Monday, May 2, 2011

Our Home, Our Schoolroom

One thing I love about homeschooling is that it is not one-size-fits-all. There is no one "right" way to homeschool, or a "wrong" way (well, ignoring your kids and letting them run wild all over the neighborhood would be wrong, but I don't know any homeschooling families who condone that!). In fact, year to year, place to place, my homeschooling style and location has changed to fit our family's needs.

When we first started homeschooling, we were all a bit nervous about it, in spite of the fact that I'm a trained and licensed teacher, so we went for a "boxed" curriculum, and settled in every day with my one student sitting at a desk where I could keep track of his progress. This worked well for a year, then we both got tired of it (both the boxed curriculum and the desk!) and moved on to sitting wherever was comfortable, at the eating bar, in the living room, in the den in front of the computer, sometimes even at that desk. We supplemented our curriculum with lots of extras, took Fridays off for field trips, family visits, or fun, and in general learned to RELAX.

Then we moved on to Florida, added several family members, gained a HUGE galley-style kitchen, and discovered the pleasures of making the kitchen area the center of the home. Our table was large and sturdy, the secondary counter stretched endlessly along one wall and was filled one year with a tank full of tadpoles we rescued from a puddle, two incubators (one for chicks and one for ducklings that we hatched for a friend), and random stacks of books. We kept our materials in the cabinets under that counter, and I remember watching Bubba complete several dissections standing at that counter, with Tex looking on. They'd always head outside on the covered patio if the experiment was predicted to be messy, and I have fun pictures of the two of them in goggles watching test tubes bubble over with whatever it was they'd put in them (Bubba was using Apologia at the time).

We were still fairly plugged into textbooks, and even tried a few computer and video classes. Our county offered a day class which was taught at the local zoo (about animals) and we tried that for a year or so. Tex and Bubba were the only ones old enough to do this, so on that day I had extra time to sit with the little ones and read to them. I had books galore, just like I do now, but our front room was so large it became my "library" and we fit ten bookshelves, three chairs, a desk with a computer, and the piano into it. It was cozy and comfortable, and full of light. All the kids spent plenty of time reading in there. I sure do miss that room.

Then, about a year into our stay in Pensacola, we got the opportunity to buy a horse (Jake). The opportunity was obviously blessed by God (I'll have to share the story sometime), and we started spending more time away from the house and outside (we did not keep the horse on our property at that point). I was also asked to help start a Christian homeschooling co-op, and we did that one day a week (plus another at home for planning, usually). Bubba was heavily involved in Boy Scouts, homeschooling group activities, and with helping his dad coach Tex's Upward teams. We still used our textbooks, but things were starting to change. We were learning more lessons on being more relaxed and ultimately, being more flexible. Then our last year there, after surviving Ivan, Dennis, and Katrina (hurricanes, that is, two of which damaged our home), and spending plenty time on the road visiting relatives during the resulting power outages (and having many wonderful, educational field trips!), or sending the menfolk off to help with repairs in various cities, Bubba was asked to do a five week long drama mission trip, which tanked the rest of our textbook plans for the year.

When he got back from that, he started apprenticing with a farrier who trained horses and ran a stable, so his classroom became a barn. I still worked with Tex at home, but I am telling you honestly, by this time, if we read a bunch of books (usually in the hammock outside) and did some handwriting and math (at the kitchen table), I was happy with the accomplishments for the day (our co-op covered history, geography, art, creative writing, and science). I had two toddlers at the time, Hubby was gone for a year, and we were trying to sell our house in a poor market. To top that off, I was newly expecting (Christmas visit and gift from Hubby, I guess!) and tired all the time.

Fast forward to our next move, which was to my parents' house while we looked for a farm to love. I forget how long we were there, but it wasn't a typical classroom, that's for sure. My dad worked on math with Bubba, usually on their front porch, sometimes in a study room at the nearby library, or by their computer. Tex was a bit more traditional, and did most of his work at a table my mother set up in their dining room (they got rid of their dining room table years ago and made it a sitting room since they eat in their kitchen). We spent a lot of time driving back and forth between our new home (which needed a lot of work) and their house, which was about an hour drive each way. We listened to MANY audio books together, and Ladybug and Cowboy watched the Leapfrog videos enough times in the car that they both knew all their letters and letter sounds in just a few months (ages 2 and 4). I think that's called "car-schooling" these days.

 We moved to the newly renovated, but not completely finished house, and hubby promptly fell off the barn roof and broke both feet. I was expecting Boo, and had complications which limited me to a chair in the small master bedroom for the last several months of that pregnancy (most of the time, anyway). The little ones and I spent a lot of time on YouTube singing praise songs together, learning signs, practicing the days of the week, months of the year, etc., and also writing some books together about our family. We definitely read out loud a lot. 

