Saturday, December 3, 2011

Homeschooling From A Grandmother's Perspective

Old schoolhouse

Guest blog by Rena Nickerson (Grandmother and teacher of three girls- 9,6,4 and a 2 year old boy):  

  We are on our fourth year of homeschooling. Currently we are home educating our girls, ages four, six and nine. Often their twenty four month old brother joins a class. He's learning to count. When asked his age he holds up three fingers and shouts, "Two!" Yes, he is a work in progress.

There are no typical home school days, just as there are no typical home school families.  The one thing that remains constant is that our children do not have to climb out of bed at 6 AM, half asleep, to get ready to catch a school bus at 6:45 AM.

They  get up in the morning when they have gotten enough sleep. They sit at the breakfast table laughing and talking while enjoying a peaceful and relaxed meal. They don't have the worry of picking out the perfect school outfit. In fact, getting dressed for school is optional.

They do get dressed most mornings. I suspect they do so to delay school as long as possible. One morning, after waiting 20 minutes for them to dress and begin school, I yelled up the stairs. "Girls, you have five more minutes to get dressed and down here for school. If not I will mark you late for school and drag you to the principals office"
I heard laughter and the four year old shouted, "We don't have a Principal's office!"
Me--"Oh yes we do. It's down in the spooky basement."  
Six year old---”What does our principal look like?"
Me--”Big, huge, giant, hairy, black---that is all I am going to tell you. If you are late then you will find out what he looks like."
Nine year old--"Lets be late and go meet the principal."
Six year old--"I think our principal is a giant spider. I don't want to see him!"

Children can learn while having fun and laughing and I do try to keep our school fun. There was the morning I introduced the substitute teacher. Our vacuum cleaner has a Granny cover. I wheeled her in and the girls loved that. Granny no longer hides the vacuum. She now sits propped up at the dinning room table, her arms holding an open book. Once in awhile one of the girls ask, "Granny, would you like me to turn the page for you?" At our Halloween party, Granny got dressed up as a pirate.

The dinning room is our class room, and though we do begin there, we seldom end up there. It is not unusual to find the girls in the living room reading in front of a cozy fire, sipping hot cocoa. Learning can happen anywhere.

Our state requires that 175 days must be spent in educating the children. They do not, as some states do, require a certain amount of hours. I prefer schooling in the morning and ending as close to noon as possible.
We have a daily schedule of subjects that the state says must be taught. We have flexibility of what to teach. ,As an example I am free to choose what period of history to teach, what to teach for science and math and etc. We manage to squeeze in Bible, Spanish and Arts and Crafts, subjects of our choosing.

I find it easier and less time consuming to combine the girls into as many classes as possible. Much like the old fashioned, one room, school house. Each child learning as age and ability permits.
We do have text books but the girls often find them dry and boring. Since little children tend to be visual learners we sometimes abandon the books in favor of DVDs. We have a vast collection of videos covering every subject but math. On non book days, the girls are given lap tops to play math games on the computer.

The children are never tested, nor do they receive letter grades. I am always aware of what they know and when to speed it up or slow it down. Each child is allowed to learn at her own pace.
I admire public school teachers. I don't know how they manage a class of twenty or thirty plus kids and teach at the same time. It frightens me to even imagine doing their jobs. They, don't, however, have the same advantage of the homeschooling teacher of sitting down with each child and teaching one on one.

I love listening to the girls discussing what they have learned during the day. After seeing a video of the Oregon Trail the nine year old said, "That was really gross! They ate their dead friends!"
The six year old was more impressed with buffalo chips."Buffalo chips is poop. They picked up poop with their bare hand to make fires.Yucky!"
  The four year old didn't get much out of that video, but took note of her older sister's comment. "Why didn't they eat pizza? It's not nice to eat your friends."

She did enjoy the video on Japan, and had a question. "How do those people eat tomato soup  with chopsticks? Can we have tomato soup for lunch? Do we have any chopsticks?"
"Sweetheart, if they eat tomato soup they drink it from bowls or cups like we do. Yes, you can have tomato soup for lunch, but I'm sorry, we don't have chopsticks."
"That's okay. I'll use two forks."

Learning doesn't end with the home school day. The six year old came to me and asked, " What does Buenas noches mean? I forgot."
Me--”It means good night."
She--"Me and (4 year old sister) are playing Japanese. Japanese people are Spanish, you know. We have to talk to them in Spanish."
Me--”Oh Honey, no. Japanese people are not Spanish. They have their own language. In the back of our book there are some Japanese vocabulary words. Let's go learn a couple of easy Japanese words."
   And so concludes a bit of what our home school looks like.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

How cute! I can see the advantages but my three children and I might have all killed each other and possibly eaten each other, just like the Donner Party!

MT Nickerson said...

I don't know how my mother does it, honestly. My nieces are great, but it's such hard work.