Thursday, September 9

First Week of School, First Week of Homeschooling!

This week I started homeschooling Duke. He is 5 and would be in kindergarten if his crazy mother hadn't decided to teach him at home. And so far so good!

I am using the The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home to figure out my basic curriculum and we are also reading many of the books from Ambleside Online.
I am going to start using the first grade Math Mammoth and will let you know what I think. It is such an affordable math program and looks great from the samples and reviews I have seen.

One thing I love about homeschooling a little one (besides the obvious of getting to hang out and learning new things with him) is going to the library and checking out books to supplement our schooling. For example, this week we are studying elephants and archaeology, so we visted the library and checked out a pile of fiction and non-fiction books about both subjects.  And in a few weeks we are going to the zoo to check out the real elephants.  Life is good. 

I am still getting "the look" from people who find out I am homeschooling. And did I mention my sister-in-law is a principal at a really high-rated public elementary school in the area?   A school he will attend if this crazy mom decides she is not cut out to homeschool?   I leave all options open.  ;-)

This weekend we were visiting her beachhouse and we spoke about what I was going to teach this first year.  And yes, she stressed me out at first!  She told me that many of the homeschooled kids come in knowing their math and science, but she feels that their parents don't spend enough time actually teaching their children how to write. She told me that "her" kindergarten students are expected at the end of the year to be able to sit down and write an entire short story! 

I gasped when I heard this. When I was in kindergarten as a free-range 70's kid I learned how to stand in line, wait for my turn at the toilet, nap on demand, not bite the boys, and listen to story-time without jumping around like a puppy. We started learning how to write letters, but school was more about teaching us how to be away from Mom all day, sit still, and do crafts. How times have changed.

One of my good friends who has two little girls down the street was an elementary teacher for years before staying at home with her children. I asked her about writing stories in kindergarten. She told me that they were expected to be able to write stories, but other than a few, most children could not do it on their own until 1st or 2nd grade. She also felt that young children were pushed too hard - too early in our local public schools. And she also reminded me that many of her students had been in "school" since they were tiny babies.

I found this definition:

kin·der·gar·ten (kndr-gärtn, -dn)

n. Abbr. K

A program or class for four-year-old to six-year-old children that serves as an introduction to school.
I think it needs to be updated because four to six-year old children are not being introduced to school, they are doing school...  When did kindergarten go from being a fun day with your friends to work?

I am constantly amazed how we are forcing our little kids to grow up so fast.  I found another great quote about Nothing:
Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything. ~Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone Scelto .
Are we fast-tracking our children to find nothing in everything? And by "we", I mean all parents these days; whether we homeschool, private school, or public school our kids. Just stick to your guns, it doesn't have to be this way!

Oh, I have to post one more quote I found today:

If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers. ~Edgar W. Howe.

Didn't I tell you I am leaving all of my options open? ;-)


  1. (When I was in kindergarten as a free-range 70's kid I learned how to stand in line, wait for my turn at the toilet, nap on demand, not bite the boys, and listen to story-time without jumping around like a puppy. We started learning how to write letters, but school was more about teaching us how to be away from Mom all day, sit still, and do crafts.)

    Yea I failed at the not biting the boys, or hitting them for that matter, along with napping on demand, waiting my turn and not jumping around like a puppy during story time, and I had 2 years of preschool behind me. I am pretty sure by today's standards I would be labeled as extremely difficult and needing to be HEAVILY medicated. not much has changed. Good luck with home schooling. ( i have heard from a lot of my friends that choose to home school that writing and basic English skills is where they tend to fail and have opted to take advantage of part day schooling for their kids since it is available in their areas. they basically send heir middle school aged kids to school for 2-3 classes a day and home school the rest.

