I have gone back and forth on the idea of homeschooling over the past couple years. At times I just feel so overwhelmed at parenting three small children in general, that it doesn’t seem like a good idea to throw school into the mix.
But then I read something about our failing education system or see other friends having so much fun homeschooling or know what I’ve read and minimally researched about the benefits it can have and I really want to do it.
To be honest, I find myself slightly skeptical of Christian curriculum and some Christian homeschooling groups and so don’t feel like I completely fit in with that crowd. That probably sounds terrible. I’m not sure how else to really phrase it.
I mean, I am a Christian. There are going to be some things I’ll teach my kids about from a point of view that they wouldn’t get in public school. But I kind of think I’d teach them that anyway, you know? I guess I’m just afraid of being lumped in with the “religious whack job” homeschooler crowd that gets held up as the example of why people should not be able to homeschool their kids when those sorts of debates come up.
One of the reasons I want to homeschool has to do with age as an arbitrary measure of learning and skills development.
For example, Sprout may not be potty trained, but he talks nearly as well as his big sister, knows a lot of his letters already and has been picking up on and associating them with some of their phonetic sounds thanks to time with the Starfall app. He also counts better than her and recognizes shapes and patterns better. He knows his colors and a lot of the other Pre-K skills.
Bean has a lot of Pre-K skills mastered as well. If age were not the arbitrary measure and I was planning on sending my kids off to school, I’d totally enroll her in Kindergarten this fall and I truly believe she would do just fine even if the State of California thinks otherwise.
Now, I know this is controversial. I’ve been chastised by more than one homeschooling friend that kids shouldn’t be “pushed too early” and that my kids “don’t really need to be doing academics” right now.
I’ve been doing “school” type stuff off and on with my kids since Bean was about 2. Mostly it is reading books, some theme studies, letters, art projects and crafts, worksheets and coloring, prewriting skills, counting games and simple graphing, memory games, songs, etc. My kids seriously beg to “do school” all the time.
The only reason we don’t do it consistently or daily is because of me not wanting to put forth the effort, research, mess cleaning, etc. That has actually been my own strongest personal argument against homeschooling: me. I’m often just not disciplined and consistent enough. Before we moved I strongly considered some hybrid programs and still had Bean in a pre-preschool class a couple days a week through the parks and rec district and had planned to do the same with Sprout for this reason.
Part of the inconsistency for me was coming up with or putting together lesson plans from various sources on the Internet and in preschool teacher books I would check out from time to time at the library. It’s just a lot of work to pull all of that together and often I feel I have enough or too much on my plate as it is.
So, earlier this year I decided to start looking into curriculum that was already put together. I had a few different homeschool moms that I knew used and loved the Five in a Row program. I looked over their website, read a couple more reviews and then went ahead and purchased the “Before Five in a Row” curriculum. It seemed from their website that the BFIAR was more targeted towards kids the ages of my two and then FIAR was targeted towards ages 4-6. My sister-in-law then let me borrow the next four books in the curriculum which she already had from her daughters.
The BFIAR curriculum is kind of hit and miss. Sometimes the book, discussions and activity ideas are really great and other times it really feels like they are reaching to try and come up with something. All of the books have been really cute and great though. Like with FIAR, the idea in BFIAR is to read the book every day all five weekdays and do an activity or discussion or two. Even when it is a really robust book and ideas to go with it and I scour the Internet for additional resources, worksheets, lapbooks and ideas (there are tons out there), the most it will take us to get through it all is a couple mornings/afternoons.
I kind of have this love-hate relationship with homeschooling because of this. It feels like it should take longer and that our day should be pretty full of school on the days we do it, but then only an hour or two has gone by and we are done. Which is great because then we can do a bunch of other stuff, but bad because ohmygosh now what do we do?! Haha!
Anyway, after talking with my sister-in-law about it and a couple other people I have come up with a new plan for our little school. Another curve ball that has been thrown into the mix is that my sweet nephew Avory is going to be joining us twice a week and he’s just a completely different kid than my two.
My plan is to finish out BFIAR and then probably do at least volumes 1 & 2 of FIAR. I am not going to rely on it for teaching the various subjects, though. Math is more than counting the lamps in the department store in Corduroy and social studies is more than “How can you tell that Jesse bear’s mama loves him?” in Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?. So after looking through a few recommended options (since I didn’t have time to do a ton of research on my own really) and knowing my kids’ learning styles, this is what I’ve decided to do in addition:
–Right Start Math
I liked that this has everything in the kit and makes math very hands-on. My kids definitely seem to be very hands-on learners.
–All About Reading
This one had really great reviews all around and their spelling program also is highly rated. I even read one review of a mom that had homeschooled three older siblings, two of which had done different phonics/reading programs, but had done the spelling program and for her youngest she switched to the All About Reading from their tried and true program because it was that much better. My sister-in-law also said she was planning to use the readers as a review for her youngest that already reads as well and her oldest did the spelling program that they loved as well.
–Handwriting Without Tears
Again, loved that they had so many physical applications for learning to write through various mediums.
–Science is Simple
There were a few preschool science experiment books that all seemed pretty similar. This just happened to be the one I decided on based on the Amazon reviews. We’ll also be taking advantage of our SB Zoo membership we bought last year, the BofA Museums on Us program, and stuff like that. I’ll probably get some bug stuff from the Bugseum and maybe a few of those DK Eyewitness encyclopedia books and we have a few similiar books already on plants, seasons, sharks and dinosaurs. Then of course nature walks and all that too.
-We also read a few chapters a week from the The Child’s Story Bible, usually towards the end of dinner or right before bed. The kids love looking at the pictures that come up here and there and we sort of have this routine where after the chapter is finished they say,”We want to see the old pictures!” So we go through all the pictures and they tell us the story that goes with each one. Even little Sprout totally gets it and can tell us about them, “That’s the PassOVER! That’s Jacob blessing Eph-why-am and Menn-ash-wha. That’s Moses striking the rock and he was mad. That’s Moses and he was mad again and he threw down the ten commandments. That’s Adam and Eve and they are leaving the Garden ’cause they was naughty and the serpent was naughty too…etc.”
-Today I was at Costco and picked up the Kumon Are You Ready for Kindergarten series which seems to be a lot of cutting, pasting, tracing lines and prewriting skills, with a bit of number and letter recognition in there, I think it will be fun stuff they can do while I’m working with one at a time on something tougher and help with those prewriting, citing and fine motor skills.
-We also have some Melissa & Doug lacing cards, word and pattern puzzles that are exactly the same as the ones Bean’s pre-preschool teacher had in her class.
-For “PE” Bean will continue taking ballet this next year, Sprout isn’t quite old enough for most programs so we will re-evaluate when he turns three. In the meantime, I’ll continue taking the kids to parks, splash pads, etc. and we sure like to have a good dance party in the living room or do the YogaKids DVD workouts.
We’re planning to kind of stagger the purchases of the curriculum. I am not in a huge hurry because the BFIAR stuff is holding us over for now. We’ll probably start with reading and the handwriting stuff along with the Kumon workbooks. I will work in science and math a little later, more towards the fall.