Observe Your Child, by Genevieve

 

I love preschoolers. I love teaching preschoolers. I love teaching my own, and I love teaching others’. I love teaching preschool in the classroom, and I love teaching preschool at home.

Sometimes Aidan is so useful

I was asked in an interview once why someone as clearly intelligent as I am would ever choose to teach children who are so young. “What could be more challenging,” I replied, “than teaching complex concepts to students who cannot take in any information from reading and very little from listening?”

There are some disagreements about whether young children learn better in traditional classrooms or at home, and whether all learning should be play-based, or if seat work should be included, as well.

My answer is simple. “Observe you child.”

I once took a call from a prospective parent during nap time. She wanted to start trying for a second child. She thought enrolling her preschooler in our program might help with the transition. It seemed like a good idea. I sounded like a capable and caring teacher; still she was torn. They were very closely bonded, having hardly been away from each other. How could she be certain that she was doing the right thing?

“It is simple,” I told her. “Observe your child.”

Come and visit our school and let her try it out; then really notice how she reacts. Her actions will tell you if she is learning and happy and loved here. Is she excited about coming to school each day? Is she eager to walk through the door, or is the light slowly going out of her eyes as you put her in the car.

Observe your child. She will tell you what you need to know.

This particular child ended up thriving in our play-based program with a student-teacher ratio of 5:1, although I did occasionally make her cry by insisting that she learn to take turns. Thankfully she forgave me.

Olivia and Carly

Years later, I taught her little sister several days a week in our homeschool. We still read and played and made art projects.

Olivia painting

We cooked snacks.

Henry's tea party

But these preschoolers had older siblings doing school. They wanted to “do school,” too.

Against all of my training and my own personal philosophy, I started letting them do a phonics worksheet and a math page each day in addition to our more developmentally-appropriate preschool activities.

How did I know that it wouldn’t ruin them? I observed them. They were awfully happy children, so I think it was probably okay.

Happy Flan

I’m down to my last preschooler now, at least until I have grandchildren to teach.

Vivi wearing sunglasses

She does some book work when the older kids are doing school.

Vivi doing school work

She has a little desk set up in the den where she draws and makes books every chance she gets.

Vivi the master author

She helps with the animals…

Vivi feeding Honey Bee

and with washing the dishes. She builds with blocks and makes doll clothes out of coffee filters.

How do I know if it is not enough? How do I know if it is too much?

I look at this face and it tells me everything I need to know.

 

GeGenevievenevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on
Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

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Living a Beautiful Life…Before It's Too Late, by Genevieve

 

“Don’t turn on the news and kiss my babies for me.” My entire perspective changed with that one phone call. Almost two thousand innocent people lost their lives that Tuesday morning; what if one of them had belonged to me?

We had only been homeschooling a few weeks. I had read every homeschooling book I could get my greedy little hands on. I had a plan, and my plan included an hour of SAT test practice every day of high school. I was certain that high test scores combined with a solid early foundation would ensure my children’s success.

But what if?

What if it had been one of them? What if their lives had been severed that morning?

What if I did everything the experts encouraged? What if I planned every moment of their lives in preparation for that perfect test score, that coveted acceptance letter, that full ride — but their lives were cut short? It happens every day. Teenagers die of illness or car accidents all too often, right at the moment when they are to reap the rewards of all their labors.

I made a promise that day. I would not sacrifice my children’s childhood preparing them for an adulthood that may never come.

My goal was no longer to give them a successful future life. I wanted to give them a beautiful current one. We skipped school that day. Instead, we spent the day in the sunshine, on the patio, painting Halloween decorations on wooden boards we hauled out of the trash. As the children painted, I thought about my promise. I could never forgo Latin and Logic and books by the greatest writers who ever lived. What could be more beautiful than those?

I could balance them, though. I could fill our days with meaningful work,

arts

and crafts,

music

and travel,

sports

and healthy food,

time with family

and time with friends.

