I have spent the past 3 1/2 years praying, researching, listening, and dabbling into the idea of homeschooling, and in about 3 weeks the idea will not be just an “idea” for us, but it will become our reality (for now). We have already found community with Classical Conversations, and the Lord used last year to solidify His present educational plans for us. I got away by myself (well, Judson tagged along…I didn’t mind. 😉 ) to the Teach Them Diligently Conference, and probably listened to hours worth of podcasts from CIRCE Institute within the past year.
We are about to venture into this whole homeschooling thing. I’ll post updates in weeks to come on our journey.
But I want to take a few moments to encourage those of you who are curious about homeschooling your own children. If you read one of my recent posts then you know that I never set out to homeschool my kids. In fact, it was never even on my radar. I only began to consider it as a viable option when Kara, my oldest, was just an infant. And that was the point that my real homeschooling journey began. In a way, I do not feel like I am jumping blindly into the world of the unknown, because so many hours have already been dedicated to the philosophy and practice of school at home.
Here’s what I mean.
When Kara was just months old I figured that even if we put her in a traditional school when she reached Kindergarten that her first four years of life would be the same regardless what we chose to do. It is mostly play-based learning. So many of you moms do this already. I didn’t use a structured curriculum, or have a rigid schedule. I had a basic routine in place so that the girls (Analise has been in on it too) would know what to expect from day to day, and I would know whether or not being both mom AND teacher suited me. The past five years have been a trial run so to speak.
It’s still a trial run, really. 🙂
I credit my mother-in-law, who is a 40-year veteran elementary school teacher for giving me ALL her materials to use in educating my kids. I purchased a formal K curriculum for Kara for this year, but we have used and will continue to use a lot of my mother-in-law’s generous resources. We went through her Saxon Math K book this past year with Kara. All I had to do was gradually purchase the math manipulatives.
If you do not have a veteran elementary school teacher as a mother-in-law, but want to implement a homeschool preschool plan in your home, you can do so relatively free and with ease. I used a lot of resources from Carisa Hinson at 1+1+1=1, from her Tot School all the way to her Raising Rock Stars. She has a lot of neat printables, activities, and craft ideas there. Just a warning, though, you will need a lot of paper and a lot of printer ink.
I also benefited from Pinterest and other preschool teachers’/homeschoolers’ websites, but as you know Pinterest can be overwhelming and daunting, so proceed with caution. I found that it was best to begin with some basic goals, an overall plan, and then go from there.
Our weekdays often began with Circle Time. Some call this morning time (we are calling it morning time now), and it is essentially the time set aside at the beginning of the day (usually) to go over the calendar, weather, memory work, catechism, songs, and whatever else we want to do to begin our morning. There are many variations, and I think that it all depends on what the mom decides she wants to do in that time with her children knowing their specific temperaments and learning styles. More experienced moms have some great ideas here. Here is a pic of our preschool Circle Time board:
We began the day with an opening song, usually “This is the Day,” and then we sang the days of the week song (to the tune of “Adams Family”), reminded ourselves of the current month, season, and then identified the day’s weather. We sang the ABC song, said our letter and number of the week, and then concluded with a praise song or hymn.
This year we will incorporate much of the same practices into our morning time routine, but we will also use a morning time binder (Analise even gets one) that will hold opening prayers, hymns, the pledge of allegiance, poetry, and memory work. Because the girls are so young, we will still use a visual aid (like the circle time board, but it will only hold the calendar this year), and we will incorporate a lot of movement and music, especially with our Classical Conversations memory work (more on that below).
The Homeschool Binder is for me, and it contains this quote on the first page as a reminder as to why we are doing this:
“As a parent, my role is to see that my children are prepared to be confident and competent generally. As they become adults, they will need to take over the responsibility for educating themselves specifically. For this to occur, I must help my children to develop a core of common knowledge and critical skills. Rigorous academics provide an opportunity for children to master general competencies so that when they are grown they can continue to learn on their own.” ~Leigh Bortins, The Core, p. 214.
And below the quote is this Scripture verse that I am dedicating to our homeschool:
The next page in the binder holds our purpose, which I can refer to throughout the year when I get overwhelmed or lose sight of our main goals.
- To cultivate the whole child to recognize and uphold truth, goodness, and beauty
- To highlight how all of the subjects honor God and are unified in their relationship to Him
- To foster a love for learning, which includes great books, nature and critical thinking
- To provide the knowledge and skills that will allow my children to overflow with creativity as their minds mature, and to eventually educate themselves (adapted from The Well-Trained Mind)
The rest of the homeschool binder contains an attendance sheet, our weekly plan, a weekly prep sheet, and a sheet for each subject where I can place weekly worksheets and printables. I put all of the pages in sheet protectors.
We are using Memoria Press K curriculum along with our Classical Conversations material this year. I am going to focus on math and phonics, and use Memoria Press’ enrichment materials to supplement these core subjects.
I wanted our first year in CC (Classical Conversations) to be a means to test the waters in the classical approach to education, to move out of the theoretical where I lived for three years more into the practical. I took the advice of a seasoned CC mom and let my first year wash over me. I did, and I am thankful for that bit of wisdom and for my CC Midtown community. Kara loves CC, her tutor, and her classmates. It really is a wonderful community for both my kids and for me.
One final element in our homeschool is probably one of my most favorites, and that is reading aloud. I hate to admit this, but when Kara was a new 3-year-old I kind of doubted her interest in chapter books (this is before we even began to read one chapter book). I thought for sure she would be bored without pictures, but to my amazement she has developed a love for books! Why I was amazed I do not know, because children really do love stories. Don’t we all! I get a lot of read-aloud suggestions, book lists, and inspiration from Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival. Her podcast interviews with various writers, educators, and reading mamas are wonderful.
We don’t really have a school room per se, but we use our office as a school storage room. Morning time takes place in our living room where we can be a little bit more comfy, and then we move to our dining room for crafts and written work (which until this year we called “Activity Time”). It is our humble, little space, but it works for us. 🙂
I will try and post updates throughout the year from time to time. I guess the only last bit of encouragement I can give to mamas of littles who are curious about preschool at home is to have fun savoring the sweet moments with your babies. It is thrilling to watch them explore the world around them as they learn and grow. My 10-month old has just discovered how to bang a mallet against a xylophone as well as bang his hands against mommy’s head (leading me to teach the word “gentle”…my first boy…this may be a futile effort on my part) 😉
Lastly, I am learning that everything is a process, trial and error, and nowhere near perfect when it comes to educating our children. It is so important for us to lean on the Lord and rest in Him through everything. In marriage, child rearing, homeschooling, ministry, and in all of life, I want this to be my posture:
“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:8
May you have a blessed new academic year, and be filled with His joy!