Warning! This is a crazy long post. Feel free to just leave now and have a good weekend.
Our homeschool umbrella group (through our church) has been an established organization for over 15 years. I think there are around 60 families (about half go to other churches in the area) and with that large size, social opportunities and support are plentiful. It plays a huge part in the decision for us to homeschool, actually. It’s always nice to see a good number of “normal” people you know homeschool their kids and they do, in fact, turn out to be normal too. I can only wish for that in our own family!!
Now, notice I said normal but not “in the box.” Privately Mike and I talk about “the box” a lot and because I stay-at-home with the one in our family who lives MORE often on top of the box rather than in it, I can easily get frustrated with his learning style differences. I tend to forget how he’s wired.
Mike reassures me each time and reminds me that we don’t want him to be in the box. We feel that public school would expect him to spend 6 hours a day in there and he would be miserable. Not saying that school is out of the question for the future, but for right now, homeschooling is the best thing for him.
We’ve been homeschooling for two years – one on our own for pre-K and one under the Umbrella for kindergarten. I had my semi-annual review the other day from a seasoned homeschooler representing our Umbrella group (Umbrella means they cover your legal documentation requirements and provide ongoing support).
Every state is different, but in Maryland you must be reviewed at the conclusion of each semester by either a county school system official or by the Umbrella. Maryland dictates what needs to be checked: a year’s worth of regular, thorough instruction in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age. The 8 subjects that need to be covered are: social studies, math, language arts, science, health, PE, music and art. The local school system is not allowed to impose additional requirements. (Incidentally, high school guidelines are different.)
Before the review, I had a couple of records to fill out to be turned in. I needed to give Max a grade for each subject. Of course, in kindergarten this is totally hard to do for any teacher but I gave him all Outstandings based on his effort. I know the areas that he needs to work harder next year (respect for other people’s space, ahem) but in my preparation for the review, I saw the pages and pages he did all year and I want him to be proud of his Outstanding work.
He is reading on his own, too, which I now know is developmental but takes a great deal of effort all the same. Yay Max! You can even read out loud without being too distracted!
My reviewer came over and we sat at the kitchen table and after some chit-chat, we got started. She asked me how she could specifically pray for me and we started the time in prayer. Then we went down the list and talked about each of the 8 subjects I covered. I showed her my planning book and Max’s workbooks. We discussed handwriting at length and she encouraged me to relax about it yet keep going in 1st Grade with a structured program. (I quit the Handwriting Without Tears book mid-year because we were both tearfully short-tempered every lesson). She’s been there, she said, and it does get easier. I needed to hear that.
I’m pumped about next year (which starts in approximately 3 weeks).
I realize that this may be the longest post I’ve ever written, but I wanted to answer Ann’s question about why I like Shiller Math for Max. We completed Book 1 (they say it’s for ages 4-5 but puh-leeze! Montessori methods are known to brag) and a bit in Book 2 (ages 5-6) . In 1st Grade we will continue in Book 2 and move right into Book 3 (ages 6-7).
It’s a Montessori (learn by doing) style. I like the jump-around-to-different-things about it. I like the song CD. I like all the toys – the measuring cup, play money, dominoes, place value cubes, etc. I even like how the workbook tells you exactly what to say.
It doesn’t require a lot of written work, which makes it less stressful. There are no pages with a list 10 or 20 math problems but instead there might be 4 or 5 problems then a few pages later another set. The randomness (though not random at all since the concepts are building on one another) works. Max remembers what he learns. He knows basic addition and how to write the equation but he doesn’t have to write it a lot. He can do math in his head pretty well. And on paper he and can add some big numbers. But don’t ask him to do 10 of them in a row!
The negative thing about Shiller is that there is so much stuff. I have everything in a big box and keep it in my kitchen to trip over all day. But it did feel like we were playing and Max was always engaged, not distracted by the stuff. I only took out what was needed, though.
The Kit I costs a fortune new ($400) so I bought my stuff used from a friend. It was a pain in the butt to erase her child’s answers (sometimes I’d just tape a blank index card over entire sections) but I’m not sure I would’ve purchased it if it wasn’t for a fraction of the retail cost. Luckily, my friend switched to something else in the middle so from here on out it’s blank pages for us.
Okay, if you’re still awake, thanks for reading all of this. Our homeschooling adventure continues…
Do you homeschool? How would you describe your child in relation to The Box?