9.21.2013

homeschool

I now have three weeks of official homeschooling under my belt, 
so I felt it was time to blog a bit about how that looks for us.

How we came to the decision to homeschool:

Many people have asked us why are choosing to homeschool.  I can't pinpoint one particular reason, but instead have a conglomerate of reasons that lead us to believe it was the best choice for Logan, Jack, and even Wyatt.

The main reason is that you just can't beat a two to one ratio for students vs. teacher.  Even here in Marshall, where class size is notoriously small (Josh has sixteen this year) we felt the boys would get the most attention at home with me.  Also, I chose to stay home two and a half years ago because I wanted to spend more time with my kids.  Working 30 hours a week (which is all I ever worked) was too much.  So when the time came to decide whether or not to send them to school, where we, again, would be apart for 30 hours a week, my heart just couldn't do it.  The last influencing factor, aside from time & attention, was our littlest Cunningham.  When I met with the pediatrician this summer, discussing Wyatt's advanced status, I asked her where to go from there.  It was she who suggested that I let little brother tag along with school activities. She said to do school when he's awake (we had previously done school during nap time) and to let him participate in whatever interested him.  The idea that I would be teaching three kids at once was exciting to me.

What we're learning:

 We picked out curriculum this summer while we were home in Washington, which was easier for me than shopping online. I enjoyed thumbing through the books, matching my goals for the year with lessons in each book.  I decided to focus on reading, math and handwriting during our specific school time.  We start school strictly at 9:00am. I pretend it's my job (which, I guess, it is :) and that I can't be late. School can take anywhere from an hour and a half to over two hours.  It depends on how focused the boys are, and how challenging our reading lesson for the day is.

Our school day looks like the following:

  • CALENDAR TIME: We start with Calendar time on the rug, where we do the month, date, days of the week and months of the year.  
  • READ ALOUD:  We end Calendar time with a non-fiction story or two.  The boys really enjoy this, as they are fact-hungry right now. What do frogs eat? What lives in a cave? How big is a whale?  It's fun to encourage their curiosity.
  • DAILY JOURNAL: Then we move to the kitchen table where the twins do their Daily Journal.  Their Daily Journal is something I picked up at The Learning Palace. It's half blank page, half lined for writing.  They are allowed to color or draw something of their own choosing, and then I help them write a word that represents the picture. (Example: Rainbow, Berry picking, Bad guys)
  • READING: For reading we are using 100 Lessons To Teach Your Child To Read.  This is very time consuming, especially because I have twins. So I have to do each lesson twice. The great thing about this is that the other twin is hearing all the sounds and words a second time, which I feel is great reinforcement.  We are only on Lesson 13 and already the boys are reading words.
  • HANDWRITING: While I work with one boy on our 100 Lessons book, the other does handwriting with a whiteboard marker on laminated handwriting sheets. They practice numbers, upper & lower case alphabets, and their entire names.  They have very good handwriting.
  • MATH: We started out finishing up a number workbook we had from summer that went from ten to twenty.  Next week, now that they've had a refresher on their teens, we will start our actual math curriculum.  It starts with some math basics (alike/different, more/less) and moves on to actual addition and subtraction by the end. I am really excited about doing math with Jack, who seems to have an aptitude for it.
  • REVIEW: We wrap up our morning choosing a couple pages from their Scholastic Success with Kindergarten book, which is a mix of colors, shapes, letters & sounds to reinforce what we learned in preschool last year.  

Behavior:

The boys start school time with 10 Kindness beads each morning.  If they make a bad choice, don't work hard or disrupt me during {sacred} Reading Time with their brother, they lose one bead. I would say most days, they end school with all ten beads. Occasionally they will lose a few, but they are generally very well behaved and focused.

During the reading lessons, Wyatt watches Dora on the Tablet (see photo above) in the playroom so the twins can be completely focused.  He, too, is generally really well behaved and let's us do what we need to get our reading done.

Extended Learning:

I am equal parts anticipating and dreading the arrival or winter here in Marshall.  The forecast currently calls for snow on Tuesday.  I can't tell if this is exciting or devastating.  I do, however, know that more time inside (we are currently outside for 2+ hours every afternoon) will allow for some of the extension activities I have put together to help cement lessons learned during kindergarten.

Extended learning is what I had in mind when I reorganized all our crafts, puzzles, & quiet time activities when we arrived.

Stations:

Eventually, as the weather turns, I'd like to do stations (blocks, cars, trains) to teach Jack how to play independently and give the boys a chance to play with something entirely by themselves, without having to share.

