|My daughters with finger paint|
It’s natural to want to know what to do in terms of homeschooling your children below 6, specially with your oldest child. With the harassment and big business this preschool market represents, and the model of the schools which we all know to be wrong in pushing little ones into formal and too much paper pencil work at an early age, we moms of young children who homeschool are surely an obvious target. And even if it’s not anybody’s fault but our own, we still want to have a schedule, look at some books and curriculum, and, as you are doing, read some blogs and articles about it.
When my oldest girl was 4, almost 5, two years ago, I bought some curriculum for the first time. I went to a mom’s home who was selling things, and came home 52 dollars poorer and with things I thought were a great deal. What was in that plastic bag?
- Saxon Math 1
- Five in a Row Volume 2
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
- Explode the Code
- Some manipulatives
- A few folders to make some lapbooks
- An idea to replicate Handwriting Without Tears
- At home I had some Early Readers too
What did we do from all that?
|Crayons on a hat|
And then, after wandering for a while, I went back to the original Charlotte Mason plan and we started to go outdoors much more, and kept reading good books, and some objectionable titles that were surely twaddle.
When my daughter was 5 almost 6, or last fall, I read more Mason, books on her and some of her work scattered, and I found the Year 0.5 yahoo group and book list, and I made a grandiose schedule that we could not have completed in several years, but that I thought was very sensible. It was more loaded than the Year 1 schedule we are following now for four weeks.
My daughter learned to read, but still does not choose to read by herself. There are times when I read about children her age or younger reading wonderful living books by themselves, that I get a pang in the stomach, but the pang reminds me to have faith, to see this is not a timed race but a life time experience. I had nobody read to me, I did not read for pleasure until I was 10 or 12, I had periods of almost no reading during adolescence and adulthood. I read comics and twaddle, I read literature that now I consider dubious… At least my daughter is surrounded by living books, and has now a good model in me. She loves reading because she loves being read to, the rest will come as she continues developing relationships and getting in touch with ideas in her own time.
Somewhere around the middle of the school year, and inspired by my friend, we started to read slowly. So I picked ten books per week, two per day, not even, only one on Wednesday and one on Saturdays too, and we read wonderful living books, and we slowly read those and some more picture books in between. I also had the first half of MEP year 1 printed, we had started it in the fall, we stopped it, picked it up again, and finished it in May. By that time my oldest was disliking math.
|Our Peter Rabbit cards|
During last year we did much but it was all random, following our own paths with moments of me trying to over-impose a schedule on my oldest, and then retrieving to an observing and suggesting place. We painted, created, read, sang, danced, played, and were outdoors frequently. At times I thought my oldest was doing great, at times I thought I was a total failure and I was going to disappear from the internet ashamed that after being a homeschooling bastion now I had to put my girls in school. But prayer, my wonderful husband, and Charlotte Mason came to my rescue, and my friend Stephanie asked me to translate her course. I got back to Charlotte Mason with renewed strength and conviction.
After all, my oldest can read, loves to hear the Bible, has a wonderful ability at drawing, never says no to a nature walk, can reason a math problem very well, has very nice handwriting (she is a girl!), and most specially, she is an obedient, caring, and self motivated little girl. She writes notes and letters for presents, gives away many of her belongings, cooperates and always contributes to house chores… not to say all our days are perfectly smooth. I need to write about the day we were all screaming and crying at 2:00 pm, and fighting for the phone to whine to dad about our miserable life and why the others contributed to its misery.
Then in May I prepared for a poetic Charlotte Mason year 1 following Ambleside as our pattern with my oldest, and so far she is doing fine, with her moments, our rough edges, my constant adjustment to give her a bit of what she shines at, and a bit of what she doesn’t love that much, and enjoying the time!
|My oldest and a friend at the Zoo’s tube. Two years ago|
WHAT DO I DO NOW AND WHAT DO I PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR WITH MY NOW 4.5 YOUNGEST DAUGHTER?
We’ll stay away from busy work. Some mothers ask how to keep their little ones busy. I understand that question in the context of those who have older children to whom you’d be reading or listening to, but BUSY WORK is not true learning, and play doesn’t have to be educational either, and moms don’t have to prepare the unit studies or all the oral lessons or lectures.
This fall she’d be the same age as when I started her sister in that curriculum and schedule failure. She is lucky, her mom is more relaxed. She loves being around her sister, so when I’m doing the short table work with her, she comes along. If she were my oldest, and with the knowledge I have, I wouldn’t bother to buy curriculum, but I’d continue with reading some LIVING BOOKS, and try to avoid twaddle. Not that we read a lot of it, but with my oldest I thought that reading LOTS OF BOOKS will compensate the drop of the Saxon, FIAR, handwriting, and formal reading lessons, and although we read extensively, I now know the quantity is not what matters, but the quality of the readings.
This is what I now do with her:
|Explorers in one of our nature walks|
- She usually shares Bible study early in the morning. She sings with us, and listens with us
- She is free to illustrate the Bible story or to just draw while we do our Ambleside reading time in the morning.
- Sometimes, while her sister does copy work, I write her name on the white erase board, and she practices it.
- At times I have done some math with her, mainly with unifix cubes or any manipulative and oral questions.
- We have our own books that we read together while her sister plays alone in her room at quiet time. (I plan to start posting about our favorites, because many you can find on sale at the used book store, or at the library.
- She comes to our nature walks, and likes to draw an entry for a nature journal sometimes. If she leaves before we do, I’m fine with it.
This is what I plan for her KINDERGARTEN YEAR next summer, when sister is in Ambleside year 2, Lord willing,
- Continue allowing her to participate in our readings, but selecting 10 reads a week just for her, as we did last winter/spring. If her sister wants to hear those, it of course will be fine too.
- Focus on a math concept and practice it orally or with manipulatives.
- Music, art, and nature, foreign language, poetry, hymns, folk songs, Bible, the same as her sister. That’s the advantage of a Charlotte Mason education.
When you have more than one child it is easier for the next ones, you know that they get it, that you don’t need to spend lots of time to “teach” a simple thing that they can catch faster once they are older. For example, writing her name. I had my oldest practicing since earlier, while now my 4.5 can copy it and knows the sounds of the letters without formal drill. The trick is to destine some time for them in particular and to have faith that more is less at this age in the sense of too much sitting time, or too much formal curriculum. But if you have an oldest child of 4 or 5, and you plan and try things, that has a value in itself. Many times we have to GO THROUGH THINGS to understand and believe what others tell us. I did! Definitely the oldest gets the heat! :), but it won’t kill him, after all we make mistakes because we are responsible, they know it, and they forgive us. If things get too bad, then unschool them for a while and their love for learning will come back, regroup, and try again until you find the way that suits you.