Saturday, September 19, 2009

Homeschooling Considerations (response to reader)

One of my readers wrote for advice about homeschooling her own 4 year old daughter. I thought I'd post my response here for anyone to consider. Maybe it will help others in similar situation.

Her original question:

I have been following your blog for a while and I need some home-schooling advice. "A" started pre-school about 3 weeks ago and doesn't want to go anymore because she is scared of the boys. From what I can gather one of them pulled her hair and another one pushed her. She is very timid and can't stand up for herself. I would say she is socially behind most of her peers when interacting with other kids, which was why when she said she wanted to go to preschool I was all for it. Plus, I was glad that I was going to get some time to myself.

I have never really considered home schooling "A" because I am not really Ms. Project or Ms. Creative and don't want to reinvent the wheel. Now, that "A" refuses to go to school I am not sure what to do. She is also academically quite far ahead of what most kids can do at this age. I think "A" is easily ready for kindergarten because she can read short sentences, write some words and count to 100. She turned 4 in July.

What curriculum would you recommend? We haven't really been teaching her anything in a structured fashion but she loves learning and wants to do harder and harder stuff.

And here's my answer:

Thanks for the note. First of all, I want you to know that, contrary to what it may APPEAR on the blog, I am NOT Ms. Creative/Crafty by ANY means, and never considered myself a particularly creative person. I've learned a lot of these projects WITH the girls (see Canning, Sewing and other Fiber Arts for example). I'm organized (if knowing WHICH pile to look in counts) and enjoy making stuff up, organizing and planning as I go along. Most of my ideas come randomly. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. But I'm VERY curious. When the girls want to know about something and EYE don't have the answer, I'm more than willing to help them find it. (And usually want to know, too.)

It sounds like "A" really doesn't need preschool. SO she doesn't know how to deal with typical preschoolers who pull hair, call name,s bite, kick and scratch. Are those skills we really need in adulthood? Not exactly, and certainly we can develop those interpersonal skills later. I think, first of all, that intelligent, peaceful children are more taken aback by this kind of behavior than anything, and when exposed to it either take up with it or fall victim to it - neither is good.

For an intelligent, emergent reader with an interest in learning I'd say DON"T use a box curriculum. Follow her interests. Read to her a lot if that's what she enjoys. Spend HOURS in the library exploring books. And when she's worn out, whether it's 15 minutes or an hour or two, (or you're worn out), head home and return another day with renewed vigor. I found that, with both of my girls, if I PUSH anything, they repel it. If I follow their interests and provide assistance as needed, they eat it up. If my plan is to go to the library but they'd rather do puzzles at home, so be it. Library out; puzzles in.

I know she seems older because her verbal skills are probably amazing and she says stuff that seems far beyond her tender years. Still, it's difficult for me (and perhaps you) to remember that they're still so little! It's the time for play, exploration, learning by getting their hands dirty and stacking and reading for fun. I think we probably traveled too much and didn't spend enough time at home. I think I may unintentionally pushed my girls too hard at times (not academically, but certainly on the trail and in other activities) for their ages merely because it was difficult for me to remember how YOUNG they were (are)!

Cook with her - and let her read the instructions. Teach her how to measure - and how the fractional notations relate to the marks on the measuring implements. Grow a garden (however small or large) with her to teach earth sciences (water + dirt = mud; identify insects; identify plants; watch the plant growth cycle). Paint with her, sculpt with her, make gooey gunk with her. And ENJOY her.

Forget Abeka for now, or Singapore math, and it doesn't sound like she needs Phonics books, games or programs. If she's already ahead, then you're ALREADY doing a GREAT job "homeschooling!" :)

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