Friday, September 13, 2013

So Much Better the Second Time Around

Well, I was supposed to be blogging every night as a means of keeping record of what we are doing... hmm... that doesn't seem like it will work.
I'm going to give myself a break right now and say that posts, as I can get them done, are just fine.
That being said, it's been two weeks since we started school. They have been truly the best two weeks of homeschooling ever! If you are new to homeschooling and are feeling overwhelmed, hang in there!
 It gets so much easier!!
Starting off the year with curriculum that I was able to pick based on each child's learning style has made a tremedous difference. Beside the actual learning of the information, which is obviously the important part, what I am finding equally as important is how their self-esteems seem to be through the roof... and we're only at the end of week 2.
 One daughter, who has really worked to develop reading fluency and previously wouldn't read if anyone was in earshot, asked if she could volunteer to help read to younger children. She has been through periods of being painfully shy and asked if we could invite neighbors to come watch their weekly presentations.
My four year old adores having her older sisters home. I've been incredibly impressed with her ability to play independently when needed. On the flip side, she loves working on school work too. I had bought a book at a yardsale that requires the child to cut out templates, trace, cut pieces and ultimately assemble a picture of an object that begins with a certain letter. She loves it and I have to say, I'm impressed. Sometimes, it's a lot of cutting and assembling but she just plugs along and gets it done. Go Sweetie!
But nothing makes her happier when I send them all outside for a break. Her eight year old sister has always had an enormous imagination. That was one of the changes that came over her when she attended public school for 2 years that I didn't like. Somewhere along the line, she either had gotten the message at school that she was "too old" to play like that anymore or was just not being her true self. I honestly thought that she had outgrown it because she never played like this anymore. Maybe it was a "fitting in with the other kids" thing or maybe just a lack of free time after school & homework - yes, homework in first grade.
She's spent the past 2 weeks with her little sister creating various restaurants for pet bunnies. Here they are above hard at work creating today's menu. 
The Weeks' Highlights
:: Weekly Investigations. Last year, I asked the kids to pick small, focused topics about which to do a small report to be presented each Friday. Each week was a new topic of their choice with the goal of a different "alternative style" of reporting each Friday. Well, that got forgotten pretty quickly. Chosen topics were too big; weekly deadlines weren't met and a whole lack of follow-through on my part left these "Investigations" on the "To Do" list.
This year, we're trying again. This time, I have been firm about only one aspect: it has got to be a topic focused enough to be completed in a week. This is challenging for my oldest, very detail oriented girl. There honestly were tears when I told her that the subject of Amazing Structures of the World was too wide a topic. Eventually, she picked The Eiffel Tower. She almost didn't make the "friday night after dinner presentation time" but did.
The "Investigations exceeded my hopes. One girl did hers on bunny behaviors and the other on The Eiffel Tower. Both were wonderful! Here's my bunny lover. Look at that smile!
The Bunny Behaviors was a powerpoint presentation. I loved it! I loved her enthusiasm; the fact that she didn't just read off the screen and how proud of herself she was.
The Eiffel Tower report was a combination one-page written report - you don't know how much restraint this took for my girl (so proud of her!) and a beautiful digital collage created in Adobe Photoshop of different images and funfacts related to the project. So great!
:: Public School Schedule Abandoned. I was shocked when my older girls, both individually and at seperate times, expressed that they think we should not try to keep the same schedule as their friends in public school. Last year, this was a must for them. Otherwise, it just wasn't fair. I love that sometimes they start working on a project before breakfast because they just can't wait or on the weekend! To me, that's it. The mission is complete. Learning is no longer an activity that they associate with a building from 8am-3pm; its returning to a lifestyle and a joy. Why wouldn't they want to do it anytime when it is so much for for them?

This girl struggles with sensory overload. Being able to work on a project in a quiet room with her cat laying next to her makes her happy. Me too.
:: Reading Together. I have read to my children while they eat lunch since they were babies. This turned out to be a very bad thing when they attended public school as they are very slow eaters and in no way, shape or form could begin to finish their lunches in the fifteen minutes alloted for lunchtime. 
I love that we can return to that tradition. They love to have a book read to them; even the ten year old. What a lucky mom am I. We've slowly been working our way through the Newberry Award winners or through great books recommended by teachers on Pinterest and blogs. We're still reading The Penderwicks by Jane Birdsall and they always beg for another chapter. It's just such a tremendous teaching opportunity and family bonding, as well.
:: Whole vs. Parts.  Attitudes and behaviors have changed noticeably in these first two weeks. I love that many aspects of life are all rolled up in our homeschooling. Learning is a lifestyle; really great family time is guaranteed every day; there's the time for kids to explore their interests for hours every day; information is conveyed in the most meaningful, comprehensive way for them and in a whole lot shorter time too which means more time to spend with their friends and pursue interests outside of the house. They're even doing their "share" of the housekeeping (aka chores) mixed into their days. In other words, they're learning to be independent, productive, well-balanced and inquisitive. This I love.
I'm sure we have some really bad days ahead. But as a woman who lost her dad at age 17 and her mom at 35, I count my blessings every day that I am able to have all of this time with my girls. I truly hope that we can continue as long as it is the right decision for them because it has been so much better this second time around.... I just can't imagine how wonderful next year could be.

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