  2. I'm sure you will do fine Rita. After hearing your tales of kindergarten, I had to tell you one of mine. My oldest graduated in 2009 so it has been several years since she was in kindergarten. I remember I went for a conference with the teacher late in the school year and she was explaining to me that she thought I should keep my daughter back because she couldn't read and then write a story about the book! I'm thinking "say what!" because like you I believe kindergarten should be an introduction and they are expecting book reports!! The teacher had told me they couldn't hold her back if I didn't agree to it....which I did not! She ended up doing fine in school, graduated on time with many A's on her final report card...even though she couldn't read and write a story in kindergarten!! :)

  3. As a fellow homeschooling mama, I feel that need to somehow validate what we're doing. "Oh, my kids can do...," or "they've memorized..." One of the main ideas we want to instill in our children is a LOVE for learning, not a list to check off. I'm also continuously amazed at how differently kids learn and seeing how differently MY 3 kids learn (one not in school yet!)I have the flexibility to recognize these differences and adjust where we need to. Our curriculum is primarily literature based and although my children don't do a ton of writing assignments now, I believe this foundation on solid literature will lend to that in the future. When we play the comparison game, be it as a homeschool, public, or private school family, we are setting up ourselves up or constant criticism or pride. We trust that this is the best choice for our family. I firmly believe that the best way to learn is to cultivate that love to learn and by making learning fun, exciting and interesting. There will come a day when they "have" to do such and such, as my 4th grader can tell you. But she already has a foundation for loving to learn that she goes above and beyond her daily assignments all on her own. I firmly believe our 5yr old and 6yr old are both well on their to finding that same love. (sorry for the book, I get carried away sometimes!)

  4. Rita,
    What an insightful and amusing post about home schooling. I love your comment about your *free-range 70's school experience*. I laughed!
    I was a 50's free-play kindergarten girl and it was just that... play! I watched my own children in the 70s, 80s & 90s (yes, a bunch of kids) go through their school experiences and now I'm watching my grandkids; some are home schooled, some go to public school. One daughter teaches first grade (this is her 4th year) and they are all doing well.
    You know your sweet little boys best. Do what is right for them and for you.
    If I had any advise to ANY parent about schooling, by any method, it would be read, Read, READ! My wonderful mom read to me and instilled a love of reading. Even though I've struggle with dyslexia my whole life (they didn't even know how to spell dylexia in the 50s!) that love of reading rose to the surface so that, as an adult, I could work through my learning disabilities and overcome many of my learning problems.

    Hope you have a wonderful year on your new adventure.

  5. That last quote cracks me up, having done both homeschooling and public school :) … enjoy this sweet time with your son!!

  6. Bahahahaha... I laugh at your SIL's comment. Tell her to take a chill pill. No kindergartener should be required to write a story. I'm student teaching 4th grade right now, and I'm pretty sure half of them couldn't do it still. And I'm at one of the county's top schools.

    I was homeschooled (K-12) and I plan to homeschool my future children (that are still long off at 22). Many people assume that now that I've been in the school system I've seen the light and will want to send my kids too. Ha! Quite the opposite. I fully understand that homeschooling isn't for everyone, but to me, it's the only option. I also suffer from multiple learning disabilities and ADHD, and I'm pretty sure homeschooling saved me. I didn't get a official diagnosis until college. I honestly don't want to know how that all would have gone down if I was in the school system.

    I always love telling people that I was homeschooled, and how I have learning disabilities and credit my mom for a wonderful foundation, blah, blah, blah, and then letting them know that I've never not made the Dean's list, and that hopefully I'll be graduating with top (fingers crossed) honors in Dec. Jaws sometimes drop.

    Don't let anyone tell you that you can't teach. I'm about to graduate with my degree in Elementary Education, and I can only name about half a dozen useful classes. It's not rocket science. And just because someone is certified doesn't mean they should teach. I work with quite a few teachers that just need to quit.

    Best wishes! I'm sure you both will do great! Let me know if I can ever be of assistance.

  7. first things first- I had to go facebook that last quote. its so incredibly true. lol.

    as an 80s kid, I had about the same kindergarten experience you did. I knew how to read when I got there- because it was something I picked up easily. not because I had to know it... my own kid started kinder this year. I was more than shocked when I saw the list of things they "should know" to start kinder.

    the majority of it was stuff that I believe they should LEARN in kindergarten. not have to know to be able to make it through...

