Archive for June, 2012

June 30, 2012

How Can a Mama Schedule Creativity Into Her Life?

Note: This column was printed in the June 27, 2012 edition of the Barrow Journal.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write more on this topic ever since my fellow blogger, Renee Tougas of fimby.tougas.net, wrote the definitive e-book for busy moms who want to find time for their own creative pursuits.  How do I schedule it into my life, she asked?

Another friend of mine commented that she doesn’t see how I have time to do it all.  The truth is, I don’t do it all, and there are days that I feel like pulling my hair out.  Still, having children has taught me more about time management skills than any high power job could ever do.

It’s ironic that I’m writing on this topic at an unusually busy time for me.  With summer in full swing, I never guessed how many unexpected things could pop up at this time of year for young children.  Besides my son’s mini-camps and a summer class, I’m happy to shuttle him around to play dates so that he can enjoy this beautiful weather.

I also have a magazine article I’m trying to finish and get in the mail, a photo shoot coming up, another set of photos I did for a friend that I’d like to finish, and of course I continue with my weekly column.  Then there’s the magical laundry bin that fills up every time I empty it.

I work very hard at keeping perspective, and I also make sure that I don’t let my personal goals take my attention away from my kids.  I keep mindful that this is a short time in my life, and someday I’ll wish I could step back into this moment when my children were young.  But staying positive doesn’t take away the fact that I have to get things done.

It’s all about sorting priorities and making lists for me.  Luckily I found a little app for my computer that lets me make several to-do lists.  (I use To-Do Queue, but I know there are other good ones too.)  I use some lists for brainstorming ideas on what to write about, and I use other lists for the real gotta-get-it-done stuff.

Keeping these lists separated is what makes my life easier.  I’m never looking at a comprehensive, mile-long to-do list.

I make sure I get the important stuff done first.  I usually reserve certain days of the week for certain tasks, such as my weekly column.  Just as I mentioned last week in my “how to get the house clean” column, having specific days for specific tasks takes away the angst of “When will I get to this?”  Thinking about everything at once is too overwhelming.

When the must-do stuff is done, I use my lists to remind me of what I want to work on next.  Having this reminder open on my computer is important because it’s so easy to open up Twitter or Facebook and waste time.

But how do I get any of it done with young children who quite literally suck up every minute of the day?  Most of it happens at night after they go to bed, and some of it gets done in the afternoons while they watch T.V.  There are also nooks and crannies throughout the day when I manage to load laundry or write an e-mail while also sculpting clay creations with my sons.

While it would be ideal to have a few hours every week when I could retreat to a private office to get my work done, that will never happen.  What helped me gain perspective on this is what a friend of mine told me once.

He teaches news writing at the university, and he told me that while his students are writing in class, he’ll put the radio on.  He said he wants them to get used to distractions because in a busy newsroom, it’s not always quiet.  When he told me this, I realized that getting work done despite distractions is something we can learn to do.  It’s something we can train ourselves to do.

Distractions are always at hand for moms of young children.  A subtitle for this era of our lives could be “Ten Years and One Million Interruptions.”  So instead of waiting for the perfect time to get creative, learn to use the time you’ve got.

***

There’s also something I’d like to add that wasn’t in my column.  It’s about keeping perspective as I mentioned briefly.  I have many personal goals that I’d like to do, but I just can’t at this time.  I only do what little I can, and I try to appreciate this moment with my children first and foremost.  I’m pretty sure that being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom is going to be the happiest time of my life.  Why do I dream about doing something else when in reality, I have everything I want?

On the other hand, it’s good to have personal goals because one day these kiddos will grow up and leave my house.  I’m glad I’m pursuing my hobbies and career goals even if it’s a little bit.  I think it will lay a foundation for my life after kids, and from what I hear from “empty nesters,” it will be good to have a distraction at that time.

