Sunday, April 13, 2008

Confessions of a Rookie HS Mom

I've had a little (and by little, I mean not nearly enough because family just fills in any extra with chaos) time to ponder on where I've come so far on this homeschooling journey. Although I taught Jefferson kindergarten last year (phonics and math), I feel like this 1st grade year has been my baptism of fire! It has been a whirlwind... a struggle... a blessing altogether. I have been in tears as well as overjoyed. Jefferson has grown and grown even though he insists on telling others that he doesn't like "school." And we've made great discoveries and strides with Reagan as she prepares for Kindergarten.

Here's how our journey has looked so far:
  • Jefferson takes 2-day pre-k while I ponder what in heaven's name I'm supposed to teach him for Kindergarten (knowing that I'm called to homeschool but not a clue otherwise). God provided a new friend at church with same aged boys who was using Christ Centered Curriculum for Phonics and Math.
  • We went with CCC knowing that I wanted his education to come from a biblical perspective first and foremost. But truthfully at this point, I just wanted to do something that someone else whom I respected was doing so that I could ask for help when I failed (as I was so afraid of doing)! We only spent 1 to 1.5 hours on this "school" 3 times per week - an even then I began thinking, "How on earth am I going to make this fit in with our life?" (notice how that question is backwards of how it should be if I'd had my perspective right), especially since our 3rd was still young and we were already working on the 4th.
  • We took about 2 months off for summer since I was still not sure (another word for this would be "clueless"!) where to head and was not yet ready to really focus and be intentional with teaching Jefferson. What, after all, does a 1st grader learn? Because of my lack of focus, he wasn't yet reading and I was worried about starting 1st grade without having taught him to read yet!
  • But God is good to give guidance! About a month before we plan to start 1st grade, a friend loaned me "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer & Jesse Bauer. This book got me excited to teach and it fit exactly what I had been toying with in my head (a classical formula -although I didn't yet know this is what it was called). This book gave me structure, direction, enthusiasm, goals, and hope! I recommend it to anyone who wants to look into a structured, classical methodology for their kiddos!
  • Also, about this time prior to beginning 1st grade, I found a great website where I could find more information, resources, and encouragement through the personal experiences of another HS mom, Jessica. I didn't even know what a blog was last July - LOL! But Trivium Academy has been a great introduction into the bloggy world - through her blog I have been encouraged to focus my efforts in planning (teacher's manual, goals, schedules, etc.), have found umpteen resources that fits our 'classical' needs and can drool over her organizational ideas (organizing gets the serotonin flowin' for me! A sickness - I know!). Since then I have been greatly encouraged and helped by other HS moms online (my favorites are all listed on the right sidebar - you girls are the best!).
  • I soon learned that this home education journey would be filled with many evening hours of planning and researching. Although I felt that we were being well directed by the Lord, I was soon overwhelmed with the amount of preparation I needed to do even before we started the year (since I wasn't just going to buy a packaged curriculum as I had assumed previously). I needed to learn about the classical education style, plan out Jefferson's 1st -4th grade years, and order/plan all the books we'd need!
  • I felt almost "caught up" and in a nice groove, when we had Lincoln in late October. I used this 4 week break (which I dreaded - afraid that Jefferson would forget everything) to plan our animal science lessons, get him reading books on his own (finally!), and get more organized.
  • Getting back to lessons after this break had me thinking "public school" on occasion as I struggled against exhaustion, chaos, and hormones to get back into some kind of structure again. But here is where we learned about flexibility in homeschooling and learned to use our schedule as a guideline. Lessons were done on the couch, floor or where ever I could be with the baby (and screeching Adam).
  • Taking a spring break has allowed me/us to re-group and start fresh. Boy, do we need to plan a few more breaks next year (when we don't have to take 4 weeks for a new baby)! Although I didn't get all of the planning for 2nd grade done that I wanted to, I feel much more ready to get it done (what with a freshly rested brain and body and all!).

And here's some of what we've learned so far:
  • It's okay to be clueless, if we've been lead by God to be homeschooling - He will guide us!
  • Kids learn tons and tons of things just by osmosis! Obviously this can be a good thing as well as a bad thing.
  • Reading will happen when the child is ready and interested -until then just keep working on the foundational phonics.
  • Read, read, read, read to the kids (this never was a natural thing for me since I fall asleep easily in these "prego/baby/nursing" days I'm still in).
  • The web can be the most amazing resource for homeschooling! But the experience/encouragement/help/friendship of other bloggy moms is trully the best part of the web. I am so thankful for your ladies who've let me know your struggles and your $0.02 as I hash things through in our school.
  • Our school will be molded to fit us and cannot be a copy of anyone else's exact program. I can take bits and pieces of good things from others but the meat of our school must be based on the specific needs and abilities of our children. This has been a hard lesson for me as I moved from planning on using a packaged program to researching and planning my own system for Jefferson and Reagan. It would be so much easier just to use something from a package or to copy what has worked for someone else....but 'ease' is not the name of this game! ;-)
  • There are only a few things that can be done 'incorrectly' in homeschooling: pressuring the kids instead of teaching with grace (been there, done that, still struggle with that when I'm grumpy or impatient), not being intentional (again - thanks Jennefer for that word this year!) in getting through the days, and comparing the kids to others' kids (whether PS or HS) in their progress instead of keeping the focus on their learning/needs/style (now who doesn't do this at least a bit!?).
  • Homeschooling is way harder than I thought that it would be! I knew it wouldn't be a cakewalk but could never have known the amount of time and stress it takes.
  • Homeschooling is even more of a blessing than I could have imagined! I love teaching my own kids and seeing them understand something or enjoy figuring something out. Everyday I get to see them grow in new ways! It is just amazing and so worth the time and stress!
  • If this is just part of what we've learned in just one year, then this is going to be life-changing!!

So here I am, almost finished with my first structured year as a homeschool mom! I am getting a bit anxious (normal for my personality type) about next year's specific goals and plans but at the same time, am excited for the things we will all learn. The baby will be older, Adam will hopefully settle out a little, Reagan will be in kindergarten and we will be one step further on our educational walk! I also hope to be able to put together a blurb book from this blog to add to our shelves as a scrapbook of the beginnings of this journey (thanks to Mary for the blurb book idea!) - I don't want to forget these struggles, accomplishments, and lessons!


Life With My 3 Boybarians said...

I'm so glad I didn't miss this one. great post. And your 80s post made me laugh out loud. What a hoot that was!

Monica said...

I'm so glad that you took the time to write down your journey what you are learning. How encouraging is that! Each year only gets better:)

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

You've accumulated a lot of wisdom in a short amount of time! More than I did after 1st grade. I especially like the part about how "it's ok to be clueless." My eldest is going into 8th grade and in many ways I'm still clueless. But I see the fruit of all my efforts and can honestly say I'm really enjoying this journey. (Oh, and I think the kids are learning a little, too.) Good post!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

I forgot to say that so many times you have been an encouragement to me! When A starts kindergarten, it will have been 5 years since I taught that age and I'm rusty. I enjoy your fresh insights! Thanks.