    I agree with your friend who said they push small kids too hard. I dont agree with all day kindergarten. and I dont think almost 5 year old should be required to know how to sit down and write a story at the end of he year. he can barely write his name!

    unfortunately- because of society today, they have to start pushing now. a bachelors degree no longer means much more than a high school diploma. and a diploma doesnt mean any more than someone who dropped out and got their GED instead. and the old 4 years of undergrad is now an average of 5 years.


  8. Being a media specialist, I must say getting books is simply the best! Nothing like going on an adventure just by turning a page. I just love to see my little Ks come in for a new book or story time. I had a little one stop me in the middle of a story last year and ask me if I was kin to Dr. Seuss. Usually I tell them to wait until I finish the page and we can talk. But, I couldn't help myself. I HAD to know where that came from... She just looks at me like it was the most obvious question ever and says, "Well, you both have the same name... Doctor." I couldn't stop laughing for a good 5 minutes.

    My SIL homeschools her kiddos (she has 7; 4 school aged)... boy I admire you all... I would have to send mine to the principal ALL the time! LOL! I did ask my niece one time who her teacher sends notes home to when she is bad. She looks at me with that angel face and responds, "My daddy, of course!"

  9. I want to homeschool our daughter someday, too, and I know that everyone will give me a hard time about it.

    I agree. Kids are expected to grow up too fast. We're teaching them at an early age to become part of the rat race.

  10. Hi! I love your blog!

    Wow! I do not have the cahones to homeschool. You have my unwavering support from the sidelines though! As far I have observed, homeschooling is for moms (and some dads) with nerves of steel.

  11. A WHOLE story in Kindergarten. no way. I'm an educator, in the making. Getting my masters. I plan on homeschooling my child(ren) and there's not a darn thing wrong with, especially with our public school systems these days. MORE power to you and I admire you more for you doing it. Keep it up!!!

  12. I know you will do wonderful. I will be homeschooling my boys, and have learned a ton from other homeschoolers. Don't be hard on yourself. Find out your child's learning style. Do not try to do public school at home. Keep it fun, and take breaks. These are some things I'v heard. We can do this, Rita:D

  13. Oh my heavens. Thank you for writing this post. Yes we push kids too hard too soon. I seem to be the only one in our circle that is taking a laid back approach to school. Both my boys go to public school because I'd be one of those moms in the insane asylum if I tried to home school. :) But now my boys are losing friends right and left because the kids are going to private school or a charter school. Why? Because their parents think that public school isn't challenging enough for their kids. Maybe that is true. Or maybe we all just need to relax and not try to make our kids the smartest of the smart.

    I admire parents who chose to home school. I really do. And I admire parents who are allowing children be children, because I feel like that is part of our job as parents.

    I'll quit babbling now. I was just so happy to read your thoughts on the matter. I think I did a little fist pump in the air. Or something.

  14. I suddenly want to get in my car and go buy an abacus. hehe

    PS. I totally agree with Kindergarten. Sheesh, they are practically doing Algebra there now.

  15. I was a K teacher before becoming Mommy! I agree...too much is expected! They're only 5!!! In life that's still a "baby."

  16. Relax. Really.
    After homeschooling for 18 years, I believe that if you did absolutely no formal schooling until a child was 12, the end result would still be a well-educated high school graduate.
    Enjoy the process.

  17. Having recently begun my 9th year homeschooling and watching my son prepare for his college applications while I still have 2 others in elementary, I can tell you what I have found. Each child will learn at their own pace. Each child will want to write when they are able and ready. You, living and working with your child every day are the best judge of his abilities. Just like your child will not go off to college not being potty trained (whether he learned at 2 or 4) he will not go off not knowing how to write. My son hated writing till the ninth grade. I never forced him. But now, that it is becoming more required he is able to do it. Keep reading and the grammar and mechanics will sink in. A love of learning is much more important than a deadline.

