Saturday, April 26, 2014

On Homeschooling

One of my dear readers asked me a couple of posts ago to write about our approach to homeschooling. I know that I've written on the subject before - the truth is, my approach is constantly changing with time. Something that I may have found super important a year ago I may not value quite as much now, and vice versa. Even though the books I use and the video resources have changed over the years, one thing, one value, one conviction has remained - keep it simple. Learning must be fun. If I'm going to home school my kids I don't want to become their teacher...I must stay simply "mom." If I become a teacher to them in the mornings and require what a school at the table at 8 am, have your penciled sharpened, don't talk, recess is at 10 and you have exactly 15 minutes to get your energy out...return to the table...finish your five hours of workbook pages...Then afterwards,
I become mom who helps them clean their rooms, teaches them how to effectively help around the house, play with siblings...ect - my role becomes confused. I become frustrated and might as well send my kiddos to school. Instead, I like to approach my entire day as a "possibility to teach" and it doesn't always come across as "learning" even though I am sharing and teaching. 

What I really love to do is find a story with beautiful illustrations or a book at the library and then just base a whole day on that one book. For instance, Trinity got this lovely little book called The Lost Balloon. We may read it together, look at the pictures and talk about how we could maybe draw it ourselves. We think about the different types of paints there are and which ones would be better for our purpose - acrylics, watercolors, just plain old crayons? We choose, we craft. I could take the lesson even further by finding a youtube video about helium balloons and how helium makes things float. I could look up books on balloons and when they were first created. I could google how far a balloon could fly before bursting and daughter will learn reading, science, and art from one book in about 45 minutes. Done. 

Awhile back I wrote about Beatrix Potter and how Trin and I watched the movie together and had tea, then she became obsessed with Beatrix, English culture, art, acting - all from one inspirational movie and a couple of fairy tales. Learning? Done and done. 

There are subjects that require a little more thought from ME however. I'm not the world's finest mathematician. Read that as "I'm lousy at math." However, I can definitely balance a checkbook and I'm good at converting recipes and I can coupon like a champ. I know math the way I need to know math to get through life. I teach what I know to my kids. I do order them a workbook for their "grade level" (whatever that is?!) and I try to finish a book in a year. Right now I'm using Abeka just because it is very repetitive so I get to be the awesome mom who says "only do the even numbers - you're so smart you already know this stuff." I also get to say "skip this entire section, it's a waste of time." 
Trinity is 6 - she knows how many cups are in a pint, how many pints are in a quart, how many quarts are in a gallon. She can add. She can subtract - she is doing well and sometimes I skip workbooks for an entire week. For most people math is a discipline, it's something that we need to know how to do but it isn't always enjoyable. It's good to teach kids why they need to know math - at the store, cooking at home, making playdoh - kids like to know why and it's good to make the "why" practical. :) I also love using youtube for counting songs and learning the 2 family and the four family and so on. I also play "store" sometimes with the kids and let them buy things with loose change so they are learning money values and how to give back change and so on. 

This last week we went to the library and I helped Brady and Trin pick out their first chapter books according to what their interests are and their reading level. Today they both have finished the entire book! I was so proud of them for finally meeting this "step" in life where reading goes from learning and simple stories to pure entertainment. We also found a book about Vikings and a book about Finland so that was our "history" for the week. Zac did a science project with the kids the other day, today the kids asked me the simple question "what is lavender" so we learned about that (and I learned that there is a Lavender Land in Pokemon that is supposedly very freaky). Simple - yet learning - and they will REMEMBER it because it was fun and wasn't overwhelming or threatening in any way. 

