Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too much or Too Little?

I really cannot believe that we have been officially doing pre-school with Karis for over a month now! It has been such a fun and exciting experience for all of us. Even when we are not "doing school," Karis is constantly asking me, "What schoolwork can I do now?" And Karlie has utterly amazed me by doing absolutely every. single. thing. that Karis does. She wants to count backwards from 20, learn to read, and do worksheets right along with her sister. The whole process has been a blessing for our family and I am so happy to be teaching them at home this year.

But I still struggle with doubts a lot. I daily go back and forth between "Am I doing enough?" and "Am I doing too much?" I know that sounds contradictory, but I just want to be honest here.

I read my friends' blogs about their children going to pre-school and all the fun crafts they are making and hands on activities and what they are learning and it just makes me want to do more with my girls. I start to second guess myself and wonder if there is an aspect of her education that I might have left out of my plan. Plus, chasing around my suddenly-crawling, short-napping almost-eight-month-old definitely limits the amount of individual instructional time I have with my big girls. We primarily try to do our school work during her morning nap because my big girls have their own rest time when she naps in the afternoon. But Abbi's morning nap used to be our best reading time and now that we have started more formal schoolwork, I am finding it hard to make time to read at other times. When Abbi is awake, she either wants our attention or wants to eat our books :) So I am finding it hard to squeeze in as much educational time into our day as I had hoped.

But on the other hand, Karis is only 4 and I want her to have plenty of time to play outdoors, pretend with her baby dolls and doll house, and make up her own artwork. I struggle between wanting to plan out lots of fun crafts and activities for her and at the same time wanting her to be free to use that wonderful, blissful imagination that God gives to 4-year olds. I want her to have time to be a kid! So at the same time that I wonder if I should be teaching her more, I often wonder if I am actually doing too much and need to just let her play more.

I would definitely say that although we have had a wonderful 1st month of pre-school, I am still struggling with balancing it all. But I love every minute of it and it is so worth it! It thrills me so much to be a part of Karis' learning and being there to see things all of a sudden "click" in her mind. I taught her how to sound out words for the 1st time yesterday and I cannot tell you who was more excited -- Karis or myself!

I've been trying to think of what I might change for our second month of school and have come up with a two main goals. They both involve personal sacrifice but will be good for me, HA!

1. I need to get up earlier! Ever since Abbi's hospitalization, she hasn't gone back to sleeping through the night again and I haven't had the heart to make her cry it out. (Yeah, I'm a wimp, but once you see your baby cry/ scream for almost 2 days straight, it is a long time before you can stand to hear her cry again!) I've used her multiple wakings as an excuse to stay in bed longer in the mornings to get as much rest as I can. But I'm going to start getting up an hour before everyone else again. I need to have time to read my Bible and start my day right, as well as get breakItalicfast all ready and unload the dishwasher so we can jump into schoolwork more quickly and have more time later on in the day to play or read.

2. If one of my big girls does not fall asleep during nap-time, I am going to allow her to get up early to read books with me. I posted a while back about our nap-time solutions, and the plan works wonderfully as long as both of them fall asleep or both of them are awake. But it seems that a couple times a week only one of them falls asleep while the other sings and plays until Momo's eyes open. This new addendum to the plan will allow me to have special one-on-one time with one of my big girls and add in some extra reading time as well. I'll miss that 2-hour chunk of time to myself but since my girls are all usually in bed by 7 each night, I should have plenty of time to finish up my housework, blogging, e-mail, etc. after they go to bed.

How has your first month of school gone? Is there anything you plan to do differently next month?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homeschooling Questionnaire

My friend Krista asked me to answer a few questions about our home-schooling plan for a workshop she is facilitating. I thought I would share my answers here in case it would be helpful to any of you and I would love to read your answers as well. Feel free to answer them on your own blog or in the comments if you have time!

1. What books and resources do you consider the most important/invaluable as you’ve prepared to homeschool as well as while homeschooling? The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and The Core by Leigh Bortins. They totally changed my perspective on education and I know that I will reference them over and over as we progress to higher grades. I also reference Sonlight's read-aloud list and 1000 Classics Book list each week as I request library books.

