Thursday, March 9, 2017

Integrating Your Homeschool Lessons

I have been homeschooling since my oldest, now 30, started Kindergarten. When I began, I had a class of one student. That sounds easy, but when you don't know what you are doing, it is scary. When your bright oldest is taking only 30 minutes a day to complete each day's work, you feel like you must certainly be doing something wrong. I was juggling a non-stop 2-year old with planning, lessons, and my own learning in order to teach, and was struggling to get laundry done, dishes clean and meals served.

I would go to home school support group meetings, and home school veterans (who had been schooling for five or six years) would laugh at my angst. Back then the veterans I had access were doing "school at home" with three school-age children simultaneously--different lessons in every subject at three different grade levels. No wonder they couldn't take my Kindergarten concerns seriously.

As time went by and #1 began to read confidently, I learned the blessing of having #1 read to and play with #2 to free me, at times, to get important tasks done.  More importantly, though -- I was already learning that education rarely occurs in a vacuum. Whenever I worked with #1, #2 was trying to be involved as well. When we had #1 in a Science Fair in 1st Grade, #2 was only 3 years old but had her own part of the experiment to demonstrate and explain as well!

And when possible I would include both of them in my homemaking tasks.The girls both loved laundry day -- all the laundry of an entire week had to go down two flights of stairs. We had open stairways, and I used the "dump" method. First all the laundry was dumped from the upstairs banister rail to the middle floor hallway, then it was dumped over the middle floor banister rail to the basement hallway. They would help me at both dump sites, and the reward at the end was the huge pile of laundry on the basement carpet. They were allowed to jump into the laundry pile until they tired of it, and then I started the laundry.

By the time #2 started classes I had stumbled onto an integrated method without even realizing it was a "thing". #2 and I would work together on Math, Phonics and Reading, but any subject possible our subject studies were combined affair. Initially I was doing combined studies using KONOS unit studies. KONOS pretends it is gender neutral, but the fact that it was written by a mom of boys is clear in the activities presented in the lessons. We studied pioneers, tracking, made moccasins and "possibles" bags out of leather. We created teepees out of tree branches in the back yard. We learned to identify animal tracks down by the creek. We used mudclay from the creekbed to make thumbpots.

Even as I phased out of KONOS studies, certain subjects were largely shared subjects. We read Bible together and memorized Bible verses. We read biographies together (mom read while the girls colored). 

We tackled history, science and literature together. For awhile #1 focused on learning to spell every word under the sun, winning many spelling bees. I'm sure #2 was learning how to spell some of those words as we went over spelling lists orally, day by day!

We went on lots of field trips in the early years! The Amy Farm in Denver, Historic Littleton, the Denver Natural History Museum and the zoo. We moved east and went to all the Smithsonian museums and museums in Philadelphia. We joined 4-H and were part of a llama project!
As my oldest started studies at the high school level, we continued to pursue this style of integrated studies. Using Tapestry of Grace, we wove our way through Egypt, Rome, Greece and other ancient cultures.
We worked our way through the Renaissance and Reformation the next year.

One week after our Medieval Feast, a son was born!

So now I had three! Unlike other homeschooling moms of three I have known, I never educated three at the same time. My oldest graduated in 2003. My son started Kindergarten in 2005. My 2nd daughter graduated in 2007, but she attended a private school her senior year. The only year I "home schooled" two was 2005-2006, and my daughter was on auto-pilot by that time. She was taking history, literature and composition in a co-op, and she was taking Spanish and her science through a small class where the home schoolers pay the teacher to teach the class.
So theoretically I haven't been using the integrated method of homeschooling since student #1 graduated. With only one student, my home school still looked similar, though. While I read out loud the lad liked to work on Legos, whereas my girls had liked to knit and crochet.
We spent many years with me reading aloud. I used Ambleside Online. It was hard to get my son to do school on his own, so by reading aloud I knew what he had actually covered. He always loved the nature study aspects of a Charlotte Mason education!

Now #3 is almost done with his home education. Next year is his senior year, and he now takes four to five classes per year at the community college through dual enrollment.
We don't do much read-aloud any more, and there is no need to integrate studies any more. Twenty-five years of home schooling gone by, and I'm happy to say I am confident all of my students have fond memories of the many years we all had together while we pursued their educations in our own way.

There are many ways to educate many. How do you do it in your home?

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