“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote: To travel is to live.”

~Hans Christian Andersen

We’re traveling and learning!  See you soon!

The Curriculum is Coming, The Curriculum is Coming!

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A couple of years ago we purged hundreds of books from our home.  Literally, hundreds.  I couldn’t deal with the clutter and we seemed to be headed toward a more simplistic  way of life.

Enter homeschooling.

It must be a trap all the new homeschoolers fall into…the fancy books, shiny school supplies, and can’t-live-without math manipulatives.  I  justify the expense  by comparing the cost to what we’ve spent in private school tuition–I win.  The truth is my table is piled high with language and math, science and handwriting, history, phonics, and spelling.  We are loosely (or tightly, time will tell) following the “neo-” classical philosophy of Susan Wise Bauer from her book “The Well-Trained Mind.”  This philosophy is language-heavy with a lot of reading, writing, narration, and dictation.

 We will start with Bauer’s Writing with Ease curriculum coupled with First Language Lessons, written by her mother, Jessie Wise.  We’ve chosen  Zaner-Bloser for handwriting and Spelling Workout as our initial spelling curriculum.

Math is a big deal in our home.  We’ve chosen Singapore Math even though I am tempted to choose something easier.  I am planning to backtrack and spend a lot of time reviewing since our school used a different method for teaching math.  I am thankful that my oldest has a great base for math facts and enjoys the puzzle of math.  We also added “Family Math” and “Family Math for Young Children” to add fun, real-life games that the kids will enjoy.

Our history curriculum is also written by  Bauer and receives rave reviews.  We’ve chosen “Story of the World, Volume 1:  Ancient Times” to begin and we will use the text along with audio CDs and the activity book.  I am lucky that my children LOVE this subject (and the potential field trips involved!) so I think it will be hard to go wrong.

Science hasn’t truly taken form for us yet though I’ve purchased a few fun science experiment books.  I’d like to do some basic animal classification and maybe human anatomy study this year but I expect to add science later in year, maybe in December or January  after we’ve established a good rhythm with language, math, and history.

And as these books stack up I hesitate and think, “Maybe tomorrow.  For now we’ll go out and play.”

Taking The Plunge

Oh, the big question, “Well, what are you going to teach them?”

Reading, writing, and arithmetic.  It seems the easiest place to start.  I have actually spent many years considering homeschooling and just as many years talking and trading ideas with dear friends who homeschool successfully.  I have always hesitated because I am not, by trade, a teacher.  I have completed graduate classes in education, but for adults, not little people.  For some reason, taking on the task of educating little people feels scary and so, well, big.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t know how to read or write, I don’t remember learning any of it.  It feels mysterious to me, how that knowledge came about.  I must have learned it very young?  Was it a long and arduous process?  As I witness my older child learn to read, learning that has taken place over many years, I realize that it is not something accomplished in one fell swoop.  You don’t just get one chance and they learn it or they don’t.  It feels like a puzzle coming together slowly over time, and as more and more pieces fall into place, images take shape.  Soon you are left with a clear picture, words become sentences, then paragraphs and soon you are watching her check out huge chapter books on Egyptology from the library.

My friend Natalie tells me I can’t screw them up too much in just one year.  I am holding onto that.

Pennsylvania Homeschooling Laws

Tricky, tricky!

As it turns out, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has some of the strictest homeschooling laws in the country.  As I study what is required by parents in order to educate their own children I find myself wondering who wins in this situation.

“These states require homeschooling families to submit portfolios of student work regularly, take standardized tests or be otherwise evaluated by the public school system – a system that often views homeschooling as competition. Furthermore, some states, including Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have no statewide system of regulation. Instead, homeschoolers are at the mercy of regulations imposed by their local school districts. In these states, conditions for homeschooling are inconsistent, with families treated very well in one district but overburdened by regulations in the neighboring district.”                                                                            ~bridges4kids.org

So in order to teach my own children in Pennsylvania I must:

  • submit a notarized affidavit outlining my educational objectives
  • teach required subjects for a required number of days/hours
  • maintain a portfolio and a log of all reading material
  • hire an evaluator at the end of the year to review each child’s portfolio
  • submit the portfolio and evaluator’s approval to our district Superintendent
  • if my child is in 3rd, 5th, or 8th grade, submit standardized test scores
  • await approval from the Superintendent to continue homeschooling

Um, yeah.  So we “go big or go home” in Pennsylvania.  I wonder if a move to Alaska might be a better option.  Apparently, The Last Frontier just leaves you the hell alone.

We’re Moving….and We’re Homeschooling

“Wait, what?”  We’ve heard that a lot.

Yes, we are moving to Pennsylvania this summer as my better half received a job offer he couldn’t pass up.  It’s surprising, it’s fast, it’s sad, but overall it’s an exciting adventure!  We love to travel and have been yearning to explore a new place and, while Pennsylvania may not have been at the top of our list, it turns out to be a great location.  We are pretty close to Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore–all cities we have yet to spend much time visiting.

My children have spent the last 5 years at a wonderful, nurturing progressive education elementary school outside of Charlottesville and out of all the painful moments this move creates, leaving our school is the hardest.  Add to that the pressure of finding a new school in a new place and we came to the conclusion that we needed a time-out.  We are giving the girls a transition year of homeschool and travel to allow them time to adjust to our new town as well as time to grieve the loss of their school community.  The tears have been plentiful, many by me.  Despite the girls’ sadness they are excited to homeschool for the freedom it allows, excited for our new condo in suburbia where they have bike paths and swimming pools, excited for the road trips we are planning to visit family and friends…

I am not certain how this blog will evolve but I want a record of our year, the highs and the lows, what works and what doesn’t.  I have moments of thinking I am crazy to take this on, but mostly I have a large sense of relief and feeling of calm because I know we are making the best choice for the girls.