Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Working Into a Homeschooling Rhythm

sprinkles the butterfly
Imaginative play is a key component of Zinashi's education.

So it turns out that the moment you start homeschooling, you don't automatically have everything figured out. I know! I was sure that would come with the curriculum I ordered, but sadly, the curriculum only helps me teach my child reading, math, and French, and it does nothing for behavioral challenges after too much time on public transportation or for helping us leave our house before noon.

Most days, I feel like we are doing all right. There are some days that are easy, some days that are excruciatingly hard (for me) (to be patient), and many days that fall somewhere in between. On days that we don't have additional activities, we have a nice little rhythm going, hanging out together on the big bed until Elvie is ready for her morning nap, then getting down to business with our schoolwork once she is asleep. I am figuring out Zinashi's educational strengths and weaknesses, as well as identifying some gaps in language learning that we need to address, which feels really good. I'm not sure that these would be recognized as such in a classroom setting, and I feel more and more like homeschooling is the best fit possible for Zinashi's first year of formal education. I feel like a competent teacher, and homeschooling is working for us in many practical ways.

My biggest question right now is regarding how much formal learning Zinashi needs to do to learn what is appropriate for her at this stage of schooling and development. I'm not of the mind that more is always better, but at the same time, I want to do the work to lay the foundations that need to be laid for future learning.

The biggest issue we have right now is with a key social component in our homeschool week. On Tuesdays from 11am to 2pm, there is a homeschool park day at various parks throughout the city. This is incredibly valuable for Zinashi, as it allows her to make friends with other kids who are schooling in the same way we are. I know that in the beginning of our school year, she wanted to go to school simply because that is what all her friends do, and she felt left out. So for her, park day is not only a good time for socializing with kids her age, but also for feeling like she belongs. The issue is that if the park is far away, it pretty much eats up our whole day and saps all our energy. So on many park days, formal curriculum work is just not happening. We can't get it done beforehand, as Elvie is still awake at that time and full of spunk (read: screeching for fun so no one can hear anything important), and trying to do it afterwards is sometimes an exercise in frustration if we're all tired.

What I'm considering now is if attending park day every two weeks will be enough, and if during those weeks, it will be all right if we are only able to get in three days of core curriculum work. I know that some weeks we will be able to come home and get right down to work after a snack, but others, like today, will find us all at the ends of our ropes. My hunch is that it will be fine, and maybe even beneficial; Zinashi sometimes needs a little time to mull over new concepts, and it might give her the space she needs to figure things out before we move on to the next thing. If this isn't the case, we can always commit to doing curriculum work on Fridays, which is the day normally reserved for other activities and appointments.

To be honest, I would love it if Zinashi made similar (or better) strides in learning during three day weeks as we do during four day weeks. I love having Friday mornings free of worrying about getting to schoolwork while Elvie naps. It makes the mornings so pleasant for both Zinashi and me. She can continue in her imaginative play, and I can have Elvie's morning nap to relax a bit or get one of my own projects done. Weekends are so busy for us with soccer on Saturday and church Sunday morning that I feel like we really need that bit of time in the morning on Fridays just to breathe. Still, if we must take some of those Fridays to do schoolwork, we simply must, and I will try not to complain too much about it.

I was hoping that by now we would have figured out how to make it all work, but unfortunately, I think we are just starting to really bump up against our limits and figure out how to work with them and around them. I find I am grateful once again that we are beginning this in Zinashi's kindergarten year, that we have the privilege of figuring this out when there is still plenty of time in her education to make adjustments. We will get to a place where we are better at this; for now, we are still beginners. And that's okay.

9 comments:

  1. A friend of mine is homeschooling her 14yo girl and 5yo boy. The age difference makes it very obvious their different needs. For example, Tues and Thurs they drive downtown for her Japanese class. During this time she has 1 on 1 time with him in a study area. Wed and Fri for him tend to be playdates, gymnastics, and swimming. I forget what they do on Mon. The point it, learning how to be friends and getting a lot of exercise is also incredibly important. I'm sure you'll find a balance. We're all standing behind you!

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  2. I hate to admit how much sleep I've lost over wondering if I'm really meeting my daughter's educational needs with homeschooling. Most of the time I believe I am but that usually happens on weeks when we get a solid three or four days of schooling in.

    But if I'm honest, we have weeks when we get maybe one day of "Watching Downton with Mommy counts as history right?" I'm hoping that since we also have weeks where we have solid school time six days in a row it will all balance out.

    To us, right now, the important thing is to spark her love of learning and her security in our family, two things we saw that she wasn't getting in her public school. I'm taking it one month at a time and trying to remember that there is always time to adjust and reteach the basics.

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  3. I'm not a homeschooler, but it sounds to me that if the park day truly is a "key social component" of her learning, then you should treat it as such. After all, social growth is one of the huge milestones of early learning (I have a kindergartener who is struggling with some of it). So, maybe park day is just that...Park Day...and you don't try to squish in curriculum learning on that day. You'll figure out what works best as you go along!

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  4. Most awesome Zinashi picture ever ... but then I've only been reading your blog a couple months ;-) We all need fairy wings!