Teachable Moments:

While school time and extended activities are the meat & potatoes of our learning, using teachable moments is key for me to be comfortable with the idea that all their education rests squarely on my shoulders.  Using teachable moments requires a change in my thinking about our everyday moments.

We've been talking a lot lately about weather.  What would've been just a casual discussion of "You have to wear your hat becauseIsaidso," has now transformed into a lesson about the thermometer, how to read it, and about seasonal change.  It's become a lesson about plants (trees losing their leaves, flowers dying) and about animals (soon we won't have to worry about bear sightings because they will hibernate).
---
During quiet time just yesterday Jack was reading a non-fiction Volcano book, asking questions as he flipped the pages. Not even thinking about it really, I just answered his questions and went back to washing the dishes.  Later in the afternoon, he pulled the book out, laid on the floor with Logan, shoulder to shoulder, and began to recite every.single.fact I had told him about volcanos.  Page after page of information being shared brother to brother because I had answered his questions and piqued his interest.  It was amazing.
---
With all the cooking I do around here, I count helping in the kitchen as science.  The boys have both helped me with baking bread, watching as the yeast feeds on sugar in a mug on the stove.  They have helped me read recipes, check the pantry for ingredients and have been privy to the execution of following directions, step by step, to insure success.  On Saturday mornings when I watch Pioneer Woman on Food Network, they will flank me, one on each side, watching, eyes wide, and ask me, "Mom? Do you have those ingredients? Can we make that? It sure looks good!"

Read Aloud:

During non-school hours, I am very much focused on reading to the boys as many times as possible. Right now we are reading two books during rug-time after calendar; I am reading the twins chapter books during Wyatt's nap time; and we are reading three fiction books every night before bed.  We also have quiet reading time for the twins (where we separate them and expect them to "read"books --look at pictures--) while I lay Wyatt down for his nap.

Books are a very big thing in the house right now, and this novel-loving mama is tickled pink!  My main goal for the year is reading. Both to teach them to read, and to read to them.  I would love if they were being read at least ten books a day. We are currently hitting six, plus whatever books they read to themselves during nap time.  It's a work in progress.

I heard somewhere that whether you go to college or not depends on how many books are in your house. That's it. How many books. How easy is that? For us parents to make sure our kid are exposed to reading and read to.  My boys also see me reading (ravenously) all the time, which I hope lends itself to their learning that books can be fun and exciting a great way to escape or "experience" something that they otherwise wouldn't get to do.

Socialization: 

It's true that we don't have a lot of socialization opportunities.  
No t-ball, no boy scouts, no soccer.
What we do have is the park and playdates and Saturday Social.  

Saturday Social is a chance for the students at Marshall School to earn a fun morning at the school.  There is open gym time, popcorn & slushies, a giant TV with video games & a whole slew of laptops available for the kids to play PBS games on.

Our boys look forward to it all week.  I look forward to them going because it's a great time for the boys to run like crazy, see their old friends and make new ones.  

Physical Activity:

Playing Out:
Our preferred method of physical activity is playing out. Going for walks, enjoying a bike ride, climbing rock mountains, & visiting the park are all preferable to keeping these three rambunctious boys inside.

In the house:
But at some point, the weather will reach a point (around ten below) where going outside to play just isn't feasible or fun.  And when that weather comes, and it will, we will get our energies out (as the boys say) by doing our Move N Groove Kids videos, trying our new Kids Yoga video & having Dance Parties, of course.

Inspiration:

And even though it surely sounds as if I have it all together, I assure you, I do not. There are days I don't want to teach. There are days the boys don't want to learn... or at least don't want to learn sitting still at the kitchen table.  There are days the lessons are long and my patience is short.  And on those days, I turn to other homeschool mamas for inspiration.  This little gem is my most recent favorite.

"Some math is better than none.
Some read-aloud is better than none.
Concentrate on what you are doing,
instead of what you're not."
-Melissa Craig
www.brightideaspress.com

Mom vs. Teacher:

It is hard to balance mom with teacher.  If my patience before school was short, it's challenging to find that reserve I need to get through our lessons.

But the flip side of that is that I'm a teacher, who is also their mom. So watching them learn is amazing.  Watching them learn to read is especially rewarding.  Last week they didn't know how to read any words.  This week they have read nine new words!  I talked with my sister-in-law, who also homeschooled & is the one who recommended this book, and she said that teaching her sons to read was magical. I agree. That word encapsulates my emotions exactly. It is through hard work, yes, but as I'm watching their eyes zoom in on the fat, lowercase letters, something sparkles in their eyes and BAM! they read the word. Magic!

