Monday, May 26, 2014

Our Homeschooling style over time

As our family has grown, our homeschooling style has changed.  Now that my family is shrinking, our homeschooling style is changing again.

When I started homeschooling in 1999, I had 2 children (ages 3-5).  Most activities involved both children, but things like worksheets were limited to my kindergartener.  Since we were just starting out, I was more focused on doing "school" type worksheets and compared my child to what her friends in school were doing.  The program we were using at the time emphasized read aloud books. My library had the book on tape, so I used that instead of reading aloud.

The following summer, I had another baby.  That year kind of passed in a blur.  It was also when I accidentally discovered the wonders of unschooling.  At the time, our local library was moving into a temporary location while a new library was being built.  The library would be closed for nearly 3 months during the move and you could check out books and keep them until the temporary library opened.  While I was standing in the long line that last day before closing, I happened to be standing by the audio book section.  On eye level was an audio version of Homer's Odyssey.  I think it had 26 cassettes but I figured I had 3 months to listen to it.  I also checked out book children's books on ancient Greece and Rome.

I did a little class with the two oldest while the baby was napping.  I cut up a few sheets to make togas, read stories and we did a art project.  That night I was up a lot with the baby.  The next morning when I finally got up around 9 am, I found my 4 year old and 6 year old wearing the togas, sitting on the floor by the tape player, listening to Homer's Odyssey. Over the next 3 months, we listed to the entire set.

The next year, with a kindergartener and a second graders, I changed my style yet again.  I would do "school" with one of the older girls while the other girl played with the baby.  Then I would switch.  I kept that going for the next few years. I was also helped start a homeschool co-op, so there were more group learning activities.  The co-op is now in its 9th year

When my youngest was in second grade, we change the style again.  We began doing foster care. Two out of the three girls would do school while the third daughter would play with whatever child was in our home at the time.  By this stage, the older girls were doing most of the school work online, mixed with music lessons, co-op classes, check lists and nagging.

Things really got interesting when Baby Bop (who is now our adopted son) came into our home.  His occupation therapy and speech therapy became the center of my universe and homeschooling worked around it.  All my girls helped out, but my youngest was most involved in his daily routine. The older girls did most of their school work with little supervision and the youngest did what we euphemistically called "unschooling" mixed with music lessons, co-op classes, occasional check lists and nagging. 

This stage lasted for about two or three years.  Some balls did get dropped like math and spelling. But by the end of high school, with the help of a math tutor, the older two girls had reasonably proficient enough to do well in community college.   And my youngest, who spent so much time doing therapy with her little brother, taught herself to read, can actually spell and did Algebra in the 8th grade

Then we began the school stage with Baby Bop.  By that time, my oldest was full time student at a local community college and her next younger sister was taking most classes online mixed  with community college classes, music lessons, a math tutor, co-op classes and a part time job.  The youngest was also doing online classes mixed with music lessons, a math tutor, check lists and co-op classes.

For our son, I had to reinvent the wheel.  It is a more organic process.  We study what he is ready to learn, when he is ready to learn it.  I make many of the worksheets and activities specifically to suit his developmental readiness and interests.

Next school year we will shift yet again.  My oldest children will no longer be living at home because of college and mission service. Our remaining daughter hopes to take one class at a local private school because it is just too quiet at our house, in addition to music lessons, co-op classes, check lists and my nagging.

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