Four months ago: I was feeling lost. Sprout had drained all of my mental resources. We'd dropped formal school time for Nugget a while back, but I was still trying to work out themes or units of study. Things were feeling scattered, I wasn't dealing well with the demand it placed on my time and energy, and the thought that I had to write something good up for the blog was stressing me out. So I closed up shop for a while, we dropped any pretense of "doing school", and just ... played. Asked and answered questions. Did experiments. Went places. Joined a laid-back homeschool group.
Now: Nugget is 4, Sprout is 14 months. I'm still drained by the demands of having a toddler, but at least I'm sleeping better (maybe not through the night, but better!) and my husband can whisk him off for an hour or so to give Nugget and I some one-on-one time.
With the end-of-year curriculum sales and conversations, my husband and I had been doing a lot of talking about the direction we're going to take when Nugget reaches kindergarten age (officially, fall 2012). We looked over the standards for our state, wrote out our own ideal curriculum, and reviewed boxed curricula.
At the same time, we were looking for a summer camp opportunity for Nugget. We found a fabulous program at the local Montessori school, offering a half-day art history camp for a few weeks. When Nugget and I went in after the school day to drop off the paperwork, her eyes lit up. When the guide heard that we did Montessori-inspired homeschooling, she invited Nugget to take a look at and work with a material or two. Nugget was in heaven. In fact, she didn't want to leave. There were tears!!
I was feeling inspired by our homeschool discussions and research, and motivated by Nugget's overwhelming desire to "do homeschool". However, I was wary of getting in too deep again. I feel strongly that we homeschool for the flexibility and the chance to experience things in the real world, not the classroom. So we decided to come at things a bit differently this time. We're using a mix of methods. I have no expectation of a "work cycle", how long we "should" be in the room, or of Nugget doing her work independently. I even incorporate her stuffed animals in some of the work. Homeschool time is a chance for us to have one-on-one time together -- and ENJOY it.
Here's our areas of concentration:
1. Reading. This is the only thing I make sure we do every day, but it only takes a couple of minutes. I'm not a fan of the traditional pink/green/blue Montessori program, and a try of Hooked on Phonics didn't work for us. Right now, we've settled on "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". It's not the most interesting thing in the world, but the lessons go quickly and it seems to be clicking with her.
2. Math. I love Montessori math. Love love love. Nugget is blowing through the early golden bead material, including the bank game; we're about to start addition. Today, she completed the hundred board!
3. Science. My husband and I love science. Science comes up every day around here -- weather, dinosaurs, habitats, health.... We're going to be following Nugget's interests, answering questions and finding things in everyday life to notice and study. Most of our focus will be on earth science and animal studies, though. We have done a few things in the school setting -- a discussion of natural selection and some work on taxonomy.
4. History and culture. These will come later, but we have some ideas for areas we want to cover in the next 2 years.
5. Sensorial. Nugget has never had the most interest in the Sensorial activities. I'm putting a few out on the shelves, and she does them because she hasn't seen them in a while. But they don't hold a lot of interest for her. The most interesting thing for her was building the red rod maze. But she hasn't even touched her previous favorites, the cylinder blocks.
Now Nugget? She's THRILLED. I haven't asked her to do homeschool a single day -- she's always the one who brings it up. She works through all the materials I ask her to do and chooses a bunch more. She's very much developmentally ready for the work we've been doing, so she's interested in it and finds it easy to handle.
I'm keeping our classroom area small -- just 2 shelves. I'm rotating a lot more and just keeping less out. We spend 10-45 minutes a day in the room, varying a lot depending on what our day is like and how into things Nugget is. I do a phonics lesson every day and some sort of math (these days it's golden beads, teens and tens nomenclature, or number rod addition). Anything else is up to her to chose (she's really into the metal insets right now; in fact, she's been in there for 20 minutes after I left, doing more).
As for the blog.... I don't think I'll go away for this long again. But I won't be as regular as I was before, either. I'll probably pop over here to mention any new homemade materials or if things are going particularly well or particularly poorly. It's nice to have a place to write things out and work them through in my head.