Homeschooling: Our Newest Family Adventure
Just before the holidays I got an email from the PTA at my Kindergartener’s elementary school. They were looking for parent volunteers to substitute for a whole day in their child’s classroom, giving the teachers a rare chance to plan together all day. Reading that email turned out to be a providential moment for me – I couldn’t explain why, but I felt very strongly that I needed to volunteer. The logistics took some work. The PTA was requesting two parents per class, so I had to convince another mom to help me. I also had to arrange for my mom to drive up from Winston-Salem to watch Baby Zu for the day (although that didn’t take much convincing ;).
Although I’d volunteered in his classroom before, it was only for short periods of time, so I was anxious to get a feel for what Big C’s day looked like as a whole. I showed up optimistic and ready to teach, learn, and experience modern-day Kindergarten. However, at the end of the day I left the school feeling deeply concerned about the future of our public school education system.
My feelings had nothing to do with my son’s teacher or with his classmates. He’s got some great friends, and I’ve told more than one person that if you look up “kindergarten teacher” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Mrs. W. Rather, it was small, subtle things that added up to make me feel like big changes were necessary. Here’s just a handful of the things that disturbed me about my Kindergartner’s SEVEN HOUR school day:
– Only one recess period, lasting a mere 20 minutes
– Only 20 minutes allotted for lunch
– Very little unstructured play time.
Big C often complains about school being too long, and that he never has any time to play because he has to be quiet all the time. After seeing his day play out, I completely see where he’s coming from. There is no way it can be developmentally appropriate for a wiggly 5 year old body to sit that long.
In addition to the problems I saw in the classroom, we’ve also been keeping tabs on some rather unpleasant behavior changes at home since the start of the school year. On school days Big C is an emotional time bomb, from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. I just never know what will cause my previously laid-back kid to explode into a tirade of emotions. He spilled his milk. He can’t fit the Lego piece where he wants it to go. It’s time to brush teeth. Seemingly minor instances and requests cause him to erupt without warning and Big C is overcome with frustration and anger, taking it out on whoever is nearby. It is exhausting and emotionally draining for the whole family.
On stay-home days however, Big C is like a different child. He is more patient with his sister. He plays well independently, engrossing himself in his own imaginative worlds. By no means is he perfect, and of course he still needs discipline and redirection on the regular. But on non-school days, Big C seems much more in control of himself, both physically and emotionally.
We didn’t arrive at our decision to homeschool overnight, and while I could go on and on about more reasons why it seems like the best choice for our family, I won’t. I’ll just sum it up by saying that homeschooling feels like a refreshing alternative to the overcrowded, underfunded, standardized test driven system that public schools have become. (When I was in Kindergarten, there were centers for dress-up, blocks, and art…and even naptime and half-day options!!!) At this point it just doesn’t seem like a good fit for my energetic, self-directed boy.
The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of prayer, internet searches, reading, and meeting as many people as I can in our local homeschool community. As someone who was a teacher for 8 years in my pre-parenting life, I am so excited about returning to the world of formal education (I use the term “formal” because I have always believed that the most teachable moments for any child always occur at home.)
I’m also psyched not only for the academic freedom we will now have, but the ability to be more free with our schedule. Getting back late Sunday night from a climbing trip? No problem, Big C can sleep an extra hour (if only Baby Zu would get those same memos…) Got a long drive on Friday afternoon? No problem, we’ll leave during Baby Zu’s nap and school in the car.
I know it won’t be easy, and I know that it will take us a while to find and settle into our new routine. I’m sure we’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way. But with that said, we’re just gonna dive in. This past Monday was our first official day…and so far so good. We’ve predictably had some bumps, but nothing we can’t handle.
Any other homeschooling families out there? I’d love to hear about routines, curriculum, and social activities that have worked for you. Also, this new chapter is going to open up a new educational component on the blog as well – so stay tuned for some great product reviews that can be fun for ANY family, not just homeschoolers. (Sneak peek: Green Kid Crafts review coming your way soon!)
18 Responses to “Homeschooling: Our Newest Family Adventure”
Oh Erica, I just read this whole post out loud to Eric. We are so proud of your family for making such a tough decision for all the right reasons. We’re also so excited for the educational journey ahead for you guys.
I have always said that I’d like to homeschool for the first 2-3 years because I don’t believe that the current K-2 curriculum matches what’s developmentally appropriate for those ages (incidentally, my husband learned just this week that Kindergarten is no longer half-day…true story…feel free to ridicule the old man next time you see him). Your observations and gut feelings are spot-on and well supported by early education research.
Sending you huge hugs of support as you embark on a new chapter with C!
Thank you so much Rachel! To be honest Ive been nervous about this post but all of the responses have reconfirmed 1000% that this is the right thing…not to mention we are having a lot of fun and everyone’s in a better mood!
