The first years

(continued from  In the beginning….) 

I’d love to be able to tell you that my first year of homeschooling was a joy. That my children thrived and we became that happy family I mentioned. Unfortunately that was not the case.

I suppose I can blame my personality for our first disastrous year of homeschooling. I’m a phlegmatic, with some melancholic tendencies (most of the bad ones unfortunately). What this means, in layman’s terms, is that I am lazy.

I started out the school year with good intentions. I set up a nice little “school room” in our home, complete with chalkboard, desks, library corner, flash cards, work books, etc. We didn’t have the finances to purchase a complete curriculum from any of the great resources catalogs I got from Debbie. Kevin was technically in 2nd grade, and I surmised, “how hard can it be to teach 2nd grade?”. I gathered workbooks from the local bookstore, we already had a well stocked library and our own set of Encyclopedias, and I set out to teach Kevin the basics in math, writing, spelling, science and social studies. My second son, Adam, was now 4 years old, so he did his version of school – playing play dough, colouring, building with blocks, and learning his letters and numbers. I worked three mornings a week at the community preschool, so the children accompanied me and Kevin did his work in the upstairs kitchen while Adam joined the preschool children for “socialization”. Kevin will tell you that he was in preschool for well over 5 years due to this arrangement!

It seemed that Kevin and I were always fighting. He didn’t want to do assignments I gave him. He did the bare minimum in any writing project. He balked at doing repetitive arithmetic problems. His only desire was to read and I was hard pressed to keep him stocked in reading materials. Most homeschoolers will tell you that the library is their greatest resource. Our rural town had quite a nice library, that was amazingly well stocked for such a small town. Unfortunately I was just hopeless when it came to returning library books on time, and I had a horrible problem with “misplacing” borrowed books. Borrowing from the library became a nightmare for me; I was always incurring huge library fines, losing books, and consequently being too embarrassed to patronize the local library. So our own personal library grew as used book stores became my friend. It was much easier to purchase our own books that I didn’t need to worry about losing or returning at a specified time.

I honestly can’t remember much about that first year of homeschooling, except crying over losing my temper with my precocious son and constantly worrying that I wasn’t “good” enough to homeschool.

Towards the end of that first year I became involved with a group of like-minded parents who wanted to form a homeschooling co-op. The ultimate goal was to start a Christian School, but until that came to fruitation, we all agreed to homeschool our children using the same curriculum that would eventually be used at the Christian school.

The one highlight of the school year (and I believe my saving grace) was the formation of “Friday school”. As a precursor to the Christian school we decided to get our children together one day a week to do music, art, P.E. and cooking activities. Each parent took on a job and led that activity and we had the children rotate through the various planned projects. A typical Friday School would start with a music/ singing time, followed by a special speaker – frequently we asked our various pastors to come give a 15-20 minute talk to the children. We then did some bible games – sword drills, scripture memorization, etc. Then the children were divided into three groups – one group worked on a craft/art project, another group participated in a cooking activity, and the third group worked on schoolwork or played puzzles and board games. The three groups rotated so that everyone had a chance to cook, create and play. Lunch followed (where we usually ate our culinary treats) and then we all hiked over to a park for P.E. activities – organized games such as baseball and soccer, tag games, and the like. We had  twenty children ranging in ages from 3 yrs to 15yrs in the group. It was a fun time for children and parents alike.

Though I loved “Friday School”, Kevin barely tolerated it. He hated the music, seemed to enjoy the bible time (was good at sword drills and memorization), tolerated the art activities, read books during “social time” and only opened up when it came to cooking. As for P.E., well, I’d often have to leave early due to his sullenness, moodiness and failure to join in on the activity. Adam tagged along and thoroughly enjoyed the cooking and art activities, though he tended to emulate his big brother when it came to socializing with the other children.

Halfway through the school year I scrapped the A.C.E. curriculum and bought a set of Alpha Omega Lifepacs. Other families in the group were doing the same thing, so I felt okay with this choice. Kevin seemed to enjoy the lifepacs more, but still found them to be “boring”. Looking back I realize that they simply weren’t challenging enough for him. I also blame myself because I did not keep him on a regular schedule. On any given day I would cancel school for the day to go visit with friends, go to the beach or do errands in town. We would sometimes bring along a workbook for Kevin to do in the car, but I didn’t ensure that the work was being done and I grew lazy in correcting his work. He quickly realized that if he kept quiet and appeared busy during the day, I would “forget” to tell him to do school work. Adam, in the meantime, quietly absorbed these interactions between his mother and his older brother and stored the information away to use later in his life.

Thus went our second year of homeschooling.