Remember that wonderful children’s story, The Tortoise and the Hare?  Be the tortoise.  Plod along and do what you can. After all, if you had all the time in the world, you might not use it wisely.

How do you make time for yourself?

June 28, 2012

Tadpole Update #2: They have legs!

We were very excited this evening to see tiny legs on our tadpoles!  Below are some photos that I took in the last few days.  I’ve put dates on the images so that you can see the progress.  Though we thought they were about to get legs, tonight was the first time we could definitely see them.  To see my first photos of the tadpoles and learn how we got them and how we’re taking care of them, click here.

Have you ever raised tadpoles or any other kind of critter?

June 26, 2012

Cleaning the House with Young Children

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on June 20, 2012.

Mothers of young children often lament how they can’t get anything done.  What they mean by this is how they can’t seem to get the laundry, house cleaning, or cooking done, or, if they do another kind of work, they can’t find time to finish it all at once.  We go from being childless and able to tackle our tasks one at a time to a schedule with no beginning and no end.

It’s more of a mind-shift, and it takes a lot of time to figure out how to navigate our chores amid the needs of the children.  I am still trying to shift my mind.  It’s not an easy thing, but once in a while, I think I’ve almost got it.

The first thing I had to remind myself of is that I am doing something – the most important thing in the world, perhaps – rearing children.  Every mundane task I do at home stacks up as the first blocks in these little people’s lives.  It may not feel like it, but I’m the one there to keep them from falling over.

Mothers put a lot of pressure on themselves to be able to do it all, but all we really need to do is show up and love our children.

I want to tell moms with younger children not to try so hard.  All we can do is prioritize and do what little chores we can.  It’s the kids that come first, and it’s not going to kill them if they crawl through some dust bunnies.  Use frozen food if you have to.  Just take care of yourself – you can’t be a good mom if you don’t – and take care of the children.

Now that my youngest child is almost three, it’s getting easier to find time to clean the house on a regular basis. This past year I started “Monday Cleaning Day.”  I’ve never had a cleaning schedule before, but now that I have kids, I realize schedules are my friends.

Writers say that you should write at the same time everyday, every week, or whenever you can manage it.  What counts is that it’s at a recurring time. If you do this regularly, you’ll train your writing mind or “the muse” to show up.  This is true.

Now I believe this strategy works with everything.  Ever since I started “Monday Cleaning Days” I am in the mood to clean my house every Monday morning.  When in my whole life have I ever been in the mood to clean? The best part about it, however, is that it takes away those frustrating thoughts of “When will I get this done?”

I wouldn’t have been able to do this the year before when I had a one-year-old, but now both my boys are helpful.  They pick up toys and help me mop the floors, and the five-year-old loves to vacuum the sofas.  It’s important to get young children in the habit of helping, but don’t worry about the quality of their work.  If they do anything, it’s great, and you are fostering good habits that will stick with them as they get older.

(I will also make a point that wasn’t in my column: I doubt I could have done “Monday Cleaning Day” when I had only one child.  Having an older brother to direct the play helps me considerably when I’m trying to get things done with a two-year-old.)

After they help me as much as they can, it’s their “job” to play alone while I finish.  I think there’s something about the routine of doing it once a week that helps them and me too. They understand that it’s just one day a week and then we get back to our regular schedule.

Of course, it could also be that I’ve started “Monday Movie Night.”  If they help clean and leave me alone while I finish, they get to watch a movie.  I want them to learn that after we work hard, it’s okay to relax and reward ourselves.  My five-year-old is old enough to recognize when the house gets messy, and I think he is learning to appreciate cleanliness.  He’s proud of himself each time he shows me the clean sofas.

I also don’t consider it a bad bribe because I also give myself permission to take the night off.  With small children, I’ve had to schedule in “veg out time” too, though I admit I don’t always stick to this. It’s too tempting to use the time to pursue some of my creative goals, and next week, I’ll write some ideas on how mamas can schedule creative time into their lives.

