Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Day of Homeschool

Leah began Pre-K yesterday! We decided to start earlier than Labor Day since we were both ready to go. After the curriculum was delivered and some of the supplies were stocked on shelves in her playroom, Leah was ready to start and see what homeschool was all about. I spent last week putting together a bulletin board and got myself mostly organized and prepped.

When I reviewed the first lesson, the manual suggested having some type of introduction each day, to signal the start of school. The suggestions included a poem, a pledge to the flag, a prayer, or a song. None of those really appealed to me, so after thinking back on my Kindergarten teaching assistant days and scouring a few homeschool blogs, I decided to begin our day with Calendar Time. Talking about what day and season it is, as well as the weather outside, seemed like a natural way to start our day. Though it may be awhile until Leah truly understands the passage of time, the months of the year, and how to tell the date, being exposed to it will only aid her comprehension. There is also a section to label "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" so that she begins to understand those terms as well. Leah certainly grasps the concepts of whether an event has happened in the past or will in the future, but she'll sometimes refer to something that happened a few weeks ago as happening "last night". So, this will hopefully introduce her to some proper terms.  Leah very much enjoyed Calendar Time both yesterday and today!

Afterward, we moved onto our first lesson. We spent some time talking about school (some kids go to a specific school with other kids while some stay home with their parents), talking about our new supplies, where they're located, and the importance of putting things away when school is complete. We read a story together, discussed the concepts of "in" and "out", and listened to a short song that tied into our lesson. Interestingly, I thought the in & out lesson would be too easy for Leah and we'd be through it in no time. But I got to witness firsthand how you can understand a concept one way but need help when it's translated to another context. For example, we began by placing various objects "in" and "out" of a basket or small box. Leah whizzed through that, knowing what that meant, saying things like, "The crayons are IN the basket" when she placed them there. After this exercise, I presented her with an activity sheet of different animals that were either in an object (a bird in a cage) or out of one (a dog standing beside his doghouse). I asked her to point out a picture that showed "in". She pointed to the dog by his house and said something about how he goes in there. I understood what she meant, though she was skipping over the fact that right then, in that particular picture, he was not in there currently. So interesting how her mind worked. After some explanation, she quickly picked up what we were looking for and completed highlighting the various pictures, underlining the "in" pictures with one color crayon and the "out" pictures with another. She then colored the pictures however she wanted. When she was done, I asked her again to show me the picture where the dog was "in" or the cat was "out", etc and she completed it with no problem. Awesome. She learned!

There are certain objectives in this curriculum she does know. For instance, today we were supposed to introduce the color red. Leah already knows her colors, so I modified the lesson somewhat. Instead of presenting her with red objects to illustrate what color they are, I asked her to look around the room and find red objects herself. Then, I gave her a couple old magazines and asked her to cut out red pictures that she would then glue on a separate sheet of paper. She's still a scissor newbie, so this helped her work on those motor skills instead, while still sticking to the red theme.

One thing that I'm not quite sure of is how to modify our storytime. The curriculum provides a storybook in order to promote good listening and comprehension skills, that we read from at least once a day. Leah is used to picture storybooks while these stories I'm reading contain only a couple tiny illustrations in order to condense the curriculum material. She's claiming the stories are "boring" and I think it's because she doesn't have that visual to follow. Not quite sure how to remedy that one, or maybe it will just come with more maturity.

Otherwise, things are going well thus far. I am already enjoying the new routine and the extra quality time we're experiencing. I think this will be a really interesting adventure. :)

Leah created this red clay guy with no prompting from me. I love it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Yup. We are that family.

As many children Leah's age prepare to start Pre-Kindergarten or to attend preschool, we have chosen to homeschool. Dan & I made the decision a year ago, and as we draw closer to the beginning of our journey, it seemed like the right time to post about it.

When we first began discussing school options, public schools here did not thrill us. We considered private school, though the tuition of the one secular private school in our area is astronomical. That was out. All the affordable options were Christian-based private schools, and while we entertained that notion for a short time, ultimately, that felt very disingenuous to me. Dan and I are not religious; the most you could call us is agnostic. To be fair to our family and to the school, we felt it was better that we not pretend to be people we are not.

So, on a whim, I mentioned homeschooling as an option. Since joining a mommy message board years ago as well as following a few money-saving blogs, I found that homeschooling was more popular than I ever realized. In the following days, as I did some research and Dan & I discussed the pros and cons, we discovered that homeschooling was the only thing that got us both excited.

