December 2021

Owl ornaments made by my eldest son.

Season’s Greetings! For everyone who celebrates it, Merry Christmas! Happy New Year to Everyone, and I hope whatever you celebrate, or however you are feeling about this time of year, you are at peace and healthy. I know some people get very sad and lonely around this time, and my heart goes out to them.

In the past, I used to go through my year’s blog posts, and I’d link to my favorites. It made me glad that I was keeping a blog with lots of details because it’s amazing what I’d forget a few months later as we dived into new projects and activities. I would happily remember all the field trips we had been on too. This year is different because I haven’t been writing as much. As the boys get older, I don’t feel like I should share details about their projects, hopes and dreams on the Internet, but I’m always happy to share those details with family and friends, if they ask. 😉

This year was also different because I suffered through a tragedy in January that has been with me all year. As time passes by, I have more perspective on it, but it’s something I will always have to live with. We are also living through a pandemic, so we weren’t on the move as much as we had been in the past. We did all our homeschooling and lessons at home and remotely, and, frankly, this opened doors for my boys that otherwise would not have been opened, and I’m so happy and thankful for that. Finally, we all got vaccinated, and this gave us more freedom, so we started taking some trips, albeit with precautions. We limit our social activities to people who are taking the pandemic as seriously as we are. Unfortunately, we don’t know many people like that here, but we’re thankful for those who do.

I have felt some ups and downs this year, but it is ending on an “up.” I’m feeling happy and excited for the future, and I think we’ve come to a point where we are managing this new normal in a way that works for us. I’m excited that my 9th grader is half-way through his first year of high school, and things are going well. I can’t even express how much he has on his plate. He has big dreams, and he’s working hard. I’m so thankful for his new piano teacher who truly believes in him. Likewise, my young birder is moving along in his lessons and learning more and more about birds on his own and through Outschool classes. Meeting other birders has really inspired him.

I have poured myself into making sure that both boys’ have what they need to progress in their lessons, so I haven’t been doing any particular project of my own lately. (Unless you count decluttering here and there…. But that’s a bottomless pit.) I never think that my homeschooling is perfect or that I have all the best resources for these kids. It’s a constant search and reevaluation, and there are times that I wish I had the money to hire tutors. But then I look at how far they have come and how well they are doing, and I think we will get through this, and we will smooth out any kinks one way or another. I’m very thankful for my husband who reminds me that I’ve taken on a herculean task.

I do take the time to take long walks and read, though. Currently I’m reading All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. I highly recommend all his books, if you need something beautiful, light, humorous, and heartfelt. It’s especially a must, if you love animals.

I also pulled my copy of the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson from my shelf because I have promised myself to read a little poetry everyday, which was one of my first loves as a young girl. That is, I loved writing poetry, but I didn’t study poetry, and I was a very bad poet. But I have a vast collection of poetry books, and I’ve read about half of them. I need to correct that. Anyway, one of the first poems in this collection has become an instant favorite of mine. I will close this post by sharing it with you. It inspires me, and I hope it will for you too.

Before I do, I want to say again: May this Season Bring You Joy. Thank you for reading my blog, especially if you have kept it bookmarked despite my infrequent posts. I hope you’ll share something with me about your current holiday celebrations or your current homeschool projects or hopes for the future. May this next year be fair and better for everyone.

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If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

-Emily Dickinson

The Future Holds Promise

Just a quick thank you to those of you who reached out to me after my last blog post. I want to reiterate that while I do have many worries, I am generally positive and happy. Though we never found that ideal “village” to raise our kids in, we have made the best of what we got, and I’m so thankful that my husband and I can work together at home and give the boys our daily attention. Though the past two years have thrown many sad events in my path, I knew I needed to ride the waves instead of fighting them. But I don’t like writing blog posts and giving the impression that everything is perfect because that doesn’t help anyone. I hope I strike the right balance when it comes to that question of “what is too much to share online?”

Having said all that, I am indeed looking forward with much anticipation. I’m pleased with our school year so far. Sometimes I look at the calendar and wonder if we’re getting too behind, but then I wonder if I am pushing forward too hard? If both those things cross my mind at intervals, then we’re probably right on track! But we have never and will never look like a traditional school. We are goal-oriented and not “follow the public school calendar” oriented. My boys thrive with being goal-oriented because they both have goals, so they are motivated to work even if they don’t always love the work.

