After lots of prayer and asking around for advice, we've decided on homeschooling for this year. There are many reasons why we chose this:
1) We're most likely in a transition year, meaning we might move again soon. If this job turns out to be a good fit, we will probably start looking for a home to buy. It's definitely time for us to be more permanent as the kiddies are getting older and more attached to their friends. If we do buy, we're going to look in an area with more ethnic-diversity (probably further north) b/c that is the kind of environment we'd like the kids to grow up in. So we figure, if they are not in school this yr, they won't have to miss moving up with their school friends but start afresh next year at a, hopefully, more permanant place.
2) Pre-K and K are easier grades to homeschool than the upper grades, so I thought it was a good year to try. I've always done a little something educational with Aidan before he even went to Pre-K last year (kumon workbooks, counting, etc) and during the period he went to school, so this is an easy transition. Plus, I totally understand phonics, numbers, etc vs trigonometry and calculus, so I thought I'd give it a try being a teacher NOW where the learning curve is not so high. :)
3) In all honesty, we are still undecided about which way we want to go and it might be different with each kid. Since we were thinking about sending Aidan to K at age 6 (next yr) if he were to go to school, we technically have one extra year to decide. Plus, I was told that if you've never enrolled your child in school, you don't necessarily have to let the school know your child is not going....so we're going to hold off til we know a bit better.
I think it will be a constant evaluation and re-evaluation as to which type of schooling is the best for each of our kids. We met some local homeschoolers at a park this past Wednesday and it was nice to see that, within one family, some went to school and some were homeschooled and it worked out great. Each kid was happy in the decision once they all figured out what was best. Anyhow, we're going to keep praying about it and as we know more about each child and how they are faring with homeschool, we can go from there. Doing school at home has been pretty fun so far. This year has been more formal than any year before and the kids actually like it more. I mean, there are still parts of it that are more challenging but the kids are learning to persevere. I think it's also neat to figure out their learning style and what areas they excel in and what kind of encouragement speaks to them. For example, Aidan is challenged by handwriting but he is really motivated by verbal affirmations...so you'll often hear me chant "Go, Aidan, Go! Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!" :) For Jana, her challenge has been shapes but she's really motivated by stickers and hugs, so that's the way we go with her. Plus, we can even help the teacher if they do end up going to school by letting them know our kids' learning styles and what motivates them.
A lot of moms that I've asked have put together their own 'curriculum' for their kids. So, after some researching, we ended up with this:
-Brain Quest workbooks (that's what looked the most fun to me at Costco that day), an additional handwriting workbook for Aidan that goes from easier letters to harder letters, some Kumon workbooks (mainly for Jana)
-Puzzle Puzz from Highlights for fun games
-some Montessori stuff thrown in - sandpaper letters, Practical Life stuff, etc
-biweekly library trips (finally got signed up for Preschool Storytime!)
-games (Orchard, Games for Math, etc)
-some trips offered by a local Homeschooling yahoo group (A Pumpkin picking trip is next!)
-some not-so-messy crafts (I get a bit nervous doing messy crafts in a rental when it's not so warm outside anymore...)
-still looking for a great book on the basics on Christianity for kids, so reading "The Jesus Storybook Bible" (thanks for the suggestion, Lauren & LT!) and the "Veggietales Storybook Bible" to them so far. Also also want to help the kiddies to practice listening to God and laying hands on ppl and praying for them...fun stuff! :)
-still looking for a good one for telling time and teaching about money - anyone?!
It's been fun MOST days (we still have those days where one or both of them would rather not do any 'school' - doh!) but also a whole lot of work. After the kids go to bed each night, I've been trying to plan the next day, prep supplies, and figure out what we should do. Also, we're busy trying to meet friends and plan the play dates to get to know ppl better. So, we end up doing school 3-4 times a week and that's worked out well for us. To help them meet people, we've started Peanut Soccer with them. It's pretty funny watching the 3-5 y.o. try to figure out soccer and not get distracted, though some kids are really coordinated and into the game!! Aidan has also started going to Royal Rangers at church everyday Wednesday night from 7-8:30pm. It's kinda like a Christian Boy Scout group - they have commanders (teachers), learn practical skills and even go on trips! While Aidan is at Royal Rangers, Jana goes to her Rainbows class and learns more about God. We've also instituted Family Time once a week, though some weeks we forget! LOL! But we think it's important for them to learn about how we worship and also teach them a bit about Him through prayer times, a game and sometimes dessert - just to spend time as a family. :) We'll see how it goes as they get older. Right now, Cara just crawls around while we sing, learn and play...haha! So, it's a good kind of busy but it's making me realize I need to cut back on some other things in my life if I want to get any sleep. (But that's another post. :))
So, we'd love to see how someone else does homeschooling and what you've found that works for your family! :)