Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Homeschooling and Life

I've been reading from the Enki Homeschool Workbooks, specifically teacher preparation and the family rhythms section. I'm still in the process of open intake, so any thoughts I have are barely formed.

One thing that is sticking out for is that I need to really get a feel for what is working already in our family, and which educational goals are being met through our daily living. This is one are where the new Enki materials are far better for homeschoolers than the old materials. The old materials were aimed at teachers and schools, and homeschoolers had to do a lot of work to adapt them.

All my life I have needed quiet time in the morning, so I can't really expect that to change just because I have some goal of getting us all fed and out of the house for a walk at 8 a.m. It was nice for a couple of weeks when we were doing it, but it is even nicer to relax in the early morning after breakfast, taking some time for myself while the boys get in their first block of play. They really like that too, and I was always interrupting them to go on the walk. What we need is balance - we're not revving to go when we get up, but putting off lessons until the afternoon didn't work either.

So I can see what works for us as a family, and now I get to figure out how to get us active before the morning lesson. I see now that it doesn't need to be 45-60 minutes of activity, because having looked at our family we get our daily exercise in at other times, usually in the evening. I still need to work on this, because J-Baby pulls back from the organized circle. So maybe we'll walk around the block and add some movement exercises and verses and an educational activity. I don't really know. What I do know is that it has to fit in with our family and work for us.

I had this grand plan that involved getting out one morning a week to do a nature walk. But on the weekends Papa always wants to hike, so I felt like we were duplicating what we did during the week. Not that you can have too many nature walks! Rather, it was difficult for me to work the nature walk into our weekday without giving up a morning lesson, whereas moving it to the weekend as an activity to do as a whole family adds to the experience. We go to more remote places and spend more time hiking, because we aren't rushing back to get to a morning lesson. I just didn't see it before; walking/hiking in nature was something we were already doing, not something I needed to add in. All we really needed to do was bump it up on the weekend priority list (otherwise we can get caught up in chores and not make it out every weekend).

I want to say that this might not work as a replacement for the formal introduction of materials. We did number qualities the first half of 2005, and tried to do it again in 10/05. I thought we had covered it really well, especially since math is such an integral part of just living, but only after looking through the Enki materials did I see how much we had missed. Sure, doubling, tripling, even/odd, more/less all work into our daily lives, but sometimes they have to be introduced first, or at least in a meaningful manner.

This is where Papa diverged quickly away from the ideas of radical unschooling. We saw a rather famous unschooler give a presentation. When talking about math, she said her son knew math, just not the language of math (this because he had failed a math portion of a standardized test) . Meaning that he had worked with manipulatives and real world math all his life, but couldn't define words such as "fraction", "radius", or "square foot". In the end, though, it is the language that makes anything, and everything common between us. If I know the shape of an apple, and the flavor and color and texture, but not the name, I'm going to have a hard time explaining to you what I want, and you may give me a pear. If you are going to work with math you need to know the language.

Still, combining homeschooling with daily life can work really well with material that has been introduced and needs to be worked with and practiced. For instance, I won't skip teaching fractions just because we use them in daily life, but after they have been introduced, slept on, and digested, you can bet that I'll be more likely to have the boys help me double recipes or plan garden plots rather than assigning worksheets for practice. Having introduced the concepts and the language of mathematics we will have a way to move the math from the abstract to the concrete (well, except for abstract math, LOL).

I see this concept of giving the children the language of a concept working already with the introduction of word families. It has given us a language to help T-Guy decode without breaking each word into individual letter sounds. We can look at "sat" and tell him about the "at" family (even though that isn't one we formally introduced), and it clicks in his brain and he puts together "s" and "at" and can read the word.

I'd love to follow the homeschool workbook completely, but the reality is that I need to be teaching the boys now. Well, I suppose, we could stop for the next 6 months, but they don't want to, I don't want to, Papa doesn't want us to...and I don't think stopping now without introducing some of the core content of grade 1 would be helpful when it comes to grade 2. And well, I've already decided that grade 2 shouldn't start until next January when T-Guy turns 8 and J-Baby is closer to 7. But I can see how much more smoothly grade 2 will go if I use the teacher preparation process during the first half of our break next fall.

Of course, the only constant is change. We add in a bit here, take out a bit there, tweaking the rhythm to fit our lives and the seasonal year. Nothing is set in stone; our plans are maps and not mandates. Beth addresses this in the Homeschool Workbooks as well as the Guides. The flexibility of the homeschool is one of its strengths.

2 comments:

Blissfulbee said...

Kimberly, you have inspired me to reread my Foundation Guides. I loved the part about consciously observing your family to see what is already working. I try to do that as often as possible. We need an afternoon quiet time, including me. On dayw when we take it out, I am useless in the evening and the kids are over-extended. It is important to meet our families needs first. Im going to reread my foundations guides I think I could use the refresher and could use the advise from our fresh perspective.

APKimberMama said...

Our official afternoon quiet/rest/story time is an especially important part of our day as well. It's amazing how much more smoothly the afternoon and evening go when we have all had that break. The boys love it so much that they insist on having their rest time even on the weekends.

Enjoy the Guides! I think they resonate more fully once you have let them sleep and had some time to breathe with Enki.