Sunday, March 27, 2011

We Begin Homeschooling

Well, I had thought I would be back to blogging sooner, but life happens. The grad student conference was an amazing experience for all involved. The magic happened, and everyone’s hard work paid off. It was better than our best case scenario. All the papers were as interesting as their abstracts had promised. All the discussants were well-prepared. There was way too much food, good coffee, and great teas. The discussions after the panels were lively and went on into the break room. And the DVDs were great. I highly recommend “The Persian Rite of Spring.” I also highly recommend the Chinese movie “Shower.” We were blessed at the end of the last panel by a performance of a traditional Thai dance of benediction, performed by one of the grad students in our English department. And she was really good!

Peace reading a book at Grandma R's apartment

So to get back to life when my kids were young…

After returning from Florida, we bought a guinea pig named Snuggles and a bunch of school books. We got the K4 curriculum for the twins and the 2 and 3 year old preschool books for Peace. The aunts sent preschool books from Taiwanese preschools and flashcards of the phonetic symbols that kids learn to help them learn to read.

I had read so much and learned so much from other homeschool mothers that I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. I wanted to create a rich environment and give it a touch of structure just a few hours a day, but mainly I wanted to make life a learning experience. So every day around 10, we would “do school.” We would sing some songs in English and Chinese, do a few pages in each of the books, learn some Chinese, and read stories together. The twins took off scholastically. Love learned to read in the books with large type. She was quite happy.

After school, we would all do chores. The girls would dust with me, and we would take turns vacuuming and sweeping. It made things fun. They learned to care for Snuggles, and to clean up if she was out of the cage too long and made a mess. Soon we got a rabbit named Fluffy for free. He was an Angora, who had been turned in at a rabbit farm where we went for a family field trip after Yuni returned from Florida. Fluffy was an outdoor rabbit for the most part, but on rainy days, the girls would bring him into the family room.

We all rode the bus together and continued our habit of visiting the zoo, the aquarium, the Science Center, and the Children’s Museum at least once a month. These places had many wonderful classes for preschoolers, and we had many a great time doing art classes at the Children’s Museum and science classes at the other places. We hatched painted lady butterflies for one class. We made plaster casts of animal paw prints for another.

We began to do “school” in April and by September when the twins should have gone to kindergarten, they were already half way through the first grade books. They had done K4 and K5 in four short months. We did have a bit of a problem over the summer because when we got into the small print books, Love couldn’t read any more. One day on a trip to the park, we found an education fair at the local shopping mall. There were free eye tests. We found out that she had a lazy eye and needed glasses. Once she was fitted out with glasses, her reading abilities returned. The eye doctor was amazing and persuaded Love that she needed to do her eye exercises and wear her patch faithfully. Love solemnly began her quest for good vision. She would remind me if I forgot. Her patch had a pretty rainbow covering the good eye, so that the lazy eye would learn to see.

Peace was not terribly interested in school at first. She liked coloring in the books, and she loved listening to the stories, but she was much more interested in packing her books into her very pregnant backpack and carrying it around the house with her cowboy hat on her head. All her treasures were neatly stowed, and they went every place with her. It was a terribly heavy backpack for such a little girl, but she was very strong and sturdy. And she loved having her possessions on her back at all times.

I usually read chapter books to the girls because I had read that it was best for them to hear stories several grade levels ahead to improve their passive vocabularies. We went through the Little House books. They loved them, and frequently after “school” was over, they would play their own versions of the stories. They had a wagon that they pulled around the backyard as they trekked across our local “prairie.”

Some of the education experts I read stated that during the preschool and early elementary years, children process information by playing. It is good when they act out what they have heard in a story or when they line up their stuffed animals and teach them to color and read. We did not turn on the TV until after Yuni came home in the evening. The girls had to amuse themselves during the day. The three of them were always quite busy; they had picture books, toys, art supplies, and simple musical instruments to aid them in their play. And they played quite happily. Truth always refers to that time period as the happiest days of her childhood.


Barrie said...

Teresa, I am so glad the conference was a roaring success! Is Shower subtitled? Also, I enjoyed reading about your homeschooling experiences.

Teresa said...

Hi Barrie,

Yes, Shower is subtitled, and the translation is done pretty well. There is a lot that can be gotten just from the screenplay.

Thanks for the kind words on the conference and homeschooling. I think that homeschooling was one of the most fun things I have ever done, bar none. It was not always exciting and there were definitely ups and downs, but the ups far out-weighed the downs, and we had some very, very good times.