How I homeschool in my mind vs. reality

I am going to let you in on a secret. I can read and plan and buy supplies with the best of them only to have our days spill out like a box of crayons never to be put back in the right order. I often crawl into bed at one AM happy knowing I have set up a great activity, cleaned up our learning area, and that I actually know what we are going to do the next morning.
This set up was one of those times. I found this great vintage magnet book at a book store in Corvallis (do a ton of people homeschool there? Because they have a top notch new/used kids section complete with a homeschool specific area). Earlier this year I snagged a couple magnetic wands and balls from lakeshore learning (via Goodwill). Then I really hit the jackpot and got this cool magnetic building set at Goodwill new in the box for $2.50. Here is a pro thrifting tip: ignore moldy boxes. Open those suckers up and douse yourself in antibacterial spray when you get back to the car. The box on this was NASTY, but inside was a styrofoam tray, totally enclosed with these in pristine condition inside.
I digress. So I collected all this stuff from my perfectly organized homeschool stash hovel of a basement storage room. I read through the magnet book and got out everything it talked about so Tuesday could recreate the experiments. I cleaned up the learning area (total misnomer, we learn everywhere really), and went to bed.
Five days later when Tuesday actually showed a brief interest in this I of course had a cranky Bennet with me who could not be near the magnets.
Bennie Blocker
So it ended with a few minutes of Tuesday sticking screws into the ends of straws and not caring at all about what’s magnetic or not. And Bennet mad on the other side of this turned over table.
Was this a total failure then? I’m not calling it one. This was a setup I wanted to do. I saw the book and I made the connection with all the fun magnet stuff. Tuesday did not. She did not care about magnets and a book from the 70s with awesome illustrations, but I did.
I actually started this post over a month ago. I decided then I had to stop doing this to myself. Tuesday learns the best when we follow her lead. When she is interested in things she soaks up knowledge like crazy. As much as I want to be the homeschool mom with perfect projects and unit studies it’s just not meant to be with Tuesday. We have no formal school time, no worksheets, nothing. Tuesday does not know all her letters, she can not read, she does not really understand how much bigger 60 is than 6. Why am I telling you this? Do I think she has a learning disability? Oh no I do not. I think she’s brilliant, though I’m always scared to tell her so and instead focus my praise on how hard working she is.
I’m telling you this because she is four and a half. And she plays great. She imagines the best stuff ever. She plays like it’s her job to get a gold star in playing… Because it is. She does not need to know how to read. I don’t care that she doesn’t count to 100. She is 4.5. And if your four year old doesn’t know any of this stuff either here is my official recommendation that you don’t worry about it. Let them be kids. Read to them, read to them some more, and then tangle your tongue one more time on Fox in Socks and call it good. And when they have questions answer them. And if you don’t know the answer figure out together how to find it. And don’t compare your kid to anyone else… I’m still working on that.
Because if you’re homeschooling you are learning all the time. And when your kid wants to know how to write your their name you can show them right then. They don’t have to wait for any other teacher. My new goal is not to have the best most Pinterest worthy trays. It’s to be present for my daughters, gauge their interests and respond appropriately. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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  1. Perfect 🙂
    You follow the Montessori approach the most (I think…just based on what you’ve shared here, and what I’ve seen) and the big part of that is letting your child lead the way. And then making the connections there. I know you know that, and this post just reinforces it. You can’t make a child want to learn about magnets, but if can guide Tuesday into a discussion about magnet and how it relates to playing hairdresser or whatever, then great! 🙂
    Ah I’m having a hard time expressing myself this morning, but you know what I mean. You’re a great mama to those little girls! And teacher!

