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!