2. What fun projects, unit studies, etc. have you done (or are you planning) that will make great memories?We just started our home-schooling, but I plan to do many seasonal unit studies (like in late September we will do an emphasis on apples where we go pick apples, do apple star painting, make apple pie and apple butter, read books about apples, etc.) I tend to pick a topic that relates to our current situation and then order tons of books from the library about it (For instance, when we went to the NC State zoo, I requested a bunch of books about zoos, zoo-keepers, animals that we saw at the zoo, etc.) I don't really plan out unit studies, because we always just continue with our normal home school schedule (not a unit-study type curriculum), but I supplement a lot with library books to further study whatever is going on in our life. To make fun memories, I like to do a lot of cooking projects, art projects, and trips to fun places like museums, zoos, farms, fairs, and other outdoor destinations.

3. What websites do you use regularly? This could be blogs and other sites for you as well as kid-friendly sites you integrate in learning. 
I've gotten a LOT of home school ideas off of Pinterest recently -- more than from any one website. We also use You-Tube randomly for videos of whatever we are studying. My kids are younger, though, so I try to keep them away from the TV or computer as much as possible. I'd prefer to show them things in books right now. I'm sure as they grow older that we will use more student-interactive sites.
4. What curriculum are you using? Briefly, what are the pros/cons for your family? 
Homeschooling preschool has been a new adventure for us but we are really enjoying it! My husband and I decided to try to save money this year, so we did not purchase a full-blown curriculum and I'm kind of just compiling my own. Next year I plan to join a Classical Conversations co-op with my kindergartner but for now, my main goals this year are to read as much as possible and get her used to holding her pencil correctly. We are primarily following Sonlight's read aloud list. I can find most of the books at our library (I can't always find all the great collections, but can usually find the individual books that are in the collections). I am also using The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading to give my daughter a solid phonetic background. We are just using some preschool workbooks that I got at the Dollar Store, Target, etc that have mazes, dot to dot, etc, so she can work on her writing skills. I bought a fun calendar at a teacher store so we have calendar time everyday and talk about the weather and also do counting with a number line. I hope to teach her to count backwards from 20 and also count by 10's, 5's, and 2's by the end of the year. We've been usingCuisinaire rodsPattern blocks, and I'm getting ready to start Inchimals for more math development. A friend gave me the History Cards from Veritas Press so I hope to memorize as many of those as we can this year. And we have map placemats that we talk about at each meal. Other than that, I simply have some fun educational games and puzzles and art supplies that we do.
Pros: less expensive and I don't pay for parts of a curriculum that I won't use. Also, I can totally tailor it to fit my girls' interests and my goals.
Cons: I get a little carried away... since I don't have lessons plans laid out for me, I often plan more than I can accomplish. I get excited about all that I want to do with my girls and then bummed when I run out of time. And I might leave out some things that a full-blown curriculum would include
5. How do you balance home school and ministry? I view my family as my main ministry right now and therefore most of my other ministries flow from my home and include my family. I am mentoring a teenage girl who comes over to help with my girls and learn about being a home-maker. She helps my girls with their schoolwork, plays with them outside, and does art projects with them. I also cook a big dinner once a week for 3 single guys and two other couples in our church and my girls often help me fix it. I try to include my girls in all my ministry opportunities.

6. Could you share a story of a triumph or success or something fun or a creative idea or just something that works for your family? 
I was really excited last week to hear my daughter count to 43 all by herself and all the way to 114 with just a little help transitioning to the next ten (ex. 50, 60, etc). So far, we have only been working on counting to 20 each day and only for a few weeks, but it all of a sudden clicked for her and she understood how to go further! It was just a little triumph but was very exciting to me.
We have also been really amazed and excited about the way our 4 and 2 year old have easily memorized large portions of scripture. We are trying to learn a new chapter every few weeks (depending on the length of the chapter.) We simply add one verse each night during our bedtime routine (with motions if applicable) and recite all the previous verses. They really enjoy it and I love that they are getting the larger context of the Bible in their hearts.