Monday, March 3, 2014

Homeschool, day #1 … special, sucky, significant

So …. today was our first day homeschooling….

If you've known me for more than the last 5 years or so, you'll likely remember me proclaiming how I'd never (ever ever) homeschool. It's not that I have anything against the concept (I grew up in southern Kansas and many friends, and several boyfriends!, were home schooled and grew into amazing adults) … it's just that I don't really have the patience for it. I was definitely toward the back of the line when God handed out natural teaching ability!

But, then, you know….

Life happened. As it tends to do.

A move was scheduled, which meant we'd have to switch not only school districts, but international school systems.

A move was delayed, thanks to a bout with pneumonia and a hospital stay.

When faced with the idea of having Little Guy home all day, we decided to bridge the gap time in between our 5-year-old's Dutch kindergarten (which starts at age 4 in the Netherlands) and American kindergarten (which usually starts the August or September after a child's fifth birthday in the US) with some good, wholesome, old-fashioned homeschool.

I spent some time shopping around for a good, Biblically-based curriculum (thank you to all who recommended tons of wonderful options!), but since this is likely a short-term academic solution for us, we decided to stick with free resources that we can find online, supplemented with books we can pick up on our own and local experiences that support each week's study theme. (Related side note : we have themes … aren't we fancy?!?)

So, here's our "process" that we're trying out:
- I found this great (and free) homeschool planner a while back and the weekly planner worked great to help us get started on this journey. I like that it keeps the whole week's details in one place - theme, "to-do's," Bible verse and even the week's meal plan. The rest of the pack is great too, but we're kind of easing our way into this whole thing, so don't really need everything in the full pack.

- We have our aforementioned theme : a new one each week, sometimes a combo of two. For example, this week, it's "Bakeries and Books." We're catching up on learning about bakeries, after he missed his last school's field trip (it was scheduled for a few days after his final day at school) and we're also celebrating Dr. Seuss's March 2nd birthday all week. Future themes include : Inventors and Inventions, Spring and Weather, and two theme weeks focused on Texas and California (our stops in the US when we first head back). Pinterest is fully stocked with tons of free printable packs that contain fun, kid-friendly worksheets that my son loves. We're using this Dr. Seuss pack this week:

- Every week includes a field trip that relates to the theme. This week, we're going to a bakery museum near us and next week, we're going to the Philips Museum in Eindhoven.
- Each day includes "theme work," (my phrase, definitely not a technical term!), Bible study, at least two "recesses" (rain or shine!) and a mid-day quiet time (nap for my toddler and self-directed free play for my "kindergartener").
- We have a schedule we'll be following, but I'm not going to get too picky about sticking exactly with it every single day. Today, for instance, I had a follow-up x-ray to check for lingering pneumonia, so we started our day with that and a mini field trip to Starbucks (we counted all the bakery items - 18 different varieties - clearly I'm an awesome teacher - sarcasm intended and implied!). We picked back up on our schedule when we got home and followed it pretty closely for the rest of the day.

After all the planning, prep work and decision making involved in getting Class Cordova off the ground, I have to say that today was definitely a mixed bag!

On the one hand, this first day totally met my expectations - I struggled with my patience and my son struggled to listen. He's already missing his friends and "jufs" (Dutch word for female teacher) - and definitely tried to punish me a couple of times. And those times were just plain sucky.

But, on the other hand, today surprised me. When he wasn't actively mad, my little big guy was enjoying himself. And, lo and behold, I was actually able to teach him something! We made some big progress on his understanding of math. A total shock, because this was always my very least favorite subject. From elementary school until the day I graduated from college.

And I felt really significant today. I enjoyed taking an active role in my son's education. It was awesome to see him have one of those "aha" lightbulb moments when we talked about how to count numbers in tens (10, 20, 30, 40, etc). I realized I haven't been around for many of those bright moments - because most of them occur at school, with his teachers and classmates.

My bottom line, after today and all this blog rambling ("blombling" anyone?) ….. I'm not sure this is going to be an option we stick with long-term, but I'm more ok after day 1 than I thought I'd be. The prospect of another 5 or 6 months of this no longer feels terrifying. And that, my friends, is what I call a major homeschool win :)

Question for you: If you homeschool your kids, I'd love your tips about getting started, resources to consider, etc! Please share links in the comments below! 

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