Two months ago we took a leap into the unknown.
It shouldn't have been unknown, because I've been homeschooling since 1994--or before, depending on if you count potty training, Joy School, etc. My oldest child is now expecting her third child, and I'm starting a new homeschool journey, which is so different from the first one that it belongs in a completely separate category, which I might call hyper-schooling if I thought it needed an accurate name. We adopted three children in March, and though we'd been dabbling in educational pursuits for quite a while with them, September was when we officially jumped out of the airplane with this group (plus our own seven-year-old) to see if our parachutes worked.
The first days were really challenging as we all got used to the new rhythm. The kids learned that I provide a few group learning activities, and I am available to help them with anything they need, but that they are capable of learning directly from their books. They each learned that if they asked to play a computer game, I would say, "Did you do your reading, writing, and math?" They also learned that they can be self-directed in choosing other learning activities, since the academics really don't take much of their time. We have a house full of great things to do. This does have a down-side however.
At first it felt like each day we were enacting the entire book If You Give A Mouse a Cookie. You're probably familiar with it, but in case you've forgotten, it's meant to give a child some perspective on what it means to be impulsive and hyperactive: a mouse running from one project to another without finishing any of them, leaving a trail of chaos in his wake. My goal is to try to say "Yes" to them when they ask if they can do something, and when they do ask for permission I at least have the chance to say, "Did you clean up the last thing you were doing?" But they don't always ask, and I sometimes don't find out until later that they had decided to play "Keep off the Lava" with all the board games spread across the downstairs carpet. I had moments of feeling like I'm insane for not sending these guys away every day so I can have some peace and quiet.
It's not that I had high expectations of organization in our school day: "schedule" is a curse word in my opinion, and "routine" is a beautiful thought, but not really a goal. Not with this crew. In the above photo you'll see behind the seven-year-old a chart that I bought when I first began homeschooling. Back then I filled it all out with subjects for each hour or half-hour, scheduled recess, exercise time, everything. This year I'm glad I didn't go to all that trouble. The only thing it's good for is a loose "here are some things we ought to do each day" and a reminder of the weekly classes and co-ops we have going on. It was a good visual for our adopted kids, to help their brains transition from rigid school schedules to "this is your education--what are you going to do with it?"
And are they transitioning? YES! We're gradually going from mice and cookies to If You Give A Moose A Muffin. That story is more positive, in that they actually do get about 2/3 of the way done with their projects before they're on to the next one.Yes, there's chaos and mess, but it's manageable.
The seven-year-old, who has been homeschooled but not "pushed," is now beginning to take off in his desire to learn academics--up to this time he's been hyper-focused on building robots and other mechanical things. I wasn't worried, but all the same it's nice to see.
The kids coming home from public school have strengths and weaknesses, both in academics and personal management, that they had picked up at school. Each day we try to build on the strengths and undo/redo some of the problem areas. And I'm delighted with the gains in this short amount of time! Sometimes what a child needs to advance is to be allowed to go back and revisit foundational concepts at his own speed. Going backward to go forward on a much more solid footing (phonics instead of sight words and guessing, math understanding instead of memorizing algorithms, actual grammar instead of "just express yourself") can make all the difference.
The freedom of homeschooling allows the kids to be themselves, which means, especially for the six-year-old, in constant motion. Sometimes when I ask him if he wants me to help him read a book, he just looks at me then runs to the door and heads for the trampoline...whether he's dressed, or barefoot and in his pajamas, in rain or shine. Because that's where he's at, and that's what he needs. Progress is being made in the things most necessary for him, and the academics will come when he's ready. I'm sure of it.
Is my new group of homeschoolers impressing the world with the splendor of home-made strawberry tarts and angel food cake? Nope, just ordinary muffins, but made with love, and quite nourishing.
For your entertainment, here's a view into a spooky "cave" (under our dining room table) filled with cave art--paintings that we made as we began our study of history this year. Yes, we did get the paintings done and hung up and explored. No, we did not do a writing assignment about it, as The Story of the World recommends. And I'm OK with that.