Our first year of homeschooling

20160209-IMG_4914As the school year wraps up, I wanted to share some of our experiences with our first year homeschooling! Here’s a little of what we really like, what’s worked well, what hasn’t worked at all, & where we’re at after the little experience we’ve had so far 🙂

The first day of “homeschool kindergarten” for Kaden and I went great – it was new and exciting, and Kaden generally liked it. Sometime in the following week or two, he decided he didn’t like it – he wanted to do what he wanted to do (not what I said – not that that’s really new), and would run, scream, hide under the table, etc. whenever he saw it was time to do “school”.

I really struggled with what to do, because my priority is that I want him to love learning. I don’t want him at age 5 to get in his mind that learning is boring or dreadful or something to avoid.

But I also want him to understand that he has to do what he has to do when it’s time to do it, and to do it with a good attitude.

And I want to have a good relationship with him.

So it was a challenge to balance all of that. Not to mention that I was also in my first trimester of pregnancy, feeling nauseas and exhausted most of the day, and spent a fair amount of time with Landon in the hospital and at follow-up appointments last fall as well.

Thankfully I had some friends who’ve been homeschooling longer than I have, who wisely advised me as I told them of our struggles around the beginning of November, to take a break – that he’s a 5 year old boy and isn’t ready to sit and do handwriting and reading yet, and it’s not worth sacrificing your relationship over. (They also mentioned that girls are usually ready to sit and learn much earlier – something I’d noticed when Kaden would run away from his handwriting sheets screaming and Alia would climb up into his chair, grab his pencil, and proceed to do the worksheet herself.)

So we took a 2 month “break” beginning in November (we just had an extra long Christmas holiday 😉 where I didn’t push any school work on him. Of course he still did plenty of learning, but I took the structure out of it.

There’s an interesting article here that mentions how excellent Finland’s education system is, and they doesn’t teach reading until age 7. Also, we recently read Farmer Boy, and I was so amused to find the book begin with Almanzo’s first day of school, and he was about to turn 9. So it seems to me there’s a lot of cultural influence on what we consider normal & what might actually be developmentally appropriate.

When January came around we had some talks and I explained to Kaden that most weekdays we were going to do a reading lesson in the morning. All the other “subjects” (math, science, history, geography) tend to work themselves into our lives, but I wanted him to learn to read, so that was my priority with scheduling this year.

I gave the order of our day some thought as well, and changed the structure of our morning when January came (which is the time of day I try to do “school”.)

Rather than following breakfast with one subject after another (I had been trying to do about 4 subjects each morning in the fall), we eat breakfast, and do Bible (the kids recite their memory verse, and we read a story from their Bible. This has been the one subject all year that Kaden’s enjoyed, and hasn’t complained about – which I guess if you’re going to pick one, that’s the one I’d have him go for.)

After doing the kids’ Bible, Kaden gets a “play break” (9/10 times he builds Legos) while I read my Bible & do Pilates, and I let him know that in half an hour or so I’ll call him back for a reading lesson and I expect him to come with a good attitude.

When it’s time for our lesson, we do it (with reminders that if he focuses and does his best, we’ll be done very shortly.)

I also got this handwriting app on the iPad which he loves – and on days he did his reading lesson with a good attitude, I let him use the app for a limited amount of time (and then Alia has a turn.) The kids have 0 games on my iPad or phone, so they think the “letter game” is fantastic. Funny thing is, it does the same thing with him that I was doing with his handwriting sheets (instructing how to write the letter, correcting when he made mistakes) but unlike when we did handwriting together, he loves it.

For awhile that’s all we did with regularity. After a few weeks went smoothly I started adding a page of his handwriting book each day (I told him I wanted to be able to keep a paper copy of what he was learning) and since he was already in the habit of doing what I said and giving attention to his lesson, he was fine with adding that as well.

Our days don’t go like this every day, (some days we spend the morning at the grocery store, and just have playtime in the afternoon. Or some days we meet up with friends and do things together.) But I aim for about 3 days a week of our more “structured” day plan – the variety keeps things fresh for both of us, and helps us both from getting sick of it.

Looking back to the beginning of the school year if I were to do things differently, I think it would have been better if I’d started with just one subject a day, to get him in the habit of doing it with a good attitude and his full attention – alternating short lessons of reading and writing on the days we did school.

We use a variety of resources for our other “subjects”, I’m hoping to share another post of those soon.

As we grow and learn more I know our schooling will morph and change with us, which is one of the great parts of homeschooling. Right now I’m happy with where we’re at, and excited to see what the future holds as well 🙂

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