That said, the good moments are hard earned, and I didn't choose to homeschool because it's easy.  I look at all the mama's in my Facebook feed happily sending their children off to school, and I can taste the envy, thick on my tongue.  But for now, this is the road I've chosen, and I'm sure we'll flourish here.  I know my boys are lucky because I know when to push them, and when to help them. I know when to demand perfection and when to accept their best efforts.  Because of my intimate knowledge of their abilities, I am the best teacher they could have.  And after six years working in an elementary school, I can honestly say they are the best students I've ever had.
{source}

8 comments:

Rox said...

Well, guess who's buying their kids books for their birthdays and planning a trip to the library this week? Haha! What an interesting fact about having books in the house.

Amanda said...

I taught kinder for 3 yrs before i had my boys. I have stayed at home since then.....so it has been 10 plus years since i have been in the classroom. But what ur doing sounds spot on! I am also teaching my just turned 5 yr old to read this yr. He is in preschool this yr and will go to kinder next yr. But we have been doing a reading lesson everyday.....so i totally know the magic of watching ur child learn to read! My 10 yr old loves to read.....and was reading harry potter in first grade.....so we love books over here too! Cheering u on from Tx! Keep up the amazing work! U inspire me:)




Emily said...

Sounds like you have things well planned and it's going great!

I seriously considered homeschool for Reggie because our neighborhood kindergarten teacher was a screamer. That kind of personality with Reggie's sweet temperament was not going to go over nicely and all day kindergarten here is $400 a month. Luckily, the screamer resigned at the end of last year and we have a new to our school teacher who's been teaching for 15ish years.

He is having a hard time with school though. Not the actual class time part, but the getting there and letting mom go part. And every morning when I walk him to his teacher--sometimes with tears down his face--I wonder again about homeschool. But for me and our situation, I feel like homeschool for us at this point would be giving up. I want him to learn to do hard things and get a little bit of grit to his personality. I don't want him to loose all his sweetness, but he needs these experiences to test out his own independence.

But anyways, I was also going to add that computer time for your boys during the day might be a good thing. I give Reggie 10-15 minutes on starfall or pbskids or other learning sites like that and he really looks forward to it. There is also a girl that I did my teacher education with that has started a blog and etsy shop for teachers. It's secondstorywindow.net. Most of her things are geared towards first and second grade, but she has some really great ideas--especially busy bags. I think she's all over pinterest too. And lastly, I totally recommend the phonics kit that the private school I taught at used. If you google "The Learning Crew" it should come up. The actual kit is pricey--I think $200--but so effective. That was one thing this school did absolutely right. And it is soooooo much more entertaining that 100 lessons (while 100 lessons works, I found it sometimes hard to get Reggie engaged. Some pictures or colors other than red and black might have been nice!). There are super cheesy DVD's that teach phonic rules with music, worksheets, and flashcards and every student in my class was an amazing reader. I'm saving up my piano money to get our family a kit. :)

But like I said, you are doing great! My extra ideas are just that--extra. Look into it if you want to, but it sounds like you totally know what you're doing and that's great!

Emily said...

And I wrote a novel. Sorry!

Cassie said...

You are an inspiration, Shelly! I, too, have thought of homeschool and it may or may not eventually happen. Looks like you are scheduled and organized and so very patient! Love what you had to say about knowing when to push your boys and when to demand perfection, because it is true, we know our kids best. Keep up the great work!

Cindy said...

As someone who formerly homeschooler, I have to say your are on the right track also. Not sure what you are reading to the boys as far as when Wyatt takes his nap but don't be afraid (maybe you are)to read chapter books that are a big higher than there grade level. If you have not checked out Sonlight Curriculum,I think there maybe be a ReadAloud book list somewhere out there you could get ideas from. From your post,you are really don't LOTS of science,it doesn't have to be formal at this age.
To the Mom with Reggie & separation difficulty. Been there, done that. Kept on sending him, but,not to scare you, had two of my kids diagnosed with anxiety disorders in their teens. He was one of them, just had struggled for a long time with that along with other things. Long story with that!
Lastly, books, books, books!!! Our youngest, a daughter, was just smitten with books from a young age, much more than her two older brothers. She was the best of the 3 in school.

Megan said...

I loved this post. I am wanting to homeschool our little ones, too. It makes sense what you said about wanting to be a stay at home mom and not wanting to send them off for 30 hours a week, especially when they are still so little. It sounds like you are doing such a great job with all of the different activities you have set up. I especially love that quote at the end. Do you read the Simple Homeschool blog? I love that one.

When your boys get a bit older, maybe a couple years from now, I've heard so many good things about Story of the World. They are books, but they also have audio versions.

Paul Smith said...

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