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!

9 thoughts on “My Practice Homeschooling Year Is Over…

  1. I love the way you’re approaching this. Years ago I was very hesitant about homeschooling because I’m a trained scientist and I was (am still, a bit) skeptical about getting the necessary background in specialized subjects through homeschooling. I also had a prejudice that people were doing this for religious reasons to prevent their kids from being exposed to ideas they didn’t like (the antithesis of education, of course). Through reading about the efforts of people like you – and reading about the great successes of home-schooled kids now excelling in college and beyond – I see that my concerns are in large part unfounded. It’s certainly not right for everyone, but it is clearly right for some. I look forward to following the journey.

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    1. Thank you, Kelly. I appreciate your comment very much. And it’s people like you who may hear from me in the future when my son’s questions go beyond my abilities! lol

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  2. Sounds like you’re off to a good start! This was our first “formal” year of homeschooling and I’ve sort of thought of it as a practice year as well. My son just turned 4 and I don’t have to register him as a homeschooler with the school district until he’s 7 so we have awhile yet to perfect our routine but I think it’s good to start to keep track if only so that you can see what is working and what isn’t.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I agree. I’m so glad I knew early that I wanted to homeschool so that I had time to do this. You’re lucky you don’t have to register him until 7! That’s great. I will have to do it this Sept. b/c he turns 6 this summer.

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  3. Our practice year is coming to an end as well! And my daughter will be considered Kindergarten age this fall, too. I personally did the practice year to make sure if I would actually follow through with it. I wanted to make sure schooling wasn’t the thing that I always talked about doing but never got around to. I shouldn’t have been worried, because we got a lot accomplished (while having a lot of fun too!). Just like you, I’m so glad that we knew that we wanted to homeschool so early on so that we could do the practice year. I feel like I’m going into the “formal” school years so much more relaxed and confident now…

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