How do you get your cleaning done with small children in the house?

You might also be interested in Embracing the Chaos and Embracing the Chaos, Part 2.

June 23, 2012

Guess who’s raising tadpoles?

Last week (on June 15th) when my five-year-old and I returned from his mini-camp, my husband and two-year-old surprised us with tadpoles!  They collected them at a stream where they found hundreds of tadpoles.  Most of them will get eaten by predators, so we’re going to help three of them along until they mature and then release them in the same spot we found them.  (At least we hope we get that far.)  So far they are doing well!

We’re keeping them in a container box on the porch. We used tap water, but we put a water conditioner in it that we use for our fish aquarium. Later we also added some of the water and algae from the stream that the tadpoles came from. We put some rocks and a filter in the water, and we are feeding them bits of frozen spinach and tapole/frog food we found at the pet store. They have gotten considerably fatter since we got them, and they seem happy!

We keep a screen over the box when we’re not watching them to keep mosquitoes and other pests out of the box.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

And let’s have a round of applause for my husband who initiated and did the work for this awesome homeschool science project!

June 21, 2012

Lessons Learned in the Garden

“A new study conducted for Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has found that encouraging children to learn gardening boosts their development by helping them become happier, more confident, and more resilient. In addition, gardening also helps teach children patience and the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle.”  

–Quote from an article titled, Teach Children Gardening and Give Them a Natural Head Start in Life on NaturalNews.com

It’s that time of year again for planting and growing things, and I’m happy that my five-year-old seems just as excited about the garden as he was last year.  It’s an exciting year for me too because we’ve planted things I’ve never attempted to grow before.  At his request, we’ve got corn, carrots, onions, and garlic, and we also have the old staples: cucumbers and tomatoes.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to prune back some bushes and clip the perennials before they budded (makes them stronger), so my flower beds are crowded with daisies falling over on top of other flowers, and an off-shoot of a butterfly bush is growing between two bushes that were already suffocating each other.

The yard is a work-in-progress, and it always will be, but even when it’s unruly, it gives me great pleasure to see the plants circle around to their blooming glory.  It’s also the potential that gives me thrills – thinking about what I might be able to do once the boys are older and strong enough to haul dirt and wheelbarrows!

It’s my goal to keep them interested in cultivating a garden, so I don’t pressure them, and I let them plant what they want and overwater it at times too.  If something doesn’t grow, I tell my son we learned something, and we’ll try again next year.  My five-year-old is always talking about planting this or that, and getting a new packet of seeds is like getting a new toy.

Yesterday we went to visit some long-time friends of mine, and I knew the five-year-old would love their garden, which is spread out over their whole yard.  It’s one of those cozy cottage-like places.  Of course he was in heaven as he asked what the names of the plants were, and when I wasn’t looking my friend gave my son a packet of green bean seeds and some seeds from a plant outside.

I didn’t think we’d have room for those green beans, but my husband enthusiastically went out with my son and extended the garden by several feet.  So now we’ve got green beans too!

When I mentioned to my son that he might be a gardener when he grows up he said no because he wants to study snakes.  I had the pleasure of telling him that it’s possible to do more than one thing when we grow up, and he could certainly have his own garden.  A light bulb seemed to go on over his head when I said that.

Last year I used his enthusiasm to teach him about the parts of a plant.  I found an inexpensive “Life Cycle of a Plant” poster at a teacher’s store, and we also have two helpful books at home that my son likes to read:  From Seed to Plant by Allan Fowler and How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan.  Both of these books are written for youngsters.  We also sprouted bean seeds in jars.

Gardening is a wonderful learning experience for children.  It teaches them how our food grows, about the environment, and it gives them something to take pride in.  It’s the character-building aspect of gardening that I most love.  My son has learned about patience and hard work.  And for me, it’s relaxing, except maybe when the boys are fighting over who gets to water with the hose.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on June 13, 2012.