  18. Well...I know you did not ask for this advise and I try really hard never to give advice without a request but...This time I just had to say something. This is my families 11th year homeschooling. We started out using The Well Trained Mind (love it!). Over the years our schooling has changed slightly in its method (we now incorporate more Ambleside Online stuff) but the one thing that has stayed the same is that I try really hard not to compare my kids with what the "schools" have their students do. I tailor each of my childrens curriculum/lessons to their abilities. However, that being said I have always felt that writing was our weakest subject...until I discovered Bravewriter. It is not a curriculum but a philosophy of writing. It freed me from the guilt and STRESS I was placing on my self about teaching writing. It taught me that I am perfectly capable of teaching writing and that despite what "Johnny down the street" can do in 1st grade my children were right where they needed to be. And I think it is great that you are keeping your options open...BUT never underestimate your abilities to teach anything to your own children...after all you taught me how to make the best of my not-so-great-photos and how to load photo actions into PSE6 and PSE8 and you don't even know me :) And teaching me anything technical is NO easy job!

    Good luck and have fun with your homeschooling adventure.

  19. Well, I guess each of my boys would fail in writing if placed into public school. NOT ONE of them wrote (physically) their own short story by the end of kindergarten. BUT, they told excellent stories to me and I wrote them down, then let them illustrate. I agree don't push it! I have a degree in Elementary Ed. and homeschool my 4 children. At times it is so hard not to compare my children to what I hear the public school teachers saying. But I need to remember to step back and look at what I know my children are learning. I am with them each and every day and I know exactly what their capabilities are and what their weaknesses are. That is the key.

    I think you will love homeschooling. What a great opportunity to learn right along with your child and also to build a lasting, close, strong relationship with your son.

  20. my oldest turned 5 over the summer and we're homeschooling too! wonderful to know we're in such good company :o)

  21. As a former K teacher, I can also reassure you that very few could write short stories by the end of K! A more reasonable expectation is to write ONE sentence that begins with a capital letter, ends with a punctuation mark, and has spaces between words. However, we did *not* expect the words to be spelled correctly except for our site words. And even with that expectation, not every child could do it by the end of the year.

    Kindergarten should be more relaxed and more of an introduction to school. We had a half day program and never had time for the fun toys/games that sat on the shelf all year because we were so busy fitting in academics. *sigh*

    I'm looking forward to homeschooling my kiddos. :)

  22. Homeschooing can be a real challenge, but it's totally worth it! We've been homeschooling from the beginning, and my oldest is now 14. No one knows your child better than you! I used to get weird looks, but thankfully it's starting to become widely accepted, although there will always be those who are skeptical. I always tell the skeptics - I taught them to walk, talk, dress, sing, take care of themselves, how to treat others, etc.... there is no reason I can teach them the rest! :)

    You'll do just fine!

  23. Congratulations on homeschooling!

    We homeschooled our son all the way through highschool. He is now in college. One of the benefits is a close, respectful and trusting relationship with him.

    One mistake I made was not getting enough time away to myself. I advise you to take care of yourself and your experience will be a happier one.

  24. Please raise the bar, people. I work in schools and the children are writing short stories at the end of the 3rd quarter. Granted the conventions and spelling need to be honed, but the ideas flow and the ability is there. In the 50's - 80's, there was not as much information to be digested so we slacked. Yes, slacked off from instilling the pursuit of knowledge. And look now at how the country is lagging so very far behind other nations. I agree you can teach at home and support it. But, make sure you do teach the components and not just the exciting material (archeology, etc.). Never rely on the 'wisdom' of a student teacher. I was one and the stars and moon seem so very close, and then reality sets in and the push to help everyone become successful sets in. At that point, the teacher does think, "what the heck did the kinder. teacher do with him all day? Play?"
    I truly wish you the best, but fully hope that you will listen to your SIL. --- Carol

  25. I love reading all of your comments and thank you so much for the support!

    And Carol, thank you so much for your honest comment. However, I have been studying stats on education and it has been very enlightening.

    True, we did start to increase the workload, homework, and start date of intense learning during the 70's and 80's to "keep up". But stats are showing that this is not helping at all. Rates of anxiety and depression are up in students and we are lagging behind even more. And many kids know less than they knew back in my day when we "slacked". :-)

    There are many other factors of course, but many experts agree that we are pushing our kids too hard and that is why they are burning out and failing.

