Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A slow homeschooling approach

I've read that homeschoolers generally begin each academic year with tremendous momentum, planners and detailed lists in hand (as someone who was homeschooled until seventh grade, I can personally attest to this). With gusto, they jump into concentrated study, co-ops, and organized activities. By the end of winter, their energy may slow as they push through core subjects. The knowledge they started the year out strong gives them hope; the recognition that at least we got a lot done in the beginning. 

And then there's me. 

I arrived at the year's beginning with fairly relaxed homeschooling plans, and even those have slowed dramatically. We don't have the excuse of a pregnancy, new baby, or  major move, either. We have absolutely no excuse for moving at a snail's pace, aside from one: we're really enjoying a slow education. 

My three-year-old was a little unnerved by the huge tortoise
that kept trying to climb out of its enclosure, but it was pretty cool to see. 

The term "slowschooling" popped in my head as I began this post, and lo and behold, plenty of other people have already created hashtags and articles about this topic. There's comfort here, in knowing that I'm not the only insane homeschooler who is trying to step away from the rat race of education that sweeps through countless communities. As my husband and I tell our sons all the time, whether they're running down the hall to the bathroom or sitting down to eat dinner, "it's not a race." 

I've been trying to ensure a quiet growing time for myself and my kids, and it's honestly incredibly refreshing and liberating. We are learning, pursuing virtue, having a ton of fun, and simply enjoying the gift of life together. 

Over the summer, I had the idea to do unit studies on countries this year (I'm very thankful that Jenny has so many great resources and ideas!). I think learning about other cultures is incredibly important, and I really just wanted an excuse to go to ethnic restaurants or make fun foods. So, I asked my oldest son to look through our atlas and pick a handful of countries to study, and then I paired each with a month that I thought would work well. I decided we would study Ireland in August, and after nearly two months, we're still focused on Ireland (though I did just get around to requesting our library books for our next country, so we should start England in the next couple weeks). 

We've been, reading book after book about Ireland and Irish culture (tip: it's AWESOME to study Ireland when it's not anywhere near St. Patrick's Day, because it is so much easier to get library books about Ireland!). We've frolicked through a local park to find fairy houses and play in what my three-year-old calls the "steep ruins." We've visited a local snake museum, which seems appropriate due to the legend of St. Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland. We've blasted Irish music and done a little bit of ceili dancing (until it turned into a dance party to Pok√©mon music). Covid-restrictions permitting, we hope to visit a local pub in the near future, too. 

I've realized that the "typical routine" of doing schoolwork in the morning does not make any sense for us right now, so we devote our mornings to exploration, stories, and outings. When the younger children are still napping (after I get my solitary "rest time"), I'll sit with the kindergartener for a few minutes of reading practice. I think there's a lot of wisdom to the time-honored focus on "reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic," so those are our main academic focuses. Months ago, of his own initiative, now-kindergartener started teaching himself math. It's been fascinating to watch the lightbulbs go off in his brain as he excitedly runs to me with his most recent mathematical discovery (a recent example: "Mom! Ten sets of ten is one hundred!"). 

Baby Girl absolutely loved getting up close to the snakes.
As much as she loved crawling up to them, though, I couldn't let her do that too
much since both the resident iguana and a small tortoise
were wandering around in the rooms.
  

We may not have piles of textbooks or workbooks that I can hold up as tangible proof of my children's education, but we have their rich lives as a witness. The day will come when their educational needs will require more books, more structure, more benchmarks. The day will come when we ferry them across town nonstop as we attend different activities and commitments. For today, though, we're simply enjoying the chance to slow down and live.

We do have piles of papers, however. My boys love sitting around playing "paper games,"
which involve them drawing maps, video game characters, and/or monsters that you battle with stick figures.
They created this activity themselves and spend hours doing this work each week, it's pretty great. 


I've noticed in some homeschooling communities now, with all of the resources and curricula options, there also is often a pressure to thrust our young children headlong into intense academics and commitments. However, while this approach works well for some families, I'm finding that it's not our path at this time. Right now, our life is a peaceful rhythm of Mass, picture books, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, loads of playtime, and outdoor discovery. It's been a wonderful journey so far, and I am excited to see where our educational adventures lead! 

