Homeschooling Kindergarten, pt. 2

If you missed part 1 of my new Homeschooling Kindergarten series, you can find it here. I talked about what subjects I cover with my littlest homeschool student.

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In this post, I’m going to talk about the public school mentality. Maybe you were homeschooled yourself, so this isn’t as big of a stumbling block for you. But if you attended public school, you probably have a bit of that structure ingrained in you as what school is ‘supposed’ to be. I know that I did when we started back in 2006.

Now don’t get me wrong – there is nothing inherently bad about having a room in your home set up with desks and a chalk board. There’s nothing wrong with a scheduled day and having achievable goals set for your school year. There’s not a thing wrong with workbooks, circle time or the occasional spelling test! The problems start when homeschoolers forget why they’re homeschooling. It’s not just to avoid the big, bad school system. We want to teach our children to love learning. We are not homeschooling to teach our children just to take tests, sit quietly at their desks or raise their hands when they want to speak. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. But we can’t let them be our goals.

Having the freedom to homeschool is a gift that we should not take lightly. Homeschooling kindergarten is not just another year ‘off’ before the real school starts. There is work to be done! The main objective is worth repeating – teach your little ones to love to learn. Teaching a 5 or 6 year old that learning is exciting will serve them well for the rest of their days. Find the topics they are interested in. Make a word list from that topic and have them learn to write and spell from that. Count everything! Research the hows and whys. Take lots of field trips. Let them see how they can enjoy learning rather than just seeing the workbook in front of them.

So how does this look practically? Many states have homeschooling laws that require reports on what your student has learned. So just take good notes! At the end of each week, write down in a notebook or planner what you’ve accomplished. Trips to the grocery store or farmer’s market, field trips, educational television shows, art projects – it all “counts” as learning! Teach them to talk to people everywhere you go, how to carry on a conversation and speak politely to an adult. All useful, needed life skills. There will probably be some workbook pages but there will definitely be lots of life-living in there too. Take lots of notes.

When my oldest daughter was 5 and 6, I would just write the dates on the top of each workbook page as my little ones completed them. Then when I needed to fill out our quarterly reports, I could just flip through their book to see what was done when. As far as history and science, keep a log of the library books you’ve read and the field trips you’ve taken. I also kept track of any large projects we completed. For example, one year we followed the changes in the trees on our street. Leaf samples were glued to poster board. A cross section of the different layers of the truck was drawn and labeled. We made a chart listing how many trees of each species were on our street and took note of when they started turning colors or their leaves started to grow back. We tried to estimate how old the trees were and what the town looked like when they were planted. It lasted all school year and we had a blast.

Did my kindergartener and tag-a-long preschooler learn that year? You bet they did. We continued learning in this style for a couple of years and we enjoyed every minute of it. They learned to read and add and how to cross the street and division and how to finish their work and all the other things we think of when young elementary students come to mind. But they did it while having fun. Listening to them now, as they’re heading into high school and middle school, as they talk about those young years is so rewarding. They loved their little life! And in the midst of all their fun and adventure, they learned. So if you’re struggling with letting go of your public school mentality, let your little one lead you for a bit. Watch them learn to love learning and you’ll see that there is another way. And it’s much more enjoyable. 😉

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Student Independence in Homeschooling: How Much, How Often and How Come

A friend asked me recently to write a post about independence and homeschooling. Should children be able to work on their school assignments independently? At what age? How much work should be independent? If we’re homeschooling, why encourage your child to work alone? I am no expert but it did spark some thoughts on the topic.

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Why teach independence in homeschooling? Is it really important?

Continue reading “Student Independence in Homeschooling: How Much, How Often and How Come”

Bullies, Mean Girls and Homeschoolers

I’ve recently returned from spending time with extended family, as many of us do around the holidays. And like some of you, we are the only members of our extended family that homeschool. As the kids run around, the dads watch the game or head outside to do manly things – the moms chat. Work, life, houses, clothes, teenagers and eventually school are all topics up for grabs. Sounds familiar, right?

The thing that struck me this time around was the similarities rather than the differences. We still do math in our pajamas a few times a week, don’t get me wrong. But when it came down to the struggles our children faced with bullying, mean girls and cliques – it’s all pretty much the same. I think I shocked some family members when I told them that we have dealt with such things. Well, we do. Maybe your homeschool family does not but from my limited experience, I’ve realized my children will learn right along side their public school counterparts how to deal with mean girls, mean bullies and their reactions in these situations. Most homeschool families are no longer living in a bubble and because of that, our children face many of the same struggles that public school children face.

We attend a wonderful homeschool enrichment program. It’s run by amazing, self-sacrificing people and staffed by volunteers. But every Friday this crazy thing happens. Over one hundred sinners fill the halls of our old-elementary-school-turned-church to attend the Friday School program. Sinners! Can you believe it?! People from miles around have the audacity to send their little sinners to a homeschool enrichment program! And as I hang my head in shame, I’ll admit to being one of them. I believe that we are all born sinners. Jesus Christ died a very long time ago to save us from our sins. But as children are growing, they learn how to control that sinful nature. In that learning, good and bad choices are made. Sometimes it’s your children making the good choices and being the victim of another’s bad choices. Sometimes it’s the other way around. But I can say, without a doubt, that when a bunch of children that are still working on controlling their sinful nature are gathered together, no matter what the environment – there’s a good chance that some bad choices will be made.

What Happens When You Assume

It’s easy to stand outside and look in, making assumptions about what’s going on ‘over there.’ I think that’s what happens with homeschoolers and public schoolers. We are so busy judging each others’ educational decisions, we forget that we are all parents. Parents that love our children and are trying our very hardest to raise children that serve the Lord, function as members of their communities and are generally pleasant to be around. Even though our educational choices may be different, we can still encourage one another to keep on moving forward with this hard thing called parenthood.

So as a parent that happens to homeschool, it may be surprising for a public school parent to hear me say ‘I understand’ when she shares a difficult situation about bullying. But the sad reality is that we have experienced bullying. My daughters have felt the sting of cliques and the hurtfulness of mean girls. They have been the bully or the mean girl. We are all raising sinners – whether we choose to educate them at home or in a school setting – and pretending that one is relationally easier than the other only creates dividing lines that do not need to exist.

Character – Lesson 1

The best thing a parent can do to prevent bullying or mean girls is to teach at home. I’m not talking about math or science (although you can email me if you’re curious about how that works!). I’m talking about teaching kindness, empathy and compassion. A strong sense of self and the courage to stand up for what they believe to be right. The kind of character qualities and expectations it seems our society has lost in so many ways that are written throughout the book of Proverbs in what many call an outdated, ancient book. Those qualities are what will change the world, the bullies and the mean girls. No new programs. No new curriculum. Simple, old fashioned, God given wisdom.

It’s time to stop pretending that homeschool students are immune to the struggles that face public school children. We have all faced bullies and mean girls. We have all been hurt by the sting of cliques – even long after we graduate from high school. And if we’re completely honest, we will admit that bullying doesn’t end when you graduate. Now is the time to teach our children how to break down the walls cliques erect, to silence the bullies with words of strength and kindness, to calm the mean girls with demonstrations of compassion and self worth. It has nothing to do with where they’re educated. It has everything to do with building in them the character and strength that will make them the kind of person that won’t tolerate such things.