    I don't have the answers but I plan on letting them do plenty of playing, long past K!

  26. I give kudos to anyone who homeschools their children. I think for me, personally, I never considered it because I think to myself-if I fail teaching them, they fail. That's a huge responsibility and that's pressure I don't think I could handle. I can't imagine how stressful/frustrating being a teacher can be and I'm thankful for those that truly have a passion for it. There is something seriously wrong in our country when the drop-out rate is as high as it is. I can't quote the exact % because I can't remember but this was just on the NBC Nightly News recently. I am the last person to know what to do about it but if anyone who decides to teach {whether it be someone with a degree in the school system or a mom/dad at home} does it with passion, I can't imagine what the success rate COULD be. I think it's easy to lose the passion, especially when you're under-payed, not personally invested in the outcome {as with homeschooling}, or not feeling appreciated. I can only hope for a brighter future for my children and my children's children.

  27. Rita, when you first said that you were going to consider homeschooling, I couldn't wait to follow your journey. I don't have any children yet, but in this last year, homeschooling is something that I've sparked an interest in. It's so inspiring to read your journey, and also the comments from others who have done it/are doing it too. Thanks for being real with us, and I hope you keep writing about your experiences!

  28. The one thing that gets me is the attitude of the other parents, not the actual school. My youngest missed the cut-off for 3 year old preschool by two months, meaning he is STILL TWO. SO many people have approached me about trying to get him in early! I have never done 3 year old preschool (let alone 2 year old preschool!)for any of them because I just don't understand it. I think my kids can learn all that stuff from me, save for the social time with other little ones, but I can handle that easily enough as well. We did send the older three to 4 year old preschool with the idea that I would be there with them most days, but 4 year old preschool is now what Kindergarten used to be. Kindergarten is CRAZY now in my opinion. (especially for boys) My daughter did fine but she told me about all the little boys getting in trouble all the time. They expect a 5 year old boy to sit still for a 7 hour day??? No wonder they were restless!
    I am just shocked and a little sad about the attitude in our society. One mom told me "I don't care if her cries, he has to grow up some time!" Her little one is only THREE! Grow up???? Are you kidding me?
    I am ranting. Sorry. I know not everyone shares these views, but I just don't understand the hurry. One morning, I woke up and my baby was in Junior High. They grow up too fast already! I never heard of anyone who lost out on a job offer or a scholarship because he didn't go to preschool. We need to be honest. This is for the parents, not for the kids.
    Even though I didn't choose it, I say, good for you for homeschooling. I am sure you and your son will benefit.

  29. I just decided to homeschool my 5 year old boy as well. I went to the school to unregister him and they looked like I was mental. But, the funny thing is that the Kindergarden teacher he was supposed to have gave me a call the next morning. She just wanted to call and tell me she unschooled her two children through first grade and loved it. She said she didn't want to change my mind, but if I needed any help or ideas to just call her. She told me that you don't need to sit down and do busy work with them. Just live life and explain everything along the way. It made me feel so much better to hear this coming from the teacher that my son was supposed to have.

  30. If you find that homeschooling is not exactly for you and public or private 5-day-a-week school isn't either, there is another option. The University-Model School. I'm a 1st grade teacher at our local UMS, and my oldest son started Kindergarten there this year. We go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and homeschool the other days using the curriculum and assignments provided by the school. It's AWESOME. I love it (as both a teacher and a mom). Check out the National Association of University-Model Schools for more information and to find out if there's a school in your area. :)

  31. My gracious! What perfect timing, I've been stressing about these very things for my 4 year old. Our public schools here even have ACTUAL homework for kindergarten. RIDICULOUS! Seems that the decision to homeschool is being made for me--why send them off for most of the day if you end up devoting just as much time to homework as you would have to teaching them yourself?

