Today was our first day of school!
I have been looking forward to this day for over six years – yes, since before Sam was born. I spent the early part of those years reading books and listening to lectures about homeschooling and educational theory. Somewhere in the middle of those years, I began to think about how I would implement those theories. I went to homeschooling conferences and scoured the internet for curricula. Two summers ago, I tried to do some Montessori work at home with Sam, and my utter failure taught me many important lessons about what I would need to do when we began in earnest. About a year ago, I started compiling my notes into subjects for first grade, knowing approximately what level Sam would be at based upon her progress at Montessori. And in the past six weeks, I made my final decisions on curricula, purchased all the materials I would need, set up the homeschool room, and armed myself with a few weeks’ worth of lessons.
I have loved every minute of all of this preparation, but I’ve always worried about whether I would love the actual teaching. I know it’s way to early to judge, but I still can’t help but feel great because our first day was a joy for both of us. Sam first spent an hour on addition, she played a few songs on the bells, did a half a lesson of Handwriting Without Tears (there were almost some tears during that one), read an entire Early Reader book out loud to me and wrote down the title and author in her notebook, worked with the metal insets, reviewed the phonograph families for about two minutes, did some multiplication, and then listened as I read the first two chapters of The Secret Garden.
I spent more of my time working directly with her than I will in the future because everything is new, but she was able to do quite a bit on her own. In fact, I actually wrote most of this post during school. I also did some laundry, filled the dog’s water bowl, let in the maids and wrote them a check, reconciled my credit card transactions, and made notes about issues that came up during school. I anticipate that I will have at least an hour a day during school to prepare future lessons and do other work while Sam is busy working independently. I put so much effort into designing a curriculum that is closely and deliberately guided, but which can be worked on with very little help from me, and it is working! Of course, it helps enormously that Sam went to Montessori for three years already. The whole routine of choosing a piece of work, working on it independently, and putting it away, is second-nature to her. She was also quite accepting of the guidance that I did have to give her. I know that won’t last forever, but the fact that she didn’t balk on the first day is amazing to me. If you knew Sam, you would know what an achievement it is for both of us.
Of course, there were all sorts of little problems: I forgot to provide colored pencils for the metal insets, we ran out of toilet paper and when I ran upstairs to get some Sam followed me and got distracted, we had to break for a snack (I was hoping to avoid snack), the Handwriting Without Tears lesson did not go well, and Sam did ask to go upstairs to play a lot during the first hour or so. But we’ll work out the bugs. The important things went very well. I had Sam in a small room, working productively for three whole hours on our very first day.
After school, I took her out to lunch to celebrate our first day. At McDonald’s, she invited herself to sit at a table with two other little girls, aged six and nine. I sat nearby and eavesdropped on their conversation, which covered losing baby teeth, all the cuts and scrapes on their legs, snowboarding, the recent storm and power outage, and many other little girl topics. I couldn’t help but think about the so-called problem of socialization for homeschoolers. Bah!
This day was as good as I ever imagined it could be.