Friday, August 28, 2009

Educating a Five Year Old...Let the Adventure Begin

From the time that Matthew was about six months old (ok, who am I kidding, this has been an issue since before he was even born), I have agonized over his education. Geoff and I have both experienced a lot of schooling in our lives and so education has unavoidably, even often unconsciously, been attributed high value in our home. How this has translated into Matthew's life thus far is through our (especially my!) reading to him. Since day five of his life, the day that he came home from the hospital, Matthew has been read to. I clearly remember that first afternoon home from the hospital. I propped a barely-awake, floppy-necked Matthew up on my knees and pulled out a large board book I had chosen prior to his birth for his literary debut: it was the Old Testament story of Jonah and the Whale and I chose it at least in part because I thought he would enjoy the big pictures and riveting storyline...I mean, what boy wouldn't like a story about being eaten by a whale? Indeed, in this proud new mama's eyes, he appeared to not only enjoy, but absorb in detail, the story as I read it to him. When his still-largely-unfocused eyes managed to land for a moment on the colourful page before him, I was convinced that our boy was brilliant - and developed well beyond the black and white dizzying toys meant to foster early eyesight development. (Did I mention that Matthew now wears glasses?)

At any rate, that day five reading experience was just the beginning. He has been read to every day of his life since (with the possible exception of a day or two when he was two years old and having a rough time recovering from surgery). In addition to the book reading, Geoff and I have created and told him countless stories. When Matthew was about two years old, I created for him an imaginary character by the name of Lili (a boy remarkably of Matthew's own age and who has grown with Matthew over the past three years). We have told him hundreds of stories about Lili and his life's adventures...which often coincidentally incorporate adventures and challenges that Matthew himself is experiencing. Lili has developed remarkable wisdom for one so young. Over the years, Lili has acquired parents and a dog and a female cousin of the same age - Mimi figures prominently in many of our Lili stories, especially given that Matthew also has a female cousin of the same age with whom he plays whenever possible. In addition to book-reading and story-telling, Matthew also owns a collection of dozens of books-on-CD (ok, he really has well over 100!) and he listens to these during afternoon quiet time and for about thirty minutes after he goes to bed at night: Magic Treehouse series; Adventures in Odyssey series; Psalty the Singing Songbook series; Pippi Longstocking series; Adventures of Proto; Frog & Toad; James Herriott stories; fables of various types; etc etc.

All in all, for a child who doesn't yet read, Matthew is a very well-read little boy! So of course, the question of his education has factored prominently in my mind, concurrent with my desire not to foist education on him but rather to somehow indoctrinate him with a love of learning. Our options, as we saw them for the first three years of his life, were as follows: the public elementary school only a field's length away from our home; private school; private Christian school; and french immerson. I agonized over these choices and none felt quite right. Then, about two years ago, we met a number of people who just happened to be home educating their children. When I suggested that we could always add homeschooling as a fifth option to consider for Matthew, Geoff's unequivocal reaction was: "not a chance." A few months later, after I'd started reading up on homeschooling, Geoff's further reaction was one of resignation: "we're going to end up doing this, aren't we?" If he didn't actually sigh at that point, my memory of that moment is such that a sigh would have perfectly punctuated his question.

Well, as it turns out, Geoff was right. In just a few days from now, I plan to begin home educating Matthew. After months and months of research and curriculum examination, I am armed with kindergarten materials and am ready to go. For those who are knowledgeable of the myriad of curriculum out there, I chose Five In A Row (FIAR) curriculum as the core curriculum, accompanied by Math U See and, for the phonics component, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" (note for the record: I'm counting on the 'easy' part). I am absolutely terrified by what I am about to endeavour and am quite convinced that a year from now I will be lauding the benefits of public education for children! (more tomorrow on the riveting topic of socialization!)

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