Thursday, April 28, 2016
A few of you have asked recently if I would share a little bit about how we homeschool, and so I thought with the end of our first grade year coming up, it might be a good time to do that now. We have been officially homeschooling for three years, although I honestly don't count the two years of kindergarten as homeschooling. In those early years we didn't focus on academics, instead the focus was on time in nature, arts and crafts, story telling, reading (me reading aloud), songs and finger plays, and lots of time for uninterrupted, imaginative free play...the real work of childhood. Our days had a gentle rhythm that allowed Reece, and his little friend, to really sink into and soak up the magic childhood. I think back to those days with fondness, and am so happy I was able to let go of societal expectations of what my little man "should" have been learning, and instead let him take the lead and enjoy those early years. It was a gift to him, both of us really, and one I know I won't regret giving him.
Those early years were heavily inspired by Rudolf Steiner, and his Waldorf philosophy, and as we took the leap into grade 1 in the fall I continued to utilize his teachings. Grade 1 was supported with a curriculum from Lavender Blue, a Waldorf-inspired curriculum that really spoke to me. After using it for the year, I can say without a doubt that I loved it, really loved it. And the kids, Reece and his little friend, soaked it up. They have both been eager learners, happy to move from morning free play to main lesson, and at times asking for more. Honestly, teaching them has been a joy, and dare I say, easy.
So just what does a school day look like for us. First of all, when I was pregnant and imagined homeschooling, I never thought I would have "school days", but things change. I was asked to help homeschool another little one and well, let's face it, I work better with a rhythm to our days, and so, yes we have school days. Those days for grade 1 were Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Our main lesson followed a three day rhythm. Day one was introducing a new lesson, day two was review and building on that lesson, and day three again review and more building. Most of our main lesson blocks were four weeks in length. So for four weeks we would focus on one subject, in grade 1 that revolves around arithmetic and language arts, and let the other subject rest, or sleep within the child. That is not to say that we don't do any language arts during an arithmetic block, we still do read aloud every day, we still sing songs and do finger plays, and we still practice our printing by writing letters to penpals, or thank you notes. And during a language arts blocks we still do some math work during our circle time...counting as we toss bean bags, working on our skip counting as we jump rope, and so on.
Our main lesson is always in the morning. When the little one I homeschool arrives we head out for a nature walk, in any kind of weather. It is the perfect way to start our day, get rid of energy before I ask them to focus, and to notice what is happening in nature. When we get back they play while I get a morning snack together, and then we jump into main lesson. Main lesson at this level is about 75 to 90 minutes, although there are some days we have gone for two hours because they have enjoyed the lesson and want to keep going. We then clean up our main lesson area, and I head off to make lunch, and the kids play. After lunch our afternoon consists of outdoor free play, read aloud (for most of the year it was me reading to them, but over the last few weeks we have also added in them reading to me as they get started on their reading journey...I can't tell you how amazing this is), and then an activity for the afternoon. On Monday we knit, Tuesday we make soup and bake bread for dinner, and Thursday we watercolour, and sometimes have an extra lesson in form drawing. The afternoon always finishes up with a little more free play, because these kiddos are still kids, and free play is still where a lot of learning takes place.
For the last three years Wednesday and Friday have been our free days. Wednesday is left open for seasonal activities which could include skating, snowshoeing, hiking, and swimming, followed by running errands. I see running errands as a life skill, and a chance for Reece to interact with people in our community. The people at the post office know us very well, the store clerks at the grocery store do too. We say hello to them, we chat with them, and we get to know them. Friday's are our nature day. We hit the trails with other homeschooling families for a morning of fun in the woods. We don't plan anything on these nature days, no games, no journaling, no lessons in nature, just plain old fun. Climbing trees, feeding birds, having picnics trail side, chatting with friends, and just enjoying Mother Nature and time with other homeschooling families. It is laid back, and fun. Perfect for a Friday morning, and a little jump start on the weekend.
Homeschooling my little man and his little friend is a joy. I knew before Reece was born that this was the path we would walk, I had no idea at the time I would have the honour of homeschooling one of his little friends, but I wouldn't change it. It is amazing to watch them blossom and grow, to see their love of learning develop, and to witness those moments when everything clicks and they get it, you know, that A-HA moment.
Reece and I will move into summer learning mode in about a month, with an easy, go with the flow rhythm. I have a definite idea of what I hope to accomplish with him over the summer months, but I am also not at all worried if we steer away from the plan, it is summer after all. As I mentioned in a previous post, there will definitely be a big dinosaur component to our summer learning, and I am sure Reece will have some other things he wishes to delve a little deeper into. So I will follow his lead, and see where it takes us.
So, that's how we homeschool, for now. I do have plans to change some things up a bit next year, but will still follow along with our Waldorf inspired learning. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the freedom to make changes, do something a little differently, and spend more time on an area of interest when my little man wishes to do so. It's something I appreciate, and something I know he appreciates.
I hope I have given you an idea of what our homeschool days look like. I am happy to answer questions if you have them, feel free to leave a question in the comment section, or if you prefer, send an email.
Happy weekend, friends!