Sunday, September 24, 2006

Introducing ourselves...

Welcome to my homeschool blog! I'm glad you stopped by, I am looking forward to telling you all about our home-learning. In writing this blog, I have several goals. I need to document my children's learning for my state regluations, and I think that a regular "diary" of sorts will be an affective and relatively painless way to do that. Also, I decided last year that I need some sort of accountability, something that helps me stay on track with my goals for the kids, and an on-line blog that at least a few people are aware of seems a good way to do that, without subjecting myself to some outside authority which, for the time being at least, makes my skin crawl! :-) Lastly, I know that I have personally gleaned so many ideas and insight from other wonderful homeschool bloggers that I can only hope that anyone who reads this will see something here that sparks their interest. Maybe it will be an ah-ha moment, maybe you'll think, "Oh, that's wonderful, that will really help me solve this particular challenge I've been struggling with." Or maybe it will be an uh-oh moment, something like "Oh my goodness, that just would never work in my family! Cross that off the list of things I'd like to try..." Either way, I will be very glad to help! :-)

So...introductions...In keeping with on-line safety advice, I will not use our real-life names. I am The Mom, a/k/a MamaJen. I am a fairly typical stay-at-home, homeschooling Catholic mom of 4 boys. I want to raise saints, I want to be a saint myself - and I struggle with it all every day! I have definite opinions which I may or may not share here. I do want you to know that I am totally, utterly human - so you will definitely find I make mistakes! I am also totally, utterly, devoted to my God and my family. This devotion, combined with my humanity, colors everything I do, every opinion and idea that I have.

I am married to DH (which means, of course, Dear Husband - most of the time! :-), who is equally human, equally devoted to God and family. Dh is extremely supportive of homeschooling the kids, for which I am greatful. We are very sympatico on just about everything school and parenting related. Well, if it was up to me, we'd throw the TV out the door and never look back, but DH has a long love affair with visual media, so we compromise. I allow the TV in the living room, but I do turn it off on occasion! ;-)

Our oldest child I will refer to as J1 (his name is "J" and he is child #1). J1 is 9.5 years old. Technically he is in 4th grade, though I put no such restrictions on his work. He is way ahead in reading, a little ahead in math, and a little behind in handwriting, for example. Like all my kids, he is himself, not a grade level. He is a very bright child who is pretty compliant about his schoolwork and almost always learns quickly. This can sometimes be a problem because when he does come across something he doesn't just instantly understand, he throws huge fits and digs in his heals. We struggled mightily with long division, for example - it took almost a year of instruction, fits, backing off, more instruction, finally completely changing our math program - before he finally "got" it. Most of the time, however, he is an absolute joy to teach, with an innate love of learning, a steel-trap memory and amazing insights. I am blessed to have him as my first child, my guinea pig child - he makes it all fairly easy for me, so far!

My next son is A2, who just turned 7. Technically, A2 is in second grade this year, but because of his very late birthday and his own personality, I consider him to be in first grade this year. A2 is my super-unique child, different in so many ways from all my other children. He just has a very different way of looking at the world. He is Stubborn, he has always done everything in his own time, in his own way. He crawled at 5.5 months, determined to chase after older brother. He didn't talk hardly at all until he was almost 4. He says fun, interesting things such as, "He's a lady baby!" when referring to a friend's newborn baby girl. Or "My heart is bumping" after he runs around a lot, or "I'm melting!" when he gets sweaty. He is very, very self-confident, he walks with a swagger similiar to James Dean. Like me, he is quiet and introverted in our family of very verbal extroverts. He is very observant, all the time, and often surprises me with his knowledge and insight. He can't yet read, though he very successfully plows through google searches for all things cheesey monster-movie related. He actually knows a lot of Japanese kanji related to Godzilla, his favorite monster of all time. He has a massive sight-reading vocabularly, but has no fluency to pick up a book and read it. I worry about this rather excessively, and my goal and focus this year is to get A2 really reading.

S3 is almost 6. He is constantly on the go, always moving, jumping, running - definitely my most typical "boy" child. He has a deep, booming voice in a tiny little body - he looks the definition of "string bean", very tall yet very thin. He is deeply imaginative, and as much as his body is constantly in motion, so are his thoughts. We often say, "He lives in S-land, he just visits us now and then." He is my little sponge, he is just desperate to learn things. I feel somewhat badly, because he has been all but begging to do more schoolwork for well over a year now, but in the tumultuousness of my life, I have put him off. Even though he is technically only in kindegarten this year (which shows the insanity of the modern school sytem, because there is just 15 months between him and A2, who is techincally second grade), I will be combining S3 and A2 in first grade work for most things. I will allow them to be individuals, and take the years' age difference in consideration, but it just makes it easier on me to generally combine them together. S3 is very close to reading, I suspect. If I can help him sit still and focus for about 15 minutes every day on some phonics instruction, I suspect he'll be reading fairly well by Christmas.

N4 is my youngest, he is almost 4 years old. Technically, he is two years away from kindegarten. But if you think I am going to stop him from doing school work with his older brothers, you are absolutely crazy! N4 is a force of nature - he's definitely always been my challenging child. N4 is just *more* everything. More temperamental, more demanding, yet more loving than all my other children put together. I suspect that, like my oldest, he is quite, quite bright (oh, all the kids are very smart, of course, but J1 and N4 have that "extra" something in the IQ department, I believe - makes it more challenging for them in many ways, actually). It wouldn't surprise me at all if N4 is reading by the end of the year. I will just go at his own pace, as I completely don't believe in pushing young kids to learn, even if they seem ready (learned that lesson well with J1!). He will have his own binder, with fun "workbook" pages that he can do, or not do, as he desires, just so that he feels a part of it all. He will also continue to be my shadow, helping me cook and clean and organize and play, he will listen to all our stories and some of our instruction time, and he will almost certainly pick up on way more than I expect!

My general homeschooling philosophy is pretty simple. Every child is a unique individual. There is no one-size-fits-all education, even within a family. I tend toward an eclectic, even an unschool-ish approach. I think that, if you don't interfere with it, most kids have an innate desire and drive to learn. Some kids need more guidance than others, some like the workbook approach, some need to be left mostly alone to gain more maturity. Some kids need to DO to learn, some kids need to LISTEN, and some need to WATCH. In addition, moms and dads also have needs that need to be addressed in a home-learning environment. I think that most of my kids would do quite well with a strictly "unschooling" approach - but I wouldn't. I need a gentle, basic, core curriculum that lets me rest secure in knowing I'm at least covering the grade-level basics. But, I don't let the curriculum use me, I strive to use the curriculum. In other words, even though we didn't get to the last 15 pages of our grammar book last year, I don't stress about it. I know my children, I know what they know, I know what they need. God gave these children to me, and He gives me the Grace I need to raise them right - I just need to open myself up to that Grace. Sometimes that's easier said than done, of course, but I do believe that my husband and I know what our children need.

And you know what your children need. If you're a fellow homeschooling mom reading this blog, please don't think that what I do in my family will work, as written, for yours. I hope that you will learn something new that perhaps you've never thought of, but mostly I hope that seeing how another family does things will give you freedom. Freedom to forge your own path, so that you can listen to that still, quiet voice of God, of your conscience, of your mothering instincts. It will tell you what to do if you Listen.

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