We recently reached a point where we felt we could take a trip because my youngest son became eligible and was vaccinated with the COVID vaccine. (Can you guess where?) We also took a lot of other precautions so that we could keep ourselves and others safe while we traveled. The main purpose of our trip was so that our eldest son could meet his new piano teacher face-to-face. What a joy that was! Most of his lessons will be done remotely, but we hope to go again sometime. We also decided to extend the trip a few days so we could spend a few days in the mountains and do some hiking. I will share a few photos from that trip in this blog post.

Both boys are taking more online classes this year, and so far I’m pleased with how it’s going, but I’m not sure it’s saving me time. It’s a different kind of busy. But it feels good to be the support person and not the plan-all-the-lessons person. I’m hoping to pull together a blog post about my younger son’s 5th and 6th grade curriculum because I’m way behind in that. Eventually I’ll create another PDF resource about 9th grade, but that won’t come until the year is complete.

October 2021

The past two years have been some of the most difficult of my life, although I see how things could be much worse, so I remain positive. I see life as a miracle no matter what it dishes out. But I won’t lie. While I appreciate the good things in life, there’s a lot of sadness, and there’s a lot I worry about too. In the spirit of being real, I’ll share some of those worries in this post.

I worry about the next few years and how we’ll get through the boys’ high school years, both practically and financially. I worry about elderly parents that I’m not in a position to help because of other obligations and especially during a pandemic. I worry about how much longer the pandemic will have an impact on our decision-making, travel plans, and the boys’ opportunities to join summer programs, which could be important for their future endeavors. I worry about the state of the world and how that will affect my sons’ futures. Sometimes I walk around with a lump in my throat, wondering how we’ll work everything out. Will it work out? Or will we have to give up on things we feel are important?

It’s not easy having a kid with musical talent who dreams of entering a field that needs very specialized training early in life, especially when we are not musicians ourselves. We have made so many mistakes. We are still learning, and we’ve been knocked down more than once, realizing we went down one path when we should have been on another. It would be a lot easier if we lived somewhere with better resources, or if we were wealthy. We are not poor enough for the significant need-based scholarships, but we’re not rich enough to pay for the right stuff. We’re stuck in between, and, well, it stinks.

I think what’s worse is not having anyone to talk to who can understand.* No one wants to hear about our problems because we’ve got it good, so what’s there to worry about? It’s hard to meet moms with kids who have special talents and needs. Other homeschoolers aren’t always helpful because every homeschool family does things differently (and rightly so), but it can leave one feeling rather lonely too.

I imagine every mom feels this way to some extent. You or your family member has some pressing need that’s unusual, so there aren’t many people around who understand it. You feel strongly about something that’s not popular, or you feel pulled in many directions because so many people need you, including friends, extended relatives, or a wider community. The guilt is there, but you can only do what’s in front of you at any given time.

There’s more I could say, but that’s the gist of my worries. This isn’t an easy path, but I wouldn’t trade it. And I know this too shall pass.  I’ll get back to the positive stuff real soon. I promise.

*I do want to thank the people I have met through this blog and on social media who are very supportive, especially my one email buddy. Without you guys, this would be an extra lonely journey.

What We All Can Do

I have felt a range of emotions as I read and watch the news over the past couple of weeks. I generally try to see things from all points of view, and sometimes the media makes this hard to do. That’s why I read a wide range of media. I wish I could help more, but I think the best thing I can do is continue listening, learning and helping my children learn.

No matter what your political leaning may be, I think we can all agree that learning about other people and their experience is a good thing. During this time, it’s especially important to focus on why #BlackLivesMatter, and there are plenty of resources to do this. I try to read or watch a little something everyday — I don’t have a lot of time — but I bookmark a lot articles that I want to come back to later. I don’t typically share things on my blog that I haven’t already read or used, but in this case, I thought I would list a few of the resources I’ve found in case it might be helpful to anyone.

This is how I plan my homeschool too. I read booklists, and I slowly sift through materials until I find what I think will be most beneficial to my boys. I have already been planning a literature unit for next year that would include historical fiction set in the U.S. This way I can combine literature and history for my soon-to-be 8th grader. Of course, I wanted to include plenty of black writers in my list, so in this blog post you’ll find a few of the titles I’m looking at. While I might not include them all in my literature unit for next year, we’ll probably get them and read them anyway.

