The last week of August I dove headlong into something I swore I would never do. We began our first “official” year homeschooling.
We’ve been unofficially homeschooling for several years, but this year it’s the real deal. Audrey is in first grade and we are registered with the state. I would not have believed this was possible, even a year and a half ago. I taught Audrey to read – sure – because she was teaching herself at the age of three, but we always thought we would send her to private school when the time came.
I was homeschooled you see, and I saw first-hand how much time, energy, patience, and organizational skills were required of my own mother, all things which I reassured myself I did not possess. But the story of how we became a homeschooling family is for another day. It’s enough to say that I fully doubted my ability to do this. I spent the entire month of August preparing and then worried that I wouldn’t be able to stick to it (I am not good with schedules over the long haul). Because I am a project-oriented person who has a tendency to focus on one thing in short bursts of energy to the exclusion of all else, I broke our year down into three sections of eight weeks of focused and intense “school.” I figured if I could get through eight weeks at a time, we could slow down, take an easier pace, and focus on other aspects of life the rest of the year.
Today we finished our first eight weeks and I am here to tell you that I am never looking back! Let’s be honest, there’s a part of me that is breathing a sigh of relief because I am so ready to get to some cleaning and organizing projects that desperately need to be done (just ask Ryan)! I am looking forward to taking homeschool at a slower pace through the holidays, enjoying a visit from my sisters, and doing some studying and writing of my own.
But oh my friends, we had fun!
We did math and music, spelling and sign language. We spent waaaaay more time on foreign languages than I expected… because of this magical little app called Duolingo. Spanish, Korean, French, Hebrew, Dutch – the sky’s the limit!
We studied Ancient Egypt and turned one wall of her bedroom into a map wall and another into a timeline wall. We read all the library books, drew pictures, and wrote with Hieroglyphics. We attempted the dramatic makeup, experimented with some recipes and ate an Ancient Egyptian meal while listening to Ancient Egyptian music. We turned an old stuffed animal into a mummy and built a pyramid.
We studied insects, and much to my delight, we effectively turned my terrified-of-bugs-beyond-reason-daughter into a true bug-lover. Dozens of nature walks to observe insects in their natural habitats, as well as plenty of books that described insects like they are normal, understandable creatures accomplished this lofty goal. Containers of “insect homes” with carefully researched habitats and carefully scavenged food lined the tops of my bookshelves and counters. I’m afraid most of these insects died shortly after their capture (unbeknownst to Audrey), but I’m fairly certain she will never forget the difference between a box elder bug and a weevil.
We made homemade hot apple cider, planted bulbs for spring, went crab-apple picking, and packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We enjoyed fall nature walks and picnics and fall treasure hunts with donuts and eggnog.
We did weekly art lessons. We did free-writes. We did poetry tea-times. We read books – lots of books. She flew through her books faster than I thought was possible and we had to make an extra trip to the library just for her. I began reading The Chronicles of Narnia series out loud. When we finished The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, we made homemade pizza, popcorn, and hot chocolate and watched the movie as a family.
We watched our favorite movies in Spanish, listened to our favorite songs in every foreign language imaginable, and made up ridiculous poems in the car while waiting for Daddy. We played the piano together, borrowed a book from the library on the Korean alphabet at her request, and went to the pet store to classify animals. We took breaks on hectic days to watch science documentaries, and sometimes, when the weather was perfect, threw it all to the wind and went to the park.
We homeschooled all morning, every morning, five days a week. We completely immersed ourselves in learning, tallying up over a third of the required hours for the state of Montana in just eight weeks. Taking a break, I might add, is no-where on Audrey’s radar. My house and I, however, would beg to differ.
Because, (and it’s time for a little honesty), we made some sacrifices over the past eight weeks too.
We said no to anything extra. No extra projects, no social life, no personal time for me, because frankly, I was too tired. I got even more behind than usual on housework and laundry. I cooked, I cleaned enough to keep the house liveable, I ran errands and paid bills. I made time for family and others who needed me, but that’s it! And for eight weeks, it was so so worth it.
We stayed relaxed and had fun. And while it may seem like we covered a lot of subjects, maybe even too many, the truth is we spent very little time sitting at a table doing workbooks. We looked for ways to make learning come alive during the time we had and didn’t stress about what didn’t get done. And trust me, there were many days – most even – that we didn’t get everything done.
Learning is experiencing, and experiencing education – experiencing history and music and literature and nature and language – is anything but boring. Education is a privilege, something that people of times past would have given anything for, and remembering that truth makes learning seem magical and exciting.
I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we made the right choice. I am thoroughly convinced, that for our family, homeschooling is the only option, because of the freedom it provides and because it fosters such a love of learning. I am so thankful to the women who convinced me I could do this. Because, my friends, this homeschool thing – it’s working for us.
It. Is. Working.