Homeschool here we come...
Well, here it is. I've decided, after a lot of thought, study, and prayer, to do homeschool with my little boy this coming year. (Notice I didn't use "homeschool" as a transitive verb. I am not going to be schooling him so much as I will be learning with him. There is so much to do!) I want to share some of my thinking, not to prove anything to anyone, but simply so you can see where I am coming from.
First of all, we had a great experience with two schools in two different states this past kindergarten year. We started off in Arizona at Montessori Day School (Well, actually we started off in Montessori Morning preschool which was what got me hooked on Montessori). I loved this school for lots of reasons. I loved the hands-on approach to everything from science, to language arts, to math, to culture, etc. My son thrived in this self-directed atmosphere and excelled rapidly in all areas. I had worried about his writing, since he had been reluctant to even scribble as a toddler, but he soon had handwriting to be proud of! With the help of some amazing Montessori materials, he was exploring math concepts of multiplication, division, etc with his hands (which is how he learns best). Best of all, the school allowed me to become very involved. I was allowed to come in and help practically whenever I wanted. I opted to spend the day at school every Friday, even eating my lunch with the kids. I got to help with art projects, assessments, reading, writing, and special projects like grinding wheat into flour and making bread. The school also had a nice multi-cultural flavor, with students from all over the world. This was a rich experience, if a little chaotic at times :).
Next we experienced more of a traditional approach at Thomas Edison Charter School in Logan, Utah. This was the complete opposite of the Montessori method. All the desks were arranged in rows facing the front of the room. There were lots of worksheets, memorization, learning in "unison," tests and assessments every week, etc. I couldn't get over how organized things were! That was the part I loved. And, as in the Montessori school, I LOVED our teachers! They were so on top of everything and cared about each child in the class. I had heard of the Spalding method (the Writing Road to Reading), but at Thomas Edison, I got to take a 10 hour parent class in how to help my child with this amazing, all-encompassing, language arts program. It seems very complicated at first, but is really very thorough. There are very few exceptions to the rules of English, once this program is understood. On the other hand, I found the Saxon math to be very repetitious and a bit dry. I have heard that Saxon simply provides plentiful exercises, and that every student doesn't necessarily need to do all of the work. But at our school, the kids did all the work. They would do a worksheet together in class, and then bring it home exactly one week later to do the back (almost identical) for homework - very thorough, like I said. For my son, this was way too much. I learned a couple of years back that many of my struggles with getting him to do academic work were caused by too much repetition. Once he understands a concept, he doesn't need a lot of practice and finds it torturous to do any more. Queue the tantrum. Really. I found that these fits were much less about power struggle and much more about insult to his intelligence.
Although there were parts of these two experiences that did not fit our needs, clearly my decision to homeschool was not precipitated by any horrible experience at an institutional school. I had thought long and hard about my son's education well before he was "school" age. I read "The Well-Trained Mind," and decided I wanted my child to have that kind of solid base of knowledge and understanding of the world. I wanted him to have the confidence that comes with having a firm grasp of history, philosophy, grammar, math, etc, but to also keep the wonder, joy, and curiosity about new things. And I couldn't wait. I told myself I would look for schools that would help us meet these goals for him, but that if I couldn't find one that felt just right, I was perfectly capable of homeschooling.
The problem was that I didn't wait. I went ahead and did stuff with him at ages 3 and 4 that were perhaps intended for slightly older kids. I couldn't help it. What else was I supposed to do when he was clearly ready and enjoyed it? Patty Cake? We built playhouses out of refrigerator boxes. We built a model of the solar system, then went to the planetarium to see the planets "up close." We tracked Jupiter through the night sky, and made contraptions to watch a solar eclipse. We read about half of the "Little House" series (until Laura got a little older, and it was harder for a 4-5 year old to relate) and did relevant activities. We discovered how our bodies work, learning about the different parts of each system. We built garden boxes and grew vegetables on our back patio. He learned to read and do addition and subtraction long before it was "time" for kindergarten. I didn't know I was messing him up. Really. I didn't know we were already "doing" kindergarten and consequently preparing him to be bored when the real thing came along.
So here we are again. I guess I was homeschooling all along. It just feels right. We can skip ahead, lag behind, go in depth, do whatever we need to do to keep the learning moving along. No sitting around waiting for a few kids to catch on, or slaving away at someone else's schedule, it's just us.
Now to begin...I decided we needed a change of pace, a space for decompression after the school year, before we start academics again. (There really is no reason to take a full summer break when you school at home, and there are lots of reasons to skip the break altogether, or so I'm told. http://athomewithmommaskyla.blogspot.com/2013/05/reasons-to-consider-summer-schooling.html)
So I decided we would jump right in with "life skills" week. I tend to do everything around the house myself, and, with a capable 6-year-old, there is really no reason for that. So this week we will focus on laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. More on that coming soon... Hopefully by the end of the week, we will both be ready to hit the books!