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Sunday, July 26, 2020

How We Do Homeschooling

Recently I've gotten a lot of questions from friends about homeschooling.  With the announcement of online or online-hybrid schooling in a lot of school districts, many parents have decided that homeschooling is the better option for their children.  I've been very happy to pass along my own advice, as giving advice is one of my favorite things to do.  Having gained my knowledge from countless mistakes, I'm glad to see someone else profiting from my hard-won experience.

I started homeschooling over ten years ago, when I taught Kathleen to read at the age of three.  This fall I'll have a freshman in high school, a seventh grader, a fifth grader, a third grader, and a first grader.  

I've always used The Well-Trained Mind, a book that Brandon brought home from the BYU bookstore when I was pregnant with Kathleen.  We had both wanted to homeschool, but I was very apprehensive about being able to teach everything myself.  For every year in school, the book laid out what I should do, how I should do it, when I should do it, and how long I should do it.  It was a huge relief to me.  We've been using it ever since.  

Choosing homeschool curriculum can be very daunting, as there seem to be endless options, but in the end it's a decision about preferences.  Some curricula are more academically rigorous, some are more exploration-based, others are religious, and others are secular.  It's just a matter of choice.  Most are perfectly reasonable, so it's just what works best for you and your family.  

I like The Well-Trained Mind because we're an academically rigorous type of family, and the curriculum is based on a classical education, with Latin and logic being included in the recommended areas of study.  That said, however, I've found that I've dropped a few things over the years, including Latin.  

I used to be very concerned that my children would be able to learn the most possible things they could physically stuff into a day, but over time I've realized that that wasn't the best method for me or the children.  Now that I have a child in high school, I can see that the subjects are repeated enough time that if Joseph hasn't memorized the definition of a noun in first grade, he will have memorized it by sixth grade.  He's going to read the History of the World series twice by the time he's through with middle school.  And the Saxon math books spend the first third of the book in review, so we'll see long division quite a few times.  

So in elementary school, I make sure that the children are able to: 1. Read fluently and capably.  Reading is the basis for everything, so it needs to be solid or the child won't be able to do anything else very well.  2. Know their math facts, how to count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and tell time.  3. Write with decent handwriting (I hate messy handwriting, so I get a little fussy about it) and be able to spell correctly and write a summary.  Writing, like reading, is the foundation of almost any other discipline.  It's how we communicate, and if you can't write, nobody takes you seriously.

Science and history are fun subjects and are less important because they can be made up for later if you don't get around to them.  We do science and history because we've got time, but if you don't have time, these are the things you can skip.  Art and music are really extra.  We don't have any formal art curriculum and the kids take piano for music, as long as singing together as a family for church and Family Home Evening.  

In middle school, the children start taking online classes, through the Well-Trained Mind Academy, for history, writing, and math.  It's a good opportunity for them to learn to work for someone other than me, keep track of assignments, and have deadlines.  It's also nice for me to give the more time-intensive things to someone else.  I can teach writing and pre-algebra, but I'm busy teaching small children how to read, write, do math.  It's better to have someone else do those things.  Once the children are in seventh grade, they also teach their buddy science and history.  It helps me out and gives them the opportunity to review the material again.  

Kathleen is taking almost all of her classes online this year, only doing Russian, Logic, piano, and horseback riding not online.  So by high school, I'm not teaching them anything at all.  It is only homeschooling in that she's doing school at home and I'm just there to answer questions, check up, and offer moral support.  

So that's our homeschooling in a nutshell.  I'm happy to answer any questions in another post or answer questions sent along to me.  Homeschooling can seem pretty daunting and can get pretty chaotic depending on the day, but it's worked well enough for us that we have no intention of quitting.  There are many things I enjoy about it, but most of all I like that we get to be together as a family.  Every morning we have a hot breakfast together, and every evening we all eat dinner together.  After dinner, Brandon reads to the children and they all go to bed at eight.  I don't play a taxi driver, we don't high five each other on the way to different activities, and nobody stays up to the middle of the night doing homework.  It's a pretty good setup.  

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Still Here in Tashkent

I haven't been keeping up on this blog because nothing has been going on.  Recently Sophia complained about not seeing people.  I pointed out that she sees people every week - the Russian teacher, the housekeeper, the pool guy, shoppers at the grocery store, and people at horseback riding.

"But," she replied with a sad face, "none of them are native English speakers!  I just want to see someone that I can actually talk with.  I want to see someone."

I can sympathize with her.  I haven't actually seen anyone socially since March.  I've spent time talking with people, which is better than nothing, but it's been home, home, and more home. 

Uzbekistan started loosening restrictions back in May, so I was able to get a couple of pedicures and a long-overdue haircut.  Restaurants opened back up in June, so Brandon and I were able to go out to eat twice.  Life really was - with the exception of having church and friends - back to normal.

But, as is inevitable with opening back up, new cases increased quite dramatically.  By last week, the numbers were much higher than they ever were back when we had the first quarantine.  So on Friday the Uzbek government announced another quarantine. 

Somehow the second quarantine is so much worse than the first.  Back in March everything was new and exciting and we were all fighting the virus together.  It was just a matter of time before things opened back up and life would be back to normal.  Our friends would come back, everything would resume its old pattern, and life would be good again.  But now we all know what we're in for and just don't have the stomach for another round.

The hardest part of this second quarantine has been the cancellation of our summer R&R.  We have missed our family beach trip two years in a row and this year was going to be the year when we could finally enjoy a week of family, waves, sand, and the pure bliss that is a week at the beach.  After the beach we had a fun visit planned to Brandon's family out west.  It was going to be awesome.   It was going to be exactly what everyone needed after months and months of being stuck at home not seeing anyone.

We had gone through so many months of waiting and hoping and jumping through hoops and trying to get plane tickets that when the tickets finally got bought a week ago, it was a relief to finally know that we would get to have our much-needed break.  So when it was snatched away only a few days later, the loss was that much worse.

Instead of seeing family and friends, we'll be stuck here by ourselves in Tashkent.  Instead of spending a week playing with cousins, the children will be doing school.  Instead of getting a much-needed break from doing the work of multiple colleagues, Brandon will be doing even more work.

I know that this is only terrible with a lowercase t instead of a capitol T, but I'm still disappointed.  Our life is still wonderful and everyone is healthy and we are grateful for all the blessings we have.  But I think it's still okay to be sad and I'll probably be sad for awhile.  And next year - unless the beach ceases to physically exist - we're going to be there.