I've been meaning to post on this for ages, so here goes! Veggie Tales in the background, folks, so no guarantees on logical thought processes or even basic grammar. You have been warned.
Okay - two things to start off:
First thing - Homeschooling was not plan A for me. Though DH has always wanted to homeschool, I had decided very firmly against it and had even picked out a (really great!) school for our children. The only problem - despite firm personal resolution, I simply could not feel at peace about any decision other than homeschooling. I prayed about it for at least a year, and finally concluded that God's plan for us right now is homeschooling. Though I can't say I'm overly excited about it (I'm not someone who's been waiting and wanting to homeschool), I do believe that this is God's will for the present. Now I'm just praying for the enthusiasm to go with it!
(Note: I am seeing many reasons why homeschooling was a good decision for us - both having to do with me and with our son. So I'm in agreement with this decision, however reluctantly it came about!)
Secondly, even though we did decide to homeschool, we had not planned on starting this year. We had wanted to wait until next year, when our son will be six, mainly because our son has absolutely no academic instincts, and also because every teacher I have ever talked to says that later starts are better for (most) boys. However, as I have mentioned, our son was not going to be allowed to move up with his AWANA class unless he was "in kindergarten," so we reluctantly decided to start a year early.
We started "school" in October - the plan was for September, but I was just too sick to start at that point. Normally, I think I'll either school year round (and take breaks whenever) or start the school year in June, as I absolutely loathe our Phoenix summers and would rather take time off during our livable cooler months.
With that being said, we've been homeschooling for four months! How's it going? Well.....
(1) For phonics (reading), we chose the classic "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". It has been great! No complaints. Does our son like it? No, but he doesn't like anything academic, so that's okay. We're doing half a lesson per day, and are almost halfway through the book. I've heard that some kids get lost in the latter parts of the book, so it that's the case then we'll switch to something else. For now, it's been good!
(2) Because I did not want to be starting kindergarten at all this year, we have skipped math and writing. For the rest of our curriculum, I used Sonlight Core A - their kindergarten program - which covers Bible, poetry, and history/culture/geography in a "real books" format - that is, one learns from read-aloud books (as opposed to textbooks).
From this, I have now officially joined the "spend a whole bunch of money on something you don't end up using" club. I was sure it wouldn't happen to me, considering the HOURS of research I put into this purchase, but the sad truth is there - we're going to have to switch to something else.
Before proceeding, I should say that I really do love Sonlight, and I'm willing to look at it again later - though this review is going to show why we're not using Sonlight right now, I think it's a great program and would whole-heartedly recommend it to others. Also, the book lists that they use are simply phenomenal - great literature, all of them.
We got through one third of the program - hurray! While we were doing the curriculum, I did my best to ignore that a huge percentage of the material was completely going over my 5yo's head. I just plowed ahead. But then I read this blog post in which the mother mentioned using Sonlight Core A for her eight year old daughter. And I'm trying to use this for a five-year-old boy! No wonder it was going over his head!
Our son is currently still into picture books (Clifford the Big Red Dog, etc.), and short chapter books that have lots and lots of pictures (Mr. Putter & Tabby, Henry & Mudge, etc.). The books used in Sonlight's Core A are books that I remember reading in third and fourth grade - "The Boxcar Children," "The Family Under the Bridge," etc. They even included "The Hundred Dresses" - which is a long, action-free book that consists almost entirely of a girl describing her feelings. For a five-year-old boy? Are you kidding me?
Additionally, many of the readings were entirely too long. It was not uncommon to have daily reading assignments that were 20-30 pages long in the chapter books, which were exhausting for me and mind-numbingly boring for our son (especially considering that he wasn't getting the material). This also had the unexpected side-effect of killing my love of reading aloud. Our story times together pretty much ceased around the time we started using the Core, because I was so sick of reading aloud that I just wasn't up to doing regular book time.
One final complaint was that the Core A introduced themes and subjects that I felt were highly unnecessary and sometimes inappropriate for five-year-olds. Kids really don't need to know all of the evil of the world. Themes from the books sometimes involved: poverty, terminal illness, death, cruelty, racism, bullying, murder, religious persecution, etc. etc. etc. For such young children, I think I'd rather stick with "Hi, I'm Emily Elizabeth, and this is my dog Clifford."
After reading that rather illuminating blog post, I spent a couple of weeks in quandary and then decided to ditch Sonlight for now, leaving the possibilities for the future open. I'm guessing that we will either return to Sonlight in the future or use their book lists, which, as I mentioned, are excellent.
So for now, we're doing Bible as a family, phonics, crafts and coloring from AWANA lessons and from on-the-fly ideas, and waiting while I research writing and math curricula to put into place after our postpartum time off. If anyone has any ideas, PLEASE leave a comment to let me know what you like! I am especially looking for curricula that are good for wiggly-willie type of boys who just aren't into school for school's sake.
One thing I loved about Sonlight was simply that the days are perfectly laid out for lessons. I do not enjoy creating my own lesson plans or putting together curricula off of the internet (I know a lot of mums really enjoy that). That was definitely a plus, and I will miss that.
Homeschooling has been a challenge in many ways. It is difficult not to have any time by myself. It is difficult to enforce learning with a child who has absolutely no interest in it. It is also difficult to work across learning styles - my own style is nice, neat bookwork, with lots of checking boxes off of a to-do list and perfectly organized papers, while avoiding all hands-on activities (which I have always disliked). Our son, on the other hand, has no interest in worksheets or book work, and is entirely the hands-on mechanical type. Yikes!
I think I am about to prove another rule of homeschooling - that it takes a couple of years to get worked into feeling comfortable with it. Yup, I can see that one coming.
So that's how it's going, everyone! I'll check in later in the year to let you know what kind of progress we've made.
Oh yes, and today is..... 40w0d!!! Hurray!! This babe has now more than won the record for longest-uterine-residency in our family. Hoping s/he will keep it up at least a few more days!! And if I have time, I'll do another pregnancy/life update before s/he makes an appearance.