Last year, homeschooling was a bit of a mess. I'm going to admit that. I've heard it's the same for most homeschooling families; there's a huge learning curve during that first year. Before I started teaching Zinashi, I had an idea of how she would learn best, but didn't really know where she was academically, and I especially didn't have a clue how her delayed exposure to basics like letters, shapes, colors, numbers, and quantity might affect her learning. Zinashi came to us at three-and-a-half years old, in many ways still very much like a toddler. While we did some basic work on shapes, colors, letters, etc., to be honest, it was far more important to me that first year and a half to work on attachment and healing. I think that was appropriate.
So when I ordered our supplies for kindergarten and plotted out our course for the year, I basically did it all wrong, and we scrapped most of it, opting instead to work on things when she was ready and willing and focus on her social emotional growth first and foremost. We'd just added a medically fragile baby to the family, she'd just seen her family in Ethiopia for the first time since before her adoption, and can I be frank? We had a lot of stuff hitting the fan that had nothing to do with academics and led to repeated attempts at power struggles like we'd never seen before, and sometimes doing school just wasn't worth it. Trying to get her to sit for a school lesson was impossible some days; she literally could not do it. Her brain was struggling too hard with other things. So I said, "You know what? Who cares? We'll do what we can do and wait until she's ready for the rest." And that was exactly the right thing to do. We're heading into this year with a much better grasp on what might be possible for Zinashi and what works best for her.
One of the things I've had to accept is that sometimes the iPad can teach Zinashi better than I can. I really wanted to be all Waldorf/hippie/granola/picture of nurture while teaching Zinashi to read and do math, and it just wasn't working out. She'd get performance anxiety and either forget the answer or be afraid to try or start guessing wildly, and if her trauma brain got in the way, she'd enter into it as an opportunity to start a power struggle. I've known for some time that Zinashi learns by observing and then working it out on her own; I thought we could work within that framework by doing a little instruction and then practice on worksheets, but it simply didn't work. It just ended in frustration for both of us. For this year, I've found an app for reading and one for math, which I allowed her to start using as soon as I bought them, and both are working beautifully for teaching her what she needs to know without frustrating her.
Of course, reading and math are not the whole of schooling, and in fact, there is so much more that I want her to learn. I have always been attracted to the Charlotte Mason method of schooling, and with what we learned last year, I have a better sense of how to implement this system in a way that will work for us. We are using the Year 1 book list and schedule from Ambleside Online, and you guys? These books are getting both Zinashi and me so excited for the coming school year. All of a sudden, homeschooling seems like a pleasure. Because we'll be reading stories, a favorite for both of us. The photo above is of Zinashi checking out the books after they arrived. She is so anxious to know what those stories say that we are starting school a full two weeks earlier than I planned. We'll begin on Monday with two readings and narration at breakfast, a poem at lunch, and a chapter from a chapter book at dinner. She'll continue using the iPad for reading and math basics and we will add in additional subjects, extracurriculars, and tutoring as we go along and are ready.
It feels good to be excited about school. It feels even better that Zinashi is excited about school. We can't wait for Monday.