  2. Great advice! My youngest just turned seven, still gets his ‘b’ and ‘d’ confused sometimes, but wants to do cursive SO MUCH that he has taught himself by looking at what big bro & sis are doing. His cursive form is better than his print!
    It’s easy to get caught up on Pinterest, to think that others are doing all the cool stuff while I’m totally stuck in the planning stage… but I have to remind myself that those are inspirational ideas, and my kids’ days are full of creativity already because THEY are creative, on their own! (Accessive creative materials are a big help. 🙂

  3. This is such a well written post. And I could not agree with you more! I have totally stopped comparing Charlotte to other children. We have no formal school time either, at least not at this age. I am just letting Charlotte lead the way. And I am allowing her to “just be a kid!” You are a great person and a great mama, and you are doing an awesome job!

  4. I agree with you 100% and I am not homeschooling – Luke and I would not get along well in that arena, I know it. So I will be sending him to a Pre-K school and public school. It’s hard, really hard, to keep with the attitude of everything is good, learning is fun, and he doesn’t need to know how to read at 4 – when the kindergarten teacher is being told the exact opposite. We’ll see how it goes – but options aren’t what there are a lot of when you live in the sticks. 😉

  5. Your basement looks exactly like my children’s Montessori classroom! Ahhh, those were the days… Anyway, I love your attitude about reading. It is so much more important that a child be read to and learn to love books, than that they be reading at a particular “level” by the time they are 5 years old. Good for you! I don’t know how long you are planning to homeschool, but here is one thing to keep in mind; If you plan on sending a child to public school at some point, it is helpful if they have some familiarity with the type of structure that they will encounter there. I did not go to public school until high school, and it was very difficult for me to adjust to such formal structure schooling. Just a thought for you. There, of course, is no “right” way to homeschool!

  6. I went on a similar rant on my blog today. I shouldn’t call it a rant actually. You made so many good points. I agree 100%

  7. Well written. It took me all of 5min to realise my 4 year old is just not interested in any “perfect” learning activities either, no matter how much I wanted him to be or how awesome I set them up(because I love said activities!) Lets just say I’ve had to learn to love acting like a dinosaur most days, or taking care of worms/slugs. Oh, and wrestling… 🙂 They have enough years ahead of them to learn all that other academic stuff. Good on you for following their lead…it’s def an amazing approach

  8. I’m not a homeschooler – could never have that responsibility and relationship with my kids, but I do admire those who do. Just wanted to write from the perspective of mom with slightly older kids who went to traditional preschool (well, the one most like what I remember from my 1970s childhood with one dusty computer and a focus on play and social activities) and are now in elementary school. Like you, I think imagination and loving books, but not necessarily reading them from an early age, are the primary tasks of children. My daughter actually had extra help daily in first grade because she wasn’t reading at the same level as the other kids, but she loved being read to and that was my focus. She’s in 6th grade now, in the highest reading group, and has her nose in a book as she walks to the bus stop. One thing that reassured me back when she was below level was a question my mom’s friend, a 30-year veteran first grade teacher, asked “Has she lost her teeth yet?” As a teacher, she had seen a correlation between being physically mature and mentally ready to read, something another friend told me is a Waldron concept. My son is now in second grade, and is just starting to feel confident about independent reading, though he is enjoying our bedtime reading of the Harry Potter series. I think I’m writing because your post reminded me of feeling less-than when comparing my kids’ progress to others. Your comparison of your own reality to structured homeschooling may make you feel inadequate at times, but you’re also pointing out how your daughters are thriving and learning in their own way. That’s great, and I look forward to continuing to hear about your journey on the learning path.

  9. Another fact I learned from a reading specialist that encouraged me back when my daughter was in first grade: One of the very best predictors of high school SAT scores is 2nd grade VOCABULARY. Not reading level, word recognition, spelling or anything that requires them to be reading on their own from an early age.

  10. Cathy,
    Thank you so much for your comments. I did not read until I was seven, and I love to read so really hope to pass that on. I read to the girls every chance I get… and they still wish I read to them more. My daughter always asks me to read at the table, and I’m always telling her, “mama has to eat too!” I’m still working on the not comparing my kids thing, I’m sure I’ll be working on that for years!

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