Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taking Stock

I've been homeschooling now for four weeks and thought that I should take an inventory of how it's going.  As might be expected, though there have been a couple of definite lowlights, there have been many more highlights.

The drawbacks have more to do with me, I think, than they do with homeschooling.  For example, I find it very hard at times to be disciplined enough to get done with Matthew the things I want to get done.  It's easy for the day to fly by without having finished the school work.  While in many areas of my life I am quite disciplined, there are definitely areas where I struggle: one of these problematic areas is routine; another area is organization of my household.  Clearly, lacking discipline in these areas is a challenge when one chooses to home educate one's children!  However, the encouraging news is that I'm noticing bits of progress in myself as I get more into a rhythm with the demands. 

The other drawback of significance is simply the time element.  I estimate that, between the preparation time that I require to get things ready for the week, the time actually spent working with Matthew, and participation in the field trips, homeschooling demands approximately one and a half (or two) days of work for me every week.  I thought that life was busy enough before I started homeschooling - now, it really does feel like a lot at times...between homeschooling, working part time, tidying and cleaning and organizing (at least attempting to organize!) a household, keeping a child entertained and happy when not being schooled, making meals, doing laundry, paying bills, buying groceries, and running all the errands...well, it feels like a lot. I'm tired when I go to bed at night.

But enough whining.  Let's get to the highlights.  I've already mentioned one in a previous post:  flexibility.  We are able to work homeschooling around my bit of outside work, we were able to enjoy a trip to Calgary last week and we go on occasional field trips with other homeschoolers.  In addition, the flexibility has meant that on days like yesterday (Saturday) I can catch up on things that I felt weren't completed during the regular work we did a reading/printing lesson yesterday. 

Another highlight for me has been now neat it is to see Matthew actually learning on a structured basis and remembering much of what he learns beyond the day he learns it - in other words, it seems to be sinking in.  In the context of the Five-In-A-Row curriculum that we're using, some of the things he's been learning are as follows:
  • Science - he now knows all five senses, and we've done experiments such as blocking off one sense so that another one can take over, and finding foods to test all four taste areas of the tongue; he's learned a bit about acoustics; we've talked about buoyancy, reflection of light, different types of clouds, etc.
  • Social Studies - he's learned about various aspects of human relationships (for example, individual uniqueness; the wisdom of discernment; the aging process), as well as tiny bits about world geography, cultures and history. 
  • Language Arts - Matthew could tell you now what certain literary devices are, such as personification (he would tell you that one example of this is "the dishwasher is running" and then laugh about it), what fiction and non-fiction mean, and define a number of new vocabulary words.
  • Math - this has been fairly basic so far in our curriculum, but we've worked on:  counting; using a geoboard to create different shapes with elastic bands; and I've introduced fractions, at least to the exent that he knows that four quarters makes up one whole, and two halves make up one whole, and two quarters is equal to one half.  I'm not worried that we haven't done more with math; sometime in the next week or two, we will start a specific math curriculum.
  • Art - he's started to learn different kinds of art mediums and has experimented with watercolour paints, acrylics, charcoal and pastels.  He has also tried drawing things in vairous perspectives (profile, head-on, etc), can draw a character's eyes looking in various directions, and is learning to draw water in a way that he can demonstrate motion.
Another highlight of the past month was going on four field trips with the group that events for homeschoolers: 
  • We went on a picnic with a number of other families to kick off the school year;
  • We participated in a 'desert in a dish' afternoon where he learned about desert plants (he knows what succulants are and why cactus plants often have prickly spines, and so on); he then got to plant one to take home and care for. 
  • We spent more than two amazing hours last week at a small reptile farm, during which time he got to hold a boa constrictor, watch a cayman (looks like a small alligator) jump for his snack of mice, and stroke to his heart's content a few 15-20' long, 240-pound Burmese Pythons!  Though I'm not normally drawn to reptiles (especially snakes), even I felt amazingly tender, even affectionate, towards these magnificant creatures...the pythons were truly remarkable beings and were butter soft to the touch.  We learned a lot about reptiles that day, and Matthew can now tell you the three primary characteristics of reptiles as well as the difference between cold-blooded and warm-blooded creatures.
  • Just this evening, we went to Fort Whyte Environmental Centre to listen to a presentation about migrating Canada geese and then we were able to watch thousands (and thousands!) of geese landing in the lakes at the Centre. We drank hot chocolate and ate hotdogs and sat outside wrapped up in blankets against the cool fall air as we waited for the geese to land after sunset.  It was great and we learned interesting stuff about geese.
Finally, a big highlight for me is simply getting to spend time with my son - it's delightful to me...he's delightful.  It counts for a lot.  He's a great kid and we have a special relationship.

Though sometimes it seems like we're not getting very far in our home educating process, as I read through these lists of things we've done, suddenly it feels like we're doing ok.  I truly do love doing it so far, and am ready to tackle the next month!

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