Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Small Victories

Though it sounds totally backwards, we have almost totally abandoned a homeschooling curriculum for a few months so I can gain some perspective, pace myself and learn more about Isabella.

This homeschooling venture has not been easy, but in ways I didn't expect. I did the research and knew from everything I read that this year would be the most difficult.  Most parents who quit do so after two to four months, but at least our homeschool challenges would be ones I felt were worth pushing through, not ones like, how can I get Izzy to get ready faster in the mornings so we're not running to a bus stop every day. I knew I couldn't look at other homeschool families and compare our progress or approach because one of the major advantages to this is that you can mold it to whichever way works best for you, your child and family.   These have been my major challenges over the last few months:

  • I didn't realize how little time I need to spend actually "schooling" her  before moving on to something else. In short, we have a lot of free time and it has been a struggle navigating what portions of that free time I am responsible for keeping her entertained; she should be reading; playing outside or socializing with other little people, all while trying to keep Paloma on schedule with naps and myself with errands, laundry, eating, etc.

  • Homeschooling has shown me what a control freak I am when driven by fear of failure. (Isabella, you will sit down and enjoy this book because it is a classic and you have to know the classics because if you don't you'll be uneducated and never succeed in life and I will have totally failed as your educator, so sit down and quit wiggling and listen! Very enjoyable for her, indeed.)

  • It has been very difficult for us to break our brains from seeing and approaching school from the traditional classroom method (e.g., sit down, open a book, lecture, do a workbook exercise, rinse, lather, repeat.)

  • Learning how to adapt teaching to the way Isabella learns. She is very wiggly. I went to Catholic schools all my pre-college life, where wiggling was not appreciated. Structure, structure, structure, sit still, don't ask questions about the Bible I can't answer.

  • Learning that it is my job to expose her to different disciplines right now. Mastery of a subject comes later. Right now I have to help her develop a love of learning. In doing that, there is no way she will not learn along the way.
All the above require patience, perseverance and most of all, pacing. Lightbulb moments don't happen every day. Copy work is copy work. Maybe it's because life has always been so go-go-go for me that it is very strange to just live life with the girls. It's hard for me to look at the bigger picture confident that copying sentences from classics will train her brain to recognize proper grammar. It's just baby steps and keeping a steady pace. I have 10 years to equip her with the tools she needs to succeed in life, not just in a box room, in a box building, learning from a boxed curriculum. And please understand, I am not knocking traditional schools. We decided to homeschool for so, so many different reasons. This is just what works for our family. 

When we started school at home I realized Izzy was mostly guessing in math, but her grades at school had never reflected it, so we had to start the year with a first grade curriculum to ensure she had a proper foundation.   Since we have been taking a breather from "school", I've had Izzy count her allowance (we pay her $5 a week if she completes all her weekly chores) to keep her math skills sharp.  Yesterday I mixed up the way I payed her so she could practice her skip counting.  When she finished counting, she looked up at me wide-eyed and said, "I did it!! This is the first time I've counted money like that!!"

It wasn't anything extraordinary like, wow I memorized all my times tables today!  But it was a big step for her that happened on a regular, nothing special Monday morning.  There was no worksheet or test she aced.  Later she dictated thank you notes to me she would copy and mail to those who sent her Christmas gifts.  After Paloma napped we went on a hike.  The air was crisp, the sun was out and Paloma wasn't too whiny.  It was a plain old day with one small victory.  I will take it.