Wow, last week was a hectic one for me, and we've not even "officially" started our season yet! Although not much I did last week related to the farm and market :)
I headed to Duluth on Thursday morning for a homeschool convention. Minnesota has a great homeschool association, MACHE (Minnesota Association for Christian Home Educators), and they have a wonderful convention every April, rotating between three MN cities.
They have a great seminar, starting on Thursday afternoon, for those who are just starting homeschooling. I got so much information from them! There were four 45-minute sessions, covering things like why homeschooling, how do you figure out learning styles, what you need to know, and a great question and answer session with some homeschooling "pioneers." Friday morning, the first general session was entitled "Which Way Do I Go?" and I'd have been lost without it!
Minnesota is really blessed to have as the head of the MACHE board a gentleman who served in the State legislature for years before stopping his "public" life but still staying in our capital to oversee legislation, make sure nothing anti-homeschool is promoted while making sure our rights to homeschool are protected. As a result, we don't have alot of the hostilities to homeschool parents from legal sources as many other states do. We also don't have to worry about our homeschool right being taken away based on our childrens' testing scores, unlike many other states. John is right there, making sure we as homeschoolers are legally protected.
Back to the conference! The learning styles seminar was so informative to me! They covered the four main styles of kids (named, in this instance, "wiggly willy/wilma," "confident carl/carla," "perfect paul/paula," and "sociable sam/sue"), giving characteristics of each as well as favorite subjects, things they cannot abide doing, positives and negatives, and what teaching methods are best for each style. Wow, as we were covering them, I'm pretty certain I have my kids pegged! Luke is pretty much 50/50 wiggly and sociable (and I'm not saying wiggly just because he's a boy) -- as she was covering both styles, I couldn't believe how exact both described him from birth to today. Tony also thought they described Luke to a "T." Susanna is textbook confident, again, from the moment she was born. They also told us that for homeschooling, figure an average of $450/student/year for materials. I told Tony that (my frugal sweetie) and he said he didn't think that was unreasonable. Yeah!
I got back to my hotel that night, tired but excited about the next couple days of the conference. Wow, I was going to get so much out of this! Friday's opening seminar, "Which Way Do I Go?," was a further inspiration. Mary James covered the five major teaching styles, along with pros and cons on each and what cirriculum fell in each style. Unit studies for us, baby! Fits both kids' styles as well as our busy life style, what could be better? Oh yeah! Great info! Most were represented in the Exhibit Hall...I was set! Go on to the seminars, learn all kinds of stuff, check out the cirriculum during breaks, and go from there!
Well. I went into the first general seminar lead by a great lady, Terry Maxwell, who homeschools a bunch of kids, has written several books, co-authored many with her husband, and has been featured on several programs such as Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and others.
I lasted five minutes in there. She was talking about scheduling, about how important it is to keep everything scheduled so things don't fall apart. Are you KIDDING me? Now, I'm a scheduler (stop laughing, Mom -- I'm not as bad as Ron!) and it really helps when I list things out that need to be done. HOWEVER, there is NO way I am able to maintain a schedule with the life we lead. I gave up schedules when I became a mom and realized that while routines are important, schedules no longer work. There are way too many variables in our life as farmers and business owners and parents with small children who have minds of their own. Maybe down the road but now? Yeah. Right.
Side note: My daughter is starting to turn out like her Mama. Last week when we went to the grocery store, as we walked in, she pulled out a piece of paper with scribbles on it and was ready with her "grocery list." I cracked up!
I tried another seminar given at the same time. I lasted less than five minutes in that one. I high-tailed it down to the exhibit hall and Mary James' booth "Smoothing The Way -- Help for First Year Homeschoolers" -- and started tearing up as I realized that this step we're taking is a big one...but one we both are convinced is the right one for our family. Tony and I are going to have to reprioritize many things, most of them not right away, but we're going to need to look in the future and realize there are things that cannot continue the way they are.