What we're looking forward to:

  • Discovering Leah's learning style and teaching her in a way that suits her best
  • Choosing our curriculum and following Leah's interests and curiosities
  • Being able to take breaks or vacations whenever we want, working at Leah's most alert time of day, and having free time during the day for lessons, sports, or whatever she wants to explore
  • Providing her with a safe, supportive environment to begin learning and building her self-esteem
I know the biggest hangup regarding homeschooling is the socialization issue. That was our first concern as well. But after talking to other homeschooling moms and reading various articles and blog posts on the topic, it's really not an issue unless you live in a cave. There are local homeschool groups to join. Leah will meet other kids in whatever activities she gets involved in (dance, gymnastics, etc). Not to mention the other interactions she has in a typical week - meeting and talking to people at the grocery store, the pet store, the bank, etc. We hope to involve her in volunteer projects down the line as well. "Socialization" is not just about making friends with a bunch of other kids who are the exact same age; it's about learning to interact with others in a productive manner.

The three of us attended our first Homeschool Expo in Atlanta during the last weekend of July. It was so helpful, as I was able to see the various curriculum options right in front of me and learned about several programs that I wouldn't have previously thought of. After deliberation and research, I chose our Pre-K curriculum last week (Calvert) and it arrived in the mail on Tuesday. I am super excited to begin!  There are a lot of homeschooling folks who say that you don't really need to shell out the money for a boxed curriculum for Pre-K or K... but being as this is our first year doing something we never thought we would do, I want the advantage of guidance and structure. Maybe in a year or two, I'll have more confidence to pull from different resources and put something together myself. But for now, I love that everything is laid out for me.

I am aiming to start after Labor Day, though it could potentially be earlier if I feel we're ready to go. I want to go through the curriculum a little more closely and I am also in the process of getting myself organized in various aspects of home management as well. Really trying to streamline my days and weeks, so I can truly devote the time necessary to educating my daughter.

This is an exciting time! It's funny, Dan and I have joked that we are that "crazy", no-cable-TV-let's-bake-our-own-bread-homeschooling-family. Couple of hippies. *wink*  If you asked me 5 years ago if we would be doing these things, I would've told you that was ridiculous. Ha. Life can take you places you never imagined and oftentimes, those are the best journeys. One of my favorite quotes is: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." Yup. Here's to a new challenge, a new journey!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'm not Leah, I'm Dorothy!

Most of you who read the blog already know this, but I still wanted to write about it so that it's in the record books.

Sometime in June, I believe, I introduced Leah to "The Wizard of Oz". Dan had recently shown her "E.T." to which she responded favorably and without anything really scaring her. So, I figured I'd give Oz a try. Needless to say, she loved it. I should have known; the main character is a female who wears sparkly shoes and has a cute little dog. That spoke to her!

Leah soon began acting out scenes from the movie. Naturally, she was Dorothy and she assigned roles to Dan (Scarecrow) and I (sometimes the Tin Man, sometimes the Cowardly Lion) and she had us skipping around the yard while she sang, "We're off to the see the wizard..."  We have one of those crabapple trees in the backyard and she even pretended to pick apples off while the tree got upset. It was very dramatic.

Do you ever see pieces of yourself and your childhood in your own children? Um, yeah, this one's a whole chunk of mine. I also used to watch "The Wizard of Oz" constantly and assigned roles to my family members. I never suggested anything to Leah about acting out scenes or making each of us a particular character or what-have-you, but boy, it is uncanny how Leah is doing the exact same things I used to. Is that kind of stuff passed along in your genetic makeup? She does seem a bit more forceful in reminding family members that she is Dorothy, not Leah. I don't quite remember carrying that out to such an extent but hey, who knows. Maybe I needed the shoes to truly feel the part. And unfortunately, when I was a kid, Target wasn't around to make super cute ruby slipper lookalikes. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't the least bit jealous. ;)

Yesterday, when Leah received those awesome red shoes in the mail from Grammy, she was talking about how we don't have the Dorothy dress but that we could look for it around Halloween. I agreed, then glanced in her closet and realized we could put together a Dorothy outfit that was a close enough match. She has been ecstatic ever since. She wore it for the rest of the day and is wearing it again today. She took Toto and her basket to the pet supply store today and yesterday, she even told the Trader Joe's cashier that her daddy is the Scarecrow. Ha!