Home School 101

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This is it.
This is my first week as a home schooling mom. I asked my kindergartner
what she would like her first subject to be and she said Bible.
Bible it is.

Several months
ago another mom at church, who began home schooling her son several
years ago, approached me.

"So, are
you planning to home school your daughter?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Have
you chosen your curriculum yet?"

"Um…"

"Well,"
she interrupted, "I've chosen one for my son for this year.
There were several I was interested in and we settled on this one.
Here's a book you can borrow. (The book is: What
Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
by Hirsch and Holdren)
I used this for my son his first year."

As she continued
to talk I could feel a fog coming over me. I began to feel worried.
I hadn't chosen a curriculum yet. I hadn't read the book now in
my possession. What if I don't teach my kindergartner everything
she needs to know. By the end of our conversation I had committed
myself to joining the co-op of other home schooling moms at my church
(good), and opened up a can of insecurities about my own lack of
preparedness as a homeschooler (bad).

I knew I wanted
to home school my kids. I had had fantasies about being educated
by a governess when I was a child. The freedom home education provided
was a major allure: freedom to follow my own interests, freedom
to learn at my own pace, freedom from harassment by other kids.
I considered these factors as I thought about teaching my own children.
As the time approached to actually begin home schooling I realized
I had accepted several false beliefs pushed by the educational establishment.
I needed to deal with these before I could begin.

First is the
belief that learning takes place in a controlled classroom setting.
This is simply not true. Certainly not at the kindergarten level.
So, I decided, most of my kids early learning would not, in fact,
happen at her desk. Rather, over lunch while I'm doing the dishes
we talk about words, lots of words. "How do you spell u2018from'
Mommy? How about u2018table'? How about u2018lamp'." On and on the
questions go. I have her sound out words, write down words. We made
flash cards with words and hung them up around the house. My house
looks like a Richard Scarry word book with each item wearing its
name. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that my daughter is
ready to learn how to read! Neither does it take a teacher's degree,
which brings me to my second false belief: you have to know how
to teach, and that requires a teaching degree. Wrong! I know at
least a half dozen mothers who taught everything from Latin and
French to Trigonometry without having mastered these subjects themselves
ahead of time. They simply learned right along with their kids staying
at least one or two steps ahead. I expect, however, even with this
kind of commitment to learning there will be subjects that I simply
won't be able to, or want to, teach.

This brings
me to another false belief; home schooling means I am on my own
— as are my children (no socialization). If I find, for whatever
reason, that I am unable to teach a certain subject to my children
I can rely upon the rich resources of my community. For instance,
I use a talented young lady who attends the university up the street
as a "mommy's helper" once a week. She is not only a very
capable baby-sitter, but a decent dancer and pianist. She is studying
accounting, but teaches piano lessons on the side. Since learning
piano at this time may be just a little more than I can do, we will
most likely go to her to teach that subject when the time comes.

I spoke earlier
of having joined the "co-op" of home schooling moms at
my church. This is a group of moms who have volunteered to help
teach each other's kids various subjects once a week using the church
building. Of these mothers, three are bilingual, one was an engineer,
and another a nurse who currently teaches classical education at
a private academy on the side. I have a master's degree, 15 years
of music training as a violist, and currently sing with the church
band. What a wonderful resource we can be for each other! The added
bonus of opportunities for friendships with other children is wonderful.

Last is the
issue of curriculum. The false belief that you must have a specific
curriculum to successfully teach your child is the one that I most
recently let go. Certainly, I need to have some kind of plan for
my child's learning, but a set curriculum is not necessary. I have
established my goals for the year: teach my daughter to read, introduce
basic addition and subtraction, study the Bible (our decision to
do this is based on the long term goal of giving our children a
Classical Education involving the use of "great books"
as a main teaching tool), and introduce a second language. We intend
to purchase classes at a French immersion school. Science/History/Geography
are as near as our back yard, local zoo, science center, and local
library. That's my curriculum. I've spent about $30 on materials.
Other materials were gifted or shared by the co-op moms. Most of
whatever else I need is found on the internet. The book loaned to
me, What
Your Kindergartner Needs To Know
, is a rough guide. I say
rough because a seasoned home schooling mom cautioned me not to
burn my kids out by trying to teach too much too soon. Rather, just
go with the flow and let my child's natural curiosity be my guide.
A more formal, structured curriculum will become appropriate later
as they get older.

Such a deal!
I know parents who are about to spend $14,000 per year sending their
kids to private school for kindergarten to avoid using the public
schools. I get that, as a libertarian. I don't want to use public
schools either, but $14,000? Granted, homeschooling takes time,
and it's certainly a trade off. One wonderful thing about it: you
are not locked in. You can homeschool one year, and send your child
to school the next when you can afford it. I recommend homeschooling
when they are younger, and sending them off when older as the curriculum
gets harder as they age.

So, here I
am. Ready as I'll ever be to begin this newest journey in my life.
I'm excited. I'm thrilled! This is the education I always wanted
for myself, and I get to gift it to my kids.

Some helpful
resources:

Starfall.com
— language arts.

Peepandthebigwideworld.com
— science and math.

Pbskids.org
— all subjects.

Preschoolpalace.org
— free worksheets on letters, numbers, colors, shapes, plus suggested
monthly preschool curriculums all printable.

Usbornebooks.com
— amazing books, amazing. Love them. You could piece together many
grades worth of curriculum here.

Activitypad.com
— mazes, connect the dots, color by number.

Triviumpursuit.com
— website extraordinaire by a mom who schools using the trivium.

Kidzone.ws/math/kindergarten
— lots and lots of math worksheets from number recognition to word
problems.

Essays and
Books:

What
Your Kindergartner Needs to Know —
by E.D. Hirsch and John
Holdren

The
Lost Tools of Learning
— Dorothy Sayers (can be found on
line)

The
Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

— by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise

September
9, 2009

Heather
M. Carson [send
her mail
] has
a Master’s in Counseling, and is the proud mother of a 5-year-old,
4-year-old, 2-year-old and 8-month-old.

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