Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paradigm Shifts

I am so very blessed to be able to homeschool. I guess that is the uttermost in my mind after finishing our first year. When I began this journey, I really had no way of knowing just how wonderful a journey it could be. Public school is the only thing I ever knew, so that is basically what I envisioned for my homeschool. I had no idea how many different ways there were to approach teaching.

It wasn't long before I realized that grade levels were pretty meaningless with a gifted child. For example, she can read at a 3rd grade level, but she does not have the stamina or the maturity of a 3rd grader, nor can she write at a 3rd grade level. Consequently, materials designed for 3rd graders are generally not going to be appropriate for her.

I also learned that you don't have follow the same scope and sequence as in public school. I am excited to have become acquainted with the classical method of education. I really love the idea of a chronological study of history that simultaneously integrates literature from the same time period.

Another concept that I am still trying to digest is in the area of math. I have learned that you do not have to follow the traditional scope and sequence for primary math (addition-subtraction-multiplication-division). Grasshopper was getting bored with what I thought would be a challenging, advanced kindergarten curriculum, and she was asking to learn multiplication. That public school-educated voice in my head said, "No! You have to learn addition and carrying, subtraction and borrowing first." But about that same time I was following a discussion thread on a homeschool forum about letting kids take the lead. So I bought a multiplication workbook at my local teacher resource store to supplement our current math curriculum. Well, she loved it! And it wasn't long before I could not persuade her to do anything in the prior workbook.

Because of our society's public school background, everyone thinks that either Grasshopper is some sort of genius or that I am some kind of pushy mom. But she is not, and I am not. It just makes a lot of sense to teach beginning multiplication with addition, since multiplication is just a form of addition.

One of my more recent epiphanies is the idea that you can teach cursive before manuscript handwriting. I have known about the Cursive First program for some time but had a lot of reservations about using it with an accelerated child. But I recently purchased it (because it was aligned with the spelling program I chose), and I am convinced that teaching cursive first is preferable. It is such hard work to learn one way. And just as the child is feeling proud of what he has mastered, he is asked to learn it all over again.

The Cursive First program maintains that what a child learns first is what he learns best and that children who learn cursive first will have better handwriting. Until a hundred years ago, cursive was always taught first. I recently had a chance to read some letters written by my family members in the 1930's. The handwriting was beautiful, and I am convinced that this was largely because they learned cursive first. I regret that I didn't know about this when Grasshopper was learning to write. But I am happy that we are making the transition now when she is excited about it rather than waiting until she is a little older.

I have really gone through some tremendous paradigm shifts this year, but now I am so excited about next year. I have really thoroughly researched all of our curricula and feel so confident that next year will be so much better.

Next time, I will write about our program choices.

You Are the Expert!

For those who hear the voices around and within them casting doubt on their ability to homeschool their children, I want to offer some encouragement.

I recently gained an insight through an experience involving Cricket, who was recently evaluated with a speech delay of almost 50%, placing him at about the 15 month mark in expressive speech (receptive speech was normal). We decided to take advantage of the state-funded early intervention program, and a speech therapist (ST) began to visit us in our home. Within a few meetings, it was clear that the ST was not a good fit with Cricket. She had a particular plan in mind, and Cricket was not interested in her plan and completely ignored her.

I called the service coordinator seeking advice. She asked me if I had discussed my concerns with the ST. I told her that I was concerned about the appropriateness of questioning her, since she was the expert. The coordinator stopped me short and told me firmly, "No! You are the expert when it comes to your child!"

This really hit home for me. When I was working in rehabilitation services with disabled individuals, I said this very same thing to parents many times. But somehow, I didn't internalize it as a parent myself. She was right. I am the expert. I know my child.

So for those out there who are hearing voices of doubt, whether they be your own voice or that of others, YOU ARE THE EXPERT. You spend every day with your child, and you know his strengths and weaknesses. You rejoice with him when he succeeds and cry with him when he fails.

And to my religious friends out there, please also remember that it is to you that God has entrusted your child. Only you are entitled to receive personal guidance from your Father in Heaven concerning that child. Listen to His voice so intently that it will drown out your own doubts and the voices of all the naysayers. He will not fail you.
Latter-day Homeschooling