January 2008 Homeschool Adventures

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A new year is upon us, but we’re reflecting on the invaluable learning experiences of the past year to help steer us in the right direction this year. It’s hard to believe Flo is already 8 years-old, and we’re now well into our third official year of homeschooling. We’re definitely learning what works for us, and what doesn’t, and also that each child had their own learning style.

January saw a busy start to the year. We’re continuing with our bi-monthly Smithsburg area homeschool co-op, in which Flo is now taking private guitar lessons, learning to knit, taking a science class, participating in a choir and playing gym games. Joe, more or less, just enjoys doing some crafts and getting some exercise in the gym. Otherwise, he entertains himself with blocks and Legos, or plays with Simon, another boy around his age. So, this group has been a great social outlet, as well as, a source of some fun learning opportunities.

Early in the month, the homeschooling group I started several years ago (Potomac Home Learning Circle) met at our house for an organizational meeting. Quite a few parents turned up to share their ideas for activities in the upcoming year, and discuss any issues pertaining to the group. I was excited to see so much interest, and think back on how the group has grown so much since our little playgroup of three or four families, to a membership of thirty or so families in the area. The activities now available to our kids have multiplied ten fold, and our circle of friends, as well.

The kids finished their last Little Gym classes mid-month with a final recital or “show week.” We decided to forego signing them up again for the next semester, as it’s pricey and they’ve both been doing it for three or four semesters now. We decided to diversify a bit. Both Flo and Joe are taking ice skating lessons again, and yoga should be starting up next month.

Flo continues with her piano lessons. Her teacher is great because she’s so flexible with her schedule and she’s not really rigid with her expectations of Flo. Flo tends to practice about ten minutes a day, and as long as she’s enjoying it, I’m not inclined to push for more. Her teacher is expecting a baby in the Spring, though, so I’m not sure how that will affect our lesson schedule. And, we’re also getting a new music store close by to our house that offers lesson, so we may consider switching for the sake of convenience. But, for now we’re enjoying our weekly ritual of heading 20 minutes south to West Virginia for Flo’s lesson, and then down the street to visit our homeschooling friends, Jayme and Alicia… and their new baby brother, Lincoln, who was born the day after Christmas!

Towards the middle of the month, our homeschooling pal, Conner, and his mom Jen, who moved away last year to the New York City area, came down for a visit to meet Lincoln, and they stayed with us for a couple nights. Jen graciously took a few of Conner’s friends, including Flo, out to Chuck E. Cheese’s and to see the movie “The Water Horse.” They had a great time, and Flo enjoyed getting to visit with Conner.

This month we also discovered the “Build and Grow” program at all the Lowe’s stores in the area. Darren took the kids to a couple Saturday morning workshops, and there was even one set up specifically for homeschoolers toward the end of the month. They basically have little kits with all the materials needed to make the project. They give the kids cute little aprons, goggles and hammers to keep, and they get a badge to sew onto their aprons for each project they finish. It’s cute, and free! Can’t beat that! Of course, while you’re in the store for the “free” workshop, I’m sure they’re hoping you’ll find a bunch things you “need” to buy!

Academically, we’re happy with Flo’s progress. We’re starting to see her read a lot more independently. I’ll find her curled up with a book quite frequently, trying to escape her pesty brother. She got an American Girl doll for Christmas, and has been enjoying reading the stories related to the doll, Kit. We’ve also been making weekly trips to the library to get bedtime reading for Joe. We decided to limit the amount of books we purchase, and to have more of a diversity of stories, now that Joe is a little older and really enjoys his bedtime reading time.

We’ve somewhat abandoned the ShillerMath program, in favor of a simple math workbook. We do use some of the ShillerMath manipulatives to better explain concepts, but both Darren and I found the scripted format just a little too confining. And honestly, there were times when I didn’t understand some of what was being presented. So, we decided to simplify and may revisit the curriculum again with Joe. We’ll see. Since Math was never my forte in the upper grades, I don’t want to pass on my math phobia. So, my main focus with the subject is to just present it in a fun way and have them learn the fundamentals, whether it be through worksheets or life experiences. When we get to the upper grades, I’ll call in the professionals!

Overall, it’s been a busy month, and according to my calendar, next month will be equally busy. So, lots to look forward to!

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