Please share your photos and posts about gardening with children in the comments section.
June 19, 2012

“Children generally start out that way…”

Every once in a while I happen upon a wonderful quote that involves children and my belief that they should be free to explore, play and use their imaginations.  If I can, I’ll share these with you.

I don’t usually get a chance to listen to my favorite podcasts, but recently I was driving without my children and listened to this wonderful interview with Oceanographer Sylvia Earle on On Being with Krista Tippett.  (If you haven’t tuned into this program before, you need to.)  I loved what Dr. Earle said early in the interview about her childhood experiences and how it led her to the work she does now.  I find that there’s a theme among scientists when I hear them being interviewed: it always starts in early childhood.  

This is a quote from the transcript:

Ms. Tippett: …So it’s clear to me that you discovered the natural world in general and water in particular and the ocean in your earliest life. I mean, this seems from as far back as you can remember to have been part of you and your imagination.

Dr. Earle: Um, a critter person. Children generally start out that way, given a chance to explore even in their own back yard. So often, the adults around them will say, oh, don’t touch that beetle or, ugh, an earthworm, or caterpillars, yuck. My parents were different….

Be sure to listen to the whole interview or read the transcript by clicking here.

This episode was especially enjoyable to me because my family and I have taken an interest in the ocean, and we are currently watching the Discovery Channel’s series Blue Planet for the second time on Netflix.  Many of Dr. Earl’s sentiments overlapped what we have learned through these wonderful documentaries.

June 16, 2012

A Homeschool Pre-Kindergarten Graduation

{Part 3 of Recording A Homeschool Student’s Progress: The Homeschool Portfolio} {Free print out}

So after my practice year, recording everything we did, and completely changing my mind about my son’s grade level, I wanted to wrap it all up with a graduation celebration.

Why a graduation for “pre-kindergarten”?

The main reason I did this was because I wanted my son to feel a sense of accomplishment.  But more than that, I didn’t think he completely understood what his “homeschool” was all about.

He knows he’s being homeschooled, and he even tells other people this.  He understands that many kids “go to school,” and I think he has a rough sense of what school is through television and books we read.  He also knows that those short, formal reading and math lessons are “school.”  But what I’m sure he didn’t know is about all the other stuff:

(Note: If I don’t have a link to a post on these topics yet, I plan to write them in the future.)

For a while, I had planned not to tell him that these things were “schoolish.”  He loves everything, and he’s naturally curious!  I didn’t want to spoil the fun.  But then I realized that he should be commended for his natural curiosity, and he should know that all this cool stuff….Yay! It’s school!  And I hope that because of that, commemorating the end of the year will somehow motivate him to get through the stuff that isn’t as fun like those reading and math lessons.

The second reason I wanted to do the graduation was because I wanted to showcase my son’s accomplishment’s to our family, and I hope that this will soften any concerns they may have about homeschooling.

There was also a third reason to do the graduation, but I didn’t realize it until after it was over: Having a graduation for my son and our family was the best way to get me to summarize what my son accomplished and showcase it in an interesting way.  In turn, this was the best way to teach me what I should be doing for our future record keeping!

I prepared three things for the graduation:

  • A progress report such as the Georgia law requires for a homeschooled child after the age of 6.  (Note that this progress report is for your records only.  You do not have to submit it to anyone.)  This report was about six pages long (bullet lists for each subject, and I used the “course of study” list to know what to highlight).
  • A 15-minute slideshow of photographs that I took of many of the workbooks, artwork, games, projects, classes and outings my son did as he worked through a typical course of study for a preschooler and kindergartener.
  • A completed “pre-kindergarten” course of study certificate  (For a free, blank pdf of the certificate that you can use for your own needs, click here: Completed Course of Study Certificate)

On the morning of the graduation, I put these out in our living room:

  • Various projects (posters, books etc) that my son had done throughout the year.
  • The portfolio or 3-ring binder with all the goodies I mentioned in my record-keeping post.

