Saturday, January 28, 2017

So Many Deep Thoughts on Homeschooling and my Teaching Past

We're moving. We don't know where to and we don't know when but it's coming soon. I've been on a mission to get rid of things that don't "spark joy" for me. (If that phrase sounds familiar to you then you know the method that I am using to discard my belongings and I'm hoping to write about my "festival" soon). It's an emotional move. But really, aren't all moves at least a little emotional?

 Going through boxes of memorabilia from my forty years on this earth has caused me to take some mental journeys through the past. A few days ago I began going through my boxes and boxes of material from my teacher credentialing program. I have about twenty notebooks of all of my papers that I wrote in the program. These papers contained by belief systems regarding children and education. I also had beautiful notebooks that I took on interviews in which I had compiled pictures of myself and my students and their beautiful work. I had pages and pages of my discipline plan for my classroom and I was able to read that and smile at how I had changed so much over my ten years of teaching. I couldn't bring myself to throw these beautiful pages away. I had written all of my papers with such love and emotion behind them. My professors whom I had loved had taken such time to write me me within the papers...Words and phrases that I used that really spoke to them they had underlined and circled and drew exclamation points. I kept my many observations that were done on me in my teaching program as well as during my years of teaching. I read through a lot of them and smiled with memories but cringed with some of the critiques (all mild critiques...all necessary for growth for any teacher).

It brought me back to the passion that I had for my future and the impact that I was going to make in the lives of my students. And then the actual goals that I had written up every year of teaching brought me back to how I truly gave my life to my profession. I didn't have many friendships outside of my work for those ten years and I didn't have many hobbies; my whole life revolved around teaching.

And therefore what jolted me was the realization that I have left so much of that in order to teach my own children. At home. For no pay. And in a system that I was previously vehemently opposed to. I did have a few parents in my time of teaching withdraw their children to homeschool and in all honesty, I did not think they were making the right choice. How could a parent possibly teach their own child?! How could a child thrive without being in a classroom 6.5 hours a day?! How could a homeschooled child learn the necessary socialization skills in order to become a contributing member of society who doesn't sit at home in their pajamas all day or know the art of conversation?!

I now know the answers to those questions and I have seen the beautiful fruit of homeschooling in the lives all around me. I see homeschooled kids going to college and making big changes in the world and I see homeschoolers at the mall at noon who are able to engage in discussions with children many years younger than themselves and adults, equally.

But I still have that love for public education and the belief that they know what they are doing in regards to making sure that children know the objectives. I believe in their curriculum and in their teaching methods. This system that has taught me to be a teacher is heavily ingrained on my soul and while I see problems with it (which is one of my reason for homeschooling) I will always be open to my children going into the public classroom full time again if necessary (Tiny B did attend two years of glorious public preschool) or if God tells me that it's time. I love the charter school system for the reason that it keeps kids learning the objectives that are agreed upon by the public school system and I love our charter because they get to spend two whole days per week in the classroom. We are moving and might not be able to attend this school anymore which will make me sad but I've already been eyeing charters in the area in which we are moving and considering becoming an educational specialist with a charter in the future.

What gave me a bit of a jolt was that Tiny B's educational specialist recommended that I teach outside of the box for this unit and try my own things. So I did. I focused on reading comprehension in fiction and we did an author study and read so many of her books and did story frames for each book. It led to both her and Strong B being exposed to more books than usual and it also lead to Tiny B's developing her comprehension skills which I believe is the most important skill to have, as it runs through all subject areas. If a child develops a love for reading, they will do well in their schooling.

When I gave Tiny B her end of the unit assessment, she missed a few and this rattled me a bit. She normally only misses zero to one. I knew why. It was that I hadn't absolutely positively made sure that she had mastered the material and hung onto it. I taught her the objectives of the unit but then I moved on and spent a lot of time reading to them and diving into the different story elements. In my head I know that: There were zero comprehension questions on this assessment. She will likely master the concepts in the next few weeks as I now know EXACTLY what she does not understand and that will drive my instruction. (This is really the true purpose for assessment). And that in a homeschooling situation, I have a little more room to go by her timing. (If I was truly truly homeschooling and not using a charter, I would have all of the time in the world for her to master the objectives and this assessment would not be an issue at all. (Really, Tiny B has an IEP and therefore it isn't an issue anyway, but it is my belief that she is fully capable and sooooo smart and I want her to challenge her in ways that strengthen her).

Every year it is my desire to pray and question what is right for us at the time. Homeschool using a charter? True homeschooling with no days in the classroom? Homeschooling where I choose my entire curriculum? Regular public school? For now my passion is where we are.

So...I told her that she had missed a few more than usual because I had not made sure with everything within me that she understood these particular objectives. And that in the next two weeks she would understand. She's a hard worker. Inside, I questioned myself, as I believe that most homeschool moms do from time to time, got a bit anxious, and then I took a deep breath and plunged on with our day.

And as I finally figured out a few posts ago, you can find them here and here, I have to "fill Strong B's cup first" before I send him off to play while Tiny B and I do kindergarten.

So I brought out...a book to read aloud. This was nonfiction which was perfect since we had been reading so much fiction and comprehension of nonfiction text is of utter importance because it spans social studies, science, and even math.

The Mother Goose Time read aloud included in each theme is always one of my favorite lessons. The books are beautiful and will long remain in our library. It was about baby animals and what they do. Each page required the kids to participate. I asked them literal questions in which the answers are directly on the page and I asked them "off the page" questions to allow them to connect more to the subject.



This was one of our first lessons from the Baby Animals unit.



Today we were speaking about adoption and we had a lovely conversation about human and animal adoption.



After reading the book and having our discussion, we did the art activity which was a Made to Create activity. 



They made fish. The beauty of these activities is that the creating is all coming from their own ideas. I can guide them if I'd like, and I did a tiny bit this time, but they really get the chance to fully engage their brains and CREATE!



Fine motor practice is still so important for both of them. I pulled Tiny B from her weekly private OT session so that I didn't have to bring her in so much, and therefore, these art activities are crucial. They're also crucial for Strong B who is a mere 4.5 years-old and is just beginning to really write. (We are still working on his grip and I'm not quite sure what to do at this point. I had the same grip when I first began writing and it was a bear to break!)



Use those muscles, Tiny B! Squeeze those hands and plan out where to put the fish scales and how much glue to use. Take your time that you are being gifted, doing these things, because you are at home and we can do this project for an hour if you'd like! And we can extend it and do some writing about fish and then find a video on fish and watch it and then we can read a book on fish if you'd like. This is the beauty of homeschooling and let's take every opportunity to make it beautiful. You don't remember when your doctors said you would never walk. You don't remember my tears as they said you might never even open your eyes. Today you are making a fish and doing it exactly how you want to do it and are being given the gift of time to do it. Soak it up.



The finished product. Beautiful. 




*I  receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

 

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