Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is It Christmas Eve?

Or the night before my birthday?

Or the eve of a huge trip to Disneyland?

Nope, it's not... but it's something just as good (and in the case of Disneyland, something much-much-much better)... it's the night before the Arizona Home Education Convention!

(*insert sounds of wild celebrating, partying, merriment, etc.*)

I am so very excited!

Truly. You all out there are snickering, but this is truly the high point of our year. We love the convention! And tomorrow morning we'll be out the door and on our way!

At last year's convention, when the Moose was still an adorably chubby baby! 

This year our eldest is heading north to stay with one set of grandparents (his first time ever away from us!), while the other set of grandparents is in town to watch the babies. I am considerably nervous about all of those arrangements (whether or not the 7yo will behave himself, whether or not the nurse-to-sleep baby will cooperate by napping without mommy, etc.), but we'll just have to see!

Last year's convention was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. It changed our lives in many ways, and we remember it with much fondness. I don't think we can expect a repeat of that, but we know that it will still be great!

A funny memory from last year:

While we were in the main convention hall, we happened upon several occasions to sit behind a large family (seven-plus children, all under age 10), and all of the children in this family were fabulously well-behaved - not to mention wearing adorable color-coordinated outfits with matching polo shirts! (Ack!) Though they were all young, they sat quietly in their seats through the whole session, coloring or reading quietly. It was amazing.

And what thought of wisdom and insight immediately popped into my head? (I'm serious, this is actually what ran across my mind.) Here it is...

Hey! If I dressed my kids all alike in cute matching polo shirts, maybe they'd behave that well in a convention setting too!

Sometimes I amaze myself with my own idiocy. Amusing, nonetheless.

As a matter of fact, we have really been working on sitting skills with our children - during nightly devotions and during church, and they've really improved over the past year. But not that much! If I end up behind that family again, I'll probably still be drooling with envy. Next year.... next year.

As I approach this year's convention, I've been spending a lot of time trying to think and pray about what I want our family's home education style to look like. There are, you see, many styles of home education - and I am enough of a newbie that I am still a sucker for all of them. Unit studies? Sure, why not? Charlotte Mason? Yep. Textbooks and workbooks? Bring 'em on. Classical, unschooling, eclectic? You bet. 

But the truth is that one cannot do everything - and each family has a unique personality with unique needs. Just because I talk to the local home education gurus (also known as Institutional Pillars of Greatness, or IPGs) and find out their curriculum choices does not mean that I have found what will work for our family. That must be worked out on an individual basis, though it's always helpful to hear from others.

As for our family's educational style, schedule, and curriculum choices, I can only say - I do not know. I am praying about those choices and discussing them with my husband. When I know, y'all will be the first to hear.

But in the meantime, I have been putting together a brief list of characteristics that I want our family's home education to have, and I hope that this will help us in future decision-making. Here goes...

Desired Characteristics for Our Family's Home Education

Key Words: Clear, Uncluttered, Simple, Clean

What does this mean?

It means that I am not going stress out about decorating a homeschool room or putting up educational posters.

It means that I want to use lots of checklists. (Love these!)

It means that I want assignments to be clear, concise, easy-to-follow, and uncluttered.

It means that I am looking for curriculum that is clean, clear, and not covered with extras. For example, I love the clarity and simplicity of Rod & Staff Publications. On the other hand, when I opened a KONOS book, I was immediately overwhelmed by anxiety and a great feeling of distaste for all of the clutter in that book. (Don't get me wrong... KONOS is great. But it's obviously not for me.)

It means that as much as possible, I want to keep things simple.

Time Efficiency

I do not want lessons to take all day. Ideally, I hope to be done by noon like this family. This is not because I wish to slack off, but simply because I realize that most time in institutional schools is wasted time - and there is no need to mimic that. One-on-one education can be completed in a couple of hours per day. Additionally, there is a vast amount of valuable learning that goes on during free reading, free play, contemplative time, and free time of all sorts. I value that learning just as much as I do bookwork. (It's the unschooler in me breaking out!)

Few Textbooks for Science and History

I have had the opportunity to look through quite a few history textbooks, even the highly recommended ones used by home educators... and have immediately been overwhelmed by boredom in each and every case. History textbooks simply don't cut it for teaching real history that is interesting and memorable. Ditto for science (though not nearly as much so as for for history.) However, we end up teaching history, I want it to be with real books.


We haven't done a lot of notebooking yet, but I really like what I've seen - and it fits in really well with a Charlotte Mason style of education. I am spending most of my free time researching this right now!

Real Books

I love real books! (Real books = non-textbooks.) However we end up doing our lessons, I want my children's lives to be filled to the brim with real books, both during lessons and during free time and family time. I can't get enough real books!!

So there you have it - Simple. Efficient. Real-books based. That's what I want for our family, and what I am praying about right now. Hopefully we will get some good ideas at tomorrow's convention, and hear some great speakers to inspire us in the areas where we need help (which is everywhere!).

I'd love to hear from fellow home educators - what are the characteristics that you want in your family's education? How do you pursue those? Tell me about it!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Blurry but cute! 

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