Friday, January 10, 2014

Half Year Rundown

Well, we've been at it for five months. I thought it would be a good time to get real and look at what we are really doing.

Although we are operating with a Montessori philosophy, I don't have a lot of Montessori materials here that are for Upper El instruction. I invested in quite a few when he was Lower El, but I can't afford to outfit our home with very many Upper El items. I try to Montessorize some of the things we do, but really, we are hackschooling. It makes me wonder if I should change the name of my blog. I'll think on that a little longer.

I'll explain.
We are Montessori in the fact that I'm trying the best I can without any training to follow the child, and present certain subjects in a Montessori way.
But at this stage in his development Sean is skilled at finding things he wants to learn, and as soon as he talks about something he wants to know, I try to find a way for him to explore it. He can learn a lot on his own, so I don't need to present everything.
And that is the way we are hackschooling. When he wants to learn about something I let him go for it. We also spackle instruction together through homeschooling with library books, a history curriculum that I found which spans first humans to present time, some Montesssori three-part cards and the few materials I have, and the language and grammar exercises I make up as we go. We utilize a tutor who is here for an hour a week to teach math who is a Montessori Upper El teacher.
I send him to children's choir on Wednesdays so he can have some music instruction, and he will begin formal piano lessons next week. We belong to the YMCA, and he has plenty of property to run and play for physical exercise, as well as the exercise he gets from chopping wood. He also gets some physical exercise through the Camp Seymour programs, and he gets science instruction there, and our membership to the Pacific Science Center, as well as some science projects and experiments that I've found on the Internet.
He hacks his own art instruction through the Internet, and has become quite an artist.
On top of all of that he enjoys finding things on Youtube and other Internet sites on a wide range of subjects. Whether it's how to build something, tips on stop motion photography, or information on physics or chemistry, he is always learning.
He has practical life activities every day, and has responsibilities.

I signed Sean up for Khan Academy when we were first beginning this school year, but I hadn't seen much that I thought would be at his level.

However, I saw an email last week offering an hour of instruction on how to code. Yesterday I asked if he would like to do that and he was totally on board.

He spent an hour, but he did it at his own pace. It was something he had never done before, so he went slow, and was able to make a rectangle in different sizes, and move it all over the page using code.

He stopped there, and took a break and moved on to something else for a while.

I am so thankful that we found Montessori when we did. I'm very thankful that I dove in head first to learn as much as possible about the philosophy and materials. I see that it has given him a sense of order, and the permission to take a break and do another work or activity for a while and come back to the original one. (So glad I know that it is not only normal, but healthy to do that.) He has the confidence that he needs to explore, research, and present his findings. He is patient as he works to get to an answer. He has respect for his peers, for his work, and the things in his care, such as his plants and his animals. He is comfortable expressing his feelings, and asking for what he needs.

All of this came from the Montessori environment. Being in a Montessori classroom with peers gave him a sense of community. It taught him how to wait, how to help others who are struggling, how to accept help when he didn't know something, and how to look for the good in others. He learned how to follow, and how to lead, and he learned patience--especially with others.

I will always be so grateful to all of his teachers and teacher assistants who fostered these qualities in him. I hope he will be as well.

Though I believe a Montessori classroom is a wonderful place for children to learn, I can see clearly that Sean needed to come home. I am so glad I was paying attention, and that I have a husband who not only was paying attention and supported the decision to homeschool, but suggested it!

As this school year has progressed, so has Sean. He has made a complete turnaround. When the school year ended last year, I wasn't sure I would be able to spark his interest again. He didn't want to do anything. He didn't want to learn.  He had been that way since the start of fourth grade. I was crushed.

But within the first week of being home I saw a change, and it has only gotten better. Now he is interested in everything again. His love for learning and exploring is back, and he is happy. He used to be angry a lot, but the anger has disappeared. He is content, communicative, and a joy for me to be with every day. (Though I do enjoy a day to myself every so often on the weekends ;-} )

We have some exciting projects on the horizon. He is excited to dive deeper into studying Roman history and how that empire fell. I can't express how happy it makes me to hear the excitement in his voice. There are science projects, research projects, and more.

~~We are so blessed to live in this country, where we are free to homeschool. And specifically we are blessed to live in this state, where homeschooling is respected by our lawmakers.

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