But ultimately I realized that all anyone would ever look at would be the progress report and the slideshow.  So this is what I learned about my record keeping:

All I used to write the progress report was my photographs and my blog’s Table of Contents.  That’s it!  (UPDATE: Upon greater reflection, I realize that I do use my charts/summary on occasion to help me write blog posts, however.)

I didn’t need to consult my beloved charts or that lengthy summary I wrote every week.  So was it all a waste of time?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I’m glad I have them because if I had to, I have plenty of evidence of our daily work.  It also fills out his portfolio quite nicely, and it makes a really nice keepsake.

Will I continue using the charts and weekly journal?  I’m sure I’ll use the charts.  They help keep my own peace of mind since I’m not using a curriculum.  As for the weekly journal, I may not be as diligent about that now that I know I probably won’t use it much, but I think I’ll try to keep it up because it, too, gives this homeschooling mama peace of mind.

In conclusion

You must think I’m a maniac especially in the light of the fact that in Georgia, we do not have to keep portfolios and we only need to write a progress report and keep it for our own records for three years!  (Same with the standardized tests that Georgia homeschoolers are supposed to take every three years starting in the third grade.)  Even if I were to put my son in public school at some point, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever review these materials.  From what I’ve heard from other homeschoolers, schools test a child and place him/her where they think he/she should go.

Yet I do it because 1) perhaps I am a maniac, 2) it’s how my mind works – I’m a writer and organizer on paper, and I only wish my house were as organized, and 3) for me, it’s important to teach my son goal-setting and let him feel the reward of accomplishment and also show his family what he’s done.  In short, it’s all about having peace of mind about this homeschooling journey.

June 15, 2012

Graduating to Kindergarten or 1st Grade?

{Part 2 of Recording A Homeschool Student’s Progress: The Homeschool Portfolio}

In my last post I listed all the ways that I kept track of my son’s homeschool this past year from June 2011 – May 2012.  In June 2011, I wrote a post stating that I had an official kindergartener, and indeed, we completed a course of study for a Kindergartener this year.

But last month, in May 2012, I completely changed my mind about his grade level, and I’ve decided to consider him a Kindergartener again in this coming year.  Why?  The simple answer is that if he were going to public school, he would be entering Kindergarten this fall because his birthday is so close to the cut-off date.  (I wouldn’t want him to be the youngest child in the class, and I’ve read much on this subject and spoke to a Kindergarten teacher at his would-be school who agreed with this decision.)

In many ways it’s silly for me to give his grade level any thought at all, especially since we’re homeschooling.  I believe grade levels are arbitrary, and children should be educated at their own personal level otherwise you’ll risk losing that spark they have for learning.  So why am I labeling him as a Kindergartener?

  • Frankly, and perhaps it’s not a good reason and you can argue with me, but I’m doing it for the rest of the world.  It’s how our society works at this time, and I want our family and friends to be able to understand where my son would be if he were in school.  I think they’ll be more comfortable with our homeschooling that way, and as my son gets older and has to answer other people’s questions, it may help him be more comfortable with the rest of the world.
  • Second, I worry that if I call him a 1st grader, I may push him too hard this year.  I always have to remind myself how old he is and how far ahead he is – I don’t need to worry or push him.  Keeping it as it would be if he were in school will keep me on an even keel!
  • Third, it’s much easier (and more impressive) for us to say he’s a Kindergartener doing mostly 1st grade work than to say that he’s a 1st grader but he may not be up to that level in some areas.

So I’m saying he’s a Kindergartener, but let’s not lose sight of the fact we’re homeschooling!

