I've just settled in with a steaming mug of Medium Roast Cafe Mbeya, Fair Trade Organic Tanzanian Coffee from Level Ground Trading LTD. My nose tingles with the aroma of a fresh homemade brew and I relish this moment of quiet.
Earlier this week, I joined our local Homeschooling Association for a home tour. My husband and I have decided to homeschool and because I feel nervous about the decision and inadequate for the task, I've started to attend monthly homeschool meetings to observe successful homeschooling families and to learn some ideas and tips for starting. I have enjoyed it immensely and have been challenged and inspired by the other men and women in the group. There are over 100 of us.
During the home tour, we took a peek inside the inner workings of four homes over a two hour period. The idea was to give us a chance to see how other families create a space for homeschooling. We were free to ask any questions and to hear about preferred curriculum.
The first woman received us at the door with a warm smile and then quickly stepped back and out of the way so we didn't collide with her nine-month pregnant belly. She looked to be in her mid to late-30's and was carrying her 8th baby. She and her husband own a farm and greenhouse on their property and work out of their home. She homeschools six of their children, since number seven is just two years old.
Their upstairs consisted of a family/music room, office, play room, kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and school room. They recently renovated the basement to accomodate three bedrooms for the children. They have three computers divided between the office and school room. And their kitchen table was at least ten feet long. Unbelievable. Her home was well-organized and tidy and seemed to run like a well-oiled machine.
The school room had four old-fashioned, wooden school desks in a line and two more chairs at a table toward the back of the room. She had crafts and booklets and projects hanging from the ceiling like mobiles. In front of the school desks was a large office desk where she sits and teaches and marks. Behind her desk was a chalkboard and large white board. She uses a lot of Amish curriculum called Rod and Staff. And characterizes herself as someone who needs a lot of lists and schedules.
The second home we visited was more of a "loose style" of homeschooling. As we entered, I noticed two full drum sets, a set of bongo drums, a guitar and a tambourine. A LONG piece of paper (actually a BUNCH of papers taped together) lined the space between the top of the wall and the ceiling, like a wall-paper border. On it, were various pictures and dates to comprise a time line from the beginning of creation (in Genesis) until our present time. I thought this was a great idea!
The main school "room" was just off the kitchen in a nook or dining room area. They installed floor-to-ceiling book cases that hold different folders, readers, curriculum, magazines and books. The mom had a large desk and her four kids had small, old-fashioned school desks nearby. She also uses Rod and Staff Curriculum as well as Sonlight.
The third family converted their entire basement suite into a school area. The suite's kitchen was a storage area for craft supplies, toys and science project materials. In the center of the main room was a large round table and around it were bookshelves and display cases and a large desk with a computer. This family has two kids with the youngest one just three years old. She seemed very organized and her 6 year-old-son's projects looked nearly perfect, as though an adult had completed them. I suppose that is part of having only one child to focus on at a time.
This woman LOVES science projects and stumbled upon a great resource for ideas called :Lentil Science. The whole idea behind Lentil Science is the importance of using simple, everyday objects to teach science whenever possible. They teach children to calibrate a container using a scoop, pen and tape, and bowl of lentils, how to weigh a certain amount of lentils and other simple scientific experiments.
I enjoyed seeing how much she loved what she was doing and got excited about each new project of the day. She used to be a school teacher and consultant for Creative Memories Scrapbooking and seems to incorporate these areas of expertise (and creativity) into her homeschooling.
The final home on our tour was owned by a single mom in her 40's who is homeschooling her 13- year-old for the first time. Her daughter was having difficulty in school and expressed a desire to be homeschooled, so they decided to give it a try. She reads a lot of books and since she wants to be a veterinarian, they focus on curriculum and stories that involve animals.
They have a large home and since it is the two of them, they are able to spread out and study whereever they want to. The downstairs suite has a computer and TV that they use for multimedia curriculum, and the upstairs has an extra room and bathroom that they've converted into a school room with a large, cushioney reading chair and a tidy desk for writing.
For most of our time at the last house, we discussed a curriculum called Character Studies which sounds really interesting. She pulled out samples that she is using with her daughter and I jotted down some information that I want to research over the next months as I decide on the curriculum to use.
I really enjoyed the chance to take a look at what works for other like-minded families. I am excited to craft a vibrant educational space for our family over the summer.