability to facilitate their learning for the whole year.
In my more anxious moments, I fear not knowing or being able to teach my son to read in the next year. While I'm familiar with the methods of Reggio Emilio and other European methods which introduces reading around the 3rd grade, I know that many children do show the interest in learning during the kindergarten/first grade year if not earlier. I expect at some point, Willem will show that he is determined to learn to read but I'm not sure if I am comfortable if he were to not show interest in the next year. That, I recognize, is more my problem than his, and could become a much greater problem if he were pushed to do something he is not ready to do. Given his personality, it could be quite detrimental. My goal is to find a common ground where we continue to follow the curriculum and diligently cover pre-reading skills and concepts in the hopes that I do not push him too hard and that he discovers the desire to crack the code of written language.
Due to these anxieties, I've built in regular reading skills into our curriculum using the fairy tales from Oak Meadow, and their first grade curriculum. I also attempt to work through one Bob book with him each week and then to set out Brain Quest worksheets practicing handwriting and letter shapes. Don't bother hating on these strategies because I know. I'm not a fan either, but its a token effort to at least keep appearances that we're working on learning to read. At least, I recognize it and am willing to admit it.
He's more interested in biology and math, which is both my husband and I highly value and appreciate. Because of this our curriculum is very heavy in life cycles, botany and agriculture, environmental science, animal behavior and physiology. Thankfully both the book series Herb Fairies and Beatrix Potter's Complete Works combine reading in with all the biology concepts that he cares to learn about. Both also emphasize nature illustration which is a hobby of my husbands so there are times that the two of them sit down at the table together and work on various illustration projects. Both series also extend into the kitchen and garden so we continue to try to produce our own food and then use math concepts to cook the food. We will also be using the book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades to mesh our garden efforts to our local environment.
Borrowing from Waldorf, we are following the Pagan Wheel of the Year to observe natural life cycles of the seasons and moon phases. This summer he participated in a week long wilderness camp where he spent all day outside exploring farm and forest. I love the idea of the school year length nature preschool that convenes once a week from September to June. I have 4 objections to it based on known habits and needs of my family: 1) too expensive ($2000 per child), 2)requires a commute, 3) starts too early in the morning and 4) weekly is too much for our routine. However, there is a wooded area near my house where we could spend 2 days a month outside all day exploring and discovering nature. I plan to sync out wilderness days to the new and full moons each month and use this Handbook for Nature Study for homeschooling families, in addition to Herb Fairies since it tells the stories of children fending for themselves in the forest.
Music and Movement
Willem has also expressed interest in taking piano lessons so I am looking for a teacher who can get him started. He will continue gymnastics classes and he is excitedly looking forward to turning 6 when he can start the tumbling class. Watching the Olympics has only got him more intent on learning floor exercises so he can run, flip and fly through the air.
My husband says that he learned to read by his family's tradition of reading scriptures every night before bed. Starting when Willem turned 5, we have been reading through The Book of Mormon (my favorite book of scripture next to the New Testament). That is part of our bedtime routine: usually we read some fairy tales, say a family prayer and then read 10-15 verses from a chapter. There is a book on teaching children to read using the Book of Mormon but I'll admit. I'm not a fan.
Each Monday night, we join together for Family Home Evening where we review morals, values and ethical rules of conduct. After a brief lesson on some skill or concept, we play games, and share a treat. This is also a time for singing songs. Lastly, the children attend 2 hours of religious education each Sunday when we attend church where they are learning the basics of Jesus's teachings and God's plan for people. We likely will be visiting various churches in the coming year as we discuss the meaning of religion and culture with an emphasis on finding precious perspectives on truth in all religious paths.
That's about all I have planned for this year. I think it will be plenty--plenty of fun that is!
We started homeschooling in January when Willem turned 5 and gave ourselves a 9 month trial period seeing how well we interacted around learning activities (I don't have good memories of working with my father who was a teacher as a child so I worried that similar patterns would bleed into my parenting relationships with my children). Thankfully, that has not been the case and I am been impressed with how much my son has learned and how well we are doing with structuring our days and weeks for learning. That's been enough to show me that we can do it and it can be good for our family. I just needed the confidence boost of a trial period.
Links to Resources
Oak Meadow First Grade curriculum
Herb Fairies by Kimberly Gallagher
Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Baker
Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades
Handbook of Nature Study
Wheel of the Year
Sunday School Lessons (Willem is in the CTR-4 class this year)
Learning to Read Using the Book of Mormon