  • We will teach at his level in an engaging manner until he gets the concept!
  • He won’t have to worry about grades, and he won’t even know what they are.  Mama will know what he knows.
  • He won’t have to worry about tests.  (Except for a few required by law.)
  • We (our whole family) will explore the world together, and learn together.
  • We will have awesome conversations, quality time together, less stress, and plenty of time for weird, spontaneous science experiments.
  • No one is going to kill his passion for asking bizarre questions and taking off on tangents that might not have been in our original plan.
  • He’s a Kindergartener doing 1st grade work!

In my next post, I’ll write about why I decided to do a pre-K graduation and how it helped me understand what I’ll truly need for our record-keeping.

June 12, 2012

Recording A Homeschool Student’s Progress: The Homeschool Portfolio, Part 1

{Homeschooling without a curriculum} {Eclectic Homeschooling} {Free print outs for your record keeping.}

Though I have seen countless blogs on the Internet offering advice on how to keep track of your child’s homeschool, I knew that I would have to come up with my own system or I wouldn’t stick to it.  So I write this post with a grain of salt and encourage you to do the same.  There’s no right or wrong here.

This past year was my “practice year” as I explained in my last post.  I’m really glad I took the effort to keep track of what we did because it has helped me create a system that I think I’ll stick with.

First of all, I don’t use a packaged curriculum.  I drew on different resources for my son’s “pre-kindergarten” year (which was actually kindergarten, and I’ll explain about that in my next post.)  Most people call this eclectic homeschooling.

I consulted a preschool and kindergarten “course of study” that used to be on the World Book Encyclopedia website.  I’m very disappointed they removed this page because it was very thorough, and upon reading whom they consulted to put it all together, I felt it was a good source.  Fortunately, Beverly Hernandez got permission to put this list on About.com before they took it down!  (Thank you, Beverly!)  You have to click on a lot of links to read all of it, but I’m grateful it’s there.  It’s comprehensive through the 12th grade.

I did not worry about covering everything on these lists, and I don’t think you should be either.  I was only intentional about teaching a few choice subjects: reading, math, the solar system, and the weather.  Everything else we covered through my son’s own interests!  Yes, that’s right!  (And I should note that after introducing him to the solar system and the weather, he took an interest in these subjects and we’ve done much more than I was planning.  Yay “mostly child-led”!) (Okay, so I’m intentional about storytelling too, but that doesn’t feel like work!)  Recently I went over these lists carefully, and I was able to check off every point except for one.  (Estimation, which is under math, so I’m doing that now.)

This is what I did this past year to keep track of our homeschool. To download these forms for free, see my printables page.

  • I created a Homeschool Chart that I kept on my desk at all times.  Across the top were all the subjects that I have to cover by law and other subjects important to me.  Since I walk by my desk several times a day, it was no problem checking off what we did and writing notes to help myself remember.
  • At the end of each week, I typed up a brief summery or Homeschool Journal.  I would list any books we read, chapters we covered, projects we worked on, outings, and classes.  Anything I thought was noteworthy. I knew I probably would not need all of these details, but I also felt it made a nice keepsake.
  • Last March I started an Excel spreadsheet for our Reading List.  I figured out that I can go online to my library account and copy and paste the list of book titles we checked out along with the author’s name and date we checked it out!  Then I put a checkmark next to them when we read them, or I deleted the row if we didn’t read it.  I keep another spreadsheet where I list books we own.  I’m adding to it as we read the books.
    • My strategy here was to take the stacks of books we read during “book time” and place them on my desk.  Then at some point during the day – or in the evening – I would update the spreadsheet.
  • Homeschool Portfolio:  I used a 3-ring binder to store the charts, the Homeschool Journal (which I printed out at the end of the year), some of my son’s work, the spreadsheets, pamphlets to places we’ve been, receipts for his classes and anything I bought for homeschooling. I plan to keep one binder for each year for each child. (I may just keep the past three years for our records, or I may consolidate them and keep some of it for a keepsake.)
    • I asked two facilitators from classes my son took to write up a brief report about him, and they were more than happy to do so.  I added these to the binder as well.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like it because I came up with a strategy that worked for me.  I took the effort to make the chart and summary a habit, and I didn’t stress over fine details.

