The Random Writings of Rachel: Lessons Learned from my First Year of Homeschooling

Lessons Learned from my First Year of Homeschooling

"First Year" depends on how you look on it. It could also be considered my 20th year of homeschooling, as homeschool has been a part of my life--either as student, sister-teacher, curriculum consultant, grading adviser, or something of that sort, my whole life. But this year was the very first one where I was the home educator - planning the days, making choices about what activities we would do and what we wouldn't, and actually doing all the work myself.



We're 'officially' starting our year of kindergarten, with new curriculum, next week (welcome to our homeschool, where school holidays don't exist and summer break doesn't matter).

Here's what I've learned:

1. It's a scary feeling to know that a little one's education rests on you. It's incredible how much the depth and breadth of learning matters for little kids. The environment in which they learn also matters: do they feel that it's safe, can they make mistakes? Will they follow instructions and guidelines but not at the expense of their natural creativity? Are they learning how to live well and get along with others? There's so much to learn when you're 4 years old, and it's a huge responsibility when you realize just how much you have to teach.

2. Patience is a virtue. There were times, early on in our preschool year, when I felt like they were never going to read, never going to be able to put the numbers 1-10 in order independently, never be able to distinguish a 6 from a 9. Guess what? That was just my brain being dramatically impatient. Some kids take no time at all to learn to read, others need their time, but they get there. To be able to stand back and see the progress these little ones have made in a school year is so, so cool to me. They just finished their 4th early reader book, they can put all the numbers from 1-20 in order independently, understand simple addition, find and name all the continents of the world on a map, and recognize their 3D shapes. They find sight words like "to" and "the" and "of" in the storybooks that I read to them...it's just so much fun to see how much they've grown since August.

3. Life skills and relational skills are just as important as the book learning. Every day, these little ones face relational situations involving sharing, forgiving, being kind, being helpful, etc. They argue with each other, but it makes me so happy when I see them encouraging each other for a job well done--when one of them does their handwriting practice very well and the letters fit the proper lines, she'll show it to the other one, and the other one will say, "Very good job!" and will draw a smiley face on the worksheet, indicating their approval. They help each other figure out their puzzles and tasks, and explain instructions to each other.

4. Field trips are powerful. And our apartment building is great for field trips. The park, playroom, library, and swimming pool are all within walking distance and are our most frequent field trips. When Angel's around and we have a car, we'll sometimes take more ambitious field trips, like outings to a further away park or the beach. The girls talk about those outings for weeks afterwards. We're making memories and real-life connections when we go on field trips, and they're definitely worth the time spent away from schoolwork.

5. Homeschool doesn't mean sitting right next to the kids at all times. I use games they can play independently to give me time to prepare food for lunch or tackle other housework. I need time to get other work done, and they need time to play in their own way. I'll give them a puzzle or a bunch of blocks and go hang up a load of laundry. They're old enough to not need supervision every single second, and that's very helpful. But other parts of school go much better with direct supervision. If I sit next to them while they do their handwriting, the handwriting always turns out ever so much neater than when they do it all by themselves--funny how that works...

6. Painting is always exciting. And as long as they're painting their papers on the tile floor...there's no mess worth worrying about, either. Watercolor is the best. I always see tempera paint used with little kids. I like watercolors better for them, though the colors aren't as vibrant, practical matters of drying and less mess matter more to me.

7. The alphabet gets boring after a while. We did the entire preschool year based on unit studies around all 26 letters, and now I'm tired of the alphabet. Kindergarten will incorporate an around-the-world theme with unit studies of different countries and that ought to be far more exciting! Angel's a flag collector and has already taught them to recognize all of the flags that he owns, but they'll be learning a lot more than just the flags of the world in the weeks to come.

8. I'm a bit lazy as a teacher--or as I like to call it--"efficient." I'm not really into high-prep activities that result in low amounts of learning and time spent between kids and activity. If I want them to make a mosaic/paper collage type activity, I'm not going to cut or rip up the paper for them ahead of time, I'll just let them rip it up themselves as the first step in the activity. I always seek out activities where they can do as much of the work as possible. I already know my preschool skills...they are the ones who need the practice!

.............................................