That first full day was overwhelming for me. But with God's help and reminders, I realized that most of what was going on at the conference doesn't pertain to us. Yet. We are easing our way into this, starting officially next year, so we still have time. The bountiful information at the conference -- much won't be needed for us until years from now. We don't need to start worrying about Shakespear, advanced math, college prep, things like that. So I spent most of Friday in the Exhibit Hall. Checked out the literally hundreds of exhibitors, looked at all kinds of cirriculum, especially those that I noted that fit our kids' styles and the teaching style I want to try.
Unit studies are a fantastic way to learn...you pick a topic and build all the subjects around that topic, going through as many topics as you and your family want...but it's pretty unrealistic for me when I look at it. I would be the one having to put together all the information, the material, the lesson plans, etc. Wasn't there anything out there for unit studies that had everything put together for me already? Well, no, not really, but enter.....
My Father's World. Wow! This cirriculum is amazing! Check out their site at http://www.mfwbooks.com/. It is written from toddler through high school in a blend of styles that focuses mainly on units and "classical teaching." The first two "formal" years of teaching for children are all focused purely on the Bible. Kindergarden centers around Creation. First Grade centers around the Bible as a whole. And after that, you can teach multi-ages for the next seven years until they get to high school and mainly independent study. The focus is still on the Bible, the teaching is pretty much "hands on" (in kindergarden they have an ant hill and a butterfly garden, in first grade they do things like make applesauce, etc.), all subjects are covered (unlike many other cirriculum where you have to add your own math, spelling, language arts, etc.) -- actually, in the cost for the year, some other established cirricula (like first Singapore math then Saxon Math) is included for the year, books that are used aren't normal textbooks but "living books" (actual books like the Little House series and others) and are not required purchases -- you are given the list of books so you can either buy them on your own or check them out of the local library! Each year focuses on a different music style as well, starting with Wee Sing Bible songs then introducing them to classical music, orchestra, music around the world, American composers, and more. The price averages to about $100-150/child/year since they are taught together using the same materials with only a few things that would need to be bought for each of them. The background of the material is fantastic, too. It was written by a couple for their own children when they were Wycliffe translators in Russia. (although a good amount of the cirriculum out there was written by parents for their own kids)
By Saturday, I was so tired even after a great night's sleep on my sleep number bed. It was all so overwhelming. BUT...it was also invigorating. By Saturday, I was ready to actually sit in on some of the seminars -- they had about 17 different sessions for each seminar time that you could choose from...or just go through the exhibitor hall. It was great that I got so much wonderful information. I'd prayed that God would give me wisdom to know what paths to follow for teaching our kids. I really am confident in discovering their learning styles, the teaching style that will probably work best for our family, AND the cirriculum that looks like it will be the best for our family. Will any of this change over the years? Possibly. And I'm okay with that.
In the meantime, I picked up the Preschool Pack from MFW as well as some other learning tools (and LOTS of brochures!). Luke and Susanna cried today when I told them we had to go into town for groceries. They wanted to stay home and do school work. They're on the floor right now doing school work (well, Susi is doing the moonwalk...better than Michael Jackson...and I have no idea where she even saw it!) They've already watched a great DVD by Joyce Herzog called "Lettermaster" about all the different sounds each letter makes...three times. And would be watching it even more if I'd let them! It's a corny DVD, but it is GREAT learning...and they are singing about which letters are vowels and which aren't as well as the sounds that "s" makes. Luke no longer wants to be called Luke. He is "L." And I was blown away at watching Susanna "playing" with some math manipulatives. I'd ask her which card (out of ten different ones) had three spots on, and without hesitating, she'd pick up the correct one. She did it each time I asked her -- five spots, seven spots.
And lest anyone is concerned, let me reassure you that I know my kids are 3 and 4. I know they don't officially start school for another year and two. But I also know they are having fun "playing" with school work and learning all kinds of things without even realizing it. And when they tell me, "okay, I'm done with this for today," -- hey, that's fine with me.
And now...I need to lay down a bit. Dwight called the farm last week to tell Mama that he and his business partner were coming up from Guatemala today and leaving on Thursday. Unexpected but welcome trip. From the moment the kids found out, they've been wanting to go to the farm to see Uncle Dwight. We all plan on going out for supper tonight. What fun!
More tomorrow. Or whenever I have time and motivation to write!