Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No School and Homeschool

The phone just rang to announce that there is no school tomorrow. Again. This will be the 5th day of no school in the last 5 days of scheduled school. (We had a week-end in the middle.) Now I am wondering if there will be a token day of school on Friday, or if this will turn out to be an 11 day long mid winter break. If I had known, this would have been a great opportunity to take a special trip somewhere. Out to UT to see my family and take the kids skiing. Or someplace warm. I'm not sure I really remember what warm outside weather was like...

On the bright side, we have been very blessed in these storms. We only lost power for a few hours, while many, even a short distance away, have been without power for days. Electricity seems to influence almost every activity we do anymore, so we really feel its loss. We do have a gas fireplace for warmth, and a propane camp stove for cooking, so we wouldn't be completely without survivability. I would miss hot showers and dishwasher, though!

We have had lots of opportunities to perform service. Mostly pushing stuck cars, but also things like straightening Daddy's shoes and baking him cookies. And we've worked on Faith in God, Personal Progress, Scouts and Duty to God. The kids think I am evil for it, like they shouldn't have to do anything on this bonus vacation. Which only reconfirms my knowledge that homeschooling would not work for me.

At least not for the older kids. I've been homeschooling Cyrus and Elsie for preschool and love doing it. I've done this with all the kids, trying various things. I think what I started doing this year is my favorite. We are doing a literature based program through Sonlight. First, we spend 20 to 40 minutes each day reading. Me to them, and Elsie to me. We read poetry, scripture stories, literature books, and nonfiction science and social science books.

Elsie learned all her letters playing at when she was 3, so I started teaching her to put them together and read. I use the Teach your Child to Read in 100 Lessons. It is a helpful book for progression, but sometimes proceeds at a pace that is too fast or too slow. So, when it seems like it is getting burdensome or too tough, we pull out supplemental reading material: Bob books, Dick and Jane, and other readers I saved that the older kids brought home from school. Actually, I always include them and she chooses which. After spending some time on some easier stuff, she often then feels up to the challenge of progressing further with the lessons. She just finished lesson 67.

We then also have table time. We have been working on fine motor skills with cut and paste books and coloring books. During this time we also use Developing The Early Learner, The Nursery Manual and The Friend magazine, Handwriting Without Tears, Saxon K Math and Speechercise for Cyrus' speech. I have seen a lot of progress in them so far.

I started to homeschool preschool with my kids because we couldn't afford out of home preschool. But now that I can afford it, I still don't want to. I know how quickly this period of their lives passes and I want to cherish this time with them. Ideally, I don't think kids should be pushed into learning things before they are ready and I don't think I do that. Elsie and Cyrus get to choose every book we read and when we stop reading or whether we continue working on other things for the day. I think kids really thrive in a child led learning situation, where I provide materials and guidance and they enjoy and progress at their own pace. I don't think that is so easy to do in a group situation.

A perfect illustration of this happened last week. Elsie has been taking gymnastics in a class of about 8 children. Because of the impending storm, Elsie was the only one to show up on Friday. So she had a one on one lesson with the teacher. Because she didn't have to wait for other children to have their turn with the teacher, she progressed through the entire normal class curriculum in a fraction of the time it usually takes. They then spent the entire remainder of the time trying out every single piece of equipment in a very, very large gymnastics center. She says there are 5 trampolines alone. It was her favorite lesson ever!

There are two things that I think kids get in a group preschool situation that they don't get through homeschool preschool. One is socialization skills. I remember in college one text said that was the main purpose of preschools. I think with having four siblings, nursery, play dates and playing with the other kids during our exercise group, they get plenty of opportunity for that. The other thing is the ability to functional in a institutional or group setting. Elsie gets some of that by going to primary and gymnastics or swimming class, but she may have to learn skills that the other children have already learned once she starts school in the fall. But, I think that her academic base will be strong enough that she can focus her resources on learning those types of skills. And learning those types of skills is easier to do as a 5 yr old than a 3 yr old, anyways.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I didn't turn my children over to the school system at age 5 and kept homeschooling them. They seem to have almost all lost their enthusiasm for schoolwork as they have gotten older. Although Maddy hasn't completely yet. But, then again, it is much easier for me to get the littler kids excited about doing chores than the older ones. I fear it would be a constant battle to get them to do their work. Plus, I just don't think I have the organizational skills to keep up on all the different levels of schooling needs.

But, that is my fantasy. Spending days with my children, walking through the woods identifying trees and observing wildlife behavior, sketching wildflowers, counting acorns and reading great literature together on a quilt in the shade. Yeah, right. As I look around at the mess my house has become by this time of day whenever we have a snow day, I know that is truly a fantasy!