Homeschooling is exciting to me. I can think of a hundred different things I want to introduce to my children, and then I get frustrated that we don’t have time to do it all. There’s simply no way around that. However, when I lay out my priorities, I see that we are achieving quite a few of the most important ones. That is an achievement, and I know I should consider anything else icing on the cake.
I promised a post about our priorities for this year a long time ago, and it’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts about that, but finally, here it is. I struggled with this post because my priorities for my boys have not changed from when they were five and two years old. I wondered if there was any point in writing a new post. Briefly, this is what I wrote two years ago:
- Imagination/Play/Motion – Let him use his imagination and be in motion as much as he needs to be.
- Literature – Immerse him in books and storytelling.
- Exploration/Nature – Let him explore the world and get into nature as much as possible.
- How to find answers – Encourage him to ask questions and teach him how to find answers.
- Spend quality, stress-free time together – Use our time wisely. Don’t over schedule the kids or myself. Allow for plenty of time at home for free, unstructured playtime. Allow for quiet time in the afternoons.
- Teach responsibility/involve him in my work – I explain why we (mom and dad) need to work, why we all need to take care of our (only) home, and I plan to engage him more in the work/hobbies that I enjoy like blogging and photography.
As I look back at this list, I’m happy to realize how over two years I have been able to keep these a priority! I emphasize over two years because it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture on those bad or lazy days! So allow me to boast a little bit:
- Imagination/Play/Motion – My boys play, move, and use their imaginations everyday! They create things and come up with their own crafts, and they have plenty of time for playing make-believe too. There are days I don’t think I’m accomplishing anything, but it is on those days my boys have more freedom to create and play. I know that setting up an environment where they are free to do this has been a huge help in achieving this goal.
- Literature – We read lots of books, and I make up a story for my seven-year-old every night before bed. My husband has told my four-year-old a story about Dig Dig the T-Rex every night for about a year now! Even on days that it feels like nothing else was accomplished, we end our days with book reading and storytelling. It’s an established ritual, and I can easily forget that it’s very much a part of homeschooling too.
- Nature – I want to get outside everyday, but this just doesn’t happen. Yet when I think about our hikes, the classes at the nature center (which usually include a hike), and play dates at the beautiful parks in this area, I know we’ve done a good job of exposing our boys to nature. And that doesn’t even count our daily dose of nature documentaries!
- How to find answers – Over two years my husband and I have done a very good job of honoring our son’s questions. I get frustrated that I don’t always have a notebook to write them down, and many of the questions slip through the cracks, but he continues to ask questions, and we have honored his interests. I have taught him to use the computer, library, and I’ve modeled how to ask experts when possible. This is a priority that is woven into our everyday parenting, so over the long haul, it will get done.
- Spend quality, stress-free time together – I’ll be honest. Our time is not always stress-free. Daily life with children is hard, and no matter how much I’d like to ignore it, there are chores and work to be done too. But in general, I think our life is pretty good. My husband works at home, and we enjoy being together. We can sleep late, start and stop school & projects when we need to, watch T.V. together, and we take field trips whenever we can. As long as I don’t panic about the small stuff, it’s a good life.
- Teach Responsibility/involve him in my work – I think this a positive byproduct of homeschooling. When children are home everyday, they have to see what it takes to make a household work. And, with everyone home all day, the house gets a lot messier, so they have to help. There is no way around this. We also do not hesitate to talk about money and how much everything costs. When mom and dad have to do their work, the kids know why. Though I have not involved my son in blogging/writing, he is aware of what I do, and he likes to look at my blog. He is interested in photography, and now both our sons have their own cameras!
Our priorities have become the stuff of daily life. How awesome is that? These will never go away.
So what about the first grade priorities? They have turned a little more academic, though I strive to balance that with everything you just read about, and I want to go at my son’s pace. These are the big priorities for this year, in order of importance:
- Teach him to read. I know there’s a lot of differing opinions about teaching children how to read vs. letting them go at their own pace. While I didn’t want to push my son beyond his level, I felt that at age seven, there was a good chance he would be ready to go to the next level, and I was right. I don’t think he would have gotten here on this own, so I’m glad we’ve continued to practice reading at an easy-going pace.
- Math practice. I wanted to make sure my son was solid on some math concepts, so instead of moving forward in Life of Fred, I have been having my son practice math. It’s going well, and I’ll tell you how I’m doing that in an upcoming post.
- Giving him time for project work. I wanted to make sure he had time to pursue his own interests, which is mostly in science and building projects. By keeping my other academic priorities light, he’s had plenty of time for this. I’ve written about some of his project work, and I’ll continue to do so as time allows. He has been dipping into various projects this year, including his carnivorous plant project, building DNA models and learning about DNA, building ship models (and in the process learning about history), and doing small crafts that he picks out and loves to do – like making paper airplanes and cutting out snowflakes.
I should also mention that I consider a lot of this work both “project work” and “fulfilling a typical course of study.” My son’s interest in nature and science has meant that we make attending the Homeschool Science Classes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center a priority. I never miss a class unless we’re sick! My four-year-old has also been taking the knee-high naturalist class this year, just like his brother did at four-years-old.
A lot of the books we read have to do with science or history, and when we watch television, we watch nature and science programs or other shows that lead to good conversations. (Right now we’re watching The Andy Griffith show. We’ve talked about history, family values, stereotypes and more by watching that show!)
So much overlaps in our homeschool. If you homeschool, I’m sure you will understand.
Of course, we study other things, such as Spanish, different cultures, religions, art, and financial skills. These are priorities, but I’m not listing them as first grade priorities because these are things that I want to teach slowly, over the course of their childhoods and teenage years. At some point they may become more prominent in our everyday teaching, but for now, I think these are best done through books, conversation, fun lessons, and other means. Like I wrote before, learning is like a chain link fence, and we add links here and there through age-appropriate activities.
But reading is an essential skill that is the foundation for independent learning! And math skills build upon one another…it’s important to master one concept before moving onto the next. So we’re working on these. And project work is my son’s work, and that is what all this learning is for in the first place!
Thank you for reading this long post! I will follow up with more specifics about our 1st grade reading and math lessons.