I heard this question a lot last year when I decided to homeschool my daughter for 1st grade. Honestly? I wanted to homeschool because I knew I could give my daughter a better education at home than the one she was getting at our local public school. Much of her Kindergarten day was spent moving in a herd from place to place. There were 21 kids in her class whose reading levels ranged from non-English speaking to 2nd grade (advanced). Her teacher was young and busy studying for her Master’s degree while juggling two half-day classes. My daughter was coasting through unnoticed at a critical time in her development when kids decide if learning is exciting or a punishment.
I found a great program through a different school district called Meridian Parent Partnership Program (MP3). As the parent-educator, I worked closely with a counselor from the program to make sure I set monthly goals that aligned with the state standards. This was very appealing to me as a traditional classroom teacher. Deciding to homeschool felt a little like jumping off a cliff so any support I could get gave me confidence and comfort. In addition, the program was part of an actual school that had a resource room and library from which we were free to borrow.
The biggest draw of joining a homeschool program for me, though, was the stipend we received twice that year that helped pay for our curriculum and in-home resources. The program has changed greatly since we joined but at the time, that money could go toward classes, manipulatives, books, workbooks, art supplies, field trips, and more.
This time last year, we were settled into a pretty nice routine. I created a “To-Do List” and posted it every morning. I also laid out a daily warm up activity for my daughter to find and start while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes. This was a great way to start each school day. It gave my daughter time (5-10 minutes) to ease into the day’s learning independently. After the warm-up, we tackled the basics: Language (writing, reading comprehension, handwriting, and spelling), Math, Science, Social Studies, and Piano. My daughter could bring her doll to class with her and enjoy a snack in the middle of a math lesson. These little things made learning easy and fun.
On our longest day, we “schooled” for about 3 hours and usually finished with everything by noon. That left the rest of the day for outings, exercise, and playtime. It was fantastic! At the end of a unit, I would sometimes test my daughter on her new skill/knowledge but I didn’t feel pressure because I was there watching her learn and knew whether she understood a concept or not. At the end of the school year she was also evaluated by MP3 to ensure she met the state goals for 1st grade. She passed with flying colors.
I had great fun scouring Pinterest, teacher blogs, and other online sites for fun worksheets and activities. Every interaction during the day was a teachable moment. Last January, we studied the branches of government and toured our State Capital. On the day of our tour, we got to see then Governor Christine Gregoire give her last State of the State speech. By shear luck, we received a package from the White House that same day responding to a letter my daughter wrote to President Obama congratulating him on his election win. These experiences brought a whole new life and connectivity to my daughter’s learning experience.
So, why homeschool? The folks who asked me this question didn’t ask with judgment. They asked because it was something they had been considering as well. Homeschooling was a great choice for my family and I bet we’ll return to it again someday.