I’m very happy to have a moment to pause here and catch my breath. We have had so much activity in the past week. All good stuff, and we are so very grateful to have the opportunity to do so many things. Highlights were:
‘A’ sang in the UU children’s choir and we are so proud of her for singing loudly, clearly and with pride
‘A’ is no longer a Girl Scout Daisy, she’s a Brownie now! She was very happy to take part in a ceremony that marked this transition, bridging from a Daisy to a Brownie.
We saw the inner workings of the Erie Canal up close with our homeschool friends: toured a canal boat, watched the locks open and close, learned about how and when the canal was built… and this week we are continuing our study of the Erie Canal at home.
Chickens, chickens, chickens: the roosters are starting to make noise!
I’ve been thinking and talking about what our homeschooling year will look like next year. Will the girls be homeschooled? If so, will I use a different curriculum? What about classes? A co-op? What are our goals? Our reasons for doing it? There are a lot of things to think about, and talking with other families who also have young children helps to put things in place. As Jeff and I wade through our thoughts this summer, we will write out our vision and our reasons for wanting to homeschool our girls this next year. It’s not simply important to know why we are living the way we are living – it’s a must if we’re to keep our sanity. Teaching your own children and spending every day with them isn’t easy, and it’s crucial to remember the reasons when the going gets tough.
One of the things I have learned is that teaching your own children requires a lot of effort and energy in some ways: deciding what to teach and how to teach it; planning field trips and classes; preparing lessons; and having patience with each child as they learn and develop are just a few. In other ways though, daily life is so much more simple than it would be if they were in school and away from me every day. There’s no emotional or behavioral “clean up” for me to do. I don’t have any after-the-fact explaining to do about how the world works. I know exactly who their friends are and I am available for them as they play. When I see them face social dilemmas, such as including or excluding a friend in a game, I am available to guide them (we adults know the correct answer to this dilemma, but children don’t always know, especially in the moment). I know what words and behaviors they are being exposed to and can help clear up misunderstandings as they unfold. Situations they might have to deal with if they weren’t homeschooled, such as feeling left out or less than, bullying and cliques, aren’t issues for my girls – at least at the moment. And don’t even get me going about the sexualization of young children. So, when I add “Social Development, Emotional Growth and Family Values” to the “Good Reasons to Homeschool” list, this is what I’m talking about.
As for next year, ideas are percolating. A few big projects with other families are on the table, including a science fair and writing workshops. I’ll finish up introductory American history with my girls in June and launch into introductory world history in the fall. We’ll continue working on language arts and math every day as we have been doing, continue with weekly art and science classes with other children. Field trips will be an extension of what we already do: group trips with other homeschoolers and family visits to museums and theater performances. Applied science lessons happen every day at home (if the garden, chickens and bees weren’t enough, there’s always fun to be had in the kitchen). One thing that will be appropriate to introduce in a more formal setting next year is a music class (for ‘A’). I’ll be attending the convention in Connecticut in a few weeks and I’ll come back with many more ideas, I’m sure.
Teaching American History
If you’re teaching young children and are wondering how to introduce history, I’ll share a bit about what I did this year. It has worked well for us. I don’t know if my girls just happen to like history or if I was able to explain it in a way that made sense – probably a bit of both.
Everything they learned about American history this year was tied to the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” Or, more accurately, “What stories contribute to the perpetuation of the American myth?” Remember, my girls are 5 and 7 years old, so the topic list is simple and age-appropriate. The idea here is that they learn about why things happened more than what specifically happened. The specifics will be filled in later, when they are old enough to remember facts and grasp headier concepts. For example, I did not feed them many dates. Books in the “If you lived during…” series are very good for the young ones and give you a starting point for finding more books and resources.
Native American culture
Early American colonial life: why were the colonies settled? What were the Europeans who moved here looking for? How did they interact with the native people?
Revolutionary War: why did the colonists want to go to war? Why didn’t they want to live under the rule of a king who lived across the ocean? Why didn’t all of the colonists want to be free? Declaration of Independence, setting up the new system of government, formation of states. Explore the concept of freedom, which is a part of the American mythical identity.
Development of the East and Exploration of the West: development of towns and cities in the East, why would people want to move west? Development of industry: new jobs, new goods, new pollution. Explore the concepts of development, innovation, independence and pioneer spirit, which are part of the American mythical identity.
Abolition of Slavery: Explore legal and social inequality, Underground Railroad, what life was like after slavery was abolished. Explore concept of amendments to the US Constitution.
Women’s Rights: Seneca Falls convention, right to vote.
Immigration: where did immigrants come from, what were they looking for, and what kinds of experiences did they have in America? Explore the concept of America as a melting pot and how it contributes to the American mythical identity.
Post-WWII innovation: exploring space, development of computer technology, women in the workforce, industrialization of food chain, deterioration of the environment. How will this impact our American identity in the future?