This week I have realized that slowly but surely, we are becoming the Real Learning family that I always hoped we would be. Elizabeth, and others, assured me that it would happen with time, but for so long it has been hard to see the big picture evolving as I have been dealing with the details. Homeschooling is a joy, and it is as easy as breathing, it is all just flowing naturally.
Let me give a few examples:
1. After some reflection I realized that even in colder weather my kids need plenty of time outside. With the advice of a cousin who lives in New Hampshire, I put out a big bin of hats and mittens and hooks for coats, got the kids nice warm boots and started sending them out every morning. Yesterday I decided to join them outside where I found that they have been spending their time raking the leaves into huge piles to jump into. The older kids have taught the younger kids how to use the rakes and snow shovels to build the piles.
2. Today one of the twins woke up with a stomach bug. Instead of freaking out, I took clean sheets from the closet and tucked him into a clean bed, and then we moved our "learning" operation upstairs. Some children colored or worked on handwriting books, I read aloud for a while, we all took turns petting the sick child and bringing him sips of water, I did a lesson from the religion book. Almost every week, everything on my school "to-do" list gets checked off, even though we rarely have the whole gang assembled "classroom" style anymore.
3. Everyone adores the baby, and looks forward to the new one. H has made an activity of crossing off calendar days until the due date, and first thing in the morning she tells me how many more days we have to wait.
4. We are up to a Human Body unit in the science text, so I got a great DK Encyclopedia on the subject and just left it around. Every few hours, a curious reader announces a fact to me (Mom, did you know that asparagus can turn your urine green?!) or shows me a gross picture of a dust mite or something.
5. In general, our greatest joy is to sit by the fire and read in the afternoon or evening. We just finished reading My Father's Dragon, and whenever I mentioned reading another chapter the children would shout with joy and come running to the couch.
6. They have become "pen pals" with grandmother, and PT will write a few pages without complaining if he is responding to one of her letters. I am hoping to use this to bridge him to other ways to write for pleasure as a way to strengthen both handwriting and language arts skills.
There is such joy and freedom in this way of learning and teaching. It is very flexible, but there is also a plan in place so that I know that nothing is slipping through the cracks. I have learned to trust myself and the children enough to know that school does not look the same every day or week, and it will look very different for the next few months with a newborn in the house, Advent and Christmas work to do, Dad home for a few weeks, but it is beautiful and they are really learning.
In the past, I felt fine about teaching preschool this way, but I was concerned about what would happen when some of my children were really school age. The answer is that my second grader and kindergartener are at or above grade level in all subjects and that they love to learn, which is the most important thing.
To those who consider homeschooling, I will say that the hardest part is no "time off" from the kids -- something that is true when you have children who are younger than school age, anyway. This year, my mother in law has been coming once a week so that I can go to the doctor or do errands. This has been an invaluable contribution to our home life. Part of the reason that I could handle this morning with a good attitude was knowing that she would be arriving this afternoon to take over for a few hours -- I will go to the pediatrician and the OB with two kids, but it will still be a "break" for my spirit. If you don't have a family member who can do this, I think even arranging a trade off with another homeschooling family so that you have an afternoon off every other week would be a good start.