This is not an exhaustive list! It’s only a few items that I’ve found. Please share your own articles, books and resources in the comments below because I’m still looking! (I also want to thank my friend Diane Magras for recommending a few of the middle school literature books.)

Middle School Historical Fiction by Black Authors

Flygirl by Sherri Smith

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Betty Before X  by Shabazz

Helpful Articles During This Time

For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies

What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

10 Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black

Anything on goodblacknews.org

For Adults to Consider

A History of Race and Racism in America, in 24 Chapters – A good list of literature to consider, if you want to explore this topic. Some of the works on this list are racist (so be sure to read the descriptions in this article) and others sought to destroy it. Some of my favorite books from my youth are mentioned on this list, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Roots by Alex Haley, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

If you enjoy watching movies, you might like to peruse this list: Movies to Watch to Educate Yourself About Racism, Protests on Time

Book: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum (There are many books on this subject that you can easily find by doing a search. This book has been around for a long time, and it’s been updated. I have been wanting to read it for some time.)

Talking to Kids About Racism & History

How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books That Can Help

Civil Rights Then & Now by Kristina Brooke Daniele

And Because I’m Raising Musicians

19 Black Musicians Who Have Shaped the Classical Music World  ❤️

 

Again, please feel free to add additional resources that you find to be helpful in the comments below. Thanks!

Scheduling Your Homeschool Day

My son’s pitcher plant is blooming beautifully right now. The Carnivorous Plant Project was a lot of fun.

This post talks about how I block big chunks of our day for our homeschool lessons. If you’d like to know how I schedule the individual, academic lessons within those larger chunks of time, please refer to my blog posts on each grade, which you can find in my menu. For 7th grade, I have a PDF resource in my store.

***

Looking back over the years that we’ve homeschooled, we have kept a very similar schedule each year, though, of course, it gets tweaked here and there. For me, the best time for formal, academic lessons has been in the mornings right after breakfast, though for my younger son, he isn’t a morning person, so I usually spend an hour one-on-one with him after lunch. But he usually joins his brother for some lighter lessons in the mid-morning, or he does some work on his own at this time. (Currently, he’s working on his own in the mornings and with me after lunch.)

My eldest son has always worked in the mornings, and in the last few years, he’s gotten up slightly earlier each day so that he has more time. As he gets older, he has more work to do. Right now, in 7th grade, he spends three to four hours each morning on his lessons. He’s very motivated to finish by lunchtime because the afternoons and evenings are reserved for his piano practice. We usually have outside lessons and activities in the afternoons too.

When he was younger, he had many varied projects because I use project-based homeschooling techniques. He used to like to build and make things, or we did science experiments, so our “project” time was either right before lunch, and then it moved to after lunch. This is where it’s stayed because this is when he practices piano, but he also practices right after dinner too. The piano is his only project now, but it has morphed into a serious vocation. 🙂

My younger son has never been as much of a maker and builder as his older brother, and curiously, the only long-term project he’s got going on is his love of birds. We’ve done many activities and field trips to help him with this interest, and we continue to do so. But he’s never needed a specific “project time” for this, so he just works at his lessons at his preferred times — before and after lunch — and he also practices cello (a hobby for him) after dinner.

Setting Your Own Schedule

If you’re trying to work out a homeschool schedule for your family, I would try to follow the natural schedule that your family is already inclined towards following. You can ask yourself these questions:

–What is my family’s preferred schedule on the weekends?
–Are there times during your weekends when your kids want more time with you, i.e., when you have their attention?
–Are there times when they want to retreat and be by themselves?
–Do they need a nap or downtime in front of the T.V.?

You can use this information to help form a schedule during the week, leaving the quiet time alone (keep that!), and using the other times when you have their attention to do work. But don’t forget to also use some of that time to have fun with your kids or just talk to them about anything. You don’t want all your time together to be prescribed work. Those fun/quiet moments can be much more important and valuable for your child than academic lessons.

How much time to spend on academic lessons?

I mentioned that my eldest son, who is thirteen, is working 3~4 hours in the mornings on his academic lessons, but this is because he now has specific goals for his future, so he’s very motivated to do the hard work.

