Supplementing School

School starts on Wednesday.  I can’t begin to explain the sea of emotions this churns up.  It’s big, scary and new – mainly for Mom.  It’s the end of an era – 5 years of rhythm and time are over, now it’s on to something entirely new.  I’m proud of what we’ve done over the last five years, the time we’ve spent together (even as a working parent I feel my husband and I have maximized our time with Henry and really set some firm foundations with him) and now it’s on to something new.  Now we start our lives with a little less time together, a little more outside influence, busier schedules, actual schedules and the like.  But, as much as I would like to keep him little and innocent forever I can see clearly after this summer that he is ready for new challenges too.

But this isn’t about the emotional side of it all, this is about the practical side.

Now, no educational method is perfect.  If I had my way (or lived in another part of the country) my ideal would be a classical mind part brick and mortar, part homeschool program, with the structure of classroom time for a few days a week and more time at home than normal brick and mortar school allows.  But you can’t always get what you want.  So off we go to a good public school, knowing full well that they won’t cover everything we’d love for our kids to learn; with a belief that public school is not meant to be the be all and end all of his education and that home learning is still important.

I’m a firm believer that school is meant to help give a firm foundation in the basics and that it’s my job as a parent to keep the learning going, to encourage the personal interests, to give my kids the time and resources outside of the regular school day to delve deeper into things that interest them.  That doesn’t mean we do hours of extra school once they walk in the door, we just find ways to encouraging that natural interest or bolstering areas that need a little help at home too.  There is no syllabus or schedule for what I hope to encourage at home, just a desire to continue to be active in the learning process.

I’m hoping these will help us continue to work on fine motor skills when it comes to writing, etc.  He’s not big into drawing or similar skills so it’s our biggest area of weakness.  This isn’t something we’ll do everyday, just something to keep around for vacations or rainy days

We already have these and have been slowly making our way through them.  As much as I’d love Henry to be an early reader, he’s not and that’s okay.  He knows his letters and is learning phonics and sight words little by little.  We pick these up as the spirit moves us, maybe twice a month and read through ones we’ve done before and try to read one or two that he couldn’t do before.  For now I feel my job is to encourage and test out his interest, but not push too hard.  I want him to love reading and part of that means letting him learn at his own pace (and yes, this is something I’m ready to go to bat for at school…. if he’s not a strong reader until 7 or 8 or later that is okay in his parents eyes if it means when that switch flips he develops a love for reading because it didn’t become difficult and tedious for him).

An assortment of things to start a very slow introduction to history; for car trips and driving to church.

Something Henry and I have been enjoying together, learning the birds that come to our backyard.  I’ve always loved birding since I was a kid, so I’m hoping this is an interest we can continue to develop together.

An assortment of read alouds we may or may not get to this year.  I’ve been in a rut with read alouds with Henry for the last year as his interests have been firmly in the non-fiction section, but we’ve recently turned a corner with his attention span and his need for illustration (though we still read lots of great picture books and will continue to do so for a long time).  I’m trying to get more relaxed about what we read aloud and not get so caught up with big lists of “classics” or must read books.  What my job is is to encourage good literature while following along with his natural interests – sometimes this will be a good, solid time worn classic and sometimes this will be a collection of Star Wars stories and that’s okay.
Note:  We’re currently reading “The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail” and loving it, and I normally can’t stand talking animal books outside of Redwall or NIMH, but this is excellent – a mystery set is Victorian England and really well done so far.

Honestly when I lay this all out it basically could be a complete homeschool curriculum, but I know that’s not what we’re meant to be doing right now.  I’m actually excited to have separate spheres for formal learning and the home even if lots of learning continues to take place at home (and I hope it does).  He needs a bit more structure and right now our house is not the place that encourages that structure even though we have rules and responsibilities a plenty here.  It’s going to be a big change, but I think it will be a good change.