We’ve been very loosely homeschooling the girls for about a month or two. We are still trying to find our rhythm since baby boy arrived in September and my work has been insane since it’s the holiday season. Today I’m sharing few thoughts about homeschooling, including a few elements I want to incorporate into our overall homeschool culture, some of which are loosely drawn from/inspired by Charlotte Mason’s ideas and philosophies. I definitely love what I’ve read about her model of home education. She was a educational reformist in England in the 1800s, and counter to the popular beliefs at the time, she held that children were whole and intelligent persons, full of human potential, and should be given living and dynamic learning experiences. More about her later, I’m sure!
I’ve also been influenced by the ladies behind the e-book Small Beginnings. I discovered Rachael and Kate through instagram, and immediately fell in love with them. I downloaded their homeschooling e-book ASAP and proceeded to devour it in one sitting, pretty much underlining the entire book (yes, I realize this defeats the point of underlining, haha). I highly recommend this concise, down-to-earth guide for any beginner homeschool families, especially if Charlotte Mason’s ideas resonate with you. Other books I’d recommend: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola and For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley.
Without further ado, here are some homeschool musings/goals/themes/suggestions:
1. Cultivate a love of learning and foster a learning environment in our home. Almost everyone I’ve spoken with about homeschooling little ones has given this advice: read, read, read! Make time to read aloud! Charlotte Mason believed that reading aloud was essential to developing a culture of learning in the home. In this first year of homeschool, I’ll be setting aside specific time every day for read aloud time (and allowing activities like legos or coloring for the girls if they’d like it). We started reading the Little House series together as a family (with Joe reading), and the girls simply adore it. They understand a whole lot more than I would’ve thought, and when there’s a word they don’t understand, we simply explain it! We’re going to be making the Ingalls’ maple snow candy soon, and sharing our experience here! Can’t wait!
2. Allow for lots of outdoor play, exploration, and nature study. My girls love being outside, playing in our “mud kitchen” (a huge pile of extra mulch from our garden, and when the girls discovered it, we decided to keep it for them to play with) and going on adventure walks, and I want to nurture these desires as we enter the school years. Charlotte Mason believed that direct contact with the natural world should be the primary means that young children study science in the elementary years.
“There is no kind of knowledge to be had in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves, of the world they life in. Let them at once get into touch with nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.” – Charlotte Mason
For starters, we’ll be keeping nature notebooks (full of illustrations, captions, and real findings), going on plenty of adventure walks (where we collect natural things on a walk and then come home and identify them), reading a lot about seasons and nature, and establishing a nature table (thanks for the idea, Kate and Rachael)! This idea of a nature table comes from the Waldorf philosophy, and it’s basically what most surfaces in my home default to, because I’m a collector and hoarder. For the girls, I plan on keeping a tray on our dining room table to display their favorite seasonal findings. When they’re older (or we have a larger house), I hope to give this idea of a nature table more prominence in our home, and include beautiful supplies like binoculars, a microscope, and field guides!
The photos in today’s post are from our homeschool activity one day last week; we scoured our backyard for any beautiful foliage or flowers, which inevitably included lots of lovely dried bits and flowers. Then, we came inside and made arrangements in pretty vases with our findings. The girls LOVE making flower arrangements, and I love the designs they came up with! While they were arranging, I talked about and identified what we found (and snapped a few photos). And now their creations are gracing our kitchen table!
3. Accept that I might need to transition from playdates and outings to being home for school [almost] every day. This is a BIG one for me. I love my social outings, maybe even more than my girls do. And typically we’re out 2-3 days/week, shopping, on playdates, exploring local pick your own farms, etc. Our current “schedule”, or way of living, is not very disciplined and we get up and leave the house whenever we feel like it. If I’m going to be a homeschooler, I’m going to have to become more disciplined and embrace this season of being home more. Notice that I said being home more. One of the reasons I love homeschooling is the flexibility, especially in the early years, and I realize that I don’t need to be bound by a rigid schedule. I want to make sure to make time for lots of field trips, hikes, and fun activities outside the home.
4. Getting into a good rhythms, not a rigid schedule. With my pregnancy and then adjusting to life with a newborn/nursing baby, I’m exhausted 90% of the time, and I’ve had a difficult time waking up early before the kids. However, I’ve been trying to institute good habits and loose routines that we follow on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Early morning devotions and Bible reading, making beds and getting dressed first thing in the morning, a few chores, and then moving on to our official homeschool day/activity. I’m still working on what our days will look like, but I know I want it to include plenty of read aloud time, outdoor exploration, simple lessons in handwriting and math (and more subjects the older they get) and rest/nap time.
5. Know the laws in your state. This is a relatively boring item on my list, but oh-so-important. I worked for the Home School Legal Defense Association as an intern and legal assistant when I was in college, and I cannot stress the importance of joining this organization if you’re planning on homeschooling. Among other things, they provide 24-7 legal advice and counsel for members, and they have wonderful state-by-state guides that include information on compulsory education and the homeschool statutes in each state. It’s really important to know the laws in your state and ensure you’re complying! In Virginia, compulsory attendance doesn’t begin until the year your child will be 5 by September 30 (so next year for us!). Hence my research, experimentation, and gently easing into the idea of homeschooling this year!
Well, that’s it for my homeschool thoughts for today! Are you homeschooling your children or thinking about it? What sort of “homeschool culture” do you have/want in your home? I’d love to hear all your thoughts and tips and tricks! It’s a huge endeavor, and I can use all the help!
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