Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Guest Post: First Day of (Home) School


Hi all! I have answered C.D.’s call for some guest posts. I have been an avid reader of The Canadian Doomer blog almost from the beginning and am a huge admirer of how CD and Mr. D are living their life and raising their family. I hope someday to accomplish half of what she does.

I thought I would write about our first day of school. For many of you this involves registration and bank-breaking trips to the stores, swirled together and capped off with a crowbar to get the kids out of bed, lunches made and out to school buses, cars, bikes or a walk to get to school. In our house, we have some medical issues that mean our local school board is not interested. It is not that they won’t accept Monkey, just that they are going to make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible and even then they say they can’t protect him, so we homeschool. Our Board has made the process very easy and I am grateful to all of those who came before who fought for it to be this way. I am lucky in that I have met several times in past years with the women who would have been his teachers to ensure that we are, at the very least, covering all the materials they are in the public school. I also have a number of friends who are retired teachers who come and spend days with us and then give us a formal written assessment for his file. We have encouraged the local school to send a representative to visit us – they haven’t yet but we hope that they will this year. I believe that a good relationship with the school will make things easier if or when we want to integrate Monkey back into the system.

Our school year starts in August when we order the curriculum from the secular school in the US that we have used for the past two years. We chose a secular school as Monkey gets enough religious teaching in Sunday School and through the church youth group. Calvert has been producing homeschooling curriculums for more than 100 years and is contracted to produce them for the US military and foreign services department. They also have their highly regarded bricks and mortar school in Baltimore and their program is the basis of a number of charter schools across the US. It is not a perfect and we do supplement, but it as we really wanted a secular program. Anyways, it takes about two weeks for the box to arrive and there is great excitement when it does. I always look at the teaching manuals first (and panic slightly) and Monkey always takes the math books to see how much he already knows.

We keep the same school hours as his friends and today, we started Grade 2. Our first day’s schedule is:

Sing Oh Canada, God Save the Queen and say The Lord’s Prayer.
9am-9:30am Math – 4 pages review addition, greater than/ lesser than, number before/ between/ after up to 100.
9:30am-10am Review/Write – Days of the Week, Months of the Year, Seasons
10am 15 minute break (race out and ride bikes)
10:15am Geography Review – Provinces, Oceans around Canada, Great Lakes, principal Rivers and Islands (i.e. Mackenzie River, Gwaii Haanas, Ellesmere Island, the Red River)
10:45am Social Studies/Geography Study Unit – Beringia, Paleo Indians, Native Americans (this will run through Canadian Thanksgiving):
  • Look at map of Beringia – identify Siberia, Alaska, Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, BC
  • Look at images of the High Arctic
  • Art project: draw a picture of what you think Beringia looked like
11:30am Lunch
11:45am Read the next chapter in the family story – currently we are reading Farley Mowat’s Lost in the Barrens – then we discuss
12:15pm Biking and general racing about
12:45pm Science: watch Bill Nye the Science Guy video on the Sun then discuss the sun’s role in our solar system and on our planet. Discuss why we can’t go to the Sun the way you can go to the moon or send the rover to Mars.
1:45pm Reading: Ferocious Wild Beasts by Chris Wormell – Monkey reads this to me and then has to discuss the characters, story line and the message of the story.
We finish up about 2:30pm and then usually do Creative Play. This can be Snap Circuitry, Lego or Mechano construction or it can be on-going science projects, but for Day One back at it, we are just going to let him run.

During Creative Play, while I prepare for the next day. With a focus on Northern Canada and the Native communities, we are looking for literature to support that. Tomorrow our reading is the Robert Service poem The Cremation of Sam McGee. Our geography review will continue with the Provincial and Territorial capitals and then we will start with Our Trip across Canada. Because we are studying Beringia, we will start in the Yukon – and this will be tied in with Lake LaBarge and the Yukon River. I also have to “Canadianize” the Social Studies package that come from the US school.

Every day is a challenge – I wish sometimes it was a different challenge. Teaching your child(ren) is a challenge. Monkey has the attention span of a flea. Somedays are nothing more than exhaustion and frustration. I have more admiration for school teachers now than I ever did before. There are days when teaching one can be a nightmare –my hat is off to them for dealing with 25 kids! But I love doing it. Watching the light bulb turn on when he gets a concept is incredible. Watching him pull concepts together and ask questions is like getting a gift. Some days run so smoothly that you would swear there was a changeling in the house but you accept it as a gift and try to get more done.

Twice a week, Monkey goes to the Boys & Girls Club for their after school program. Once a week, he takes group piano lessons there as well. He also is involved in their sports programming and once a week plays sports - this fall it is ball hockey and basketball. He is also in our church youth group and goes to Sunday School. So he is busy and active with a wide circle of friends and they ride bikes and play at each other’s homes regularly. I am blessed that he is a social child.

For many, homeschooling is a scary prospect. They feel that there is an implied slight about how they are choosing to educate their children. It makes them defensive. Sometimes their concerns are justified. There are kids out there who are not being well served by the choice their parents made, but these children exist in the public system too. The challenge is in using homeschooling to expand what your child learns, not to limit it. There is a lot of work involved even if you purchase a curriculum – most are produced for the American market and have to be adapted. You have to purchase supplemental materials (thank God for dollar stores!) and you have to be creative in ways that might not be easy. Additionally, you have to brace yourself for continued judgemental and occasionally nasty comments by friends, family and strangers. You have to be prepared for them to call the police, truancy officers and children’s aid. Even within the homeschooling community, you have to deal with people who question the style of schooling you are doing. Still there was nothing quite as wonderful as sitting down with Monkey this morning and watching him whip through the reviews of Grade 1 and exclaiming “This is easy!”

Off to prepare for tomorrow…
Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment - positive or negative - and let me know your thoughts. Don't forget to subscribe to Canadian Doomer in a Reader or by email.


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