11 comments:

  1. This sounds like a delightful way to learn! I feel that the regular school system places so much pressure on kids from a young age (and unnecessary pressure in some cases--children shouldn't be expected to sit still for 6-8 hours!). I also really like how you're studying different countries and taking your time on it.

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    1. Thanks, Lianna! I agree, children should not be forced to sit for that long! It's so much better when they can move around and even be outside in the fresh air throughout the day, it really helps us all focus and just be healthier, happier people :)

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  2. This is such a balm to my soul to read. We haven't even started school, yet! Hopefully next week. I can't even find our books. But it's not going to impact her long-term, and she's getting lots of outside play time and is in a few activities, and isn't that all a young child really needs?

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  3. Look how big your sweet girl is getting!!!

    I struggle with this and your post was so refreshing! By nature, I LOVE book-learning and I'm also pretty type-A, but at the same time I really value play-based learning and slow living, etc. So I'm trying to merge both of those! We have a kindergarten curriculum but I'm learning to set our own pace instead of a 35 week schedule like a school would do. We also switched phonics and math a couple weeks in-- I had to remind myself it's ok to stop something and look for something more fitting! As a homeschool grad myself, I'm surprised that it's still a learning curve figuring out how to homeschool my own kids!

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    1. Isn't it wild how fast our kids grow??? I love seeing the baby (and her big brothers) develop and learn, but it also goes so insanely fast, it's mind-boggling.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks for chiming in with your own homeschooling experience-I love learning about how others format homeschooling in their homes. I think your idea of merging books with play-based learning is really cool! I think that's probably the route we'll try to go when the kids get older. Do you have a specific kindergarten curriculum you're enjoying? (I don't see us using a particular curriculum in the next year or two, but I like to know what's out there for when we do start looking at curriculum options) I think it's really neat that you're a homeschool grad-I'm sure you'll be able to draw so much from your experience and perspectives with your own kids, even with the learning curve. I think it's certainly a challenge to figure out what our kids need when they may not need what we initially think they'll need, and I too have to remind myself that it's okay to stop something and keep looking. This definitely keeps us on our toes!

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  4. My friends keep reassuring me that the most important thing is to read aloud with them alot. (My oldest is K age.) Also we are doing CGS twice a month, and try to incorporate some Montessori activities at home. And baking and doing chores together. It's hard to find a rhythm and routine for book learning, so i am not trying very hard at that right now!

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    1. It sounds like you guys have a wonderful routine going! I think it's particularly great that you're intentionally doing chores together-I think it's so important for children to have that kind of responsibility and ownership. And honestly, that's something that I struggle with doing right now. But little by little, we'll get there, right? ;) And it's very cool that you are doing CGS! It's such a beautiful program, and it's so hugely beneficial for our children.

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  5. This is so great! So, so, so good. Bookmark this in your brain and go back to it when you are stressing. More doesn't equal better. Sooner isn't better than later.

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    1. Thanks! And I love that idea-I'm sure re-reading this down the road will definitely help me out :) I love how you mention that "more doesn't equal better" and "sooner isn't better than later"-I have found that I get so excited about certain topics that part of me wants to share it all with my kids ASAP, when that probably isn't the best idea all the time ;)

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  6. I think it's all about finding what works for your family. We have a calendar and a routine that is a bit more "fast" and organized. It works for us! We still do lots of exploring, outdoor play, etc., but we also have stacks of workbooks that we complete. This is one of the best things about homeschooling--we can each do what works for our kids.
    The publisher of that book in the photo ("S is for Shamrock") also has a series about the U.S. states. We get them from our library and read one or two a week (we're currently on "P is for Palmetto," which is about South Carolina). We find the states on a map and read the books to learn about each. They are great!

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    1. Shannon, it's so cool that you guys have found a good rhythm that works for you! I am guessing that completing workbooks can be motivating, too-a nice visible way for your kids to see that they are making progress (I've noticed that my oldest is currently thrilled when he finishes one of the BOB books, and he eagerly counts how many sections he's read and still needs to read to see how far he's gotten). And thanks for the tip ab out the books! I will add those to our list!

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