I’ve previously mentioned our desire to homeschool and detailed our reasons for looking into it here. Behind the scenes I’ve been doing a lot of research. From reading articles and blogs to talking with friends who currently or plan to homeschool and visiting conference in between.
One thing that is clear from what I’ve learned is that if you are starting homeschool during the preschool years, and possibly even beyond, is that PLAY should be the main focus. I’ve read and fully understand the concept, but still, this can be a frustrating answer to newbies like me. We are excited. We are nervous. We want to ensure we do a good job. Naturally when we are told to just explore and play, it can leave us wanting more direction.
This past weekend we traveled to the NCHE Homeschool Conference in Winston-Salem. We turned it into a fun family weekend road trip, wandering through the Community School of Music downtown and having a great chat with a music teacher about Kindermusik and beyond, then playing in the fountains.
We made one last stop before the conference at a local spot appropriately named Local 27101.
It was right downtown, was lined with windows letting beautiful natural light flow in and had onion rings that might very well be the best I’ve ever had.
With full stomachs, we took on the conference.
We explored, chatted, inquired and played.
Then we confirmed the direction we’ve been headed in for starting our homeschool adventure.
Hailey has one more year before she is slated to enter kindergarten. Up until now, there really hasn’t been any visible difference between her school set up and her peers. She has been attending a morning preschool program (that we adore) three days a week.
This coming year, things will begin to change slightly. She is among the oldest in her class and many of her school friends are going to go 5 days a week for preschool next year. Hailey is signed up for the three day a week schedule and Kaitlyn will go two days a week, on alternating days. Yes, this means that technically I won’t have a morning to myself. While I’ve been told by some of my closest friends that I’m crazy, and they very well may be right, I am really looking forward to having one on one time with each of my girls. I have a really good week flow forming in my head and while each girl is in school, I will be working with the other one using a program called The Homegrown Preschooler.
The wonder-based program is appropriate for children ages 3-7. The curriculum is based on mountains of research that supports the idea that hands-on, play-based learning enables children to progress easily to more complex subject matter. To read more about the philosophy and implementation behind the program, I highly recommend reading the book, The Homegrown Preschooler.
I have spoken personally with Kathy Lee, the creator of the program and child development expert, several times. She is wonderful and I love her insight into how children learn. What I loved about this program is that it is exactly the kind of program I would create if I had the time and the knowledge of child development myself. It’s structured enough to give me the guidelines I desire to ensure we are on track, while allowing the flexibility I need to adjust our activities to both Hailey’s and Kaitlyn’s levels.
I love the monthly units that I can work on with both girls on so we can all talk about what we are learning together. I have grand daydreams of afternoons being filled with activities or field trips that coincide with our topic at hand, making our unit studies an all encompassing experience for all of us.
Am I starry-eyed and a bit idealistic at this point? Certainly. And I’m sure reality will kick me hard a time or two as I figure out exactly how things will work in this new phase for our family, but my underlying excitement is shining through. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be so deeply engaged with our girls’ learning process and look forward to all I will learn along the way.
If you have any specific questions about the program, my thoughts or the idea of homeschooling in general, please ask away. I’m certainly a newbie, but am more than willing to share our experience, concerns, excitement, worries and triumphs along the way!
John J. says
I’ve always known that you had a teacher side to you. You will excel in this as you have in other areas of your life, including your wonderful educational blog!
Erin @ Her Heartland Soul says
I’m so excited to follow along in your adventure!
I am toying with the idea of homeschooling as well and would love to see more posts on the topic.. The program looks good. I was under the impression that homeschool programs was used instead of attending school. I am curious why you are sending the girls to preschool AND homeschooling? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Brittany Dixon says
Oh great question! I am using this upcoming year as a “dip my toe in” kind of experiment. I fear with Kaitlyn at home, I would not be able to concentrate on Hailey as I’d like to. If it does feel like a good fit for us, then next year Kaitlyn will still go to preschool 3 mornings a week to allow me to work with Hailey one on one. As Kaitlyn gets older it will be easier to set one girl up with an activity while I help the other and vice versa and it will also be easier for us to approach topics together. I’m using this alternating day set up as my training wheels 🙂
I love the concept of homeschooling and letting little minds explore the world around them. The thought of my soon to be five year old rambunctious little boy being in school from 7:45-3 Mon-Fri makes me nervous and truthfully sad for him. I’m thinking of homeschooling but I’m so overwhelmed and fearful (can I really do it better than a trained teacher?!) What solidified your decision? Thanks for blogging on this topic, I needed to read this today!