When my kids were in the first grade, I found we didn’t need more than an hour to work on reading and math. That was all the “academic lessons” I did with them, but once you consider everything else we did — reading aloud as we snuggled on the sofa, building/craft projects, watching documentaries, visiting museums, exploring nature trails, I could tick off all the boxes of a typical 1st grade course of study. The boys had no idea that all that “other stuff” was educational. For them, it was just fun! It was our DAILY LIFE. I did not plan much. I followed the boys interests and my interests. If anything, I was strategic about picking out what library books I wanted to read to the boys, but I always let them pick their own books too, and we alternated the books.

Every year after that, our “academic lesson” time got a little bit longer. Some years, it may have only been stretched by 30 minutes. Other years, it got about an hour longer. Overall, I would say we didn’t need more than three hours to complete formal elementary curriculum in the 5th and 6th grade, and I don’t think we’ll ever need more than four.

I think as homeschooling parents, it’s our job to look at our child’s overall day and find the moments when our kids are learning despite it being part of our planned agenda. Kids teach themselves far more than we can teach them. If you compare their child-led work to a typical course of study, you will find they are doing far more than is expected. (Even if they are playing video games — look for what they are learning from that!) Over time, all of this learning can make some exceptional kids…as long as the adults don’t get in the way.

Unfortunately, kids who go to school are so used to adults planning every minute of their day and having information forced upon them that they are incapable of getting excited about the natural world, or books, or documentaries, etc. It all smacks of “school” to them. Anything associated with “school” isn’t fun to them. These kids need a long time to adjust and get used to more freedom. They especially need to be given freedom in exploring things that interest them so that eventually, they will begin turning down metaphorical “rabbit trails,” i.e. learning about other things that branch off their main interests, which can lead to many various and highly educational places.

If you find my blog helpful, I ask for only one thing — please share it! Share it with your friends and on social media. And please leave me comments about how you schedule your day. You may help others that way. If you have any questions, you can also leave a comment or email me through my contact page.

A year of meaningful work

Here it is — the end of April — and while our homeschool year won’t officially end until July or August, I begin now to start thinking about what I want to finish, what I’ll carry over to next year, what to work on over the summer, and we start to shift to other meaningful learning opportunities, such as gardening and admiring the spring flowers. I mean, how can we not get outside when the weather is so beautiful? (The photos in this post come from a morning we spent at the botanical garden.)

When I began homeschooling, I wanted to give my children a say in what they were learning, which I thought — and now know for sure — would motivate them to learn. I also wanted the chance to pick subjects I felt was important to teach them, and I wanted to decide when and how they should learn it. After seven years of homeschooling, I’m so pleased with what my boys are accomplishing and who they are becoming. I do think that homeschooling has made all the difference.

Whatever path a parent picks to educate their kids will have its challenges, and nothing is perfect. Sometimes I wish I had more resources so that I could provide additional activities for the boys, but I think we’re doing pretty good with what we’ve got. I’m realizing that any concern I had about homeschooling in the beginning is working itself out in the long run. That’s the thing about homeschooling — it takes the long view. There are no deadlines for anything like there is in traditional school. That makes a big difference for kids.

I will be writing a bit about the boys’ projects in upcoming posts. I said I would stop doing that, but what can I say? I have to share some of it! I’ll try to keep it brief.

I’m starting to realize that homeschooling my boys is one of my projects, and I’m enjoying it more than I ever thought I would. Through their interests, I’ve learned so much, but as I sit down and think about what’s important to teach — I get so much out of that too. I enjoy exploring curriculums as much as actually using them. These may not be subjects that my kids have asked for, but I’m not ramming it down their throats either. We take our time, and I back off, if they dislike something. Over time, I’ve realized this approach has kept the boys from hating “school stuff.” They even seem to like it sometimes.

We are, of course, doing the basics, such as math and grammar and writing. I feel like I’m relearning these subjects, and it’s great. I am enjoying the Life of Fred math books just as much as my boys, and it’s not so much because of the story about Fred, but I enjoy getting a review in math in a way I can understand it! And though I love to write, I’m starting to understand how to teach writing to someone who isn’t a natural at it, and I find that very satisfying.

I’m also so pleased with our progress in world history — this past year and a half we’ve covered prehistory, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, the Hebrews, Ancient India, Ancient China, and we’re going to be finishing up Ancient Greece soon too. We’ve read some fun books and watched interesting documentaries, and just because we’re moving onto another time and place in history doesn’t mean we’ll stop learning about these. As we find more resources, we’ll add them to our list.

