As many of you know, we’ve been debating the whole homeschooling versus regular schooling thing for some time. We checked out the four-year-old’s local preschool a few months back and put him in the lottery with 80 other kids for 24 slots [and of course, he got in] but ultimately we decided to skip preschool this year which always leads to the question by friends and family of “what are you doing?” which leads to me say we’re homeschooling even though the word makes me giggle just a little because, well, he’s four. Georgia doesn’t even require you to file an intent to home school until a child is six.
But because preschool is so much the norm. Because preschool is almost now viewed by many as mandatory as kindergarten [which also isn’t mandatory in the state of Georgia], keeping him home is perceived as going counter-culture. And so, in response to whether he’s in school, we tend to say we’re homeschooling because it’s just simpler than the real story which is he’s four and I’m lucky enough to be home with him so why not let him just enjoy and have fun and learn along the way without borders and schedules and the monotony of routine just one year longer?
Yeah- that’s a mouthful. So homeschooling it is.
That being said I’m aware there are expectations on the wee ones in preschool and that my kiddo will be thus expected to also reach those goals so I do keep my eye on state goals and standards, but making a curriculum? I checked out some homeschooling resources sites like the much touted Starfall series but the truth is [for me] it’s great to have thematic lessons and worksheets, but minute by minute instructions and what to say and how to say it…. if I’m going to follow something like this why not put him in preschool?
To be fair, we do have some routine! It’s not just peace, love, and play dough up in here. [I was a teacher. You can’t just chuck all that training]. Each morning over breakfast we go over letters, sounds, and numbers. We explore a word family through dry erase and magnetic tiles left over from my teaching days. We talk about the date, the day, the time, the weather. We even do worksheets once in a while because the kiddo loves them. He also goes to a part-time twice a week program at a local nursery school to hang with buddies, play, and get a sense of routine.
But the rest of the time? We’re learning in our own way. Through visiting the library with our caterpillar bags and stuffing them with books.
We read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, search for butterflies in our backyard, and discuss the miraculous nature of metamorphosis. We learn about idioms and slang in Amelia Bedelia and try to retain the skills of bilingualism by alternating our reading of books with Urdu and English.
We play soccer and discuss technique. We build sand castles and read about real ones. We read about owls and bats and learn the concept of diurnal versus nocturnal. And we hike. We bike. And examine roots and how water makes its way to the leaves. We encounter a fallen tree and ask, what might have happened? And explore the possibilities, realistic and imagined.
We draw. We stamp. We trace. We sticker.
We visit aquariums. And museums. We discuss paintings and sculptures and explore the amazing jobs out there, like ones where you create dream cars. [His reaction to learning that you can get paid to do this:]
We explore an island in a book. We find one on a map. We draw them. We paint them. And now, we know what islands are.
But what is it like to stand on one? What is it like to travel it’s circumference?
We dream about it.
For us that’s what preschool is about. It’s about asking questions and then, asking more questions. It’s about dreaming about all that we know and all that we want to know and all that we will never know. Which is essentially what life is about in many ways.
So there you have it. Our “homeschooling” curriculum, which is to say: there’s not much of one though you’d be surprised at how much we’re managing to learn just the same. Is there ever any anxiety that I’m not doing the right thing? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have moments of doubt [and there’s that selfish bit that whispers at how much writing I could get done with kiddos safely in full-time school] but I think no matter which way you go on parenting journeys, there’s always the question- it’s part and parcel on wanting to do right by them- and knowing there many roads to right– but right now? Right now, I’m loving it. Right now, he’s loving it. And right now it’s working quite beautifully for us.
Mandatory disclaimer: Just as the breastfeeding debate, and the stay-at-home or work outside the home debate, there is no one answer that fits all. Different things work for different families and create the diverse world within which we reside. My right may not be yours. Your right may not be mine. But I think we can still in our own different ways still do right by them.