Monday, January 14, 2019

Homeschooling multiple children

“If we ever have kids,” I told him, “I want to homeschool.”

I didn’t know why I said it. We had been told by a few different doctors that it wasn’t very likely I’d become pregnant… and even if we hadn’t been, we didn’t want to have children. We wanted to travel and explore from an RV. We wanted to live a nomad lifestyle. We certainly didn’t want anybody tagging along who might require homeschooling.

So why did I say it?

My heart knew long before my head did, I think, that I was meant to be a mother.

Not long after that day, a baby grew in my belly. I wondered all day every day who he or she might be.

I took $5 from every paycheck and I got homeschool supplies. I browsed the $.10 shelves of thrift stores for the children’s books I knew and loved. I had Charlotte’s Web and Stone Fox and My Side of the Mountain long before I had an actual baby. I smiled when I found great options at the Target Dollar Spot… alphabet magnets, dry-erase workbooks, magnet boards, science activities. We were deeply invested in homeschool from the very beginning.

We have never once questioned our decision to homeschool. Our decision has been questioned by others, sure (“But he needs socialization!”), but never by us.

This is the good stuff. I watched him put the sounds together and learn to read. I was there when he looked thoughtfully at an addition problem and said, “But if you take it back away… look, now it’s three again!” I was there when his eyes lit up as he finished his first language arts course book and I was there when he gathered up pine needles and sticks and pine cones in the yard to make patterns or tally marks on the steps of our shed. I haven’t missed a thing and that is priceless, completely invaluable.

I have loved every minute of it but all along I have worried about what it will look like to homeschool more than one child at a time. How could I possibly make that work?! I am crazy grateful for The Good and the Beautiful creating family-style science and history courses, meaning I will eventually teach four different language arts and math levels but will always be able to stick to one science curriculum with a lesson extension at the end for my older kids. That took away a lot of my concerns. As my children get older, they will also self-direct quite a bit of their math and language arts lessons. I’ll spend a little time giving them the lesson and then they’ll move on to the reading or the practice problems on their own while I move on to help the others. The actual workload really won’t be as intense as it initially sounded.

The only thing left to worry about was learning styles, the idea of my being an excellent teacher for one child and a horrible teacher for another. What if I can’t figure out how to teach a concept in a way that this or that child fully grasps?

My five-year-old and almost-four-year-old (she would want me to tell you that her birfday is in 24 days) are two very different children. One of them is never not making some kind of noise and the other is frequently silent even when the situation desperately calls for speaking up. One is bold and gregarious around strangers; one is painfully shy. One is sensitive and the other brushes everything off after a minute or two. One is always talking to me, one is always touching me.

I have wondered on so many occasions just how I will manage to teach them both at the same time. I suspect I’ll have to reiterate some of those history and science lessons in a different way to reach both children… but what about math and language arts? How will I switch back and forth between children? How will I know when what works for one won’t work for another? How can I possibly end up doing a great job for two completely different children… and then three, and then four completely different children?

My almost-four-year-old has been interested in her big brother’s homeschool all along, but now she’s grown ecstatic about learning lessons of her own. She wants to play the Eric Carle ABC game and she wants to play the toddler-friendly version we’ve made up of Uno. She wants to trace letters in one of our wipe-off workbooks and she wants to practice counting just about everything she sees. But more than anything, she wants her own The Good and the Beautiful preschool workbook. I printed off a free ABC workbook from because that was the best I could do financially at the time. She is happy with it and loves doing it, but still she gets a little glassy-eyed when she flips through her brother’s old workbook. Unbeknownst to her, Nana’s already ordered her that preschool workbook to open up on her birthday. If we stick to the schedule I’ve made, we’ll finish the free workbook the morning before her birthday.

She’s excited. I’m excited. You know what? We’re all excited. Daddy isn’t as involved as I am, of course, but he’s still very involved and loves seeing what they did that day when he comes home from work. She has loved adding her own pages to Brother’s stack of things-to-show-Daddy.
Yesterday we wrote a thank you note to Nana and we each signed our own names. I handed B the card since she’s been writing her own name for some time now. I changed two diapers and then came back to check on her. She’d been at the table with a pencil for a long time and I had a feeling she had probably scribbled all over the card, covered up everybody else’s writing. Instead I cried because above her name was a carefully scrawled “THAMK YOU,” slowly copied from Mom’s or Big Brother’s writing.

“Where did you learn to do that?!” I asked exuberantly.

“From me!” she smiled back.

I have nothing to worry about. She will learn at her own pace. I am not really here to teach her, so much as to facilitate her learning. We are a team and we are doing this together. I’ve known these things all along. I’ve liked these things on Facebook statuses and highlighted them in homeschool books. But now I’ve seen and felt and believed them. I’ve got this. No, we’ve got this.  

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