  32. I've been homeschooling my oldest for three years now and just added my youngest to our homeschooling. He is in first grade and we are using Math Mammoth as well. I just wanted to let you know that we both LOVE it! I was really struggling with what curriculum to use for math and going back and for between Horizons and Singapore when I found MM. I was a little nervous at first, since it was so affordable I didn't think it could possibly live up to my expectations, but it is the perfect mix of the best of both of those. We have been using it for a month so far and are moving right along with no problems at all.

    Good luck with your schooling and welcome to the journey!

  33. I'm with you, are just pushed way to hard in Kindergarten. When I was in Kindergarten, we only went half days and we learned songs, the alphabet, and how to listen and be nice to each other. Now they go all day every day, no naps, and yes, they are expected to be good readers by the end of the year. My son just turned 5 in August, and we are waiting to send him to Kindergarten until next year. It is just too much for him right now and I want him to enjoy as much of his youth as he can!!

  34. I'm starting this week. . .my 5 year old is my youngest, so finally everyone will be doing schoolwork. ..though he pronounces it "ghoulwork." Nice to see your post, and I hope you enjoy homeschooling as much as I do!

  35. Congrats on your first week of homeschooling. This is our first year of homeschooling too. My daughter is also in Kindergarten. :)

  36. Kudos to you! I have been homeschooling my daughter since she was 3 and 1/2. I used to think that kids needed to learn everything as early as possible. What I've found out since is that they will learn what they need to learn when their brains are ready to learn it. If you try to push that knowledge in there before it's ready you're going to fight a losing battle and the child is going to end up hating school! I've since learned to back off and let us both enjoy the schooling experience.

    I remember memorizing my multiplication tables in 4th grade. My daughter's math curriculum has been working on that for over a year now and she's just now in the 3rd grade. I reminded myself that I did just fine in math having learned my tables "late" and am not going to stress if she has trouble with hers.

    I'm surprised that kindergarteners even have the attention span to write a whole short story. I imagine there's a lot of stress involved for them in the process, unless the child is a natural writer and just takes to it. I agree with you that children are being pushed too fast these days. Every mom I know is excited to get their kid into "preschool" as early as possible. I think they should just be able to run around and have free play and lots of imagination time. Not to mention lots of alone time while mom gets things done around the house. It's good for them.

    So, keep up the good work with the homeschooling! If he doesn't get a concept right away, that's not the end of the world. You have the rest of his career to make sure he does get it. And when/if he goes to college, no one will ever know (or care) when he learned it.

  37. Congratulations! We're in our 8th year of homeschooling. It is frustrating at times, but I would have it no other way! There's nothing like being there to see the spark in your child's eye as he grasps a concept for the very first time! Don't stress yourself. Just have fun with them! Concentrate on the basics, reading, writing, arithmetic. If you provide them with ample books & guidance, you will be amazed at what they will learn!

  38. Oh Rita, I've been meaning to write you for a long time and honestly I don't know why I picked this post to sing your praises because my little one is only 9 months old, and I'm no where near homeschooling but I just have to tell you that I think you are amazing. I share so many of your same views and you are constant inspiration for me! So much in fact that I have started my own photo editing and photography business. I'm trying to start out slow because it's a little overwhelming. But I don't think I would have ever done it without finding your site. You are amazing. I'm a little baffled by how you manage to do photography, be a wife, be a mother, write tutorials, keep this site up and running, work on projects for people and homeschool. It kind of makes me feel super inferior and like I'm not doing enough, but I just think of you as sort of a "Super-Mom". You must have special powers! :) Thank you for everything Rita!!!

  39. Good grief, *write a story*? In kindergarten??? My goodness, I think I'm done worrying that I'm pushing my little guy too hard!!

    Funny how hard it is not to "peek" into the public school, regardless of all the reasons I have for not sending the munchkins there, and just "get an idea" of what they're doing... regardless of how incompatible the public school way is with the way we (my husband and I) have chosen for our family.

  40. Do you do blog carnivals? It occurs to me that this would be a wonderful addition to the Classical Homeschooling Carnival.

  41. I'm a new follower of your blog and have learned a lot so far. Thank you!
    I was very interested in your post on homeschooling. I am throwing aroung the idea of doing this for mine for K5. thanks for the links and tips.


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