Josh and I attended the HINTS Book Fair a couple weekends ago. HINTS is a local homeschool support group and they do this conference and homeschool vendor fair every summer at a church in Matthews, NC. Jonathan and I went to the first couple of sessions by ourselves until Josh got off work and could join us for the rest of the sessions on Friday and the sessions on Saturday. I was pretty nervous going in alone, feeling a little lost in this new world of homeschooling. I was also wondering if people would laugh at me because my oldest child is only 3 1/2 and I'm researching homeschooling him.
The experience was excellent! My fears were quickly calmed and Josh and I both came away feeling encouraged and affirmed in things we were already doing with Jonathan. One of the sessions that we chose to attend was specifically geared at those considering homeschooling or just starting out homeschooling – Melanie, the leader of that session and her husband (more on them below) decided while she was in grad school, even before having children, that they'd homeschool. I didn't feel so early in my research after that!
We came away with several great resources and next steps:
The best session that we attended was about raising boys with Hal and Melanie Young of Raising Real Men. They have six, yes six, boys and two little girls. Josh and I are in the process of reading/listening to their book and studying it together. More on that as we continue to process their advice on how to relate to boys and raise up men of God.
A couple of the sessions recommended that parents on the early end of this journey do a couple of specific things:
One is to remember that you're a professional and you need to act like it. Read books and magazines, join a support group / co-op, and focus on furthering your own education at this stage.
Another is to determine what style or method of homeschooling best fits your child(ren) and family. The spectrum of homeschooling ranges from textbook book driven model of “regular” school at home all the way to the other end with unschooling and better late than early methods. At this point, we think that we fall near the middle with the Charlotte Mason / Living Books method. Even before the conference, the reading that I'd done pointed me towards this model. I'm reading another book on this now and will share more soon.
Third, I was introduced to a real full phonics based program call Spell to Write and Read in a session about teaching children to read. Many of us were taught to read by whole language (think Dick and Jane readers) or that with a combination of “phony” phonics (sound it out, but memorize lots of “irregular” words). SWR is a complete phonics program where kids learn all the phonograms in the English language and over time learn the basic grammar rules that show that English is not as irregular as most of us think. This program will take an average elementary school student 4-6 years to complete. The plan is repetition, not immediate mastery. The idea is that if a child learns the sounds and simple rules, starting by hearing and then writing and then reading, they will be better spellers and readers over the long run. We're starting to learn and use the basics of this program and integrate it with the 100 Easy Lessons book that we were already using. In addition to the Bob books that I previous blogged about, we're also reading from a 1st grade pre-primer reader published by an Amish publishing company called Pathway and using various early readers that we find at various “big box” type stores and at The Book Lady, our favorite local used bookstore. More on this as we really get into it as well.