Homeschooling

2013 has found me in a new stage of life.

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Where did it begin
It started in December, when I heard someone say how they didn’t continue to do something that wasn’t working. I thought, “Me neither.”
But at the same time, I thought, “Except Holden’s school.”

I was very discouraged with the fall semester at Veritas Christian Academy. It seemed like the curriculum was lousy, a bad fit for Holden, and the routine wasn’t fitting our family. The only thing it really had going was a nice environment full of nice kids.

So in December, I started dreaming of schooling Holden – having lots of time with him, doing the things differently that I was discouraged with his teacher for, etc. But I wasn’t really sure if I could juggle everything. And I didn’t want to force this on Holden, since he may be facing HUGE changes at the end of the year if Joel gets a pastoral position not in Houston.

I gave Holden the choice. And he picked Veritas. I was really bummed, but decided to pray instead of nag. I completely dropped the subject and all discussions of homeschooling for this Spring.

Then our family took a trip to Maine. Joel preached for 2 Sundays at a church in search of a pastor. And on the trip, Holden repeated his desire to homeschool for 3 days in a row.

Jumping right in

After withdrawing Holden from school, I decided not to stress and rush. We could survive with no formal school for January.

And I started emailing all my homeschool friends to see what they were doing for school. NONE of them do the same thing. Even the friends that are close friends.

This was actually really encouraging: There was no pressure to conform to anything.

I put together my best guess for curriculum preferences on a long Saturday of planning, and we jumped right in 3 weeks ago.

An aside: as I research curriculum, I felt like I was retracing a journey my mom took 25 yrs ago when homeschooling me – following a workbook-based curriculum for my 2nd grade, Christian Liberty Academy for another year, classical textbooks for another. This “journey” reinforced how similar mom & I are, as I can remember her making changes if something wasn’t a fit.

An about face

When emailing my friend, Alicia Taylor, I thought she was schooling her children in a way I wanted to… which I thought resembled closely Charlotte Mason’s style. I was drawn to Charlotte’s ideas of:

  • learning from living books that communicate a topic through the author’s personal experience & passion
  • learning spelling, grammar, & vocabulary by lots of exposure to these living books
  • creative “writing” done by oral narration, so the writing & syntax skills don’t limit the expression of thoughts

But Alicia directed me to a seminar by Carole Joy Seid called A Literature Based Approach to Education. I was excited because my original interest had been in classical education, which was described to me as reading whole books instead of textbooks, but I found it to be a lot of curriculum and workbooks anyway. This method seemed to meet my original expectations.
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This seminar was affirmation of everything my heart longed to do with Holden, but was second guessing as a non-educator who didn’t read very many good books as part of my schooling. I am a reader, but I’ve always read whatever was popular for my age at the time.

Contemplating the transformation

It took me a week & a half to go through this seminar, after I got 3/5 of the way through and realized I needed to be taking notes.

As I worked through it, I was evaluating what I had set out to do with Holden, and how the tasks I had planned 3 weeks ago matched. And I started making changes.
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It feels like I live in a different house, with THREE different children (not just Holden) who are thriving in a way they didn’t before. It has caused me to slow down, unplug devices, and fill “bored” spaces with either (1) reading out loud to 1-2-or-3 kids, or (2) sending them outside and letting them create.
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As I went back through my notes yesterday, I made a simple list of the statements from A Literature Based Approach to Education that are my tips to follow:

  • Do school quickly, tutorial method.
  • Be outside by noon.
  • Encourage your kids for their WORK ETHIC.
  • Teach kids to love books and how to work.
  • The way we teach a child to WANT to read is by reading to them, and NEVER requiring them to read themselves.
  • Reading is a treat. You don’t have to read – you GET to read.
  • Keep a nature journal.
  • Cover your house in maps.
  • Don’t prepare ahead – learn together.
  • Create a history timeline.

Why this is profound & refreshing
This is not my first time to set out at homeschooling. In 2008, I started Kindergarten with Arabella & Holden.

And the biggest difference, and what I think is the reason I failed, was that I tried to “do school” at home. By 2 weeks in, Holden enrolled in public school, & Arabella and I struggled through to Christmas.

At that time, I was going against the research into Waldorf, a system I admire, and pushing reading with a developmentally immature girl.

One of the most amazing parts of Carole Joy Seid’s seminar is research she shares about skills built by being read to and to support late learning of skills as being better, not worse, for a child.

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