Thursday, January 05, 2012

Another Day in Our Homeschool

The Boy Wonder is in second grade this year, and nearly every day, as we go about the silliness of our learning time, and while we feel our way forward in this homeschooling journey, I think back to my own memories of second grade.

I know, right?  What kind of freak remembers what they were doing in second grade?  It was thirty-one years ago for me (oh, how is that possible?), but I recall it with the fondest of memories.  Second grade was the final year of my childhood foray into alternative education, and it was all plain old public school for me after that amazing and ridiculous year in New Orleans.

If we could afford to send our children to a Waldorf school, or Montessori, or even a tiny private religious school, I doubt we would be going the homeschool route.  I thrived in the Montessori environment as a very young child, and had just as much fun, and felt just as much at home, in the Free School that I attended for the first part of second grade.  They were lovely places, full of music and art and adults (so many of them) who encouraged us to follow our interests and to be ourselves and to find ways to express our thoughts.

It was kind of exactly the opposite of what public, standardized schooling has become.  

Oh, I know many children do very well, even thrive, in the institutional setting of public schools.  I actually did just fine once I acclimated myself to The Way Things Were Done there.  My youngest child would probably also be perfectly happy in regular school, though I think it is too early to tell just yet.

The Boy Wonder would not do quite as well, of that I am sure.  He is a quirky, funny child, and he is rather intelligent, but his learning style is not conducive to a classroom in which he would be one of 25 or more children, and where he would need to sit still for many hours at a stretch.  He loves to read, logging a few hours a day with his nose in a book, and he enjoys delving deep into historical time periods (ask him questions about the Black Plague sometime, he'll talk your ear off).  Science experiments fascinate him, and math really clicks when the curriculum is heavy on manipulatives.  He prefers to stand up during much of his learning time, moving around naturally as he feels the need.  Busywork would frustrate him.  

Most days, he spends an hour or two outside after lunch, climbing trees, catching lizards, playing with leaves, drawing in the dirt with a stick, dreaming up complicated role-playing games for himself and his sister.  Seven hours cooped up in a school building, with the windows shut, sitting quietly just isn't in his wheelhouse.  

That time outside, and the time spent hiding behind a book are when he seems to process what he has learned that day.  Take away those two processing periods, and he is prone to irritability and emotional fits.  Kind of like most boys are, actually.  

Occasionally, he uses his afternoon free time to play chess with his pet lizard, Godzilla.  He is not short on imagination.

So our homeschool revolves around the individual needs of The Boy Wonder for now, though I am adding in little bits of Princess Hazelnut School now that she has begun to demand her own learning time.  

I do not think preschool is necessary, but I would never dream of staunching her desire to have her very own designated learning time.  Thus our school day now begins with about 30 minutes on the sofa, snuggling together and reading folk tales and nursery rhymes, learning the sounds of letters, and singing songs.  It is quite ridiculous really, this Princess Hazelnut Preschool, and completely hilarious, because The Boy Wonder takes it very seriously and tries to help his sister "do school right."  

She does not want his help, of course.  Not one little bit.

Worksheets are the bomb, she thinks, and so she gets to do a page or two of Developing The Early Learner.  The Boy Wonder loathed that sort of thing when he was her age.  They are such different children, these two.

We do our level best to get all of our lessons done before lunchtime, just as we did last year, leaving the afternoons free for pleasure reading, Lego building, and nature study.  Once a week, The Boy Wonder attends a homeschool academy, where he takes classes in history, art, music, and drama; and once a month, he and his sister take a science class at our local nature center.  On the days we have these outside lessons, we do not do any formal learning at home.

On the other four days of the week, we do morning school on our sofa and at the kitchen table.  Our focus this year is on strengthening his language arts skills and on building a solid foundation in math, so we start with those subjects, always beginning with math and then spending time daily on spelling, grammar, narration and dictation, and copywork.  Once these are done, we can spend as long as we want on history - this year, we are focusing on the Baroque Period - or on science, alternating days on these subjects for now.  

Literature waits until bedtime, when I snuggle under the covers with both of the kids, and we read a chapter or two from whatever classic we are working our way through.  I like to use this time for a book that is above The Boy Wonder's reading ability, and which has complex enough language to enrich his vocabulary and spark discussion of various concepts and ideas.  Right now, we are reading Black Beauty, a story that I worried would not hold his interest, but which has fascinated him from the start.  He is an odd duck, my little boy.

And we talk.  We talk, talk, talk all day long, which, if you know me at all, is a bit of a challenge for someone who would much rather spend long periods of time sitting very, very quietly.  But there are so many life skills to impart to these children, so many manners to nag them about, so many natural opportunities for learning to expose them to.  And so little time.  The Boy Wonder turns eight next month (or two, depending on how one chooses to treat the Leap Day birthday problem) and we are almost at the halfway point of our time together.

It goes so fast.  Yesterday, he was still a fat little baby who refused to sleep at night, and who didn't walk until he was 18 months old because he stubbornly refused to put his feet flat on the floor.

Slow down, time, sloooooow down.  I do not want these years to go too quickly.


Jess said...

This is beautiful, Sarah. What an awesome daily life...

Nicole said...

AWESOME! What a great mom and teacher. We sound much the same. I have kicked and screamed the whole way, but see that this way is our way, and we are happy. It's a challenge have kids who all learn differently, one like your son and one like your daughter. It's hard to reconcile a free spirit at the high school level, but we make it work.

Loved reading about your schooling.