Last month (May 2012) I wrapped up the school year, and I wanted to commemorate it with a “pre-kindergarten” graduation.  To prepare for it, I wrote up a progress report as is required by Georgia law.  I’ll write more about that in the third part of this series, and I’ll share which parts of this record keeping I used and which parts I realized were not needed, and I’m debating whether or not to nix some of it.

I hope you’ll stay tuned by subscribing to my blog in the right-hand margin, and I hope you’ll share with me your record-keeping strategies!

June 9, 2012

My Practice Homeschooling Year Is Over…

What Did I Learn?

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on June 6, 2012.

Last week I wrote about the changes in the Georgia homeschooling law, which will go into effect during the 2012/2013 school year. This news was pertinent for my household since we’ll be filing the Declaration of Intent to Homeschool for the first time at the end of August when my son turns six-years-old.

I considered this past year my “practice year,” and I tried to set up a schedule for learning and a system for recording what my son accomplishes each day.  I’m happy to say I achieved these goals, so I feel confident as we file our Intent form and begin our official homeschooling journey.

For me, the purpose of homeschooling is so that I can tailor my son’s education to meet his needs and to create an environment where he won’t lose his love of learning.  For these reasons, I call our homeschool “mostly child-led,” for lack of a better term. 

Earlier in the year, I sorted out what I felt were the priorities for my children at their current ages of five and two.  At this age, I feel that fostering their imaginations, letting them play, move and explore nature is most important. They also need to be steeped in literature and storytelling and taught how to find answers to their questions.

With these things in mind, I set up a schedule when we spent time reading, storytelling, especially through puppet shows, and we also spent time on the computer researching snakes because my five-year-old loves snakes.  Creating a snake book is an on-going project, and it also helped teach him about writing, phonics, and measurement.

I did formal reading and math lessons with my five-year-old, but since his attention span is short, they were short lessons during his younger brother’s naptime. I also considered time with friends important for their socialization, and my son took several science classes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens.

I kept tabs on what we did in a variety of ways, and by the end of the year, I have learned what works for me.*   The most helpful tool I created was a chart that listed subjects across the top.  I included the subjects required by Georgia law (reading, language arts, math, science and social studies) as well as some additional subjects that are important to me.

The left-hand column listed the date, and every day I checked off what my son worked on that day and notes for myself.  At the end of the week, I typed up a journal-like summary of the work. I consulted a typical course of study for a kindergartener to get ideas on what to teach, though our library books and my son’s interests lead us through much of that naturally.

At the end of May, I decided that I wanted to do an informal graduation* for my son for two reasons.  First, I wanted him to understand what his “homeschooling” consisted of and why, and I wanted him to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I hoped this would also encourage him when we begin our new year.  Second, my mother-in-law was visiting, and I hoped that showcasing his work might help ease any discomfort with the idea of homeschooling.

I put together a 15-minute slideshow of all the photos I took through the year of my son’s work, projects and field trips.  Though it was a lot of work, it made me feel happy and satisfied that we’re on the right track.  I had not realized how much he had actually done until I created the slideshow!

The Georgia law requires that we write an annual progress report, and though I didn’t have to do it this year, I decided I’d try for the sake of my son’s grandmother and the rest of our family.  By doing this I realized that I will never consult that long, weekly journal I keep.  Instead, I used the photographs and my blog’s table of contents….two items I had not realized would be so helpful.

Because my son’s birthday is so close to the cut-off date, he would be entering Kindergarten this coming fall.  Because of that, I’ll still consider him a Kindergartener at home, though he may be learning at a higher level.*  Like all children, I expect he’ll do better in some subjects than others. What I love about homeschooling is that we can teach to his own level, and as evident in this past year, I see he is moving ahead through his own love of learning.

**Stay tuned for follow-up posts with more details and a print-out for you to use!

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