An atmosphere, a discipline, a life. *

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About a month ago my Facebook was flooded with pictures of friends’ children looking very clean and proper on their first days of school. As a joke, I took this picture.

On everyone else's first day of school...

Yay homeschool, we can be slobs!

We’re a couple weeks into our school schedule, and thanks to the enrichment center Ella is taking classes at, we now know that the age appropriate work I had planned for Ella would have been mind-numbingly boring for her. Oops, sorry kiddo. I knew she could read, but in the few weeks she’s been at the center they’ve bumped her DRA reading level up from a 16, to a 28. That’s typically fourth grade. I’ve had her reading BOB books, when she could be reading Magic Tree House. The same is true for math, though to a lesser extent (I was only off by two grade levels there).

We have new curriculum ordered, and I’m trying to be less focused on this idea of a grade level – in many ways, she IS a kindergartner. She loves to make messes with paint, she is more interested in dressup than history facts, she still takes a nap daily. The fact that her new workbooks have 2’s, 3’s and 4’s on them just goes to remind me that she is not developing evenly straight across the grade level board… because of course she isn’t. No child, in any manner of school, learns all of their subjects equally, at the same rate as their peers. We’re lucky to be able to cater to that right now.

A couple people have asked about the enrichment center,  and the easiest way I can describe it is that the kids get to choose their classes based on ability level and interest, a bit like college. It goes from K-12, so while this year is about fun and community, there will be a day when I need someone else to teach her calculus. Ella is taking two classes at the center this quarter – a reader’s workshop, and a science class about animals – and then we are covering the rest at home. We get to choose her curriculum, and no one is “grading” her work for me. I do check in with the center once a month to let them know what we are working on, but unless they have reason to be seriously concerned about a child’s progress, it is up to the parents to determine what their child is ready to learn. So far (two weeks in, haha) we are really liking it.

Ella loves it, just in case you can’t tell.

First day at Bryant
(She was so excited on her first day that she laid out 5 outfits to choose from, and did not decide until I was ready to send her in her pajamas.)

First day at Bryant

The other benefit of the center is that they cater to homeschooling families, and expect siblings to tag along. Becky and Alice hang out with me (and many other families) in the Family Room/playground while Ella is in class. We loved the co-op we were with for two years, but the sibling thing (needing to find childcare for the littles for Ella to participate) made it impractical, expensive, and is why we ultimately pulled Ella out last year and did not send Alice this year. Finding a program that caters to crazy families like ours was a huge relief.


This is our school space, which Tom jigsawed together out of things we already had, and which were all destined to go to Goodwill. The desk runs one wall of our office, so there is plenty of room for little sisters to “work” as well.

As far as specific curriculums, I’m not a wealth of resources there. It’s all very “what works right now”. Our daily schedule goes something like “Is Becky occupied/sleeping/eating a snack? Hurry, let’s get this done!” I don’t claim to have this all figured out; we’re still trying to find our way. What the last month has shown me though is that it will be our way. I went into this year thinking we’d just lazy about, but Ella had other plans, and I am doing my best to catch up. Who knows what homeschooling will look like in a year, or four, when Becky is “in Kindergarten”?

First day at Bryant

*Title from a Charlotte Mason quote:
“When we say that education is an atmosphere, we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.”

“By education is a discipline, we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.”

“In saying that education is a life, the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”

2 Responses to An atmosphere, a discipline, a life. *

  1. ang says:

    This is one of my favorite posts ever. I am so glad (and “proud” and “excited”.. but not in the way that sounds snarky or belittling!) for you guys in your decision to homeschool. :) Ella amazes me with her knowledge and abilities every time I see you guys, so I can only imagine how excited she is to be “in kindergarten” this year! Can’t wait for the progress updates! Maybe next time I visit we’ll have to have a “drama workshop” w/Auntie Angie! haha ?

    and, that last picture is FOR SURE going in a frame here at my place. adorable!!

  2. Pingback: To do list: 1) Start list. CHECK. 2) Pat yourself on the back. |

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