Monday, October 10, 2011

How is public school so far?

Today Todd and I had 3 conferences at our public elementary school to go over the progress of our kindergartener, 3rd grader, and 5th grader. I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief: my kids have adjusted back to school well and my 2 older ones are excelling in the specific areas we worked to improve last year- reading for Chloe and math for Ellie. Mom feels good about her year of homeschool!

What I am really impressed with is the overall approach towards learning at our public school. It has become very Charlotte Mason! One of the teachers explained that research shows students' reading is best improved when there are less interruptions through questions and unnecessary fact checking, so they are no longer using that approach for guided reading. This is exactly what we tried to follow last year in the Charlotte Mason method. Reading should be something that we foster in children as a lifelong habit, not making them dread reading in order to answer 10 questions. Comprehension can be checked through discussion and narration, which they will do at home with the parents. There will still be focused assignments on certain skills like finding the main idea, sentence structure, comparing and contrasting, but that will not interfere with their daily reading which is meant to nurture their love for books!

In 5th grade, the teachers have really focused on personal journals in science, social studies, and English. The students write their understanding of the new concept or time period, and they use their own information in these notebooks for any written work or tests. The better they can explain to themselves what they know in their journals, the better they will do on their evaluation. Amazing! This is basically written narration, which is truly one the best ways for anyone to learn.

Here's the best part: at curriculum night a few months ago, one teacher said that as a team, they don't believe in doing unnecessary projects or dioramas as a measure of evaluating success in learning. They will not be doing anything that can't be worked on in class with other students and the teacher. Incredible!! Working on busywork projects was what I dreaded most as the kids returned to public school, and I couldn't be happier to know that we agree on the futility of these assignments!

Overall, I am grateful to have the girls at a school where the philosophy of learning has some similarities to Charlotte Mason's. (It is interesting to note that Charlotte Mason did teach in a classroom with a group of students- her philosophy isn't limited to homeschoolers, although her approach does help homeschoolers and all learners thrive.) With teachers who are perceptive, thoughtful, patient, highly skilled, and caring, I know my girls will grow and accomplish many things this year.

Only once have the girls said that they wish they could stay at home again. When I asked them why, the answer was, "So we can sleep in longer!" I laughed. It's true- who wouldn't want to start their day a little later? Especially for a mom who is the real night owl! However, getting back to a schedule has been really good for us as a family. We can't make any more excuses and we need to have a strict bedtime and morning routine. For us, that works. Having a few days off here and there (like Columbus Day today) gives us a nice break too!

This is also the first time in 10 years that I have had time fully to myself from 7:30-2:50 every day. EVERY DAY!! I cried hard for the first day of school when the house felt so empty, but then the next day I realized that I had been given this precious gift of time. Time for God, time for myself, time for others. Time to try out new recipes, time to practice piano and violin for fun, time to listen to what I want to listen to on the radio, time to read books I haven't read, time to nurture the person who I was (and am) before kids. Whether you homeschool, work full-time, or stay at home with young kids, every mom knows how limited that time is! I am trying to take advantage of this new season of life and take time to enjoy every minute. So far so good!