Friday, September 23, 2011

our holistic classroom

It's 11:30 pm, and my baby is asleep.  I haven't had more than 4 consecutive hours of sleep in months now, and I'm beyond exhausted.  My limbs feel heavy, and my eyes have developed an unattractive puffiness.  Yet here I sit, typing away.  I actually don't want to go to bed right now.  I want to write, and share my thoughts with you.  Perhaps I'm too tired to make wise and healthy decisions.  Maybe I spend a little too much time at home sitting on my couch nursing and taking care of children, and this is my necessary window into the outside world.  Most likely it's a combination of both. 

As I wait for the photos from my new camera to load onto my computer, please allow me to ruminate about my slowly growing knowledge of the homeschool experience.  Some of you may know about my decision to keep Anny home for Kindergarten this year.  I haven't decided how long we will homeschool.  Circumstances are always changing- our location, our family size and situation, my patience level with my kids, their tolerance of me, the quality of local schools and teachers, and the list goes on.  Each year we'll reassess our situation, and decide.  This year the decision was to start at home. 

I like order, organization, and structure.  I have learned from experience that they are crucial to a successful school with classes of children.  I spent some time at a school that abandoned those things, and watched it fail miserably.  It was painful to teach there.  However to my surprise, in our little homeschool, I've found the opposite is true.  Structure, order and hours of lesson planning are not only unnecessary, but detrimental.  I don't need to teach that way, and shouldn't. 

I am enjoying a holistic style of education with my girls.  We don't have a schedule or cement routine.  We do a little math from a workbook, then bake cookies and talk about measurements.  Anny's sentence structure and handwriting practice can be in the form of a letter to Grandma, and her science lesson is with Daddy as they look up the weather radar of an approaching tropical storm.  The girls ask questions, and we stop what we're doing to explore the answers. I incorporate housework with studies whenever I can.  Merrylee and I can listen to Anny read while I'm on the couch nursing Ben.  Today I found a huge snail on our driveway, so we had a hands on, exploratory biology lesson.  Anny's long list of "why" questions don't detract from the lesson, they are the lesson.  We go with the flow, and it's wonderful. 

Don't worry, I'm not completely without structure.  I've looked up the FL core curriculum, and make long term goals, and order materials to align with them.  We have textbooks.  I got to choose them though, and I chose books that are interesting,and incorporate children's literature into the lessons.  They are tools though, and we set them aside to discuss and explore when it feels right.  My mom's advice as I started teaching was to relax.  If we're having a rough day, put the workbooks away and read a story, pop in an educational dvd, or better yet, leave the house and visit the playground.  She said to enjoy being together.  It has taken a bit out of me to abandon my training of order and intense planning.  I know my children though, so the adapting and tailor-fitting of lessons has been a surprisingly easy job.  The organization in a way was already there, it's just a little more instantaneous than planning for a group of 25 children from 25 different homes.   

Here are some pictures of some science adventures we've had.  We purchased Painted Lady caterpillars, and learned about their life cycle.  After watching them form chrysalises and miraculously emerge as butterflies, this week we set them free in our backyard.  There are also some photos of Dad helping the girls with a little turtle rescue experience.  He found this poor guy trapped by the fence in our backyard.  Dad held him so the girls could check him out, and they watched him walk in the yard a bit.  Then they put him in a tupperware with a little water, and walked about a half a mile to a nearby stream.  It's hard to see the stream in the pictures, but as soon as our little green friend heard that rushing water, he seemed to instinctively know he was home, and headed straight for it.  Dad had a very full Saturday, but he knows a good teaching opportunity when he sees one, and felt the yard work, college football, and prep for Sunday church meetings could wait.  I love that man.

Several hours have passed since I first sat down to write this entry.  I've now been interrupted by a coughing three-year old, a smiling and very awake, very cute baby boy, and a dime sized frog I caught hopping across the carpet. He's now climbing the side of an overturned glass I grabbed from the kitchen.  Can anyone guess what we'll be studying for science tomorrow?  Hey- he dared to enter my house, he suffers the consequences of study and observation by two pairs of curious little eyes before being set free.

Another sleepless night.  It looks like my puffy eyed look will continue, as does my busy, crazy, unorganized, unstructured, yet happy and full life.          

Look at Anny's skirt and you can see a butterfly that just flew out!

The turtle is just to the left of the bottom middle of the picture.

Be free little guy!

Meet the world's cutest little naturalists!


  1. Wow Liz! I'm so impressed. It sounds like you've got things figured out. I would be intimidated to homeschool. I would definitely consider it if I needed to. Guess I know who to call if I need advice. :) You are such a good mommy. Here's hoping you find some more sleep. Keep on keeping on...

  2. Liz, you have just about reached perfection with this. It might not feel that way, and you still might want to pull your hair out on certain days, but you're in tune with your children's needs. And that's what's important.

    I SO want to do that butterfly idea. So cute.

    Got the package, btw. love you.

  3. My favorite picture is the one of Daddy holding the turtle up close to Merrylee. You can tell the she's interested, but that turtle is just a little bit too close. So cute. I can't believe how big those girls are getting. I love them so much!