In the three months we've been homeschooling, there have been a few things that we learned along the way that has made a huge difference in how Laura learns.
The first thing was this: life happens. My senior mother lives nearby. With her frequent doctor visits to which I drive her, we've learned that learning is not relegated to home. We've read books, worked on spelling words (and therefore penmanship...yes, I'm THAT mom who believes penmanship is important), and talked about the wondrous science of the human body which God created all in the relative [non]comfort of a doctor's waiting room. While we're driving to the doctors' visits, we've practiced our spelling words ("Laura, how do you spell 'said'?" "I spell said 's-a-i-d', Mommy...how do YOU spell 'said'?"), and talked about the world around us. Why the leaves are changing color, what makes it rain, and silly things too. It's okay to be silly. Laura is, after all, a kindergartner. Silly is what they do.
We've learned to extend to each other the same level of Jesus-centered, God-given GRACE that we each want to receive. Sometimes she does not wake up on the right side of the universe, and neither do I for that matter. I can't wake her up all perky-like, throw a bowl of cereal her way and expect her to be in the mood for subtraction in five minutes. For my daughter (and I say that because EVERY CHILD is different just like every homeschool is different...and that is OKAY), for my daughter, I have found if I ease her into the day by letting her watch an educational DVD on a topic we're going to study that day while eating her breakfast, she is much more ready to learn afterwards. Plus, it really does make a difference.
In September, we were learning about all things apples. Apple farms, how to make apple cider, how apple pie is made, life cycles of apples...she watched a borrowed library DVD on the subject for a couple days in a row while she ate breakfast. By the time we visited an apple stand, she was ready to hold her own in a conversation with the farmer. That was cool. But that could not have happened if I had read books or talked to her or given her worksheets on apples.
One thing I have been struggling with is administration organization. How to keep track of the homeschool curriculum plan, the schedule, her grades.... and trying to make all this happen in a spreadsheet software program was too cumbersome to last. One tool I found in October was Homeschool Manager. It's an online program that keeps track of the student, her grades, her classes, and helps me plan weeks, months in advance. My whole homeschool year is now planned, curricuium-wise. One of the cool things about it is is logs volunteer hours too. I love that, because Laura and I often do ministry-type work together, and now that can count. For high school students, it differentiates the courses between normal, AP, honors, etc -- and develops the transcripts. This is a tool we'll be using for a long, long time in our homeschool.
Laura is great at math. Not so great at reading. One of the things I've had to learn is to adjust the curriculum so that she will learn without hating instruction. She's been moving forward with math to the point she's almost ready for first grade work, yet reading and spelling are lagging behind. So instead of 10 spelling words a week, we went down to five a week. Then we adjusted that and went to four spelling words every two weeks. It's coming now. She's in a groove where the words are there and she's learning them. In a month or so, we're going to go back to five words a week, but here's the thing: she's learning them...not halfway, but solidly. Conversationally. What does it matter if it's four every two weeks? We're not in a competition with anyone.
Laura is on medication for chronic migraines. Yes, I know she's five and that's too young for such crippling migraines, but it is what it is. My migraines started at six years old. Genetics. Anyway....when she wakes up on the (thank you, Jesus!) now-rare day screaming in pain, grabbing her head without the ability to walk straight and completely nauseous, school's not happening. It will all be there tomorrow, or even on a Saturday. If she was in public school, she would have to have a 504 special needs plan so that she would not be penalized for absences related to migraines. So, if we're homeschooling, and she wakes up sick, why should that make a difference? We're required by law to have a minimum of 180 school days in a set time period. That doesn't mean we can't have more than that or we're bound by a certain nine-month time period.
Laura is learning so much by homeschooling. When she was doing a recent "pumpkin investigation" and her pumpkin floated instead of Laura's circled "sink" estimate...her face was filled with amazement and she uttered the word that made my mouth into a Julia Roberts-size smile....she said, "Why?" Wow! It is so cool to see the lightbulb light up, to watch the fascination spread across her face, instead of reading a note sent home saying that she understood a concept. That is so worth every day of this adventure.
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