Tuesday, October 28

Homeschooling Easton

Did I mention I'm homeschooling Easton this school year? Yes, that's happening. Short answer for why is that he has been asking to be homeschooled for a couple years now and I've wanted to give it a go too.

And yes, I did just have a baby. I might be crazy but homeschooling Easton with a new baby is working so far two months into both those endeavors! Aliza's birth story is mostly written, but it's on a different computer that is in use tonight. 

Tonight I'm just feeling so happy this experiment is working so well that I wanted to document a bit of it.

The biggest reason I think it's working for us is that we landed in a pretty sweet spot of a homeschool co-op. A couple friends from church were forming a co-op twice a week and they asked if we'd join in. Honestly, they took pity on me, their very pregnant friend and said they'd homeschool Easton until I was back online after baby's birth. Our co-op consists of four families all homeschooling one or two kids in their families. Between the four families, we have a total of 20 kids but only six are being homeschooled for various reasons. We have three 13 yr olds, an 11 year old, and two 10 year olds. That's two girls and four boys - all delightful smarty-pants kids. The motto is "If it doesn't work for mom, it's not working and something's gotta give." In two months, there's been a fair share of tweaking but it seems to still be working for all four of us moms and by extension, the kids. Who teaches what and when, rides to/from, homework, supplies . . . it evolves weekly.

We meet every Tuesday and Wednesday from 9-3. One day, Emily teaches language arts and two of the kids teach two of the others trumpet and violin while the remaining two work on a project of their choosing. The next day, Emily or Anna teach biology and Anna or I teach history. I love learning from these women and having them in my life as regulars! Having weekly contact with my peers to this extent is new for me but I like it. It's great to know them better and be known by them. I've been such a hermit for so long I'm realizing. But I'm learning fun stuff now and that, of course, is one of my true loves in life! For instance, I learned how to read poetry with iambic meter from Emily recently. I don't remember ever hearing about iambic meter before now. What a difference that makes in my attempts to enjoy poetry! 

In language arts, the kids are reading a couple novels and doing five paragraph essays, vocabulary searches, grammar, and other related assignments to the books. They are currently reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Bronze Bow."

In biology, they've been learning about classification (kingdom, phylum, families, species . . .). Last week in biology, Emily led them out to the forest and a nearby pond on an expedition to collect samples. They examined their specimens under the microscope, drew what they saw and tried to classify them. Homework was further research on the specimen and its classification. 

Today they again practiced being naturalists like Darwin. Emily had her son stand on a chair and recite from memory "The Jabberwocky." He stood tall and proud on the chair and recited it in his best British accent. Awesome! Did I mention that these kids are insanely smart?! They are, Easton and I are blessed by association! Anyhow, the poem mentions a number of creatures among which Emily had each kid choose one to draw. They were to put as much detail into the drawing of the animal and its habitat as they could. Then they traded papers and filled out a worksheet as if they were classifying the other person's animal. Each student presented their animal to the group as if they were professors at a meeting of naturalists, three of them with British accents. Just because. 

Next week is photosynthesis with more collected specimens.

In history, we're studying civilizations between 500-1500. We've been reading out of Story of the World, a chapter or two a week. We discuss what we've learned from our reading at home, review geography, and do an activity related to the civilization. When studying the Romans, they created signum poles. Another week, they made their own illuminated manuscripts, played with calligraphy pens and fonts, and bound their own "books" like the early Celts of Britain. 

But now we've taken a bit of a different direction with history and will be creating our own civilizations (on paper), borrowing this and that from the civilization we're studying that week - ideas of government, economics, or culture. Last week they each chose two numbers that became the latitude and longitude of their new civilization. We got Mongolia, United Arab Emirates, the Marshall Islands, Yellow River China and coastal southern China. For homework they had to research the geography, topography, fresh water sources, climate, and natural resources of their civilization to see what made life flourish there. 

Today after review our reading about Australia's aborigines and New Zealand's Maoris, we watched a short clip and discussed that early civilization's organization of their society and their culture. Emily's parents have spent time in Australia so she had a handful of children's books I'd read through and we discussed those and what they revealed about that place and its peoples. 

Then we moved on to our Civilizations Projects. They spent quite a bit of time sketching out and discussing their new civilizations, some already making alliances or plotting plans to invade their neighbors. Next week, they'll have reviewed the first four civilizations in SOTW to see what ideas they want to adapt to their own civilization. Last week I introduced a few of them to the Settlers of Catan game to get their minds ready for the Civilizations project. Some enjoy strategy video games of that kind so they are feeling pretty confident in the abilities to run a civilization. One girl was stumped today, however, on how she will disburse food in her civilization - should she give it out freely according to the number in each household or make her people work for it? It was fun to see this discussion evolve. In this project, the kids get to earn people and resources but will gain and lose them based on scenarios we'll play out such as invading armies, natural disasters, cultural project patronage and so forth. It's fun seeing them beginning to think about what contributions of prior civilizations they want to adopt.

On the home front, Easton's homeschool is pretty self directed. He does some gospel study, math (dvd teacher and worksheet), spelling (workbook), logic (workbook), a free typing program online, German and co-op homework. It's amazing how full the day is with all of that. We head to the base every Thursday so Easton can hit the library and I can get my grocery shopping done and gas up the van. It's becoming a good routine for us.

Last week, Easton also just joined a homeschool book group reading Lois Lowry's "The Giver" before the new movie's debut. The group meets once a week to discuss the assigned chapters. I really like this book but we'll see what kidsinmind.com says in their review before we take Easton to see it. The group happens to meet during his library time - SWEET!

So far this homeschool experiment is working! It's so great to be able to not stress over or have to fit in  homework with Easton in the evenings. It's nice to be able to enjoy him in the evenings and see him relaxed and able to enjoy family time. The co-op provides us the perfect balance of self-guided study and peer learning. It's fun to see Easton among peers and he still likes having me stick around to participate. It's so great having him home to play with Jake or hold Aliza while I see to a task or just because he needs a baby fix. He's such a great helper! 

We've had our learning curves as the co-op assignments have been harder than he's used to. He is learning valuable time management skills and how to break down a big assignment into doable chunks so he's not overwhelmed and immobilized. There's still much we need to learn and can tweak, but on the whole it's working and feeling like a blessing and not a curse.

Morgan and McKay both want to try homeschool although they both really like their school and classes. It's nice that twice a month they get to see what co-op does and participate somewhat because we rotate days and houses based on one of the participant's A/B middle school schedule. McKay says he'll do homeschool for 5th grade just like Easton is. We'll see!

I don't know that homeschooling is a long term thing for me, Easton, or our family. But it is working for now and we are enjoying it.

Edit: 11/25/2014. I have to laugh because a week later this all changed! I'm happier with the changes which means less co-op and maybe no co-op after Christmas. Easton and I are finding our way with still a lot to learn! The less I have to leave the house, the more learning actually happens. Go figure!