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Monday, 27 October 2014 18:21

Homeschool Co-op

Homeschooling is very new to me - I would have said flat out 'no way' just a few short years ago - and I'm a bit of a keener, so despite the fact that it will be 2-3 years before I need to even register as a homeschooler in my province, I'm making things official by going to conventions, ordering (and sometimes using) curriculum and the latest - joining a Homeschool Co-operative. 

I fell into this co-op kind of accidentally, when a friend was seeking out children who were the same age as her early homeschooler to arrange activities and field trips with. A sort of 'classroom' if you will of children who have the opportunity to get to know each other by meeting regularly and learning together.  Her stated age range was 5-8 (early homeschoolers), and since my girls are only 2 (since yesterday!) and not-yet-4, I feel a bit like a weaseled my way in. My friend, however, also has children who are exactly my daughters' ages as well as one who is younger, so I knew they would not be out of place. After our first meeting, I was happy to learn that there were many more children within the group who fell into my daughters' age group, and so our group will be sensitive to their ages, as well as occasionally planning events and activities that divide the babies and toddlers from the older children.  Having a large group of Moms with the same stated goal gives us a lot of people to rotate teaching, planning, and even occasionally babysitting the little ones.  

For our first event with all the kiddo's, we planned to meet at the local zoo.  There is a large playground just outside the gates, where we let the kids run for the hour before the zoo opened for the day, and then we all packed up the kids and toured the zoo together. 

Clara had an odd and unfortunate incident as we were walking into the zoo.  She was snacking on a rice cake (which she has had many times) and her face did this:

 I have no idea. That rice cake was passed between Clara and Audrey, fell in the wagon they were riding in and was probably held by various mittens before her face did this, so I expect it was something the rice cake picked up outside? Who knows... I'll have to get her allergy tested eventually, I suppose. 

Audrey was simply mesmerized by the wolves. She stood there staring until I managed to finally coerce her to keep walking. 

One thing I've learned about going to the zoo is that animals are MUCH more active and interesting in cooler weather. We have typically gone on the sunniest days of summer, and have often had trouble finding animals that were sleeping or even hiding. We went in early spring this year, and now in fall, and both times the animals were extremely active. The lynxes were chasing and grooming each other playfully, and both wolves were running around in their pen. 

Sadly, I can't say I know many... any?... of the kids in this photo yet, but I think they are all in our group, so I expect I will get to know them well. These kids were suddenly all standing on a giant rock, which seemed like a good photo opportunity...

Ten Moms who each have at least two - typically more - children, makes for a VERY large group of people!

It was a great day, and I was able to learn (and even remember) a few of the Mom's names, and hopefully even some of the kids'.  I'm looking forward to seeing friendships develop within the group, and I'm excited to be a part of the events and activities over the year!

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:25

Homeschooling: Beginning

Earlier this year, I wrote a post, detailing how I came to the decision to homeschool my children. I won't go into all of that again, but I do want to say a little bit about my decision to begin now instead of waiting until Clara is older, and a little about my chosen curriculum.

In regards to starting now, my parenting has gotten lazy, and I know that if in choosing to homeschool, I am choosing to be quite the opposite of a lazy parent. I will need to be able to discipline myself (and my children) to stick to a schedule - even if loosely - and get things done. I could give myself the next two years to be lazy and start discipling myself THEN, but I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out how that will probably go... So, I decided to start the process now to get us all used to the routine. I also have a tendency to get impatient to start things I've decided to do, and get a bit over excited. 

Also, both Brian and I were early readers. By the time we both walked into the doors at kindergarten, we were reading books. I had an alphabet poster on my bedroom wall, and my Dad would routinely go through the alphabet with me, asking me what the letters were and what each letter said. I've heard it said that the most important thing is to read to your children - and I don't disagree - but my Dad had dyslexia, so he didn't read to me often and as soon as possible encouraged me to read to him. I spent a lot of time with my Grandma, and I remember being read to, but I think for me, it had more to do with the active teaching on the part of my Dad. 

Brian was given one of those 1980's learning computers, and used this to teach himself how to read. Neither of us recall being read to as much as we both enjoy reading now, and neither of us recall seeing our parents read for their own enjoyment. Yet, both of us now read for enjoyment as much as we possibly can. 

If Clara and Audrey inherit the desire/willingness/capacity to learn how to read at the age of 4 (like we did), I want to make sure that I've created a learning environment in which reading is encouraged and that both girls have every opportunity to learn as early as possible. Will I push it? No. But if they want to read, I want to know I've made that possible.

I came across this Letter of the Week curriculum on Confessions of a Homeschooler and absolutely loved it! Sometimes I decide to do a ton of research, compare different options - and I'm sure there are a lot of great options out there, but there were a number of things I loved about this curriculum, and so I jumped on it. We started at the beginning of September with 'Letter A', and just this past week finished with 'Letter D'.  After the first two weeks, I learned a few things about my oldest daughter.