This year we began studying two foreign languages! I know I mentioned that we were going to study Spanish, but I also added Chinese about mid-year. I feel like this year has been more about figuring out how to study and teach a language than actually making a lot of progress with it, but in its own way, that is progress, and I’m so excited. Eventually I will write a post about our foreign language study, but I’m happy with it so far, and I am determined to learn it as thoroughly as I hope my boys will learn it.

The challenge is fitting it all into our days. I try to balance lesson time with my son’s work (his piano practice) and our free time too. There are things I have to let go of, such as wanting to read books all morning on the sofa or weekly art lessons. (I’m lucky if I get to one every two months.) There are also subjects I put on hold. I know we’ll get to all of it over the next seven years (only seven years until my eldest graduates! what?!), but sometimes I wish there were more days in the week.

I think I always lament about time more than anything else. But I don’t mean to complain. It’s more of an observation that I have so many things I’d like to do, and it’s impossible to do them all. But that’s good. It forces me to pick what is most important and spend my time doing that. I don’t waste time. (Sometimes I daydream, but that’s not wasted time.) And I hope that as the boys grow up, they will learn to prioritize their work and make time for fun too.

How has your year been going?

Marie Curie’s Homeschool Co-op

Marie Curie and her eldest daughter, Irene, in the laboratory.

Today is the 150th birthday of Marie Curie, the distinguished Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist. She was the first woman and first person to win the Nobel Prize twice.

As a coincidence, I’ve been reading a biography of Marie Curie, written by Robert Reid in 1974. The book may have already been surpassed by more recent research on Mme Curie’s life, but nonetheless, I’m thoroughly enjoying it. She was an incredible woman who lived through many hardships, and she managed to gain respect as a scientist at a time when there were few women scientists.

There is much I could write about Marie Curie, but since this blog is about homeschooling, I had to share this part in the book when it describes how Marie took charge of her daughter’s education. If you are a homeschooling parent, it may resonate with you.

 On this subject of education she had the strongest of views. Irene was already nine years old and her education had now to be taken most seriously. Marie Curie believed that the measure of a nation’s civilization could be based on the percentage of its budget it spent on national education. France, at this time, ranked low in her league table. Her answer to the shortcomings of the nation was to devise an educational system calculated to give products of the right caliber. It would be an educational elite, but then Marie was herself attracted to elite groups. In one case, that of her own child, the experience of such a group would have remarkable results.

Today the word “elite” sometimes carries a negative connotation that may not have been attached to it when this book was written. I know that homeschoolers do not consider themselves “elite,” but most of us probably feel that the education we are giving our children is superior to what they would be receiving at the local school. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be homeschooling. Indeed, I’m not sure whether or not Marie considered herself an “elite” either; she simply drew from the well-educated individuals in her social circle.

As I kept reading, I couldn’t help but smile. What Marie Curie created sounds just like what we now call a homeschool co-op! See here:

Marie Curie sat down with her friends from the Sorbonne, all much the same age as she and mostly married with young children, and planned a school curriculum which they themselves could operate. It was an eclectic group: Jean Perrin, the physical chemist; Paul Langevin, the physicist; Edouard Chavannes, the Chinese scholar; and Henri Mouton, the naturalist. However, they were all prepared to give a certain amount of time each day to modeling one another’s children in educational images which they considered to be an improvement on anything achieved by the existing systems.

The result was that eight or nine infants joined the “Cooperative” and spent a relatively small amount of time every day being intensively educated by the highest quality minds, and a relatively large amount in games and physical exercises of one kind or another, of which Marie Curie passionately approved. A still larger part of the children’s time was spent in traveling from one professor to the other. Langevin and Chavannes lived in the suburbs at Fontenay-aux-Roses, and it was there that mathematics and culture were taught: for physics they sometimes traveled to Sceaux and sometimes to the laboratories of the Sorbonne. Literary gaps were filled in by Mme Perrin and Mme Chavannes.

As a system designed by an elite for an elite it was a success. It was scientifically overbalanced, but the children’s memories of it during its brief two or three years seem to have been nothing but happy. Its effects in the case of Irene Curie were salutary. The genetic inheritance from her parents were considerable, but there was some risk that this refined environment might saturate her love of science. The opposite proved true and she thrived on the staple diet of mathematics, physics and chemistry. These years laid the foundations for future success.

