Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

On Homeschooling.

With the twins finishing their last day of First Grade this week, I figured it was finally time for me to reminisce about our year of homeschooling and look back at how far we've come.

My hilarious friend Tricia posted this on Facebook awhile back, and I laughed so hard I almost woke my kids up because YES. 

That is SO me and my relationship with Homeschooling. 
I would make grand plans each night for what we are going to accomplish and learn each day...we're going to do crafts! and write a story! and do a cooking project!! and paint! and sing songs!!! and memorize facts about all the continents!!! and WE'LL FINISH THE MORNING BY READING WAR AND PEACE TOGETHER!

When we first started, I would sit both kids down and work with them together.
This drove all three of us crazy.
Seriously, all of you teachers out there who teach 30+ kids at one time??? 
I bow to you.
My two were just at different levels for different things and both needed me at the same time for all of it.

I quickly learned it worked much better for us if one child works on with headphones while I work on worksheets, math, and writing with the other.

By the time we were about six weeks in, things were finally chugging along with a good rhythm!

Some pictures of our Inaugural day:

Hard at work...


Most days we would work at the dining room table, but occasionally we worked at the coffee table and just sat right on the floor =)

And sometimes we would struggle to focus...

But we did get some crafts in from time to time...

The twins often fussed and argued a bit when I'd say it's time to get going on Kindergarten each day, but mostly they didn't put up much of a fight. And they both just tore right through the workbooks I bought, and learned to really love 
For all those things, I am so grateful!

It's still all kinds of funny to me that I was a Homeschooling Momma. I never thought I would be. I get why some people do it, and I admire their ability to be both parent and teacher to their children. 
But seeing as how most days I feel like I'm barely managing parenting well, adding "teacher" to that sounded like a disaster.

So why did I attempt Homeschooling? 
Well, because it made the most sense for us economically.
We're here to make and save money, right? The college Dave worked for will pay dependents to go to private English schools here, starting in First Grade.
And when we looked into prices for Kindergarten here, they were INSANE. Like, three-months-of-David's-salary-insane.

We found this out after Dave had accepted the job, but before we moved here. I was disappointed and overwhelmed at the idea of it all.
Yeah, sure, I used to be a Preschool teacher (over a decade ago...), but one of my favorite things about that was it was Preschool, so when we were sitting around Circle Time and one of the sweet kids would say "but why does 'knee' start with 'K' but not make a 'K' sound?" I would say "oh sweetie, that's one of those tricky things that your Kindergarten teacher will tell you all about! Now whose turn is it for Show and Tell?"

That doesn't fly when it's Kindergarten. I had to get into that whole "silent sounded letter" thing that honestly at 36 I don't even really understand.

As we grew closer to leaving Portland - and especially as our departure date was pushed back- the idea of homeschooling grew on me, and eventually I actually became really grateful that it was our plan.

We landed here September 1st, and our kids would have had to start school like four days later. 
I can't even imagine how that would have gone! 
I mean, we were still crazy jet lagged and getting up at 3:00am and falling asleep at 1:00pm...not to mention having just uprooted our whole life to move to the other side of the globe and then separating for long days.

Because of our decision to homeschool, we had the freedom to take our time settling into our new life here a bit before we dug into school.

Doing schoolwork and munching on a carrot...

So while we had our bumps, and with me not working and homeschooling, there were definitely days where Dave walked in the door and I was like...

...and grab my headphones and make a beeline for the treadmill downstairs, or the grocery store, or just a elevator ride by myself... all in all, it was a great season for us.

Some days we were very regimented. We'd wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and get right to Kindergarten. 
Other days we would watch shows in our jammies and don't get started until 10:00am. (okay FINE and I play on the laptop and read blogs and Facebook)
And still other days we'd go on a field trip, read a few books together, watch a new Wild Kratts, and I call it GOOD for a school day. 
(I super love and am trusting that well developed curriculum is catching all that I'm likely missing.)

I was incredibly blessed to join up with the homeschooling co-op within two months of landing in Kuwait. Those relationships were (are!) priceless to us. We were able to have playdates all throughout our week with other kids that were not on traditional school schedules as well. We got to go on super cool field trips. We had craft days together. 
That group of awesome people made our homeschooling year so incredibly rich, and I'll always be grateful for them.

