Friday, October 9, 2009

Hello, Homeschooling!

This afternoon, we got our preschool curriculum shipment from Sonlight. And today, I guess, would be considered the start of our official homeschooling.

In the spring and summer, I periodically researched homeschool techniques and different approaches, different kinds of curricula. Being a perfectionist, these times of looking into homeschooling consisted of bursts of panicked research into one tiny part of one subject, usually about 5 or so hours at a time, at which point I became completely overwhelmed and decided to procrastinate (who would think procrastination and perfectionism go together so well, but believe me, they do!) and wouldn't look into it again for awhile.
This roller coaster went on all summer, until I realized there was a problem. At this rate and by this pattern, I was sure to never start homeschooling until I found all the "right" intricate little pieces, brought together by my own self after much deliberation and careful scrutiny (after all, that's how my mom did it . . . oh, yeah. She probably didn't start out that way . . . maybe she learned as she went. . . good idea. . . maybe I should try that. . . ). In other words, we would NEVER begin homeschooling.

A post by a woman whose blog I read caught my attention the other day. It was about a specific aspect of the classical approach to education. Though I had heard the term "classical" before, and people I respected used it quite frequently, I had no idea what it really meant. Well, Carletta's post was a starting point in another few hours of research, after which I became convinced that Sonlight was a great start for our little family (the post was not about Sonlight, but that's where I ended up). BTW: even after my research the other night, I'm not an expert on what makes an approach "classical;" go read her post to get an idea and some links to more information. Honestly, some people may not consider Sonlight "classical" at all, I don't know. If you have insight into this, please share!

Many of the homeschoolers we know use Sonlight, and recently, a few friends in particular shared why they chose it and why they stuck with it. One of the greatest things about it, from my point of view as a beginner, not knowing what I'm doing, is their guarantee of a complete refund if we don't find it a good fit for our family within a year of ordering and having completed 18 weeks or less of the curriculum.

The main thing that convinced me of the appropriateness of this curriculum for our family, and my personality specifically, was this page on their website, which lists 27 reasons it may not be a good fit. I went through that list (which is more sincere than I expected) and by the end of it, I was sold! A few minutes later, I asked Case if we could have a date in a few days to discuss my findings. He replied that if I felt that strongly about it, we should go ahead and order it! So I did on Wednesday, and it was delivered today (standard shipping!).

One of the pluses that I believe will be the reason we will do well with this curriculum is that it is extremely simple. It (as in, the preschool curriculum--I do not pretend to know anything about the upper levels) is very laid-back, with a concentration on enjoying learning through reading classic children's books. It is not the typical "classroom" approach (workbooks, etc.), which I find is not good for me or the girls, because I begin to feel the pressure in such a setting, and I then transfer that pressure to them. Doing "school" oftentimes leads to frustration, and all of us just wanting it to be over. I don't want to squelch their desire to learn, and this is a step in the right direction: they are learning without realizing it!

Though I don't think the overly structured classroom approach is my style, neither is "unschooling," and I had it in my head that it had to be one or the other. Sonlight is structured, but it is not a "we're going to learn, now, children!" type of structure. Nor is it an "if it's October and you're still doing September's work, you're behind!" type of schedule.

The structure is just what I need: a teacher's guide so I don't have to come up with my own lesson plans, yet I can pick and choose which things I will do to supplement our reading, and no actual dates or timeline. Just a checklist of which things to do in what order and ideas on extras that are simple, like building with blocks after reading a particular story.

I love checklists, just not schedules. I like to see that progress is being made, but I don't want to be reminded that it wasn't within the time allotted. And I love that on some days, our preschooling will be complete by reading aloud to them alone, and on other days, having them help make Malt-O-Meal to signify Goodnight, Moon's "bowl full of mush." This is something I can do. It is the kind of stuff I already do. It is not a stretch to see myself homeschooling with this curriculum, and I think that is an important thing to consider.

Of course, we are only one day into this, and my take may change as we delve deeper, but overall, I am quite comfortable with the choice of Sonlight, and that is much more than I can say for other things I've looked into and tried.

What I want to hold onto is my girls' absolute excitement about "school." I have no doubt that they will be the ones to nag me, "We need to do our school!"


ann said...

Sarah, Last night I was about to comment on your last post and got distracted by one of the kids (duty calls). Anyway, as always, thanks for your honesty. I am, for the most part, always overwhelmed and stressed a bit. And constantly feeling guilty for not "enjoying" these days more. It is a struggle for me to have joy in the midst of the daily ins and outs and I know that is sin.

So...on to homeschooling. I am sooo where you are about feeling overhwhelmed and trying to find the right curriculum and starting to research and then not really getting anywhere, so I just put it off. I am very excited to look at Sonlight. I too feel that everything has to be perfect for us to get started. I want a perfectly organized, supplied, "school area". And I know that if I keep waiting for all this to happen, we would never do it either. So, are you starting right now? Are you calling this kindergarten for Ruby. How does that work?

Luke said...

Sounds like Sonlight is going to be a great fit for you and your family! And that is super exciting [smile].

Enjoy the journey, and may learning together continue to be a joy and pleasure. I look forward to hearing more about your homeschooling experiences in the days to come [smile].


Anonymous said...

Great that you're using Sonlight, Sarah. The families I've known that used it had children with great vocabularies and such vast knowledge from all that reading. I used pieces of it with Dan and Dave and enjoyed the cuddling storytime. It was very relaxing. It don't know what happens with the older grades, but I was very impressed with what we used. And, as you know from a great authority, "Readers are leaders." May your girls love good literature as a result of this start!!