Please share your ideas as a teacher of young children.
One of the things we do that I've found valuable, is to spend time together in the morning singing, praying, and doing our Catechism For Young Children. The boys really enjoy the memory work of the catechism, and delight in reciting it for me. It is amazing how even a two-year old pipes up, "I cannot see God, but he always sees me!"
"Children are the only
test of character that you cannot get rid of when you are tired or stressed
and go do your own thing. You can take a break from a "ministry" but not from
a whole slew of little kids. You are up to bat all the time. You never see
the dugout, much less the locker room. But it is way down in the
nitty-gritty, knee deep in the nuts and bolts of everyday life, that God
makes spiritual giants. Laundry and phonics and recipes are the stuff of
After taking about a year off from "school" with our boys, we finally started our school routine January 1, 2002. During our time-out, we still had educational resources available for the kids and did some of our morning table time, but for the most part it wasn't planned or a major part of our lives. 2001 was a big year of transition for us including frequent trips, quite a bit of instability, and a number of moves--the biggest of which was overseas to Kyiv, Ukraine.
I was very reassured and encouraged by my friend Amy and her children. She has a very relaxed-schooling approach. Her children are doing great, and it helped me take a deep breath, wait things out in our schooling, and objectively look at how our boys were doing. Sure enough, they've learned a lot in just the daily activities of life.
One of the things I have gradually shifted in my approach to homeschooling is how I want to be consciously nurturing their souls, their hearts, their creativity. I tend toward the academic--I liked studying, school, tests, reports. I did well, loved to read, and in general lean toward academics. My earlier ideas of homechooling reflected that--heavy emphasis on a Classical education approach, starting when they are ready (not too young--but not delayed, either) and challenging the children in academic areas. I do want them to be challenged academically as they grow and I want to nurture their minds. But now I recognize I need to make the effort to foster creativity and imagination. Nurture. That is the word I want to remember in our schooling.
We are currently reading Little Pilgrim's Progress, and the boys LOVE it! We are also studying Knights and medieval times. The Dorling-Kindersley books are one of our main resources--along with Daddy answering millions of questions about that historical period.
March 2002 - We've transitioned out of Knights, and right now storytime with Daddy is focusing on the early American history. Recently Johnny (5) commented after one of Daddy's stories, "George Washington was able to cross the Delaward because he prayed. And it was God's plan for him." Ahhh. . . A budding understanding of the Sovereignty of God!
We're finishing up Little Pilgrim's Progress, and have recently begun reading Aesop's Fables. Johnny has been interested in the Greeks since Papa John (Alexandra's dad) started telling him stories about Ulysses when they were visiting last spring. On Ukrainian TV we recently saw some show with children dressed in Greek clothes. The kids were fascinated with it, even though they couldn't understand the dialogue.
With the beginning of spring, we have five onions sprouting in recycled yogurt containers on the kitchen window sill, thanks to Babushka Katerina. We have also sprouted two carrot tops and planted five apple seeds one Sunday. They still aren't up, but it is our beginning foray into an indoor garden.
We are currently reading a book about George Washington. I would quite, but Johnny is so interested in Geo. Washington's life that I can't. It is horribly written! Ugh! Our kitchen garden is amazing! One mandarine seed sprouted, five apple seeds have sprouted, mint growing in a broken coffee mug, two milk containers of pepper sprouts, some basil, and two little tomato sprouts. The boys love watching the progress of the plants, and Calvin eagerly points out the growing things to us along with his "ahhhhs!" and gurgles. We have two containers with black bean plants in the boys' bedroom. The vines are growing up their windows and have just begun to have delicate purple blooms. I have morning-glories growing up my windows and I can't wait for them to flower!
Johnny wants to finish his 100 EZ lessons reading book before his 6th birthday, so we've been spending more time on reading. He's read all the Bob books and is just tickled about that.
We are planning on doing misc unit studies through the summer, as opportunities present themselves. I would like to focus on simple botany, animals, and Ukraine. In the fall, we will begin two long units on the Greeks and the Romans. The boys have shown great interest in those, and John has some great ideas for those historical eras. I love the materials available through Vision Forum, but I'm still deciding what to order and have my sister send to me. Recommendations are always welcome!
June 2002: So many teaching styles and curriculum ideas are available online. I occasionally reread the ideas from the Christian Waldorf webpage for inspiration in nurturing my children's souls. Tennyson (4 1/2) told me this week, "Mommy, you show us how to be kind to each other by how you love us!" So sweet, and yet, this was on a day I was struggling with my self control and had yelled at them in a tone of voice that I hated hearing come from my mouth. It is very hard and very humbling to be struggling so much with the very things I am trying to teach my boys--self control, kind words, patience. . .
