Even though in the blog world - and the Catholic world - that may seem completely normal and common, it's not something I see a lot in my day-to-day life. I went to public school, as did Ryan (he also attended a Christian school up until the fourth grade) and no one on either side of our family homeschools. In fact, all five of our siblings on both sides are public school teachers, Ryan's dad is a guidance counselor and former teacher, and my mom is a retired elementary school nurse.
Despite all of that, this really was a no-brainer for us this year for a few reasons. For one, Clara is still three and will turn four in December. She isn't old enough for pre-k. I know many people send their three-year-olds to preschool, but that just wasn't an option for us financially. Plus, personally, I don't think she's going to learn anything there that she wouldn't learn at home at this age, even without me teaching her a formal preschool curriculum. So I wasn't at all worried about her missing out on it this year.
But when I started to consider homeschooling for pre-k, kindergarten and beyond (the reasons for which I'll get more into in another post), I realized what an incredible opportunity this could be - a learning year for both of us. I could take this year - when she's not yet old enough to qualify for pre-k - and teach her pre-k. See if we mesh well together in a learning environment. See if I can handle the added stress. See if I can handle it at all (I didn't become a teacher for a reason).
It could be more laid back and she'd even possibly end up ahead if all went well.
And, so far, it's going really well.
She loves it. She asks to do school all the time. I'm learning so much about how she learns and how much she can tolerate.
And the best part? I find myself getting excited when it's time to plan for the week. You have no idea what a great sign that is! I worried that the thought of school would give me a headache, leave me feeling overwhelmed and and burned out and like a burden was always on my shoulders. But it doesn't. I love planning and looking online for lessons and preparing for craft projects at night. And I like teaching. I'm finding teachable moments everywhere, which is probably second-nature to you teacher moms, but it wasn't always for me. I like being in the middle of a lesson and realizing there are things I can teach them that I hadn't even planned on telling them about. And I love seeing them catch on and listening as they, later, excitedly tell others what we're working on.
Yes, "them." It'd be nearly impossible for Luke not to be a part of this. He and Clara have always been attached at the hip and it was just natural to include him in preschool. There's a clear differentiation between their abilities, but we aren't doing anything that can't be geared to both of them. Clara writes her letters while Luke scribbles. It works for us.
And it's not like he's too far behind. He knows all his letters and the sounds they make and can tell me what letter most any word starts with (thanks, LeapPad!).
So what is it that we're actually doing?
Well, I don't follow a specific curriculum just yet. I worked out a schedule that works for us right now and we do that one day a week at our kitchen table. We start with morning prayer (don't forget this or they WILL remind me!), singing a "Days of the Week" song I literally made up on the fly week one and they have since fallen in love with (we also use it to learn opposites - we sing it fast and slow, loud and quiet), we then do the date and the weather on our calendar board. Next, we usually start a lesson on our letter of the week, which includes reading a book that highlights the letter (a book about pirates for "P", apples for "A", caterpillars for "C"), learning what the uppercase and lowercase looks like, tracing it with our fingers in salt, writing it with crayons/markers, and making a craft out of that week's letter.
|Best part of homeschooling - my house is filled with a rainbow of kid-art!|
Finally, it's time for closing prayer and we're done. And they are usually D-O-N-E. Clara, especially. She's usually totally into it until our last book, when she's usually laid out flat on the floor, fake-snoring (I'd stop sooner, and have, if they show me they can tolerate less on a particular day).
Believe it or not (and you'd believe it for sure if you saw how I did homework in high school), I came up with that format for our preschool the night before we first began and it's kind of stuck. The kids really seem to like the formal aspect of "doing school" around the table. They even call me "teacher," which I SWEAR I never told them to say.
So that's our one formal day, but the activities that fall under the "preschool" heading are vast and are, really, things that most toddlers are doing already. I have stepped up our activities, though, in an attempt to really give them as much opportunity for learning as possible (read:less TV). I try to take them to story hour at the library if our schedule permits, we do other crafts here and there (like making their own mosaics after seeing them on a recent visit to the Basilica in DC), we always find opportunities to do some baking, and they're always coloring and working on their letters. Clara also really likes working on work books, so I'll let her do some of that here and there while Luke is napping.
They also go to the gym with us a few times a week where they take part in a kids exercise class (socialization for the win!).
We've also been pleasantly surprised by the reactions of those around us. Our families are supportive and have helped me out with ideas and lessons. And the other day I received an entire preschool and kindergarten curriculum in the mail, out of the blue. It was from an occupational therapist friend of my mom's (who works with my two sisters at their elementary school), who is excited that I'm homeschooling and wants to help. She also sent me this program that she designed for teaching letters to preschoolers. It was so incredibly generous. And just knowing someone like her (someone who devotes her life to education and works in the public school system) supports my decision gives me so much confidence in what I'm doing.
So we're going strong, for now! Yes, it's just preschool. But I figure it's a lot like being a parent - even though I can't imagine parenting older children, each year prepares you for the next. You grow and learn and and change along with them. And we're taking it one year at a time. We don't know what the future holds, we just know this works for us right now. And they're loving it, which is the most important thing. The other day, I listened as Clara and a little friend were each talking all about their respective preschools. It warmed my heart!
|School photo - Fall 2013|