Since it's about time for another season of school, and I need to file another course of study with our home school administrator*, I figured I would write a few posts about how we home school. Every family does it differently btw.
(One of the first home schooling books I ever read, and still one of my favorite was called, Fundamentals of Homeschooling. The author paints such a lovely picture of what it can look like and how it can work. If you are thinking of homeschooling and don't know how to begin I suggest reading it.)
We started out knowing that we would home school. Because of that I was able to see teaching reading, writing, science and arithmetic as a natural continuation of the conversation that parents have with their children in the years leading up to school age. During those years children learn to walk, to speak, to get dressed, how to put their dishes away in the sink, where their shoes go, how to wash their hair, set the table and peel carrots, etc. They learn all these skills through constant interaction with the grownups and other children in their family. They learn what spiders are, and flowers, they pick up a vast wealth of information from asking and being answered. Formal education is simply a continuation of this conversation.
(If you didn't know toddlers could learn these things, or want to know more about how to teach them I recommend Mommy Teach Me, by Barbara Curtis.)
I have two very simple home school goals.
1. Teach them to read.
2. Don't kill the natural curiosity about the world around them and love of learning that they are born with.
Once they can read the entire world is theirs to discover, and I don't have much else to do other than guide, provided they still enjoy learning.
With this in mind, I'll tell you about how we started. We started out with reading, and talking, and discovering. We started out when the Boy was three with spiders. He liked to watch them, so we signed out all the library books we could find on spiders. I read them to him. He memorized facts, and we also had to learn about habitat and predators, etc. I still tend to teach science this way, in spontaneous units that are driven by the kids own interest. At this age, it's all new and exciting, and they absorb tonnes of information.
Eventually we moved on to other subjects too.
I have two early curricula that I am devoted to, because they have worked so well with both of my children I have taught so far, who are extremely different in learning styles.
As a reading primer I used Explode the Code. With these books the Boy practically taught himself how to read. As a seven year old his summer reading has been The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and the Hobbit. Though he put the Hobbit aside for the moment because he was trying to read 3 books at once.
The beginner primers teach them to recognize, write and read the letters. Each lesson is one letter. We tried when he was 4, and he wasn't ready yet to do them. So I put it aside for several months, and then brought it out to try again. Again he wasn't ready, so we put it away again. When he was 5 he was ready. I think waiting until they are ready and interested in learning in crucial at this stage. He didn't finish a whole lesson at first, just a page or two, but he loved it. I was sure to stop before he got tired or bored, so he was always excited to do it again the next time I brought it out. Once he was really familiar with the workbook format, which never changes, he felt very proud of his new expertise. He would wake up in the morning and do a whole lesson without me. (The Girl is the same way. Though she wakes up in the morning and copies the letters in her story books onto sheets of paper, even though she can't read them yet.)
Then I introduced math. Early Bird Kindergarten Mathematics This is the primer for Singapore Math which is the curriculum I wanted to use based on the recommendation of my MIL and several home schooled teenagers who by and large preferred that to the others they tried as kids. The starting point is pre numbers. So even if your child can't count yet, they can begin these books, and they will be counting, as well as many other things by the end. There is some overlap from the primer to the first text book but I think it's alright as it reinforces what they have already learned. (I've complained about math this year, and how long it's taking us to get through the grade two curriculum with the Boy. I'm still trying to not make school something he doesn't enjoy and finds punishing, so I backed off of the heavily repetitive equations in the work book. As long as he understands and can do it, I'm happy. Also I had a reality check when I saw the homework of a neighborhood kid in the same grade. He was learning basic addition and subtraction, and the Boy has been learning how to add and subtract with substitutions and how to add and subtract double and triple digit numbers in his head. I'm less worried that he didn't finish the whole book last year. We will pick it up again when we start school. I'm confident that he will test far above his current grade level.)
This is all we did the first year, in addition to a lot of reading and learning in the pattern we had already acquired. That of them asking me questions, and me answering them and reading lots and lots of books together. I am excluding in this the way we celebrated feast days, because that was an education in itself and part of our curriculum. But there is no space to write it here.
Tomorrow I will talk more about curriculum. In part, how you don't always need one. And the day after that I tell you what our homeschooling day actually looks like.
*California law is different than most places.