Tag Archives: home school

School Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again where all the little kiddos head back to school. Except mine, who head back to the kitchen table for home school. This year I’ve had several people ask me what program we use, what we like and dislike about it and so forth. We use St. Thomas Aquinas Academy and, although we’re still only a little way into our home school journey, really like it. It gives me the balance between flexibility and structure that I like. I have an advisor to check in with, a curriculum tailored to my specific situation, and a test at the beginning of each year to get a sense of where he is and where he should be academically. On the other hand, the choices of texts and the tone of support is one that leaves plenty of room to adjust, to go off on tangents or slow down and speed up depending on what I need. It also uses texts and programs I love. One thing I really like about the school is the assignment they give me at the beginning of the year. I was filling out this year’s and thought that really, whatever program you use, and in fact whether you home school or not, it’s a great exercise. Basically, you sit down and write out neatly your list of reasons for homeschooling. Then you list your goals for the year for each child. This will help you stay committed to your decision through the year and give you a place to check back and see how you’re doing. It also will help you stay focused on what really matters and let go of other things. I don’t think home schooling is for everyone but I think this exercise would be useful regardless of your schooling choices. I could see it being a helpful starting place for talking to a child’s teacher for example, or making rules as parents. I’ve been interested to compare this years list of reasons and priorities with last years. Some are the same, some have evolved, and some I’ve added after another year of experience. Having just finished my homework this afternoon I thought I would share.

Why am I homeschooling?

– To keep my children’s innocence.
– To have an opportunity to teach the Faith.
– To taylor courses to the individual needs, strengths, weaknesses, and interests of my children
– To catch mistakes and correct them quickly that might be missed in a larger classroom, and to be able to adjust pace when necessary in a way that might not be possible with more students.
– To find personal joy, pride and fulfillment in teaching my children and watching them learn new skills through me.
– So we can sleep in, play outside, explore interesting tangents, and take adventures whenever we like.
– To savour their childhood.

Goals for JD

– To improve composition and penmanship
– To continue progress in math and reading
– To begin preparation for first communion

Goals for Fierce Bad

– To learn how he learns
– To discover his interests, academic strengths and weaknesses
– To work on pencil grip and penmanship
– To lay phonics foundations and see if he has an interest in beginning to learn to read

This year I added one more section, Goals for Me

– To maintain focus and momentum throughout the school year
– To be patient
– To limit screen time
– To work on healthy eating and presenting a wider variety of foods at breakfast and lunch.
– To read and learn more about developing teaching skills
– To do prep work on evenings or weekends for a more organized week

Here’s hoping we all have a productive school year, regardless of where school is.

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Bird Watching

Monday at my house is recovery day.  I figure, if Sunday is a day of rest then I’m going to get in on that regardless that my job is keeping the house reasonably livable.  I will feed everyone on Sunday.  I will find Sunday clothes for them.  But dishes will not be done, and toys will not be picked up.  So Monday looks pretty scary around here.  Entering the kitchen Monday morning you could probably play the “REE REE REE REE” old horror movie soundtrack with great effect.  So kids get set in front of breakfast and I start digging out.  I’m focused, energized, motivated, I’m on a roll.  Or I would be if JD would just stop interrupting!!!

“Mom mom mom mom mom quick shh come here, it’s a bird at the bird feeder”

“Oh yeah?”

“What kind is it??”

“Ummm looks like a house sparrow”

“Yeah a house sparrow”

Back to the scummy dishes in the sink.

“MOM Mom momomomomomomomom shhh another bird”

“Cool”

“No come here and seeeeeee it”

“Oh yeah there it is, another house sparrow”

It is ALWAYS a house sparrow.  Except when occasionally it’s a Junco.

“MOM they came back!!! Come see”

We are working on our bird book you see.  This is actually an App for our tablet which we use in conjunction with the ol’ Peterson’s field guide and we are recording all the birds we identify.  This is tougher than it seems.  For example, today we saw a crow.  We know it was a crow.  We can be fairly sure it was an American Crow.  But it may have been a Fish Crow or a Chihuahan Raven.  Can’t put it in the book.  We had to watch those darn House Sparrows FOREVER before we could say they were definitely House Sparrows and not Chipping Sparrows.  I am very daunted by the fact JD now wants to begin identify tree leaves.  I sure hope there’s an app for that.  I tell you, the false enthusiasm in my voice about the house sparrows is wearing a little thin.  However, this bird watching has become an important element of my slowly developing philosophy on homeschooling.