Brittany Dixon says
Honestly, I wouldn’t even say my decision is solidified. I’m committed to taking it one year at a time and seeing how it works for our family. Also, no part of my decision involved thinking I can do things better than a trained teacher. I have high respect for teachers and what they do. I do have confidence that I know my children and how they learn better than anyone though and am committed to researching as much as I can to ensure I never risk the quality of their education. I am excited about the opportunity to adapt our lessons to their learning styles and help to enhance their strengths and fortify their weaknesses.
I should also say that I have zero opinion on what others should do! There are so many amazing options out there for education nowadays and in my close circle of friends alone everyone is choosing different paths- home schooling, public, private, charter, university model (a homeschool hybrid), etc. I think it’s a great idea to explore the options and figure out what feels right for your family. Good luck in your decision and don’t feel sad for your sweet little boy! Clearly his mom loves him so much and has his best interest in mind 😉
Curious as well as to why they are going to preschool and homeschooling? Is this practice for when H goes to kinder, will you homeschool completely? I would love to homeschool, but my oldest is so excited to start kinder, and I am already stretched too thin with his 3 younger siblings. We havent done any formal preschool, but I have tried to do some things from books Ive bought or sheets off the internet (education.com). My frustration where I live has been everybody complains that the kids cant be kids in kinder and are learning so much stuff, but these same people are the ones that have been sending their kids to preschool and they are learning so much in preschool that kinder is forced to be harder.
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Jenn, yes, exactly! This is upcoming year is what I’m calling my “training wheels” year. I want to have the one on one time with each of them to get a feel of how things will work for us. And if they go well, then yes, we will homeschool full time when Hailey is in kindergarten.
I agree with that catch 22 you mentioned being frustrating. I’ve read a lot about how we are forcing more knowledge on kids earlier and earlier when we should really be focused on igniting the spark of curiosity and imagination to create life long learners. However I also understand the parenting fear of not wanting our children to fall behind so we try to give them all this knowledge and force them to read early, etc. I try to fight that urge on a regular basis myself in favor of encouraging imaginative play and natural learning. If it’s something that interests you, you should check out Sir Ken Robinson. I went to see him speak on children and education and absolutely loved his points.
Maybe you have already addressed this in past posts…but can you elaborate on why you are sending your girls to preschool if you are also homeschooling?
Brittany Dixon says
Yes, great question! I forgot to mention it in the post. Look at my responses above in the comments where I elaborated, but the short version is that I’m using this next year as a test year for both me and the girls!
So fun! And I really do think play is the learning technique for the preschool/kindergartners. Our daughter has been at the University of Minnesota Lab School for the last two years, doing 2 mornings, then 3 afternoons. This year she is starting a 2 year kindergarten program at City of Lakes Waldorf School. They are huge into play and outdoor time. And of course with less and less actual play happening in kindergarten and early grade school years, we are psyched for the Waldorf experience and hope it works for our daughter. Are you thinking of homeschooling beyond preschool? I think it is interesting that you will still have them in preschool but hey, best of both worlds is awesome.
Brittany Dixon says
That program sounds incredible! And yes, I’m a big believer in play and outdoor time as well. We are definitely looking at homeschooling beyond preschool but are taking things one year at a time. This upcoming year is my self-described “training” year as I have one on one time with each girl and learn how this will work for us. Their preschool is a 9-12 morning program (more like a mothers day out) so it isn’t as much time as a full day program. It more so will just give me a couple hours with each girl to find my groove 🙂
Ha ha, yes, Lab School was either 8:30-11:30 when she did 2-day and 12:30-3:30 when she did 3-day afternoon this past year. I am kind of sad to see her gone every day and only have a couple afternoons with her this coming year but this mama is excited to start working a bit, so I think it will be good for all. Our alternative to Waldorf was potentially home schooling as well, will be cool to see how it works out for you.
I’m really looking forward to all of your Homeschooling posts (please say you’ll do lots!). It’s been on my mind a lot, and I have a little time before we need to really decide. My sister was homeschooled in later years and then I homeschooled myself my last two years of high school. When I was a kid my favorite games were pretending to teach my younger brother and now as my son gets nearer and nearer to school age, I wonder if it’s something that would work for our family. My son struggles in preschool at times because he has trouble with the scheduled learning time.
I didn’t realize that Hailey & Wyatt are in the same grade! Wyatt is going to a 5 day/wk GA preK program this fall. He will be one of the youngest in his grade (May 24th bday). At this point, there’s no glaring reason for us to hold him back. He’s been in a 3 day/wk church preschool that we love (Noonday if you remember that), but our childcare has just changed b/c my SIL is expecting another baby (she’s been watching the kids on the days I work). Now that I’m thinking about it, my daughter, Lana, will be in the same grade as Kaitlyn too 🙂 Again, we are leading parallel lives. I know home school isn’t for us but commend you for taking that on!
