Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Homeschooling Homes: May I Peek Inside?

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.


Rach said...

MamaMonk, please come and visit our home - even if you can only leave yours for a few days! Apart from the bookshelves that line the walls of almost every room, you'll wonder *if* we homeschool!!!!!!
Oh the timeline on the wall in the upstairs hall might give it away. Apart from that, we just look like a house full of kiddos! Their art work is pinned up around the place and there are photos of the first few on teh wall! You might trip over a little handmade stool or some lego constructions....please overlook the train track on the living room floor - we have such fun leaving it set up and being able to play with it for a few hours each day! You'll agree with me that it would be nice to have the shelves of toys and games behind a big door.....but we do have eight kids so this place is never going to look like it fell out of a magazine! I wonder if you'll notice there are no fish in the aquarium (they died) and that the birds' nests on the shelf in the dining room are covered in a layer of dust thicker than any blackbird would have collected (they've been sitting there three years now).
If you ask to borrow a couple of my many books - and if you promise not to underline them or turn down the corners of the pages, I'll let you take them home!
After a couple of days with us *doing life* you really might be convinced you should install a schooldesk in a corner of your home somewhere;-)

Mama Monk said...

i love this description. wow...i can only imagine the activity in your vivacious home! you encourage and inspire me, rach. i would love to come visit...maybe someday! i would also love to hear *your* thoughts about curriculum and such. i can tell you are a wonderful, fun mama for your dear ones.
thank you for your comment.

Andrea said...

What a great post. I loved hearing about these families, and you took great care in explaining in detail their surrondings. Thank you for that, I really enjoyed it.

It sounds like you have a wonderful homeschooling community. That will make it much easier for you. And what great mentors you have in those women whose home you toured!!

Brynn said...

mmm...nice. We are thinking about thinking about homeschooling, too. Hubby and I are both teachers, so it's a big leap for us. I hope to find a similar group of homeschoolers to connect with once we relocate to Taos. Your post is happy. It reminds me why homeschooling is so wonderful--there are as many different styles as there are people. It's just that that has me so excited about learning with my guys...to really understand what gets them fired up and filled with joy and excitement . I'll look forward to following your journey.

Da Setiuz Mama said...

Homeschooling is a FAB lifestyle!! I am the result of a homeschooling family and am now a mum of two little ones similar in age to yours. Go for it!! It's an adventure, it's holistic, it's about 'doing life' with ya kids, it's about inputting into your kids the stuff YOU want them to grow on not what the state deems appropriate. People often ask 'what about the SOCIAL aspect?', well , trust me when I say that I am an Very sociable person and I, along with my brother and 4 sisters, fit in very well with the rest of the world (even if we do hold our own ideas about life). There is no prescribed "BEST" way of doing this homeschooling thang....it's about walking hand in hand together as a family and learning throughout the day. There is definitely a place for structured learning time but much of life is learnt through the everyday things. SO take a dive and go for it....WE too will be homeschooling our little ones. JK and I started doing phonics just this week and this morning (Saturday) he said....Mummy it's time to do some learning...I want to do letters. Oh the wonder of a child, there is no limits in their mind to WHEN they should learn....I hope I will be able to maintain that view of learning for my kids.
When ya make to NZ look us up too....as a younger mum, Rach is somebody I really admire and respect and I HIGHLY recommend following her journey.

elizabeth said...

i tried to post; trying again now: i am excited to hear you seeking to nurture your dreams - to build solid goodness and hope into your children... thanks for your post! :)

Mama Monk said...

Thank you, all, for your thoughts and comments. I appreciate the nudge onward!

AIMEE said...

a great little book to help you set things up in your home is by Dr.Mary Hood called "How to Set Up Learning Centers in Your Home"....
enjoy the journey and living life together!