Teaching My Daughter at Home
Our Adventure of Exploring the World through the Five Senses
My Home-Schooling Philosophy
For my family, home-schooling is about engaging the whole child – body, mind and heart – in the learning process, and allowing the child to lead the way.
My daughter is five years old now. Her birthday falls after the cutoff date designated by the Massachusetts Department of Education for eligibility to attend Kindergarten. My dilemma is this: she would not be admitted into the Kindergarten class of our local public school, all preschools in the area charge tuition, I am currently under-employed and we do not yet own a car in an area where this is a great disadvantage. We have been managing all this with the help of friends, for whom we are very grateful. They are truly a blessing, as are all our neighbors in our co-housing community.
Let's Start at the Very Beginning...
Despite some of the worries, I believe that my present life is the doorway that has been waiting for me to walk through. Transportation issues aside, I decided that upon purchasing and moving into a new home, I would seek employment online that I could work at in the evenings, when my daughter is sleeping, and during the day I would begin teaching her to read and write at home. She misses having schoolmates to play and bond with, but has close neighbors who include her in their play when they return from their day at school. She loves to have me read to her, and often begs for several books at a time, and enjoys playing with the magnetic alphabet letters on our refrigerator. Woven among the reading and play are short phonics lessons, writing, drawing, building, dress-up, sandwich-making, baking, and observation of diverse wildlife in their natural habitat. Just last week, one of her playmates found a "walking stick" insect on our property. That was very exciting for both of us, for I had never seen one up close myself.
Our Initial Reading List
Now that I have finished reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, I am looking forward to reading The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise-Bauer and Jessie Wise (a mother-daughter team), published in 1999, with a more recent reprint in 2004. In the meantime, I have been "winging it," using my experience, knowledge and hopes for my daughter's education as my guide. The books I have been reading to her since her birthday in September include:
What Makes a van Gogh a Van Gogh, a description of a group of van Gogh's paintings and what his life was like when he was working on them.
When They Were Children, a book about the childhoods of great people in history from all walks of life.
Children's Bible Stories from the old and new testaments.
The Juniper Tree , a collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.
I give her phonics lessons with the magnetic wooden letters I bought her, which live on our refrigerator. She likes to make words of her own with them when I am cooking or working on the computer. She practices spelling simple words with those letters, and writing the beginning letters of the alphabet on paper with pencil, markers, crayon, or paint, or with her finger in flour, and sand. We make collages out of natural objects and count with her set of blocks, from which she is also learning about the basic geometrical shapes.
Five-Year-Olds Learn Kinesthetically
Culinary science is also a subject of study for us. Cosette is already a pro at breaking eggs into batter without any of the shell dropping in. She may be young and not yet ready to grasp the concept of fractions, but she is learning about relationships between basic measurements and having a wonderful time enjoying the results of her efforts, whether they are apple turnovers, cookies, pizza, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She also enjoys helping me load the dishwasher, sweep, and water plants and flowers. In between these experiences, I work to give her an appreciation for the change of seasons. She often tells me how much she misses Spring and Summer (flowers, light clothing, more daylight, running around barefoot), but I hope that she will soon experience things to enjoy about Autumn and Winter, too. Such pleasures could include sliding through piles of fallen leaves followed by a warm cup of mulled apple cider, or building snow people and making snow angels followed by a cup of hot cocoa by a fire in our community's Common House.
Visiting Fun Places That Engage All the Senses
Throughout the seasons, we will visit places where we can touch, smell, taste, see, and hear the wonderful world around us. Those places include Tower Hill Botanical Garden, DeCordova Sculpture Park, and Indian Head Farm. We will visit places close to family in other states, too. My Mother lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. My daughter loves history, and has become familiar with the events around the American Revolution through watching the "Liberty's Kids" series on Netflix, and will benefit from a visit to the Colonial Village. My husband's family lives in Missouri, close to Hanibal. She will learn about Mark Twain and the culture of the Midwest region of our country when she visits them.
Homeschooling Information and Resources
- John Root - Musician - Naturalist
A very knowledgeable naturalist worth paying attention to. He is very generous with his time, and recently offered an edible plant walk at Indian Head Farm, down the road from where I live. My daughter loved it and now enjoys nibbling on "sour leaf."
- I Can Read
Images and descriptions of stories graded to a variety of reading levels from Beginner (1) to Advanced (4). These include stories built around familiar characters such as Amelia Bedelia, the Berenstain Bears, and Fancy Nancy.
- The Well-Trained Mind A Guide to Classical Education at Home
A website and blog with resources and a discussion forum around a variety of approaches to home-schooling. Based on the book, "A Well-Trained Mind," which outlines an approach to home education using literary classics in every subject.
© 2009 Karen A Szklany