One, is that she responds best to one-on-one attention from me. She has a tendancy to become a bit of a 'class clown' among other kids, and for this reason I think homeschooling will be really good for her.  This has posed a challenge recently, because I have been babysitting quite a bit, and now I have learned that although I can make it work with other children here - in the future, I need to plan to homeschool with Clara during times when other children (except her sister, obviously) are not around. 

Another thing I have learned is that Clara is more intrigued by a pencil and workbook than she is by colourful games and activities. She loves to paint and puzzle, certainly, but the 'Letter of the Week' curriculum contains a lot of colourful printables for playing various teaching games - and I highly recommend all of them - but for Clara, I've discovered that picking out the 'workbook' style printables is what works best for us.  In the future, I will look for curriculums and workbooks with pages of pencil activities.  We have also been using Kumon books on the side, and Clara loves these as well. She got through an entire Tracing book for ages 2-4 in less than an hour while sitting at the table one day. When I bought the books, I thought we would do 2-4 pages each day, but she killed this book all at once! I'll be looking for more activities like this, and probably buying more copies of these Kumon books in the future as well. 

I try to encorporate playing with sensory toys like sand and playdough as much as possible, as well as craft projects weekly. I'm not very good at these things, because I tend to feel like they will be a lot more work than they end up being. More practice will help - I will get better! It also gets easier as the girls get older.

So far our schedule has not been as strict as I had planned from the start. We have done 2-3 hours of school each week, on Mondays,Wednesdays and Fridays - usually in the morning, but not always. Since it is her preschool year, I have decided not to worry too much about schedule - this is a baby step, and we ARE doing more than we were before.  Also, I realized this past week that Clara is learning her alphabet. I can thank Leap Frog videos for a lot of this, I'm sure, but she knows (easily) the letters A-D, and can tell me what each of them 'says'. She also (surprisingly, to me) can recognize the lower case letters a-d, which I hadn't actively been teaching her, although they have been part of our curriculum in the graphics and colouring pages.  

So far, I'd have to say homeschooling is a great success!

Published in Blog
Sunday, 28 August 2011 21:58

Homeschooling

After a recent Facebook post by a friend and homeschooling mom about a comment she had heard recently stating that home-schooled children are ‘weird’, I felt the need to voice my own uneducated opinion.

Although I’ll admit that I have had my share of experiences with ‘weird’ home-schooled kids, particularly in rural areas where it is easier for children to remain isolated from other people, I have also had an abundance of contact with ‘weird’ public schooled kids, and just as many home-schooled kids who had no defining characteristics that set them apart from their public schooled peers.   From my observations, it was less the method of schooling that affected the child’s ability to socialize and more the amount of time each child spends cooped up in their rooms or basements away from other people aside from the time they spend schooling.

In response to my friend’s post, another friend suggested that home-schooled kids are ‘weird’ because they do not have the same pressure to conform that publicly schooled children have (in the ways of social behaviors this may be considered a necessary skill, while in the area of a child’s talents and interests it creates the possibility of repression).   As a girl who was publicly schooled as a child, I recognize that my views and interests were shaped a lot by my peers in school.  There were things that were considered ‘cool’ when it came to clothing, activities and even who you were friends with, and there were things that were ‘uncool’.  To allow yourself to be labelled with something ‘uncool’ is opening yourself up to be ostracized and ridiculed, and maybe even to lose your friends.  This is a scary thing for a child, and most will bend to this pressure to fit in.  I admit that in a lot of ways, I altered who I was and what I might rather be doing out of fear.  I wonder to this day what sort of person I might be, what I might be interested in and even what type of clothing I might buy, if I had not been brainwashed to care about what the general public would think of me.   This is a curse that many home-schooled kids seem to be able to avoid.

I recently read the Wikipedia article on Homeschooling, and skimmed through some of the comments made in reference to research that has been done on home-schooled children recently.  It basically stated that recently, home-schooled students had been found to perform better on standardized tests than their public-schooled peers.  Another interesting point made was that the gaps between minorities and genders were much less prevalent in home-schooled students.

Might I suggest that a child’s ‘strangeness’ has nothing to do with how they are schooled, but rather how they are parented? These studies might also suggest that academic achievement also is not affected by the method of learning, but rather more to do with how invested a parent is in their child’s learning.  For example, a parent who is wanting to teach their child at home is likely going to be more involved in their child’s learning and development.  It stands to reason that a child who has invested parents is more likely to succeed than a child who is left alone.  Any child who spends the majority of their days in their bedroom in front of a computer monitor is more likely to be socially awkward than a child who spends much of their free time outdoors playing with other children – regardless of whether their ‘at school’ time is spent in or out of the home.

One advantage of home-schooling is that it typically takes less time in a day than public-schooled children spend in school, and so they have more time available for ‘playing’, which seems to be something we are sadly getting increasingly too busy for.

Published in Blog

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