Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Homeschool - Our Preschool 3/4 Year

When I was homeschooled, my mother was fairly dependent on physical books; the Internet had only just been invented. Since we lived overseas, she ordered an English, faith-based curriculum called Sonlight. It was a fantastic fit for our family at the time, and I assumed I would use it if I ever wanted to teach my own kids.

In January 2017, when Pippin was about two and a half years old, I decided to start our own homeschooling journey. The mandatory school age here in Holland is 5, and at that point a child either needs to be enrolled in school or have official exemption (vrijstelling) from the government. D and I discussed everything - in depth, read up on the laws, and talked with other homeschooling families here. Whatever the future held, we decided that starting early would give us time to see if homeschooling was a good fit for us. I did hours of research, and found that the Sonlight curriculum starts at preschool, for three and four year olds. During our last trip to the USA I stocked up on the readers (dozens of them) via thriftbooks.com, ordered the preschool 3/4 and preschool 4/5 instructor guides, and my mom brought me some of the textbooks I requested. I rationalized to my husband that we would read the books anyway, no matter what educational style we ended up with. And to make sure he got the basics of reading and logical/spatial thinking, I bought Explode the Code and my mom brought us Thinking Skills.

Over the last year and a half we've done our own version of preschool 3/4 at home, and it has definitely been a good fit. The Sonlight reading books are entertaining for both Pippin and me, and spark good questions. There have been lots of snuggles on the couch while enjoying the stories, poetry, and science books, and lots of tracing of letters and numbers and coloring. When we want to jump deeper into something scientific we look up a kids' biology video on YouTube or check out a library book. We've had the flexibility to meet up with friends, take care of a newborn, and "do school" at any time that suits us through the day. For 'extracurriculars' we've listened to classical music, gone on nature walks, and cooked together.  On the organizational side, I've developed my own binder system for worksheets and crafts, sorted by month. This also makes it easy to save what he's learned for my records or for any official request.

We haven't used the Sonlight guides as much as I thought we would, which leaves me doubting whether I'd order the kindergarten level one for next year or so. They're just a little too structured for me, and since we move around a lot during the day, I always lose track of where I put them. The other thing about them that doesn't work for me is that the reading schedule isn't in order. The reading books are fun and interesting, but I have to skip around inside a book to find the suggested story. Most days I just glance at the guide briefly to see which books are listed, then choose the next story that we haven't read yet. Or let Pippin choose.

It's not how I thought it would look, but so far this has worked for us. It has been a good combination of great books, fun themes that follow Pippin's own interests, and textbooks. And that's the beauty of homeschool, even for a short time like this - it's flexible. Maybe next year it will look totally different, and that will be fine too.

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