06 February, 2010

Homeschool Encourgement

This was posted on my homeschool loop & while encouragement doesn't usually jump right in my face, this certainly did. So I thought I would put it out here for any others.

I've been a member of this group since the beginning of the year, however this is my first post.
We live in W- and this has been our first year homeschooling. I have three kids, E- is 8, E- is 6 and My little Juju Bean is 2. I must say that we have had some struggles. I feel like I am in need of some encouragement. I have heard that the first year is the hardest and it that has made itself very clear. I feel that we have all lost our luster, we don't get out enough and sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get the kids to focus on their schoolwork. My Daughter (6) is a social butterfly and since our co-op group ended for the semester I feel that she is really lacking in that area. It is also incredibly painful doing any sort of Math with her. She just can NOT sit through it. Her mind wanders, I'll tell her the answer to something and then rephrase the question and ask again and she will answer with something completely off. :) I've tried to make it interesting and have mostly just played games with her. Any other suggestions? ?? PLEASE??? I'd also love some suggestions with science, history, social studies...Am I trying to take on too much? Am I going to make it through this first year?!?!
Well, with that off my chest...
We are trying to buy a house in H-- right now. It looks like it may work out which means that we will be moving to that area in the next month or so. I just wanted to put my "feelers" out to that area to see if there are any homeschool groups out that way...or just some homeschool families that might just want to get together and give each other support every once in a while. Or just hang. :)
Thanks to all of you, and I'm sorry I haven't introduced myself before.

--R. L.

Hi R.,

Welcome to homeschooling! I think one of the biggest reasons the first year is difficult for many people is trying to do too much. Everyone does things differently, but for our family, we don't do much "school" until the child is seven. (A quick background here, I am the oldest of seven homeschool graduates and am expecting my eighth child next month, all of whom will be homeschooled for all their school years.) When my children are younger than that, we work with alphabet puzzles and sing the alphabet song, then gradually begin talking casually about the sounds each letter makes. They learn to write their own name and usually at some point begin copying words they see around them. When the time comes that we actually, technically, begin reading it is usually about a two week period to go from not reading to reading beginner phonics level books. With math, they play with pattern blocks by either making freeform designs or covering pictures on the accompanying cards, playing with the Cuisenaire rods to get familiar with them, use Building Thinking Skills worksheets with the pattern blocks or snap-cubes, and play "Store" with older siblings. We do lots of informal counting, adding, subtracting, even some multiplying and dividing throughout the day with setting the table, figuring how many biscuits each child can get, playing with their toys (ie. two boys are playing and there are eight cars so divide them evenly, or how many yellow Legos did you use in that boat you made?, Did you use more red or blue ones?, the doll had three dresses but now there is only one; how many are missing?) Doing these things in a casual way, not turning everything into a school session but just in a natural conversation will teach your children as much as trying to get them to fill in their workbook pages would do, or probably more.

History - read good books with historical settings. Little House on the Prairie, missionary accounts, some of the older books written about presidents, inventors, etc. Again, this sets the stage for future study that will be more indepth and will prepare them for it by familiarizing them with it.

Science - take them outside - even in the snow - we tracked birds, fox, deer, rabbit, and dog prints in the snow and had so much fun following them around. plant a garden - even a little flower garden - each spring each of my children gets their own plant to put in the ground, care for, and watch its growth. Nature notebooks - let them just go on their own and draw something they see, then when they come back inside, ask them about their artwork and questions will naturally come up. Then go to the library or the internet and find answers to those questions. We have found videos on youtube for everything from bees to silkworms, plants blooming in time-lapse photography, wildlife in Africa... everything we have looked for so far. Just search for and preview your videos without them around and then make sure you put it on full screen, because there is some pretty bad stuff on there. Please be careful! Nature study was the basis for many of our scientists and inventors who went on to contribute immensely to the scientific field in their later years.

Music - expose them to good music. Mine are really into Vivaldi right now, from my almost three year old who is shouting "dunt da du dunt da, dunt da du dunt da, da da da duuuuhhh" to my almost 16 yr old who just came to ask me if he can load "The Four Seasons" onto his computer so he can listen to it without everyone else making so much noise.

Social Studies - I looked at a kindergarten/first grade social studies curriculum once, and have looked at the course of study for the public schools - they both basically "introduced" people in your community such as mailman, policeman, fireman, doctor, etc. and told what they did. Do we really need to pay money for a book to teach this!!! We happen to have a mailman that comes to our house everyday and a doctor that we go to every so often. What child possibly grows up in America without knowing all about a policeman or fireman? We have taken them to the local police and fire stations for field trips - both organized group trips and personal ones. They love to show the children around and usually have stickers, coloring books, etc. to give out. When one of mine was eight he did a science fair project on fingerprints and the policemen gave him a tour complete with fingerprinting him in the place they do the criminals that are brought in, and gave him the official fingerprint card to take home. They showed him how they lift fingerprints from a crime scene and match them in the computer database. Believe me, my children learned and retained more from that one hour than they would with weeks of studying a book. Books have their place, but read to them when they are little, so they develop a natural hunger and love for reading, not a dread of it. All of my children are true bookworms by the age of nine. A very effective punishment at our house is "no reading for two days!" Aaauugghh, what cruelty, what torture!! Hands on learning and interactive learning are best for the younger years. You do not want to turn them off from school and yourself off from homeschooling before you even get into the fun stuff! If you provide a learning atmosphere and surround them with things that inspire imagination, creativity, and curiosity you will be doing the most valuable teaching you can at this age.

Keep the t.v. off and avoid toys that rely on batteries to provide the noises and actions that your child's mind and body were made to do. And teach them early on the proper place for social acitivities - as an occasional supplement to the natural friends God gave them in their parents and siblings. It is an incredible blessing to have teenagers look forward to game night with their parents or lament the absence of a brother who stayed overnight with a grandparent, when I see other families whose teens can't wait to get out the door to be with their friends but are sullen and rude around their own family. Seeds planted and allowed to grow early on will bear fruit at some point. What seems cute and innocent quickly flourishes in a child's heart and will go its own way if not carefully nurtured and guided along the proper path. Many children place great importance on outside activities and friendships at an early age but if gently guided into a lifestyle of family-focused living will develop a stronger foundation of family-first thinking that will be a real lifesaver through the adolescent years and will greatly influence the decisions they make as they merge into adulthood. Tie those heartstrings to yours and don't let anything in that loosens them in any way. Guard your child's heart zealously until they are mature enough to do it themselves. These are the most important things to focus on in the early school years... laying foundations for the years ahead - spiritually, emotionally, and academically.

Be encouraged; you can't mess up even close to what government schools have done and have many years ahead to try out different things and to catch up where you feel you may need to. You are about your Father's business and He will be with you and help you through all of it.

J. F.

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