Monday, August 13, 2012

"All this worldly wisdom ..."

"...was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man." - Henry David Thoreau

First, let me introduce myself and give a bit of backstory.  My name is Kate.  I have been married for 7 years to a ridiculously smart Oracle guru (AC), and I am a stay-at-home-mom to a four-year-old little girl (SC) who is sweet/fun/wild/smart/exuberant/difficult.

My ideas about education, and specifically how to educate my daughter, have drastically changed in the past two years as I have gotten to know her, seen what she is/is not capable of, as well as a short stint at teaching in a private school setting.  My own experiences with school contribute as well.  I was moderately advanced in school (pre-AP/AP classes through jr. high and high school), as well as graduating a year early.  As I look back now I am able to see that most of my public-school teachers did a good job (but not great) accommodating me and others at the upper end of the "average" spectrum while attempting to also teach every one else, though some of my teachers had their work cut out for them dealing with behavioral problems and others with serious academic issues.  The teachers I would consider to be great were the few who pushed me toward loving to learn, and encouraged me to figure out how to learn on my own, which eventually morphed into self-supplementation through reading of books.  Lots and lots of books.  All of this reading culminated in receiving two BAs (one in history, one in literature), working toward a teaching certificate, and completing twenty-four hours toward an MS in library science.

Two years ago I was just starting a job teaching high school English (9th-12th) at a local private school, and I was so excited.  I love to read, I wanted my students to love to read, and I thought that showing them how much knowledge was held within the spines of books, they would just "get it" and fall in love with reading.  I had my work cut out for me.  After a year of dealing with parents who did not want to take an active role in their students, but did not want me to push the boundaries, an administration that liked the sound of their mission statement, but not at the literal expense of a few big donor parents, and students who knew how to manipulate both to get what they want (combined with the planning, teaching and grading of four separate levels of high school English), I opted out of teaching.  I left the certification program, and I threw myself into my master's classes.

I also was finally able to spend time with AC and SC again.  We started to make some changes to our lives, like taking a look at the food we were eating and why we were all so unhealthy, making a real attempt to get to church (though we still struggle with this one), and taking real joy in the activities we all do individually and as a family.

This is also when I realized that SC wasn't really getting what she needed at the pre-school we had her in.  When we picked the preschool (right before I started teaching), the owner (an ex-elementary teacher) had created a great curriculum for the kids, based on the eventual goal of our local public school's kindergarten standards.  However, in the year I had been teaching, the owner's focus had changed.  She opened a second location locally, and had to divide her time between the two schools.  Because of this, she had to hire other teachers, most of which were not certified, nor even pursuing certification.  When I started asking questions about how certain skills were being handled (like fine motor skills, pre-reading, pre-math, etc), the answer was always that those things would be addressed "in the pre-k class."  Well, my daughter was yearning for some of these things, and pre-k was more than six months away.

So, last December we made the decision that SC would stay home with me full-time and we would do "preschool" at home.  I have a couple friends who have older children who have started homeschooling and I looked to them (and the internet) for some ideas.  I knew I wanted something that was literature-based, so we picked Before Five in a Row as a main curriculum.  However, I wanted to add a few other things in as well.  The math in BFIAR was less than what Sophia was already capable of (counting to 20, recognizing all shapes), so we added in Math-U-See at the "Primer" level, just to give her something that was both challenging, but had manipulatives she could play with.  I wanted to really read the Bible to her, so I picked up Bible Study for All Ages.  We also started doing a "letter of the week" in conjunction with the phonics books Get Ready, Get Set, and Go for the Code from the Explode the Code series.  She already knew the alphabet and most of the letter sounds, but at this point was not interested in learning to read.  We had the BOB Books "collection 1" ready on hand for when she finally sparked that interest (which actually was at the beginning of this summer).

We have had a great spring and a semi-lazy summer, and we have been getting ready to start back up with our "preschool."  Since we started in January, we still have a semester of math, half the phonics work and technically half the BFIAR to do.  However, I really don't like BFIAR.  I mean, I like the idea of it, being based in literature, and I love the books SC and I have been reading, but I just don't like the rest of it.  It isn't anything "more" than what I could come up with on my own if I spent five minutes thinking up things for each book under each subject category.

So, I decided to look for something different; something that SC would really learn from and enjoy.  And now I am planning a K/1st year that some of would start in September, the rest in October or November (or January, when we move up a level in math), second-guessing whether public school is even the right direction for SC and our family, and trying to figure out what our options really are.  That is what this blog is about - our pursuit of wisdom, both as it applies to SC, but also for myself as a lifelong learner.  Hopefully others can find something on the blog useful as it develops, and if nothing else, my goal is to have a year of K/1st plans and reflection to look back on.
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