Late July 2002 - We've been seriously considering having Johnny attend an English-language Christian school here in Kyiv. But now that we know we are going to be moving in November to Kharkivskii region of Kyiv, it would mean a VERY long commute for him. The Stanton's are moving back the the States, and Beth gave me her teacher guides from Sonlight for Kindergarten and 1st grades. Praise God! It's like a decision has been made for me--we've considered so much and gone back and forth about several options. Our plan is to start in September, after my Mom visits us in Kyiv. When we move to Kharkivskii, we'll look for a dyetski sad for the boys to attend in our neighborhood. Beth told me that if she had it to do all over again, she'd have the children in Ukrainian school a few years in the beginning. So, we'll homeschool and have them in Ukrainian school. I think it has been good that they didn't go to dyetski sad when we first moved here, but have had a period of transition. I'll be using the Kindergarten materials with all of the boys (Calvin can just play!) and have some extra reading time with Johnny. I feel very much at peace with this. We have most of the books we need for the Kindergarten year, and only have to order a few.
Mid August 2002 - My Mom is coming to visit in less than a week! Wahoo! I'm so excited. Johnny is anxious to start "real school" though and asked why we couldn't start while Mo is here. I'm really glad he is excited about starting school soon.
John has just finished reading "Marco Polo" to the boys. And they have begun playing Romans together. John isn't directing the play, but filling in the historical setting as the boys play. Along with lots of great books and goodies, we inherited a bunch of swords, shields and guns from the Stantons. *Grin* Okay, so the plastic guns aren't appropriate for playing Romans, but all of the weapons have been good fuel for their imaginations. (And provided lots of learning moments about self-control. *grin*)
I've needed to get more organized for a long time. (Story of my life. . .) It seems like just a couple of years ago, I had things so much more together and so much more organized, especially in regards to the children. One of the things that has worked for me in the past and I recommend doing, is to make up activity lists for the children. I catagorized them under the titles of Active Play, Outside Play, Table Play, Quiet Play, Noisy Play, and so on. Then, I would keep my list handy on the fridge. It helped me decide which activities were good at the moment, judging from how the children were doing and how our day was going. I need to make up those lists again!
Related to that, I've been really inspired and reminded of the need for PLAY, both for children and adults, by the articles at The Institute for Play.
Late September 2002 - Well, we've wrapped up our third week of homeschooling, praise God! Thanks to our friends Jim and Debi Long and Marlin and Laurie Detweiler of Veritas Press we have the complete Phonics Museum and just about every book we could desire from K and 1st grade materials from VP. *grin* We've started school slowly, waiting until this week to add math. The boys are loving all of school, and it's been so good for me to have a more regular routine with them. This week we did some wet-on-wet watercolors (ala Waldorf) that turned out beautifully. The one thing I really think we need to improve on is the amount of time we spend outdoors. The boys need to run and play and be in the dirt more. Our morning walks are built into our school schedule, but that is the part I cut out the easiest.
March 2003 - See what Johnny is reading at Johnny's Bookshelf. His reading has really taken off lately. The boys and I really are enjoying the Phonics Museum, and Cal asks insistently for the "ABCDEFG" song in his little two year old voice.
Curricula to Consider:
I believe the following curriculum resources are excellent and are worthy of consideration. They are full of ideas and practical applications, even if you choose not to use them.
- Veritas Press has wonderful, classical materials (and they even shipped a catalog to us in Ukraine!) For a long time I have been inspired by a woman I met in Midland, Debi Long. Her home was such a rich atmosphere of learning, and I've been inspired by how her high-school aged sons have grown up. They are now in Pennsylvania and associated with Veritas Academy--all the more reason for me to like Veritas Press.
- Epi Kardia organizes it's curriculum historically. Each year it covers twelve periods of history from the Ancients to Modern Times, but with a different emphasis each year. It comes from a reformed Biblical perspective. If you like the Classical approach, ala The Well-Trained Mind, but want something less prep-intensive, this is a GREAT site to check out. My friend Beth Harrell is one of the developers of Epi Kardia, and an excellent educator!
- Sonlight Curriculum began as an "all in one" curriculum for people living overseas. It provides teacher's manuals and "one stop shopping"--a real benefit for busy families. I like how they utilize a lot of read-aloud books and coordinate readers with history.
- Ambleside Online provides a year-by-year application of Charlotte Mason's approach to education. Included are articles and links to online resources. It is an excellent resource--and free!
Online Resources I Like:
Food for thought: As a Christian homeschooler, are you a blessing or a burden to your church? Or have you "forsaken the gathering of yourselves together" as we are warned against? Find out The Trouble with Homeschoolers in the Church.
Foxnews.com reports on homeschoolers: The First Wave of Homeschoolers Comes of Age
I was homeschooled at the end of highschool, and graduated in 1991. I guess that means I'm part of the first group of homeschoolers to start homeschooling their own kids. It has been interesting to watch the "mainstreaming" of homeschooling, and I am watching to see how our society's attitudes and approach to education changes over the next decade.
Last Updated September 27, 2002