Indeed, Irene Curie would go on to become an esteemed scientist herself, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.

Co-ops today generally meet only once or twice a week, and parents must pay a tuition, volunteer or both in order to enroll their children in classes. I’m not aware of any homeschooling co-ops organized by such an illustrious people as Marie Curie and her colleagues, but I do know that there are co-ops organized and run by parents who are very talented professionals in their fields. There are many that are organized for religious reasons, and they may be inclusive or exclusive. But there are secular co-ops too. I wish we could afford to try out a co-op that is near to us.

I was delighted to read about Marie Curie’s determination to create the right educational environment for her children and what a success it was. She was a brave woman who forged her own path whether that was in work, science, motherhood, or educating her children. Society was not always kind to her, but somehow she managed to pick herself up and keep going. She’s an inspiration to me and a good reminder that it is always worth it to follow your own star.

What My Kids Have Taught Me

Being is the great explainer. ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I tell people that I’m a homeschool mom, I’m sure most people think that I teach my boys everyday. But the truth is, they have been teaching me. They are the teachers, and I’m the pupil. They have taught me that you can be happy, if you find wonder in simple things. If you find wonder in nature, and you spend time in nature, you’ll be happier. If you can enjoy sitting down to sketch even when you aren’t the best artist, you’ll find joy and relaxation in that. If you have the courage to learn an instrument, you’ll feel good about yourself. Maybe they don’t realize they have taught me these things, but they have.

They have also taught me that you can accomplish an amazing amount of work, if you work just a little bit at a time. I learned this when they were babies. Nothing teaches a woman about time management better than having a baby. If you don’t use those few minutes a day when you’re not feeding or consoling or napping or doing something for your baby, you won’t accomplish anything. And I learned then that by working even a few minutes a day, I could complete things. Don’t get me wrong:  I haven’t accomplished everything I want to accomplish, and I can still get very frustrated about not having enough time to myself. But I do know that eventually I can finish my project, if I keep chiseling away at it.

Homeschooling has taught me how joyful it is to be curious and spend our time learning. It’s also taught me that to learn anything, I have to take it one step at a time. To teach my boys anything, I have to start at step one, break it down into bit-size chunks, and I have to digest it fully before I can explain it. (Something I rarely got to do in a traditional school setting when I had to move on in the curriculum before I was ready.) I used to be an “all or nothing” kind of person. Now I realize that I can be happy by investigating the small parts, spending time with them, and absorbing them. And I don’t have to attain perfection. It’s important to remember that it is the process, the quest, the journey, the learning, that counts.

The boys may be learning many things from me, but I’m learning much more.

I am also learning how important it is to be a role model. Because kids are more likely to do what you do and not what you say.

If I want my children to find joy in learning, then I better find joy in learning. Luckily, my boys are growing up in a home that values learning, nature, music, art, and all the best things in life. But as they get older, I realize how important it is that I continue to learn, wonder, and explore. It’s easy to get bogged down with daily chores and lesson planning. I can’t forget why I am doing this in the first place.

It’s about living a good life, but it’s about being a role model too.

Why Do We Homeschool?

Someone asked me on Facebook if I could tell her the reasons we homeschool. There are so many reasons, I’m not sure I can list them all! I’ve written posts in the past about why we homeschool, but I think it’s a good question to come back to now and then because as we continue to homeschool, I find there are more and more reasons to keep homeschooling instead of sending our children to public school.

To give some background, here are the reasons we began homeschooling in the first place:

  1. When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband and I met some homeschooling families in our neighborhood. At that point, we didn’t even know homeschooling was possible. We immediately thought it was a good idea because we felt we could probably do just as good of a job teaching our children as the public school does, and maybe even better. We remembered many negative aspects of our own early education.
  2. My husband and I love reading, learning and exploring the world, and we wanted to pass on this love to our children by creating a positive, loving and creative environment where all questions are honored — not by forcing them to sit all day and do busy work.
  3. Both of us felt that a good education should be tailored to the needs and interests of the individual child. Traditional school cannot do this.
  4. Both of us feel that when kids are forced into groups all day with their peers, many of them “aspire to the lowest denominator” as I mentioned in a previous post. Homeschoolers are exposed to people of all ages and are encouraged by role models who show them a world of possibilities.