When I taught English to high schoolers in China, I thought that was the best job that could possibly exist for me. As far as actual jobs go, that one still is. However, this homeschooling gig comes pretty close to that one in the 'how much do I love it?' category.

19 comments:

  1. Homeschooling isn't an option here in Germany - you have to go to a school. I do study a lot with my daughter at home, especially those first 2 years after returning from the US and adjusting to German Schools - I agree with all the above mentioned, especially with PATIENCE.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I know many can benefit from them!

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  3. Enjoyed reading what homeschooling is like for you as a teacher! If I ever end up teaching, patience will probably be the thing I have to work on most. I know I definitely know I will try my best to be an "efficient" teacher! Efficiency is something I strive for in just about everything (15-minute meals and 10-minute grocery-shopping trips are my cup of tea)! Sooo...having the children do the work sounds like a great option. The field trips sound like a lot of fun; it must be awesome to have you as their teacher!

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  4. I have SO many people who say I should homeschool my kids and I just couldn't. I really couldn't. I don't have the patience you need and I ended up not being a teacher for a reason. I'm just not very good at helping someone else learn, you know? We've been so fortunate to have such great teachers at their school who have been great with questions and helping me with ways to help them at home so I'm grateful for that!

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  5. That's so funny about their handwriting being better if you're sitting next to them!
    I think the independence factor is one of the things I really love about homeschooling. I haven't been in the position of educator yet, but from being a homeschooled student for several years of my life, I loved that I could learn and discover things without someone else constantly watching and directing me.

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  6. I give you props. I KNOW I couldn't homeschool. Holy crap. It would be too insane and my anxiety would be through the roof!!! You go girl!!

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  7. I taught kindergarten for 3 years...and yes... the alphabet does get boring. haha. Patience is so important. Great lessons learned for any first year teacher.

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  8. I wish more traditional schools brought games into aid with learning. Children have different learning styles, and lecturing doesn't work for most young ones. They need to be stimulated.

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  9. I have really enjoyed reading about your homeschool adventures this year! I hear you on the efficient factor, I love elaborate things now and then...as long as the time is equal to the outcome. And I like being organized and having some things prepped but I try not to prep anything that isn't necessary.

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  10. This is so interesting.

    I never thought about how nice it would be to work at home so you can get things done while the kids do their independent activities. I think at home you can have a much more direct influence on them and I'm sure the student count is lower as well. =)

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  11. These are beautiful lessons. I especially love the one about painting and going on field trips--always keep your mind open to new places and new ideas! I love how so many of life's lessons work their way into your teaching, too.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your insight! Great post for anyone who is considering homeschooling!

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  13. I know there are heaps of benefits of home schooling, so it was really interesting to read about it from a teacher's point of view. :)

    Christie's Take on Life. x

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  14. ONE and TWO YESSSSS!!! My first two years, it scared me to death that their future education really depended on how I taught them and how I graded them. It scared me how much power I had over them that way.

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  15. I love that you have found such a passion for this! What a blessing! I attended public school, private school, home school, and did long-distance learning (essentially hands-off home schooling done via computer under the umbrella of a school in the States while we lived in China - I think this is probably categorized as just "home school" now that so many people use computers for learning). Anyway, I say all that to say that while I did well in all types of schooling (I've always liked school), home school is definitely where I was able to thrive the most. Being able to work ahead was great for me. Christopher was home schooled K-12 and he loved it as well. Which means that when we talk about school for our kids in the future, home schooling makes sense. But it always worries me that I won't have the patience for it. Hearing about your passion for it going hand-in-hand with #2 up there makes me feel so much better. I need to tuck this post away for later when we have kids at school age. :)

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  16. I grew up home schooled so this post really hits home! Especially about kids learning at different rates. It took me until third grade to read well which was really stressful for my mom and I, sounds like you have the right idea though!

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  17. I think this is perfect! My husband and I were both homeschooled. And when we start a family we would like to do the same! I am so excited! Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I think this will help any one who is considering home schooling. A tough job!

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  19. Around-the-world will be much more exciting! Every summer my kids and I learn about different countries and they color the flag of that country - we save them and hang them up every summer to remind us of the ones we've already done. It's fun!

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