With only 27 days left until I am done with my job (is it sad that I have a counter on my iGoogle page?), I thought I would post a little update on our homeschooling adventure. The last time I posted I got some wonderful encouraging comments from mamas that homeschooled, mamas that didn’t homeschool, mamas that wanted to homeschool, and even some peeps with no kiddos! The encouragement meant so much to me especially right at that moment because the final decision had just been made, and it was a scary one. Now that it has been a few months, and I have had time to process it all, I am at peace with this decision and I know, without a doubt, that it is the right one. Plus training your replacement at your job makes it very real, very quickly.
My son and I have been doing a few things to prepare for what’s to come. Our plan is to spend the time between leaving work and daycare (first of August) and going to Disney in mid-September detoxing from our former lives. In the homeschooling world, this is called de-schooling. A time where you just relax, go with the flow, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get stuff done, so you can make the transition more easily from a school environment to a home environment. Our intent is not to recreate school at home. I want to inspire my son to learn, but right now his only frame of reference for learning is school. Sit at your desk, do a workpaper, take a test, etc…. He still asks me if we will do these things when we are home. Even though he learns so much in a different way at night with me, the school environment is his only frame of reference for “official” learning. This is why I feel de-schooling is so important. I prefer to call it “detoxing” because that’s what it feels like to me. He has to shake off the idea of learning from a sitting-in-a-school-building perspective, I have to shake off the idea of what “work” looks like, and we both have to come to a new place where we can learn, grow, and work together. I have been reading a book on my Kindle about this very topic, I have really enjoyed reading it and will take some of her ideas to heart when we start this period in our journey. Here is a link to the book if you are interested:
My son is extremely curious and loves to learn. I have no worries about taking a more relaxed approach to learning with him. There may be some kids who, if you didn’t tell them what they needed to learn, would choose to learn nothing. This is so not my son. Every day he comes up and asks me questions. Like yesterday, he asked me “How does a basketball go flat? Does the air come out a little every time you bounce it?” A simple question, but honestly I don’t know. I mean of course it doesn’t come out in gusts or a ball would go flat all the time, but eventually balls do go flat. So is it the change in air pressure around the ball, or it is as my son surmised that a tiny bit of air leaks out each time you use it and over time that adds up to a flat ball? I told my son honestly that I wasn’t sure. Yes I could make guesses from what I know about air pressure, but the science of it, the real answer, I don’t know. And he told me back that maybe it was something we could learn about when we homeschool. That comment made my heart soar. He gets it. He finds things in the world he is curious about, and knows that we will have the opportunity to learn them when we are home together.
As I said, we have been preparing for this transition in our lives. I recently joined a large online group of homeschoolers. It is a local group, so although my interaction with them has only been mostly online so far, there are plenty of opportunities to meet up with other homeschoolers for trips, play dates, or co-ops. I haven’t been able to interact in person too much yet as I am still working, but it’s nice to see that the group will be there once we are home. Along with connecting with other homeschoolers, I have been trying to find inexpensive activities that we can do. One thing I found, that I think anyone can enjoy, was a site called Kids Bowl Free.
Basically you can sign your kids up for bowling at a local bowling alley. Your kids will get 2 free strings of bowling every single day during the summer. There are a ton of bowling alleys available in every state (just a warning, when looking at the text list of states, they aren’t in alpha order, so scroll through the whole letter to find your state), so if you are interested, you should be able to find one for your kids. Most alleys will allow kids up to age 16 or 18 and it’s for the whole summer. The alley we signed up for allows kids up to age 18, and goes until October 1. You can also pay a one time fee of $25 and get 2 strings a day for up to 4 adults. We went ahead and did this for my husband and I, and between the savings for our son and us, the $25 has already paid for itself with one game of bowling. Even though we still have to pay for shoe rentals, this will be a great activity that my son and I can do during the week. I like to have a few things like that available for when there is a lull and we just need a break. Plus bowling teaches great hand eye coordination.
Another thing we have been doing to prepare is buying books. Not school books really, but books on interesting topics we may want to learn more about. We have a great store nearby that is aptly named The Used Book Store, and the majority of their books are $1.29 to $2. Every so often they will have a 50% off sale, and my son and I have been bulking up on books during that time. We have gotten many biographies (most of which he reads as soon as we bring them home):
We have also picked up science books, how-to books, books about inventors, a road map to Mars, books about bugs, insects, animals, history books, books on astronomy, ancient Egypt, China, Japan … There are just so many interesting books and topics! I have been using a book called What Your Third Grader Needs to Know as a basis for topic ideas.
This is a great series by E. D. Hirsch and I have heard homeschooling mamas from all styles of homeschooling use this book as a guideline. I was lucky enough to find this whole series at The Used Book Store as well, so not only is it a great resource, it was a great deal. I am not going to follow this book page by page with my son, but it does give me a good outline to see some topics that are appropriate for his age. E.D. Hirsch has also released the outline of all the books in PDF form, so even if you can’t buy the books, you can have an idea of the topics covered for each grade level. You can find the free outline here.
We also look for books at yard sales and the flea market, as you can usually get books for a quarter this way. I am trying very hard to have a keen eye as I buy books. I want to buy books that will inspire a topic of learning for my son. So although it would be easy to buy up a couple hundred books in one fell swoop, we have only managed to amass about 90. The books we have gotten all relate to a topic of interest, and will be used as one tool in exploring the topic further. I have been using a site called Library Thing to help me keep track of the books we buy specifically for homeschooling. I can easily assign tags to the books, like History, Science, Biographies, Astronomy … this allows me to see what topics are covered in the books we own. I can also have a separate list for the books that my son has read. It is a requirement of the state that we pass in a reading list, and this site will help me keep track of that for him.
I know this has been a rather wordy post, but I just wanted to share some of the things we are doing for homeschooling. If you are a homeschooler, I would love to hear what you do to inspire learning in your kids, if you are thinking about homeschooling, I hope this post is an inspiration to you, and if you can’t homeschool, maybe some of the ideas here will help you during the non-school hours with your kids. Learning and growing happens all the time. Just last night, I brought one of the aforementioned books with me to the restaurant we were having dinner at. While we were waiting for the table, my son learned how a rainbow is made, if a black widow spider eats her mate, and why space is black. We aren’t officially homeschooling yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting topics in the world that we wouldn’t like to learn more about.