At times, given the instability that accompanies an itinerant family like ours, we often find ourselves getting creative with our adventurous lifestyle. We have committed to raising our children in a variety of locations and environments and it is our belief that these experiences will hold the children in good stead in life. When we ask each other where we want to live or settle down, the conversation usually shoots to where we’d all like to go try out next. “China!” my son shouts. “Paris,” says A. “Barcelona, I’ve always wanted to spend more time there,” I state. “How about Hawaii? South America?” inquires my husband. And on and on.
It seems that every time we ask the question, “Yes, but where will home be? Where is home?” we do not feel as though we have sufficient means to answer. In other words: we don’t know the answer.
A while back, way before Austin even showed up on my husband’s radar for work, he came home one evening and told me all about a property his company was opening next year in St. Petersburg, Russia. It seemed they were conducting initial hiring inquiries. Though the job was not perfectly suited for him per se, he wanted to gather my thoughts on the idea. I must add that this was during the time of year of the White Nights, when St. Petersburg is aflame with bright light after a long period of darkness, when twilight conflates with midnight, strolls and riverboat parties last until the wee hours, and the city celebrates the onset of nearly 24 hours per day of daylight – a decadent and enthralling prospect.
While I must admit that I am a bit of a Russian history nerd (I count Robert Massie’s tome “Peter the Great” as one of the best books I’ve ever read, and that love affair with the czars began when I was 15 years-old!), it is a fascination that carries with it a desire to keep learning and discovering; I wasn’t hard to convince. After a few minutes, it became very clear from our discussion, that we were all game for the challenge. We had always wanted to visit St. Petersburg, to take in the vastness of the Hermitage (the largest art museum in the world), to walk along the banks of the Neva River, to experience the city built by Peter the Great.
But what about the cold? We used to always joke during the many years we lived in Montréal that ‘even St. Petersburg has warmer winters!’ We had a great many laughs about that one.
It was then, all those months ago, that our discussion of homeschooling began.
I have been homeschooling our children since we arrived in Austin. Our daughter had been enrolled in a wonderful French-immersion kindergarten at a proper-sized elementary school in Vancouver. During that time, I took it upon myself to do a Waldorf-inspired at-home preschool with our son, which also allowed me to work on contracts for Blue Pencil Communications and Niko & Nonnie, of course.
Before we arrived here, during the course of the moving process, A spoke up and asked “Remember how you said you could homeschool us if we lived in Russia? Could we do that in Texas?” I told her that we would consider it, but that I wanted to also check out the schooling options in our eventual neighbourhood as well.
While the options in our neighbourhood are by no means insufficient options, we have decided to homeschool until the end of the school year, to keep up the French-immersion and to provide some stability in a brand new city. I was a teacher for many years and still accept teaching contracts when I can fit them in. I absolutely love teaching and I am pleased that I can partake daily in my children’s enthusiasm for learning. Homeschooling does require a commitment though, and I have had to find time in our already jam-packed schedules to do my lesson plans in advance and to set up our ‘classroom’ each morning.
Our daily curriculum follows the Canadian curriculum, and includes several hours of focused learning, interspersed with free play and gross motor activities. We cover Math, Writing/Reading, Art, Music & Singing on a daily basis, and have special days of the week and field trips for Science and Geography.
I thought I would share a sample lesson with you, to give you an idea of our process. I instruct the children half in French, half in English. For the purposes of these homeschooling posts, I will present the material in English.
February 3, 2011
Hello everybody, how are you?…How are you?…
Hello everybody, how are you?…How are you today?
“The earth is firm beneath our feet. The sun shines bright above. Here I stand, so straight and strong – all things to know and love.”
Discussion of the day’s lesson and schedule
Imaginative free play with today’s selection of toys
|Pirates, animals, options for building…
-Number sense & numeration – Printing Numbers (1-10)
My daughter tells me, “Everytime I draw the number 2, I always add a heart or one of my favourite shapes on top. 2’s need crowns, I’ve decided.”
-Counting & matching
Always referencing the natural world when possible, we set up an activity using seashells. The children were asked to count the shells and to sort them based on colour, pattern, shape, texture and size.
|Seashells awaiting sorting
|What a lovely collection!
-Numbers in French (1-10)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…Violette, Violette…
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…Violette à bicyclette!
-Animals found in USA & Canada
Documenting animals we have seen and animals we would like to see.
Spotlight on: WHALES
All vocabulary is done in both English and French, singular and plural (when not too advanced to explain to children at this level)
|The children always help prepare our snack
|It needs more colour, Mama!
-Structured: Combined action poem and craft project
“Things to Buy”
Three things to buy in the baker’s shop
Creamy and rich, with a cherry on top.
Along came a girl with money to pay
She paid a quarter and took one away…
Two things to buy in the baker’s shop…
One thing to buy in the baker’s shop…
No things to buy in the baker’s shop.
No creamy things. No cherry on top.
No one comes with money to pay.
So the baker closes shop and goes home today.
Craft project: Re-enact song with paper cut-outs. You will need to make 3 cupcake cut-outs, 1 bakery shop window, 1 baker, 1 child (girl/boy)
Materials: Construction paper, glue stick, markers
-Unstructured: Watercolours – Valentines
Materials: large sheets of finger-painting paper, decorative scissors, stampers, aquarelles, pens and coloured pencils
|Valentines from my sweetie pies
|A painting for Papa
-Printing letters A-L
-Printing one- and two-syllable words
Ensure a variety of letters in the words and a variety of combinations of vowels and vowel sounds.
Cat, apple, ball, balloon, mouse, bird, house, popcorn, monkey, farm, tractor, chair, table, zoo, week, dog, puppy, kitten, giraffe
“The Valentine Express”
Goodbye, everyone… goodbye, everyone. Goodbye, everyone – we’ll see you all again!
That’s it for today. February is already off to a roaring start, with a curriculum that includes Valentine’s Day (mais oui!), dinosaurs and fables. Any month with a bizarre number of days that also involves hearts, chocolate and handing out Valentines is particularly delightful for little ones – and grown-ups, too!