Monday, June 2, 2014

Homeschooling Other People's Children

It isn't as rare as you think. In the State of Texas, it is legal and becoming more popular. I currently home educate two children that are not my own.

My oldest graduates from High School this week (ackkk) and my youngest is a Sophomore in High School. They are both independent learners and rarely need my assistance. A weekly narration on the literature and history that was read that week with my youngest is the toughest thing we do. I also drive him to an outside science class and pick up the books from the library. I was becoming quite accustomed to having free time on my hands. To all you parents who are working hard with your elementary students, hang in there. Teaching them to be independent learners who are responsible for their assignments pays heaping rewards in High School and beyond. Don't miss out on this!

Starting over with two new students has been a challenge. Firstly, these are not my children and the parent's wishes and curriculum choices may not be my own. Lots of prayer, listening and love has gotten us through this first year. I started out the year with the kindergarten student in September. His brother, who was in 8th grade, followed after Christmas break.

The kindergarten student needed a lot of attention at first. I am teaching him to be a more independent learner even at this early age. I try to walk away from the kitchen table after reading the instructions for his Math-U-See page. I check his work and give him praise for his excellent work and gentle correction for any errors. This builds confidence that he can tackle a task on his own.

Since adding his brother after Christmas, I sometimes need a block of time to check work or give some instruction to the older student.  I am teaching him to play by himself without my having to initiate a game or giving ideas for projects. The phrase "go keep yourself busy" was initially followed with some instruction on what he could do to keep himself busy (play Legos, play with other toys, read a book, play outside, do an art project...). Now, I don't have to give suggestions. He already knows what he can do. When I catch him keeping himself busy, I give him praise.

We still play together a lot during the day. We play games, go outside in the garden, go for a walk, to the library, to the park, read a book, study a science subject he is interested in... He still needs and should get a lot of face-time with me. All children need blocks of undivided attention of a parent/teacher during the day. Home education affords the luxury of giving one-on-one attention to a student. Looking him in the eyes as he talks. Not interrupting a thought or idea. Letting him discover an answer on his own without interjecting. These are all important and NECESSARY to children. Charlotte Mason is an excellent resource on this.

His older brother has a lot of bad habits from public school I am helping him improve. His mother and I talk and text daily regarding progress, problems and ideas. She is currently in nursing school and her time is at a premium. She is doing her own studying but her children remain her priority. She is amazing!

We initially started out homeschooling with mom's curriculum choices. They were a public school curriculum that was mostly written for charter schools. The writers were family friends of hers and she had personally worked through the curriculum herself as a student. While the curriculum would work for some students, it wasn't working well for hers. She recognized that early and pulled the plug. We then tested and placed him in Math-U-See, a curriculum that worked well for my boys (with different learning styles). He went from an "F" student to an "A" student in short order. We stepped him back a bit to ensure that the basics were covered. That means that he will be playing catch-up this summer and continuing his math during the summer months this year.

We also changed curriculum in history and literature. I am doing Tapestry of Grace with my youngest, so he just jumped in where we were in history and literature. Narration is a new concept to him. He is coming along very well. It also was a bonus for my youngest to have someone to talk with about what he had read. It has been helpful all around.

Science was a challenge. After finding out he has a passion for all things fast, we made a visit to our local customization and racing guru. We had a personal tour of the shop. I am currently on the hunt for an engine of any kind for him to tear apart. I also had him do the TOPS science unit on Electricity. He needed a little more hands-on from me than I anticipated, but it was a fun unit. He'll do another book from this series next year. His dad will also give him some private car repair lessons.

I think my hardest challenge is getting him to recognize that he has to change the way he thinks about school. I am not the enemy or someone to try and fool. It isn't about trying to skate by with the minimum work. It is seeing that the school work has purpose. It is about fulfilling his passion that the Lord has placed in his heart. I am seeing a glimmer of that, but we aren't there yet. I pray that the Lord works on him in the coming months.

I am also careful to give my own sons my attention. I recognized a little jealously in my youngest son early on. We now have lunch "dates" by ourselves and that is helping. I also try to stop in his room and sit down while he plays a video game and make inquiries. He loves to give me some insider information on whatever game he is playing. I explained to him that the other students need some extra attention right now as they get settled into homeschooling. He is old enough to understand this and some of the tension he was feeling has been released.

It has been a challenge for me and my schedule. My paralegal work has suddenly picked up and now I go into an actual office two days a week. So I juggle everything and some things suffer. I am looking at a very dusty floor right now. My blog hasn't been touched in a while. My book writing has suffered. It is all worth it when I hear my kindergarten student sound out a word on his own. When my new student expounds on a literature book he thoroughly enjoyed. When they open up and share their passions. My students are beautiful treasures and I am so blessed to share my time with them.

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