And here are the reasons that we continue to homeschool:

  1. As I began homeschooling my son, I did a lot of research about homeschooling and also what public school looks like today. I found out that children in the youngest grades are forced to do academic work before they are developmentally ready for it. Also, free play has been greatly reduced, which is detrimental to a young child’s development.
  2. I also read and heard a lot about how the testing in schools is stressing out teachers and students. They mostly “teach to the test,” and free play, art, music and other important subjects have been greatly reduced, if not completely taken away.
  3. As my children grow, I have seen them flourish in their homeschool environment. My eldest son is intelligent and creative, but he’s also quiet and thoughtful. Instead of being stifled in school all day, he has led me on an exploration of science, building crafts/pottery, and music as well as many other subjects. Likewise, my younger son is also intelligent and creative, and he has had a long-term interest in birds. By being homeschooled, they have time to dig deep into their interests instead of being rushed to the next topic. Also, they both enjoy taking community classes and camps and meeting with small groups of friends for extra long play dates. (Kids who go to school don’t have time for that!)
  4. Both my boys have become extremely interesting people! They both enjoy books and learning. They love watching documentaries everyday. They’ve learned about the whole world through these documentaries and our trips to museums and other interesting places.
  5. My boys have shown me that most kids just need a facilitator to help them pursue their interests. They don’t need “teachers.” They are their own teachers. They teach each other. They teach me!
  6. Having said that, we still do academic work, but it only takes 2-3 hours per day, and the rest of the day we can do the things that we love. As I mentioned before, my boys each have had very interesting and creative projects over the years. (Click here to learn about some of them.)
  7. My kids get plenty of free time and all the sleep they need. I do too! We are not stressed out trying to get them to school on time every morning. (Although we do hustle on appointment days!) We don’t have to stress over homework either.
  8. We have a flexible schedule. We can go on vacation when my husband is off work (his vacation conflicts with public school), and we can go on field trips during the week when places are less crowded. I can also take my eldest son to classical concerts during the week (he loves them), which we wouldn’t be able to do if we had to wake early to go to school the next day.
  9. Homeschooling has created close bonds between us and our boys. The greatest compliment I ever got was from a facilitator at one of their summer camps. She said of my boys: “They love each other so much. It’s such a joy to watch.” I am not sure they would be this close if they were forced away from each other all day to go to school.
  10. I’ve been able to tailor each child’s curriculum to his abilities and learning style. My eldest son didn’t learn how to read as early as he would have been forced to in school. I think this would have been detrimental to his self-esteem. Instead, we took it slow, and he learned how to read when he was ready. Now, he enjoys reading to himself!
  11. I am also able to teach them things that I think are important whereas traditional school may skip or only touch on briefly such as our connection to nature or about other cultures. I read books to them by authors that I think are important for them to hear. One example is the Birchbark series by Louise Erdrich that we’re reading now.
  12. We discovered a year and a half ago that my eldest son is a gifted musician. By homeschooling, he has more time to dedicate to his practice, and he has time to study music history. He can do all this without sacrificing sleep or play time. And he’s doing this because he wants to and not because it’s part of a silly curriculum that doesn’t work for him. And now his younger brother is playing piano and enjoying it too. Our days are filled with music…that alone is reason enough to homeschool.

I’m not sure I’ve covered every reason we homeschool here, but I hope you get the gist of it — we’ve been able to foster a loving, encouraging, and creative home environment where learning is part of our everyday lives. Learning does not happen in a box or a school building. It happens all the time. When we give the boys plenty of time to do the things they love to do, they are more willing to do “the work.” When kids are honored and treated respectfully, they aspire to high places! This is why we homeschool.

Here are some previous posts related to this subject that you might like to read too:

Why We Homeschool
The Importance of Play in Children’s Lives
My Reasons for Thinking About Homeschooling

 

Homeschooling 4th Grade Curriculum

To celebrate the autumn equinox, we visited Dauset Trails and enjoyed exploring their trails and a small zoo.
To celebrate the autumn equinox, we visited Dauset Trails Nature Center and enjoyed exploring their trails and a small zoo.

This is the third post I’ve written about homeschooling the fourth grade. I wrote about our schedule and how I will decide what to work on each day in my last post.

