Friday, July 25, 2014

My (Unschooling) Kindergarten Plans

Benjamin starts kindergarten this year.  I've been nervous about it, partly because I'm not sure I can add "one more thing" to my plate, but also because I'm not ready to give up the freedom I have with just preschoolers.  Then I start thinking years down the road and I really get overwhelmed.  I have to stop and remind myself to just focus on now, this year.  I remind myself that I don't have to do what other people are doing; that's the beauty of homeschooling.  I remember what my philosophy and my goals are.   I remind myself of the main purpose of school, which, I think, is not to teach my kids everything they need to know, but instead to teach them to love learning, and to teach them how to learn.  When I think of myself as a "teacher" I get overwhelmed and feel inadequate.  But helping my kids learn, and learning beside them?  I can do that.

And really, I don't think "kindergarten" is essential.  A lot of other countries don't start formal schooling at age 5, and personally I think that's a good idea.  Kids have so many years of school ahead of them, why not let them just be kids as long as possible?

Mostly, as we enter the "school" years, we'll just keep doing what we're doing.  Everyday Benjamin learns letters, science, math and reading skills, and it's not by sitting down and doing "school".  It's by asking questions, looking at books, talking about things, living life.  And that's the way I like it.  The kids love to ask "what letter does _____ start with?", and we figure out the answer together.  Benjamin knows tons of numbers, and he's constantly learning more.  Just the other day he had a tape measure out, and he was pointing out numbers he knew and asking me about ones he didn't.  He's great at doing simple addition and subtraction, just from me doing word problems with him at dinner (they're usually related to something we're talking about).  He has been really into whales and other sea creatures for a while now, so we check out books from the library and he pours over them.  He can identify numerous whales, sharks, and other creatures and can tell facts about them, such as what they eat, where they live, and how big they are (besides knowing how many "feet" they are, we've also been measuring things in "Daddies" - as in, a blue whale is about 90 feet long, which is 15 "Daddies" (who is 6 feet).  He knows so much more than I do about sea creatures!  And it's not because I sat down and taught him; it's because he wanted to know and he found out.  Books are very important in our house, and we read together every day.  Lately, I've been reading from a chapter book at lunch time, then each of the kids gets to pick a picture book to read at bedtime.  We've recently started doing some memorization as well.  The kids just learned the Lord's Prayer, by saying it together at bedtime.  I'm planning on having them memorize Psalm 1 next.  There is so much learning going on at our house, and I absolutely love that it doesn't involve sitting down and reading a boring book, or doing worksheets, or taking tests.  Not that there is never a place for those things (well, maybe that's true for the boring books!), but I believe learning is so much more meaningful and memorable for kids when it comes from their interests and doing what they want and love to do.

The one formal thing I will be doing with Benjamin is teaching him to read.  I think he's ready to learn, and because reading is such a key foundation, I think it's a good starting place for us.  And, since it's the only thing we're doing formally, I think we'll be able to really focus on reading and do it well.  I plan to spend 15-20 minutes a day working through Alpha-phonics with Benjamin, probably in the afternoons, which feels weird to me, because I feel like I "should" be doing school stuff in the morning.  But I try to get most of my housework done in the morning, and it's hard for me to focus on other things when the house is a mess and I have chores hanging over my head.  Afternoons at our house are much more open and laid back, so for me it is the ideal time to sit down and work on reading.  I'm open to change if necessary, but for now that's the plan.

I feel so much more comfortable and relaxed now that I have my plans figured out.  This feels like a very gentle and doable transition into our schooling years, and I'm confident we'll have a great year!  In fact, I'm getting kind of excited about it, as long as I don't think too hard about the 20 or so years of school we have ahead of us!  =)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer Fun

We've been enjoying a simple, relaxed summer.  We're getting a few house things done here and there (including that chicken fence!), having quiet days at home, and getting out and about to take advantage of summer's pleasures.  The best of everything!  =)

We've been eating lots of yummy summer food, playing in the sprinkler, going to the beach, and the three older kids participated in Vacation Bible School this week.  Fun is being had by all!  We've had a couple of weeks of hot weather, but now we're looking at a few cooler days, which is welcome!

Summer is going by quickly, but we still have lots of summer and fun left!  In the next month we're planning to go to the fair and going camping, both of which we're really looking forward to.  And I'm sure there will be lots more sprinkler and popsicle days in there, too!

A couple of our favorite things this summer:  
We are loving these kids' memory verse songs.  They've been playing non-stop in the car.  They're cute and catchy, but we haven't gotten sick of them yet!  And nothing beats the kids going around the house singing Bible verses!

Tiny House Nation is a new TV show that just started, and Seth and I can't get enough!  We are obsessed with tiny houses, and this show is inspiring and fascinating.  It's like Extreme Makeover for tiny homes.  It airs on TV on Wednesday nights, and so far the shows have been available to watch online on Thursdays.