In my last post, I traced our decision to home school from financial constraints to academic concerns to a cross-country move. Even though we may have started for these reasons, over time we began to see the enormous benefits of our decision. Below are some of the biggest advantages, and why we will continue with our homeschooling journey heading into this school year (not necessarily in order of importance):
1. The ability to customize my child’s education. Instead of having to keep pace with the rest of his class, Colton was able to really focus on the areas where he needed a little more help and also take off learning a subject in which he excelled or that he was just really interested in. He could also learn using the style that suits him best. Being very hands-on, he naturally absorbed material at home through acting out something we read, manipulating objects and just plain exploring. Like most six-year-old boys, he is VERY active and energetic. At home, he can stand instead of sit still to do his math problems, walk around the room while answering questions, and play with cars or Legos while I’m reading to him.
2. A learning environment with minimal distractions and few time constraints. Colton has difficulty processing information when there is a lot of noise or activity in the background, and he struggles with two-step directions. The over-stimulation from the busyness of the classroom and the sharp transitions between play time and seat work made it hard for him to understand what the teacher wanted him to do. He would sit down and stare at his paper blankly, because he did not process the directions given. He was still thinking about what he and another kid were talking about five minutes ago or the fun game he had just been playing on the playground. At home, if he didn’t understand something he could ask me to explain it again in another way, as many times as it took. Since he didn’t have to rush through assignments because of the class’s schedule, he could take his time to do work and really produce something he would be proud of. If he wanted to know more about something, we could go down a rabbit trail discussing it, using Google or YouTube to find more information.
3. Spending quality time with both children. When we started homeschooling, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to give my daughter the attention she needed while teaching my son. What I found was that through being focused on providing learning opportunities for one child, I naturally included the other one in the process. Rory joined in on Science lessons, listened right along to stories and scripture, created works of art, and learned many valuable pre-writing skills. I was less distracted from “busyness” around the house and going to tot outings which were taking up valuable time I could have been spending with her anyway.
Colton’s love language is quality time, and he got plenty of it this past year! We had a blast learning about cowboys & Indians, trying to grow our own bean plant (it was a fail, both times), “traveling” to distant countries, making a solar system out of play-doh, discovering heroes of the Bible and using our imaginations to come up with silly stories which he illustrated. Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. There were moments of sheer frustration when Colton struggled to blend sounds together to form words, and I believed he would never learn to read. There were times I thought I would lose my ever loving mind when he couldn’t figure out how to count sequentially past 20. BUT, the rewards were great when he finally had those breakthroughs! And I was still there every step of the way to encourage him and see him succeed. Before I knew it, he was flying through his phonics readers and wanting to try Dr. Seuss books. I blinked and he counted to 200 all by himself. Those are things I will treasure forever.
4. Countless opportunities to speak God’s truth into my children’s lives and teach them Christian values, belief system and philosophy of life (in other words, worldview). This year, we were able to really dig in deeper with our daily Bible reading and even memorized several verses. During prayers or while listening to worship music throughout the day, Colton often asked questions about what he heard, which then sparked a great discussion. These spontaneous conversations would not have happened if we were rushing around trying to get ready in the morning, or if he was away at school for six hours each day.
We also read a book of different missionaries’ experiences around the world, and were inspired to learn about several nations’ beliefs, culture, and language. Sometimes Colton colored or drew pictures of the people groups we learned about, and we hung them on the refrigerator as reminders to pray for them. He began to see that there is a whole other world out there, with children that have very real needs. Through all of our reading, Colton started to grasp the heart of the Gospel and how to live it out in practical ways. He is also beginning to understand the flow of the Bible and how it all fits together, which has helped give him a sure foundation for his faith, even at a young age.
So now I am excited to share our curriculum choices for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year! Colton will be using Sonlight’s Core B program with 1st grade Language Arts and Science. Core B includes Bible, History/Geography and Read-Alouds. Sonlight Cores are not necessarily grade or age specific, but chosen based on skill level and maturity of the child. He’ll also be using Horizons for Math at the first grade level. We used Sonlight last year and love its emphasis on Christ-centered education and high quality literature. I also appreciate their ready-made lesson plans and discussion questions, while having the flexibility to tailor lessons to Colton’s needs and interests.
Rory wanted her own “school work” last year, so I ended up printing off tons of alphabet, color and shape worksheets from free websites that she did when she wanted. She also got lots of practice counting, tracing lines, and cutting with scissors. This year preschool will be pretty basic, focusing on letter/number recognition and formation, letter sounds, counting to 10, and calendar. I’ve chosen Handwriting Without Tears Readiness and Writing as our main curriculum, and we’ll do lots of crafts, games and reading along with it!
The other thing I am excited about is turning the playroom into a school room. It will still house most of the kids’ toys, on one side, while the other side will have a bookshelf for all their school books, a tiered drawer system for art supplies, puzzles & games, their easel and a small table. The corner that faces the front of the house will be a reading nook. I hope to post pictures of the transformation soon!