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Confessions of a laid back homeschooler

At the beginning of my homeschooling adventure I was determined to do everything perfectly for my darling little son, Calvin ! Every little speck of information necessary for him to be absolutly on task in kindergarten, I was going to see to it that he got. So with my carefully picked kindergarten curriculum and a "professional" check list I was certain that my little boy was going to have a wonderful  and very educational academic experience.

So I eagerly got all of his books out for his very first day and we spent five hours on kindergarten.  If the book said to look at books on birds or flowers, I had at least 50 of them from the library. When the curriculum suggested a discussion about where waste water goes, I planned a field trip to the sewage center! I still remember little 5-year-old Calvin sitting in the chair watching the little video presentation the nice water treatment lady had prepared for my field trip of one!

And then life interferred. My third brand new baby started running a fever and had to be hospitalized, which meant that I couldn't follow days 1, 2 and 3 for that week's curriculum!  I tried to have him come in with me at the hospital to continue his lessons, but he was much more interested in all the tubes and machines and people to pay much attention and I missed the teachable opportunities that were available to us in the hospital.  We fell behind and I felt that by Christmas I had failed.

Of course we caught up by the summertime, but then I noticed that my Calvin was falling behind in reading. He couldn't remember what sounds everything made and he couldn't read the wayTeach Your Child to Read said he should.  So again we were behind and I found that the only way to keep him caught up in other subects was to read to him.

Throw son Sam the Second Son in the mix and I found myself drowning.  Luckily Grandma helped me out for a number of years but I was still feeling as if I was juggling so many balls!  I had to plan all the books and lessons for Sam and Calvin and then start with little Gabe, and then very soon I had Noah and Izzy. When Grandma could no longer help me I was truly overwhelmed  and overloaded.  Is this really what I had signed up for?  I was a task master, the kids were feeling pressured and joyful  learning was a premium.

A very simple thing turned the tide really.  I was pregnant or sick (or maybe both, I can't really remember) and I had just starting spelling lessons with one child when another one happened to wander by.  It occurred to me that instead of getting up later to track this kid down, I should just get him to sit down now and do both children together!  That worked out so well, that I decided that I could do history that way too. Then science, and reading and before long I had everyone around the kitchen table doing all of their subjects together. I finally figured out how the one-room school house teachers did it!

There are a couple of things that I had to give up in order to accomplish this.  No pre-packaged curriculums that are grade dependent. This type of arrangement works much better with unit studies, Charlotte Mason, or Real Learning or Sonlight types of learning.  Everybody is learning the same things but the kids that are more advanced can dig deeper and the littler kids that need to just get the gist of it pick up at least that. This works great for science and history and even literature. 

Now that I have older kids and access to computers I have my sr. high school student working pretty much independently while 9th grader and advanced 7th grader spend most of their lesson time together including science on the computer. I do spend a lot more one-on-one time with my slower 6th grader and my new kindergartner but even they can work at the table some of the time when I am working with their brothers.

Having a schedule has also really helped me to keep on top of things, although I'm always tweaking it .

But this is what I think separates me from a lot of my friends who are doing curriculums like Seton or even state charter schools online like Ohio Virtual Academy - We are not stressed over getting "stuff accomplished." We are savoring our learning time and trying to make learning its own reward.  I tell my kids continuously that this is the time of life when it's okay for them to ponder, and discover and look things up.  That gets a lot harder when they will have jobs and other responsibilities. So they are learning really because things are there for them to learn instead of because some entity said that they must follow a list. I think that's missed a lot in an institutional setting. But even more important to me, they are learning how to learn from real sources like books, references,  and periodicals, movies and the internet and even t.v. and videos. This is how I teach myself new things now and this is what they need to learn to do now. If they finish their homeschooling years knowing how to learn and loving to learn, I will count their experience as successful.

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