Our Curriculum

Language Arts

My main priority is reading good literature to my boys. I think reading is the best way to learn how to write, and you can learn about almost everything through books. So I make a point to read to my sons, although we aren’t one of those families who spend all morning on the sofa reading. I usually read 1~2 chapters of a book I’ve picked in the morning, and in the evenings we read something they have picked. I also encourage my son to read books silently to himself, which he does sometimes. He likes to read comics.

I don’t follow a curriculum that tells me what books I should read to my son, at least yet. I guess one good thing about having a Bachelor’s degree in English is that I know how to pick good books. I don’t like being confined to someone else’s idea of what books young kids should read, or more particularly, in what order. Instead, I pick what I think will engage my son or what I want him to experience. I also want to read it for the simple pleasure of reading it — not because I’m teaching grammar or making him learn what “alliteration” means. There is a time for that, but I don’t think it needs to come early in a child’s education unless the child wants it. I’m currently researching several language arts programs for a review I’ll be writing in home/school/life magazine. I’ll write more about that later. But I will always want to make reading for pleasure one of my top priorities.

I wrote in my first post how my son doesn’t like to write, so I’ve been going slow with him on this. I’m going to try a few different things this year to get him writing. The first thing is letting him work through a free keyboarding program so that he’ll have more options when it comes to writing. I’m also dusting off an old Star Wars writing workbook, which is full of creative writing prompts. This was his choice out of several writing resources I have, and I’m adapting it to his needs. It’s going surprisingly well. He’s suddenly writing and spelling like he’s been doing it for years! I’m very happy I went slow with writing.

Dauset Trails, Jackson, GA
Dauset Trails Nature Center, Jackson, GA

Math

We are continuing math with the Life of Fred books because my son loves them. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you’ll know we started from the beginning, and now we’re moving into Honey.  I hope to complete Ice Cream and Jelly Beans this year too. After that, I’ll assess if we need more math.

Science

This summer we began our very first science curriculum! If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that my son has loved science since he was little. This house is all about science, and frankly, I have discovered a new love for the subject, which I’ll write about another time. Sadly, since we began this science curriculum, my son has told me he doesn’t like science anymore. Should I laugh or cry? That’s a great testimony for self-directed learning, but for the last year, he’s gotten very serious about playing the piano, so I’m not surprised he has less interest in science. I don’t think his love of science is entirely gone. He still loves the science documentaries we watch, and many questions he asks are science-related. And, when we read our science curriculum assignment, I think he likes it a little. It’s really cool to see how much he already knows, and how many of the experiments we’ve already done. But it’s more work. It’s more details than he’s used to having to learn, and there’s a lot he doesn’t know. To be honest, I think this is good for him.

We are using Biology for the Logic Stage by Elemental Science. This is a middle school program, but I picked it because he already has a strong background in science, and I thought the lower level would be too easy. In order to make Biology for the Logic Stage appropriate for him, I’m not requiring him to fill out any of the reports. I do make him label the sketches, and I’m considering that a win. We also do the experiments or activities, read the assignments, watch videos, and work on memorizing some terms.  I will write a more detailed review of this curriculum after we are finished with it, but so far, I like it.

Those are my priorities this year. Although I hope to incorporate art and a foreign language this year, and I have a few other things I throw in (see my last post for the details), I’m not stressing about these things because I want to stick to what is most important and the most doable while my son does his real work, i.e. that thing he’s most interested in right now: the piano.

We take the 10-year-old to many free faculty and student recitals and concerts at the nearby university. This was our view the other night.

As I mentioned before, my son is practicing piano two hours a day. We barely have to remind him anymore to practice. He seems to have hit a stride and a serious mindset about learning how to play classical music on the piano. He has developed his own taste and ear for music and sound. He notices how much more complicated classical music is to, say, pop music. He did not like the sound of the upright pianos in the practice rooms at the music store in Chicago. I think it is really cool to see my son develop into a musician and take this work seriously.

This work takes a lot of time and energy, and we also spend time working through a piano theory book and reading about the lives of famous composers. So I consider it my job to round out his music education with the fundamentals as well as preserve time for playing and getting creative in other ways. Fortunately, homeschooling gives us time to do all of that. Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that we’re homeschooling?

We were playing in the front yard the other day, and the 10-year-old decided to make this bug out of things he found in the yard. 🙂

In the not too distant future, I’ll write about what my younger son’s 1st grade looks like this year.