Friday, July 28, 2006

On Homeschooling

Lindafay has an encouraging post up on why a Charlotte Mason/Classical approach works and produces well-educated children. Lindsey tells about her plans for her first grader. I enjoy both these blogs because these ladies seem to use an approach similar to the one Billy and I are interested in pursuing. (Another one I love for this reason is School@Home.) Elizabeth is starting first grade, and while I’m a tad apprehensive (Can I do a good enough job?), I’m also excited and encouraged by the many parents who have gone before me.

Elizabeth learned to read during her kindergarten year, but it was still a laborious process. At the end of the year, she had made amazing progress, but still wasn’t fluent enough to really enjoy reading. Each word required a great deal of concentration.

I was a little discouraged, but I decided to take a summer break and just let her rest completely from academics. After our vacation in March, she made a huge leap forward, and my hope was that another break would render the same result. I read to her some, but didn’t push her reading at all.

As the summer has gone on, I’ve started working with her a little bit again, but not pushing too hard. She still complained that she didn’t like reading; it was still a struggle. I began to play some little games with her. “If you read three sentences straight through without stopping, I’ll give you a surprise.” “You can go outside after you read me one short story.” I guess they were more incentives than games. I still tried not to stretch her to the point of frustration.

Finally, when I was about to give up, what I hoped for has happened. She has started reading (or trying to read) everything in sight—signs, books, my email (!). She’s also begun writing—inventively—but writing nonetheless. Whereas before she just strung together unrelated letters, now she is trying to sound words out and spell them phonetically. Some of them are hilarious. (Did you know that Happy Birthday could be spelled Hpe Bsda?) Since then she has become more concerned with spelling words correctly. She will guess at the spelling and then ask me if it’s right. With the pressure off for a short time, she has begun to blossom. She wants to read and write, and it’s become fun for her.

I’m not delusional enough to think that if I just leave her alone she will totally self-educate. I understand that structure and discipline are necessary and sometimes I’ll have to push her to do things she doesn’t really enjoy. But I’m also learning that—as I’ve heard from dozens of experienced homeschoolers—when a child is struggling, sometimes it’s best to back off a bit and try again a short time later.

I’m ordering her schoolbooks, and I can hardly wait to begin this year. I’m especially inspired by the idea of a Classical approach with Charlotte Mason elements, which is academically rigorous, yet not dry or uncreative. I’ll be refreshing myself on these concepts over the next few weeks while I wait for our books to come.

I know I have a lot to learn about homeschooling and education in general. I’m also not so arrogant as to believe that I’ll never change ideas or approaches. But for now this direction seems like a good fit for us. I’ll report periodically on how it’s going!

In the next post I’ll share what curriculum we plan to use this year.

1 comment:

Leah said...

Hooray for Elizabeth!:)