Yesterday, June 21, was Clara Anne's first official day of kindergarten. Actually, I didn't make such a big deal of "the first day of school" since I feel like she's been engaging in learning activities for quite some time now (the Charlotte Mason people would say "since birth"!). And other than letting the girls use their celebration plates for breakfast, I didn't talk up the start of school too much. I think my approach is more going to be along the lines of working in some home school here and there between other fun activities; keeping the girls busy with play as well as reading aloud to them every spare moment.
Well, let me back up a little. I've been anticipating home schooling practically since Clara Anne was born, since that is really our only option for her education in our location. So I've been looking forward to it and gaining some ideas from various sources for a long time now. I have friends who are in the midst of this process (and doing very well at it!) but until fairly recently, I still was struggling to get my mind around exactly what I would do with Clara Anne when the time came. There seemed to be so many choices and options out there for homeschooling--different approaches, different methods, TONS of different materials, it all seemed great! How to choose?
Thankfully, John and I had the opportunity to attend a home schooling conference in Illinois just a few days before we came back to Asia. We left the girls in the excellent care of my parents, Grandma Ann and Auntie Sarah, and John and I went to the conference and soaked it all in. Finally I got a better understanding of the various methods and philosophies of home schooling, and sorted out a bit where I thought my ideas, and John's too, about home schooling fit in the big picture. We browsed through the enormous vendor hall and looked at various curriculums, products and tons of books. We had plenty of time to talk and discuss home school philosophy as well as curriculum choices. It was wonderful! I'm so thankful for that time which allowed us to make some major decisions about the future direction of our girls' training and development.
So, just for fun, I thought I'd post our home schooling game plan. Generally in the next year or so I am going to try to spend about two hours a day with Clara Anne doing "school work." How will we use that time? Here's a brief breakdown:
Bible--reading a devotion together, reviewing memory verses, singing the song of the week, and prayer. We will soon begin working through a more clearly laid out catechism in our evening family worship, but in the mornings I will just do the above activities with the girls.
Reading Aloud--This is where I read some great stories and even classic literature aloud for the girls. I'll probably allow Clara Anne to color quietly or do something else with her hands as long as she can show she's listening. I'll use some simple methods to ask her to retell the story and test for comprehension. I have some excellent books on my list; some purchased from Vision Forum that are meant to teach character (we just started The Little Medicine Carrier and it's excellent!) and some that come from the Sonlight Kindergarten read aloud list.
Math--we decided on the Right Start Math Curriculum. At this point I can't even tell you exactly what makes Right Start different from other math methods, but all I know is it looks FUN. It teaches math concepts in a concrete way and uses lots of games, activities and manipulatives to accomplish this. We've done the first two lessons already and Clara Anne just thought we were playing a game, not that she was doing a lesson! (I'm sure it won't be all fun and games forever, but for now we're off to a great start!)
Reading/Phonics/Language Arts--We are going to be using the Scaredy Cat Reading System by Joyce Herzog. It is a very hands-on approach to learning reading, where the phonics rules are woven into a story that uses songs, games, activities, and a "fun pack" of cards to teach reading. There are four basic steps to teaching reading in this program: 1. tell the story (teaching the phonics rules). 2. Sing the songs (reinforce the learning). 3. Do some games and activities (learn through doing). 4. Test for comprehension (a one minute test to see how much the student has learned). This method makes so much sense to me! I like the story/song aspect of it, but more importantly, the goal is teaching comprehension and building the skill of reading. I simply continue to teach on the same topic through games and activities until I feel Clara Anne has mastered it (using the one minute test to see for sure) and then we move on. There is no set number of lessons to check off without knowing if she is "getting it" or not, and so I can feel free to use the curriculum to encourage learning until I see mastery of the topic. Spelling, word usage, and sentence structure are woven in as well. I'm excited about using this method! Joyce Herzog, the curriculum's author, was at the home school conference and I went to several of her seminars. So, when Sing-Spell-Read-Write wasn't available at the conference (what I had previously decided on), we decided to change to this and I'm so glad we did! Clara Anne is enjoying it too!
Those four subjects are going to comprise the main part of our homeschool day. But then, I have some other subjects that we'll cover once a week:
History--We were so impressed with The Mystery of History. It teaches history chronologically from a biblical perspective, combining ancient biblical history with history in other parts of the world. Studying history this year will mostly just be me reading aloud, but I'm sure we'll look at some maps and throw in a few activities occasionally, too. There are coloring pages, etc. that came along with the book.
Music--this happens in our house every day no matter what! We're always listening to music and talking about it, but we will be continuing to study it a bit more formally for a half an hour once a week using The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine. It's a (very) basic history of western music's famous composers with a CD that includes selections from their compositions. I also am going to be requiring Clara Anne to practice the piano for 5-10 minutes a day; we'll try to make some progress in piano skills as the year goes on.
Ballet--the girls have shown SUCH an interest in ballet over the last few months! We bought some books on ballet, we have some ballets on DVD, and we even have a "Baby Ballet" DVD that the girls can do some ballet exercises along with the dvd. We also hope to enroll Clara Anne in a class, just for fun, if we can find one that's appropriate.
Science--this year science is going to be very low-key; doing an experiment, helping Mommy cook in the kitchen, looking at some nature books, that's going to be about it. I did buy some Usborne books of science experiments to do at home, we'll pull those out every few weeks or so.
Art--Drawing with Children is a book that came highly recommended. I think the main idea is to teach an "alphabet of line" so to speak--to break down the things we see into various types of lines so as to draw them more accurately. I have to do a bit more reading and prep in this book before I'm ready to have the girls start it, but this is really just for fun. They're constantly doing art projects anyway--painting, coloring, using markers, chalk, etc, so this will just give them some new ideas.
Wowza! So there you have it! I also should mention that I do plan to start Latin with Clara Anne once she is reading fluently. We will be beginning a very gentle approach to Latin with Prima Latina when I feel Clara Anne is ready for a new challenge. We'll see when we get to it!
So there's the home school game plan! Can you tell I'm excited about it?! It feel so wonderful to have finally actually decided what to do, now I'm just eager to spend this special time with Clara Anne and flex my teaching muscles a bit. (It's been awhile since I was teaching voice lessons in the States!) I am also determined not to get too distressed if plans get disrupted, time schedules get "off", or we don't accomplish a certain amount in a certain length of time. I'm really trying to look at each day as a learning opportunity; whether that be "book learning" or simply life learning, I want to make each day count. Yesterday things went wonderfully; we did a lot and it all went quite smoothly! This morning was different--Clara Anne slept late, there was a discipline issue with Chloe and Christin that ended up taking some time to resolve, and I had an unexpected guest stop by for an hour. But, we still did most of the things I was hoping to do today! And, we baked cut-out cookies with a new bunny cookie cutter this afternoon which truly made Clara Anne's heart happy, she got to "paint" hers blue and thought that was so special.
My friend Gretchen Wright, a wise and experienced homeschooling mom, told me, "You need three things for successful homeschooling. First, a supportive husband. Second, a disciplined child. (i.e. a child who is trained in habits of obedience and will obey your commands.) And third, and perhaps most importantly, a disciplined mom. (Especially in terms of her use of time!) Wise words, don't you think? It's perhaps the last one that hits home with me the most!
So, off we go on this brand new adventure! Though I certainly sense the weight of being responsible for my daughters' education, I am so very thankful for the opportunity to influence them; to raise them up to be women and homemakers who know and serve the Lord, and I am so eager to spend this precious time of their youth together. May the Lord grant wisdom, strength, and a humble dependence on Him as I seek to teach my daughters!