We started homeschooling this year through a program offered in Oklahoma.  They pay the tuition for a private homeschool curriculum if your child would have qualified for public school.  JDs birthday IS the cut off date for preschool age so I thought this was a great year to experiment.  If we hated homeschooling, or were bad at it, no harm done, he would just go into school next year as the oldest kid in his class instead of the youngest.  Turns out I like it, not this curriculum all the much, but homeschooling in general.  It’s nice to have someone holding my hand the first year but I think in the long run I may come up with something more custom made.  These are the pitfalls I would like to avoid:

The program I’m with now falls into the first: Attempting to recreate what you would have in a regular school.  For example, we don’t need Discussion time.  We discuss things all day everyday as they come up.  This is not a 15 minute set aside time period, it’s life at home with kids.  You, one on one with your child, should also not need to take as many hours to complete a days worth of learning as it take one teacher to teach 20.  If there’s enough stuff in your homeschool to do that, it’s overkill and it’s probably filled with some unnecessary stuff.

Then there’s when unschooling becomes uneducated.  Like I said above, more learning can go on in an organic way in homeschooling for sure.  But too often I have seen, child directed study devolve into nobody doing much of anything.  Yes, find out what your child’s interests are, but also provide things for him to be interested in.  Show him what interests you.  How’s he supposed to find these interests.  And if your child isn’t interested in math, or reading, well he’s going to have to drum up some interest from somewhere at some point and learn it anyway.  For one thing, they’re important.  For another, it’s called self discipline, kids need to learn to sit down and do things that bore them, because that’s something adults have to do.

One of my personal peeves is religious homeschooling programs that somehow think nothing is worth learning without a picture of Jesus on it.  If God is the all good creator of the universe then all the laws of that universe and all of creation, is good to study in itself.  1+1=2 is good, whether you’re counting cookies or crosses.

And finally, there’s a danger with the classical approach, although this is the approach I think I will end up going with.  That is wanting to learn things because they are classilecal, not because they are good to learn.  The rigidity that can develop here takes all the joy out of education.  Presumably, the Greeks didn’t learn things because the Greeks learned them, but because they wanted to learn.  The other side of this pitfall is dismissing new things simply because they are new.  To me, computers, television, and the bird app on your table, are useful tools of education when used correctly.  The Greeks also didn’t reach a point where they said “you know, we’ve got a nice full body of work here, I think we’ve pretty much exhausted all human knowledge and innovation, better quit.”  If you admire Socrates but forget he said that philosophy begins with wonder, then you’re in trouble.

Which is why, since it’s fun to have a term to throw around and sound important, I have dubbed my new homeschooling plan as “Wonderful Homeschooling”.  We work on our math.  We learn our letters and learn to read In 100 Easy Lessons.  And we never stop wondering.  “Hey wait”  say the unschoolers, the classicists, the private schoolers and the public schoolers, “that’s exactly what we’re going for”.  And they’re right.  Which goes to show, your kids can turn out just fine regardless of where you get them educated so long as you make sure they’re getting educated.  This I take from my own parents, who were the greatest homeschoolers ever despite almost always sending us to actual schools.  They looked everything up.  If you asked a question you got an answer, usually longer than you really wanted.  Woe betide ye if you asked them what a word meant because you were going to find out, and then “look it up in Origins” to find out why it meant that and where it came from.  There was always something playing in the house, either good music, which had a very broad range, or the news and thought provoking cultural or political radio programs (do those exist anymore?) Or a classic movie.  Forget knowing birds, Dad would rattle off the latin names of plants half the time.  Although, and I know you’re reading this Dad, I still suspect he BS’d it when he wasn’t really sure, fess up 🙂  When someone read a book, they would read out loud the neat parts to whoever happened to wander through the room and get snagged.  So to sum up: Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmatic, Arts, Science, Curiosity.  I don’t care all that much if they stay curious about birds specifically.  What would concern me would be if they stopped having questions, or if they were comfortable with not having answers to those questions.

So if JD wants to check one more time in case this time the bird is not a house sparrow, we will check.  In the week it took me to finish this post we saw dozens more, but one time, we saw a cardinal instead.

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