One of my values that I think has grown in leaps and bounds just these last few months is that I desire my kids to learn more about living then about "education." Some of this comes from the fact that our sons have autism and so practical life skills are a challenge to them. I would rather my kids know how to use money wisely, make themselves a sandwich, make a bed, be able to converse with people and show interest in other people interests then them having awesome report cards. To me, grades are not important. Serving others, being kind, and loving learning and learning what you love is what is important in this life. Yes, I want my kids to be all that they can be. I would love for them to have high paying jobs someday - I would also love it if they were a ranch hand or a homemaker or a doctor or an artist or a Japanese translator for the court system. Whatever - as long as they are following their passions but can also hold a job.
 This may be silly, but I'm so PROUD because Brady learned to sweep this past week. I have a chore chart for the kids where everyday they are required to make their beds, clean their room and do a "Chore of Choice " (my choice, not theirs.) Brady has a hard time holding on to things , like gripping, so learning to sweep was the perfect project. It take coordination and it's a multi step process. You have to move furniture, sweep around furniture, make the dust a pile, put the furniture back - sweep the dirt into a dustpan and dump the dirt in the trashcan - the lastly, put the broom back where it goes. For those with ADHD, a simple task like sweeping or cleaning a bathroom is a huge challenge. The first two times I had to help and remind him of steps, the last two times he did it perfectly. I was impressed. Had he been in school all day, he probably wouldn't have learned to sweep this week, he wouldn't have completed a chapter book, our family wouldn't have been able to go on a scenic drive, he wouldn't have had black bean enchiladas for lunch and found our he LIKED the texture. I love having the time with my kids - it's what works for us. 

We desire for our children to know God. We desire that He is real to them. A lot of our children's learning is based around our belief system. HOWEVER, I encourage my kids to know that the world is diverse and they need to know how to communicate love and not judgment to those around them. I explain openly with my kids about other religions and even let them learn about them - it's part of culture.  I let them watch videos about their beliefs, we encourage memorizing Scripture (that right there is big time brain building block) and often I use free online printable that are based around learning the Bible. I  use a lot of shows and movies that I believe help build good character even though they aren't necessarily "popular" shows. Trinity loves Hallmark movies about the Western times and she loves Little House on the Prairie. She finds simple living inviting. I introduced her to these thoughts but they aren't "pushed" on her. She also enjoys style and has rainbow colored headphones and plays the kindle every evening. She enjoys soccer and dance. She is becoming a well rounded individual and can think for herself. I want my kids to find the answers, not just accept what I tell them. If they say "why is smoking bad?" I don't want to simply say "because it gives you cancer." It can give you cancer but there are a lot of people who have smoked their whole lives and live until they are 92. That answer doesn't work. I would rather say "well, I know it can give you cancer and it's expensive but why don't we look it up?" Then find out who is paying who to make an "idea" gospel. 
So, my approach .... Simple. Think about what your goals are for your children - what kind of character you desire them to have, what is important in life, what is fun in life - and then create learning around those ideas. I love to use pinterest, the library, youtube, and amazon for my learning resources. This next year we are going to use the local Rec center so that our kids can meet more children and play sport and enjoy art. 

I hope that helps! If anything, it was good to write out my thoughts and remind myself of my OWN values. :) Have a lovely weekend. 
~Alyssa Spring


  1. Alyssa, this post was awesome!! I love that your approach is so relaxed and simple. It was really encouraging and inspiring to hear about your homeschool. I really like how you integrate your chore chart into your day too. This was so helpful. It sounds like you are pretty good at keeping things in perspective and remembering your goals for homeschooling, etc. Sometimes I find myself just trying to get too much done and it becomes a sort of a checklist which leads to frustration... And you're right- if that's the case why not just have the kids in public scchool?!
    So thanks for this refreshing reminder to keep things in simple and fun!
    Catherine in kansas

  2. Oh, one more thing, how did you teach your littles to read? Did you use a phonics program or curriculum?
    Catherine in ks

    1. I use the book how to Read in 100 Lessons and then would buy flash cards for sight words - sometimes the dollar tree has great resources!

  3. I use the book How To Read in 100 lessons :)

  4. Oh, I just started 100 Lessons with my 5 year old! It seems to be pretty fool-proof.