Bubba did his work in his room, when he wasn't working with another farrier or earning money for farrier's school by working at his own lawncare business. Tex did his work at the table and spent plenty of time outside with the little ones. Bubba finished up school shortly after Boo was born and left to go to farrier training in the mountains, then moved in with my folks (I guess it got too crowded for him at Blessing Farm...LOL).

After the baby was born, I got smart and relocated our master bedroom to the largest room upstairs (out of three bedrooms in the house) since Bubba was gone and Tex certainly did not need the biggest room to himself. It turned out there was plenty of room in there for the baby's small crib, two desks, two computers, and several comfy chairs, in addition to our bed and dressers. I have since then set up a place for reading in an alcove, a wall on which to display our marker-boards and calendars, and Hubby has installed several shelving units for books. That one addition (the bookshelves) has helped immensely.

If you visited our house today to see where we homeschool, if it is a rainy, cold, or overly hot day, you will likely find me with the Three Amigos and Boo upstairs, with two of the Amigos working on their computer work (which is suiting us during this season as I deal with some health issues and graduate courses for recertification), or the lot of us in my oversized chair reading aloud, or clustered around the computer watching something educational on Netflix (or a new favorite of theirs, JellyTelly). Tex usually works on his computer downstairs, or reads in the living room.

We use the dining room table for special projects and artwork. The Lego table is a popular place to hang out. The Bookmobile comes twice a month. Other times we head out to the library, and of course there is church. We also go on interesting field trips from time to time, when the costs are low and my energy is high. Hubby even is able to help by taking a kid or two on a field trip now and again, while I stay home with the others.

On nice days you can find everyone outside, sometimes riding the horses or playing with the dogs or chasing chickens (and hunting for eggs!). Ladybug loves to walk around with her Nature Notebook and birdwatch. Cowboy loves to find worms, insects, and other hapless creatures to put into his bug habitat to watch for a while (sometimes he sucks them up with his bug vaccuum!). If he forgets to release them, then Ladybug gets another addition for her dead bug collection. She collects dead bugs, Cowboy collects rocks, and Tex collects fossils and arrowheads. Firefly tends towards collecting flowers. Boo collects kisses.
What they do the most is play with each other, laugh, learn, live, and love. We sometimes do Bible sitting close on the swing outside, other times it's upstairs snuggled in bed. Tex loves to mow (which is good since we have fifteen acres) and will hurry through his classes so he can get outside to work. The little ones do sometimes get "stuck" in the back room with a Signing Time video if I need them out from underfoot. I occasionally wish we had a "real" classroom so I could set up cool learning stations and have all of our many supplies in easy reach and a set plan for every day, but then again, when I consider that my children see their whole world as their classroom, I tell myself to stop thinking that way and appreciate where we are.

Homeschooling is awesome. I say, go for whatever works for you and your family. What works this year, might not work the next, so stay flexible. Things can change from month to month. One of the best lessons your family can gain from homeschooling is flexibility. Another wonderful lesson is the ability to entertain opportunities that are "out of the box" and out of the classroom. Still another is to set priorities. You are where God has put you, so get done what He wants done in a day, in the place He has given you to do it. Enjoy yourself. Appreciate it.  Lastly, is that because we homeschool, we are all together all day, every day, so we'd better learn to get along with one another, to help each other, and to love one another, and that, I think, is the most important lesson of all. We certainly have a great opportunity to practice that one until we get it, so let's not waste it.




Doreen said...

Ahhhh...the beauty of homeschooling! Ever changing, ever wonderful! Thank you for sharing your HS journey and all the wonderful discoveries along the way. I enjoyed your post very much :)

Vickie said...

I enjoyed your post as well. We need a good farrier around here. My horse really needs her hooves trimmed :) House calls???? hehe

Eileen Marie Miller said...

What a wonderful tribute to homeschooling and your family. The country life is definately an asset to homeschooling I think where kids can frolic and play.

Heather said...

Thank you for the kind words. We do love it here in the spaces are definitely a bonus and greatly appreciated by all (except for all the mowing!) We have to stay flexible just to keep up with the grass sometimes!

Vickie, I am sure he'd be glad to make housecalls, but he charges a gas fee, so I think that kills that idea! He wanted to keep his rates the same, when others are raising theirs ridiculously, so he compromised by adding a gas fee based on distance he drives. He does do a good job. We are proud of him. How many horses do you have?



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