Way to be brace and take a leap. I’m glad you found something that fits you guys well. If you need any tips or a pep talk, drop me a line! Also just FYI, when we did kindergarten last year my daughter rarely spent more than 2-3 hours doing school and now in grade one she’s amazingly ahead of the game. You’ll be blown away how quickly they learn one on one! Good luck friend!!!
Thank you for theose encouraging words Jessica! I have been advised by so many to do less rather than more. So far weve gad success with a 30-40 min learning block in the morning and same in the afternoon while Z naps. That and reading reading reading every time we sit down!
I’m so excited for you and the kiddos and will pray for you on this journey!!!
Thank you so much Theresa!
Our oldest is only three and we’re doing public school as our first option but there are a lot of home schooling families in our church. Even though we’re not planning on home schooling I’m excited to see how you handle it since we’ve seen a couple of the families have issues when their kids transferred to public school or college. That and, like you said, a lot of learning happens at home so even if we’re not formally home schooling there will still be things we can do.
Have you thought ahead yet as to how long you’re going to home school? One of the common things here is home school through elementary or middle school and then do public school starting in middle or high school.
Right now we are intending to homeschool for as long as it works! I am picturing heading back to public school at some point, but fr now just taking it one step at a time.
We are a homeschooling and climbing family. We love the flexibility that homeschooling allows us. We have been at it for 5 years, our oldest is 9. Yes, yes, yes to reading tons and lots of unstructured play! I am also a trained teacher and honestly there were many things I had to overcome as I switched from a classroom mentality to a homeschool mentality. My kiddos continually amaze me. I have grown so much as a momma and a teacher and a person on this homeschool journey. Hard days will come as well as glorious ones!
I can already tell that there are a lot of things I am needing to “relearn”, coming from a classroom environment. Things that I thought would be easy have been hard, but things I was prepared to be hard have turned out to be really easily! This year I think our mantra is going to be “work hard, play harder!” And yes we are looking forward to the flexibility we enjoyed during the preschool years when it comes to climbing season this spring!
All day kindergarten seems like a bit much for, well, kindergarten! Kids that age shouldn’t be meant to sit all day! We still have 2.5 hr kindergarten here, which I wished was longer at times (stuck in line at Costco, LOL), but it seemed to work for my 1st, so I’m hoping it’ll work for my 2nd. You’ve gotta do what works for YOUR family and it doesn’t have to be forever either – as long as it works for you guys. Best of luck!
2.5 hr sounds darn near perfect! I wish we had that option…or even half day would be fine!!!
Hi Erica, internet lurker here chiming in for the first time. I think I have a unique perspective here in that I am a product of homeschooling. When my parents made the (courageous) decision to homeschool us in the early nineties, there was much less support, both socially and institutionally, than there is now. I’d encourage you to attend a homeschooling conference where you’ll be able to discuss things with lots of other parents in similar situations as well as meet with curriculum vendors, hear some useful talks, etc.
Don’t let anyone dissuade you if you think this is best for your family! (Hint: it is!) Another good resource is https://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp? which has information on individual state by state requirements for reporting or test taking.
We will be homeschooling our children starting next year as well, sending encouragement your way!
Thanks for the encouragement and resources. It’s great to hear from someone on the “other side” of things! I’m blessed to have a great pool of local resources – once I began considering the idea, it seemed like every other person I met homeschooled! It has definitely been helpful to get to know other hoemschooling moms, and I’m hoping to do more of that in the coming months. 🙂
Thanks for sharing… Super encouraging and confirming. I have a 4 yr old and have decided to homeschool kindergarten for similar reasons you shared… Looking forward to reading about your experiences and learning from:) side note: I have really enjoyed stumbling upon your blog as we’ve slowly entered the world of being a climbing family here in Texas (ha) as we prepare to relocate to salt lake city this summer and embrace that part of the culture!
Good to hear from you! Best of luck with the move – I know several climbing families in that area, so let me know when you move if you want their contact info. So much outdoor fun to be had in SLC!
Hiya, I home schooled my first kid till 2nd grade. (Given the choice, I would continue to home school–but it’s just not in the budget.) One of our favorite activities was to stick vocabulary, spelling words, math problems in the climbing holds at the gym. As Kiddo climbed, he’d yell them out. He is a very physical learner and problems that had him stumped and frustrated when he is sitting at a desk become so much easier when he is moving, even if it is just running to the wall, doing a short bouldering problem and then running back with the answer. He would refuse to do a page of multiplication, but if you cut the problems up and hid them under rocks for him to find, he would enthusiastically do “hide, seek and solve”.
Good Luck! Enjoy the process.
These are all marvelous ideas! Thanks so much for sharing! My little guy is a mover as well, so I am excited to try these out