Almost thirteen years later, I have graduated two children and have another with one foot out of the door. It’s time to evaluate my methodology: Have I reached my goals?

“Are you doing what you want, Sweetheart? Are you happy?”
“Yes, Mom, very.”

 

*featured photo by Gretchen Phillips*

Genevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been Genevievehomeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on
Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

Homeschooling: A Love Story, by Genevieve

 

I was eight years old the first time she visited my daydreams. I gave her a name that day in my little yellow bedroom, a name which means ‘tower of strength.’ I dreamt of her again in my twenties. She reached out her arms to me, across the darkness, across the stillness, across the middle of the night.

When the doctor told us we might never have children, I hung on to the vision. I had seen her. I had named her and she was going to be mine. One beautiful August day she was. Within moments of her birth, I could hear the delivery room nurses saying, “Huh, I’ve never seen a baby do that before.” With practically her first breath she proclaimed that she was different.

photo

I had it all planned out. She would stay home with me until she started public kindergarten. Then I would be a room mother and bake cupcakes and plan parties. I might even be president of the PTA. By the time she was two, I realized that my plan was going to need a little revision. She wasn’t natural and comfortable in her interactions with other children. I decided that she might benefit from Mother’s Day Out two days a week.

I found a wonderful program where I could keep her new little brother in his sling while I taught next door to her classroom. She had a chance to learn new things from new people but I was right around the corner if she needed me. Seeing her in a class full of two-year-olds made it even more clear how different she was. By this age, she was reading over fifty words and yet she had difficulty with some of the simplest classroom routines. I decided that she needed a program more tailored to her special needs, so I started my own preschool.

I was both headmistress and lead teacher. My church donated the building and the utilities. My husband donated our supplies and materials. Without those expenses, I was able to keep a ratio of five children for every teacher. We were also able to provide scholarship slots for children living in low-income housing. It proved to be an ideal environment for my daughter. Even though she continued to lose control in certain situations, I still planned for her to start public kindergarten right on schedule. I still saw PTA President in my future.

That summer, we moved to another state that is not known for its public school system. Fortunately, we found the private school of my dreams. Every child in this school was in two plays each year. Every child learned to swim and how to ride a horse. The third graders each had a garden plot. The teachers truly valued diversity. The curriculum was a year advanced in each grade level. Every student, including incoming Kindergarteners, had to pass an entrance exam. Despite her August birthday, she passed with flying colors. In fact, they later told me that she was able to read the teacher’s manual. She thrived in such a challenging but supportive environment.

Unfortunately, when she was halfway through first grade, we were transferred back to Texas. I met with the principal of our award winning local school. Based on test scores, my daughter was immediately put into the gifted program. She had problems from the very first day. She was different. For six years, she had been taught that its okay to be different. No, it is actually pretty awesome to be different. She was in a situation where she was expected to conform and to crank out a vast quantity of mediocre work. She absolutely would not comply with those expectations. I don’t blame the school. I don’t blame the teacher. In a classroom setting, how could anyone meet the needs of a kid who was years above the program academically, but years behind in maturity?

I began to understand that I would never become president of the PTA. I’d be up at the school every day instead, advocating for my daughter’s needs. If her education was going to be my new full time job, I might as well teach her at home and give the poor public school a break. We tried out homeschooling over spring break. After that one week, she was hooked. This kid was made to homeschool. She loved every minute of it. Once, a relative teased that she was going to be so mad when she found out that she had never had a summer vacation. She replied, “That’s just stupid, who would ever want to go months without learning?”

There were days I wondered if I was failing her. There were days that I wondered if I was going insane, and days when I felt ready to give up. I didn’t give up because my love for her has always been stronger than my plan of living a tidy, ordered life. I came to homeschooling so reluctantly. I was driven to it by a child who was absolutely, fundamentally not going to to succeed in public school, but I survived and I do not regret one moment of the journey.

She is an adult now, a thriving college student, a small business owner, a devoted sister, a loyal friend, a happy, happy human being…and my tower of strength.