PS: I’m partially addicted to snapchat because of you 🙂 Once you start you just can’t stop!
You will be a wonderful, loving, energetic, patient, and fun home schooler! After reading your blog it makes me excited and wondering if I had the information, support, etc. could I have home schooled—probably not, but I do like the idea and the opportunities that it gives your children, yourself, and your family! One thing I am sure of, you will excel at it!!
This sounds fabulous! (And makes perfect sense!) I can’t wait to follow along on all of your learning adventures!
You’ll do great. Its all about figuring out your system and what works for you and then doing it. As the girls get older it’ll be easy to tell one to go do their math problems while you work on reading with the other and then switch, etc. Can’t wait for more posts on the topic.
There is no greater blessing than to be able to teach your child and there is no one better equipped than you as their parent. No one cares more about your children than you and any information or resource that you need is readily available to assist you in this endeavor. Like you, I apprehensively began homeschooling my daughter in kindergarten with only the promise of taking it one year at a time. We are about to begin our sophomore year and she is thriving. She takes many of the more advanced classes online and she is far ahead of most of her peers ( pre calculus, AP classes, etc.) yet she still has more time than most for her volleyball and all of her social activities. You are about to begin an exciting journey and you will be amazed at what a blessing it is not only for them but for you as well. I can’t promise that everyday will be easy but I am certain that you will never look back and regret a single one. Blessings to you and your family on this journey…
Brittany Dixon says
Thank you so much for your comment Christina! I can’t tell you how reassuring that is to hear. I have a couple hesitations (doubting myself, feeling the need to explain our choice, etc) but mostly I am excited for the same reasons you outlined above. I really appreciate your insight and encouragement! <3
I homeschool my 11 & 10 year old and absolutely love it!!! One big piece of advice that took me years to come to grasp with is to relax and don’t put so much pressure on your self! At their age like you said they need so little time behind a desk they are sponges at that age . As they get older that’s when you spend more time behind the books!! We love homeschooling and will cherish the time I have had with them !!! Enjoy!!
Brittany! Just came across your blog and it’s awesome!! I’m also a trainer/blogger (I know you’re retired now).
Your daughters are adorable.
I’m so excited to hear more about your homeschool journey! I can’t wait to check out the program you are using. I found Timberdoodle recently and was thinking of using it or some of its resources for my son (he’s only 18 months) when we start.
Liz @ I Heart Vegetables says
This makes me so excited!!! As someone who was homeschooled, I’m excited to hear how it goes!! 🙂
We still toy with homeschooling. At the moment my daughter goes to an awesome preschool that is 5 days a week and she is thriving, and it’s honestly made our relationship better. I’ve had a hard time with her spirited, strong-willed personality. But when we move, we may be enrolling her in a school that is part-homeschool, part-school. I’m excited about that!
Do you, or have you heard anything about how to incorporate these activities into family life for people who have to work outside the home 5 days a week? I would love to get more play based activities into my child’s life (she currently goes 5 days a week to a pre-school that says they are play based), but I only have the weekends and a few moments during the week to address it. We cannot afford something like a Waldorf school, but I love the idea of learning through play. Just wondering if you have come across anything? Thanks!
I’m a teacher who will be home all summer with my 2 boys, ages 4 1/2 and 2 1/2. I’m currently debating the merits of buying The Homegrown Preschooler. From your knowledge of the book, are the activities appropriate for a two-year old? Thanks so much! I’m excited to see where your journey takes you next year!
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Michelle! I have yet to really dive into the activities, but from my overview I feel like many of the activities are appropriate or can be easily modified to fit the skill level of a two year old. I am planning on working through the same “curriculum” with Kaitlyn as I do with Hailey, but obviously making a couple adjustments and focusing on it being fun. For example, writing letters in shaving cream, I will show her K and other meaningful (to her) letters, but won’t be upset if she just scribbles 😉 I’ll report back along the way with how things go!
Thanks so much for your response, Brittany. I think I’m going to check it out! Good luck to you!
Lauren Brennan says
So exciting, and good for you! We are also planning to homeschool, but won’t begin for another year for Jackson. I’m excited to read about your adventures in the upcoming year, and maybe glean some tips from your experiences along the way (as I have with everything baby/mothering related!)! You’re like my guru! Ha! 💕