On Thursdays our Homeschool Co-op usually had Park Day. We'd meet up for a few hours in the morning at parks all around Kuwait for play and so the  mommas kids can socialize. This time was invaluable to us! We loved the set time in our schedule each week to be outside... 

On the days we didn't go anywhere, we took advantage of our freedom and just hung out together, taking our time completing our school work and playing.
I love how sometimes they'd naturally gravitate towards each other, and end up working on an assignment together...

We managed to squeeze in some little science experiments too! Like the time we soaked egg shells (resembling tooth enamel) in water, apple juice, and Pepsi, in order to see what these drinks did to our teeth...

This just in: apple juice is bad for your teeth. 
Pepsi is way worse. 
You're welcome.

Sometimes we did our schoolwork in character, like Merida ...

... or Batman/Stormtrooper (with his tongue out ;) )...

...or before we'd brushed our hair (or teeth)...

I had my little homeschooling cupboard in the living room ...

...where I'd pretend to be organized and have a handle on what we were doing each day, and attempt to make long term goals for us.

There were definitely times where the three of us needed space from each other. I deeply admire homeschooling mommas who do this every's a lot of work, but I can see even a glimpse of the sweet rewards you reap when you get to be the one teaching your child something new in this setting, and as I look back at how little they were and look over at how big they are now, I'm so thankful we spent all that time together.

I love that we were able to incorporate things important to us, like memorizing Scripture. I didn't push the kids hard on this, as we only did three verses total during the entire nine months we homeschooled, but I believe there to be such value in hiding God's word away in your heart. 

Hands down my favorite part of homeschooling was the flexibility and freedom it allowed to let our kids just be kids. 
I'm a big, big, BIG believer in letting little ones be little.
They've got their whole life to work and study via books and classes and teachers...and those times will no doubt be so valuable to them, but at ages 5 and 6 and 7, I'm a firm believer they need a vast amount of time to just learn through free play.

On the expat mums in Kuwait Facebook page awhile back, a Momma posted that she was looking to hire a tutor for her five year old because she "just wasn't grasping phonics" and the Momma was losing patience trying to teach her.
Bless that poor Momma's heart!
The pressure she was feeling from the school was immense enough for her to HIRE someone to work with her FIVE YEAR OLD on basic phonics.
I feel like it's hard enough to train five year olds not to pick their nose and eat it. 
Do I believe we should teach phonics to kids so young?
(I mean, if I'm being truly honest, no. I'm quite Scandinavian when it comes to schooling actually.)
Do you know they do not even introduce the alphabet to children in Finland until they are seven? And elementary kids are given an average of 75 minutes of recess each day? They are big believers in letting children just be children, and trusting in the ability to learn through play. There results speak for themselves, as they have fantastically successful high school graduates who not only are completely caught up academically, but have staggeringly lower cases of teenage depression, anxiety, and behavior issues. 

I heart Finland.

But alas, I live in Kuwait =). 

So we did the best with what we had here, and lived to tell about it. 

Finally, one day last summer, Brother completed his ABCMouse requirements for Kindergarten...

... and a few days later , Sister finished up as well...

So proud of my little graduates =).

That very day, we headed out to Baskin Robbins for celebratory ice cream.

A very happy trio...

The three of us were pretty proud of our accomplishments.

All in all, I'm glad we homeschooled for kindergarten, and I'm glad we did traditional school for First Grade. 
Both choices were the right ones for our family at those times.

If we were to stay in Kuwait for the next year, we'd actually choose to homeschool again for Second Grade. As much as we were glad to have had the experience of attending a "top British private school" here in Kuwait, Dave and I both felt there was too much emphasis on things that were less important to us at this stage of childhood and not enough time for creativity and exploration.

Since we're heading back to Portland, our plan is to put them in public school for Second Grade, and likely until they graduate. But, we know can homeschool again if for some reason we feel the need to switch to that. With the online resources available these days, anything is possible. 

And one of the biggest - and must humbling - things I've learned about two years of living abroad is I can never say "never"  =)

1 comment:

  1. I'm so ridiculously proud of and impressed by you for doing this.