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  5. As a homeschooling Mom, I know I felt all of this in the beginning. I even have an educator/teacher degree, along with my nursing degree, and I still wondered if I was capable to meet all those needs in education and worried about what all my other frieds were saying about homeschooling:/ I homeschooled three of our five children during crucial years for them, where the mainstream education system wasn't working for them or listening to our concerns; it was the best decision ever. I now homeschool our youngest and have since we pulled her from Kindergarten and the public school, the worst experience ever for her and I so wish I would have listened better, because with the other kids I just thought it was normal to go through some of that with being in the school system, but I now know with our youngest, it was the worst thing to put any child through and have been so thankful to be able to witness it and to stand up and say no more and have had her home with me since that time. With the other kids, I really didn't worry too much with it all, but with Sarah just knowing that we were planning on keeping her at home through atleast elementary years, to keep her out of that school, well I have to admit I did panic at first. Our first year, was definitely a learning time for all of us and adjusting our schedule to work and find ways of what worked best for our family. The glorious thing about homeschooling is that it is designed to do just that in so many ways, there is no need to stress or worry about it all, it will get done! Sarah truly loves it and she even skipped a whole grade, based on her testing scores, and so I know I'm doing something right, on top of being blessed with smart kids.:) I will tell you what has worked for us is a block scheduling, where we truly don't concentrate on every single class each day~we break them up and one day we do two subjects (Mon & Wed) and then another two or three on Tues & Wed. It works better for us and Sarah loves it that way too! I find we get more done this way too! For the most part, we take Fridays off, unless she needs to finish something and it's fast. We don't worry about it. Also, with the social aspect of homeschooling it has not been an issue at all with us. Don't get me wrong, I did worry about her being to attached to me and not being able to socialize, but I have had many people tell me that she is not only one of the most sociable kids they have ever met, but she is respectful and kind! Thank goodness, that just put all the reports out there about homeschooling and socialization to shame! I have to say that these last four years have been the best for all of us, she is happy and it makes for a happy Mommy too! I truly believe that if they are involved in other activities, like soccer, dance, church, etc. they are getting the social skills they need and you and Jarod are wonderful parents and she has experienced more than most little ones have at that age! Don't worry about it, because she is going to continue to grow and soar in her learning, because she has the best teachers and you truly are and will be her best teachers!! I do believe that every two weeks in more than enough at this age for a social park day and if you find that to be too much, you can even cut back to every three weeks or monthly; there is no need to think she needs more, because she does have other activities that she is involved with throughout the week. It's normal to feel this way, especially in the beginning, it gets easier and the benefits for our kids are worth it all! Many Blessings

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    1. Many Blessings, Heather Snyder

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  6. I think that the homeschooling park day is not enough, even with once a week dance, and once a week soccer. Consider that kids in kindergarten are spending at least 3-6 hours five days a week with 15-25 other kids. Can Elvie nap on the go? That might getting out of the house easier. Also, check your local library - I'm in SF and mine has stuff for little ones all the time - sing-alongs, yoga, art, story time, etc. - all for the 6 and under crowd.

    While I don't think your goal should be to match what kinder kids are getting in terms of socialization since she does need to catch up on her bonding with family, I would try to increase what she is getting.

    Keep in mind that kids in Waldorf don't get taught to read until 2nd grade, age 7(ish). And that the kids who walk into kinder reading often even out with the slow learners by third grade. So I wouldn't worry about the academics too much. Who cares of she can name all four seasons in order? Worry about whether she can take turns, share, show compassion, problem-solve, etc., with her peers.

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    1. I'm going to have a post soon on socialization, and you are helping me clarify my thoughts, so thank you! I personally do not think that the socialization kids get in a traditional classroom is a good fit for all kids, nor is it a representation of the way life really works most of the time. Zinashi would be incredibly stressed by spending 3 to 6 hours daily in a large group, and that is part of the reason we homeschool. She is quite adept at taking turns, sharing, showing compassion, and problem solving, so I'm not worried about those things. I'll share a lot more in my post about how we are teaching all those things and more simply by participating in regular life. Thanks again for your comment--there are things I wouldn't have thought to address without your input.

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  7. I find homeschooling SO fascinating and love reading updates of people just starting out. I think what you're experiencing is incredibly normal. You have the freedom to make Zinashi's schooling work for her and the family, so don't stress too much! To me, I would use Park Day as a day unto itself. Maybe read a book on the bus if possible (probably not very possible, with grabby baby hands being what they are). Really, don't stress about the academics. My son, who is kindergarten age, is an a school for children with hearing or speech issues. It's very intense but he is rocking with all the academics...so keep it basic! Letters, numbers, days of the week, writing...and art/music! One thing he absolutely loves is doing a journal. I never thought he would like it, because he's never been one to draw lots but this is one of his favorite things. It's not done every single day but he loves to draw a picture of us at Target, or the grocery store, or whatever. Anyway, just rambling on here but I'm saying: don't stress. And be patient with yourself! Homeschooling mamas are superheroes, in my book.

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