Yesterday was our first "real" day of homeschooling with 5, trying out our new science curriculum and doing just about everything we would do in a normal day. We are still doing "school lite" for June, but having a few serious days of hard work thrown in with lots of fun in between.
It was also a turning point for me, one I think I desperately needed. I can not begin to tell you all how consumed I have been with fear and doubt as I contemplate teaching all 5 kids. Sure, I know people have done it for centuries and tons of families do it today with many more than we have. But sitting here with the reality of 5 eager learners, each of whom is "special needs" (for aren't we ALL special??? Don't we ALL learn differently???), and knowing I am 100% totally responsible for making sure they are well educated is daunting, to say the least. Throw in the language learning, the catching up we have to do, the desire to meet the growing needs of Matthew in particular, and I have been a mess in many ways.
Yesterday though, it all came together...and I "got it". I internalized something that is more important than test scores or grade levels.
We all did math with 5 different levels including Josh and Olesya's which are lessons that actually have to be taught, then me reading and explaining the text to Kenny and Angela, and quickly checking in with Matthew who is pretty self directed in his work. We worked on spelling in a group with all but Matt, me quickly learning that going back and reviewing first grade spelling words with Kenny is NOT a bad idea as out of about 20 basic 3 and 4 letter words he still missed 5...vowels are troublesome. We did some writing, and then moved on to science as a group.
That is where it happened...the joy of learning together, the ability to stop every single time and explain what needed to be explained, the conversation that took off from it all, watching Matthew think on a deeper level about basic questions and offer thoughtful answers as he also helped teach the others and read part of our text to them and pointed out things in photos we were looking at...it will work, and it will be better.
The clincher came when Kenny told me afterward how much he loved it and said "Mommy, for the first time I understood every single thing in class! And I wasn't embarassed to say I didn't know something. I've never understood everything like today!".
Angela and Olesya both talked about how much fun it was to have everyone home learning together and Angela declared "I LOVE homeschool! School so fun!!" with Joshie grinning by her side.
Isn't that what it is all about? Developing a love of learning, fostering an environment where no question is stupid, where there is no embarassment holding you back from learning?
I was also struck by what a gift it is for our children to be with the people they love most so much of their day. When did we as a society decide that "socialization" included distancing ourselves from our family? Dominick and I have noticed a drastic difference in how our children are interacting with one another...and that is within a family whose children were always close to begin with and felt deprived by being sent off to school! I can't count the number of times through the years when comments were made like "I wish we could all just be home together today." as we drove off to school.
It will not be easy, and the logistical challenges of working with this many on so many differing levels is not to be downplayed. But yesterday, I saw why it was worth the commitment, I saw first hand the spark that lit up in Kenny's eyes as he was able to participate fully, stop and ask "what does that word mean", and didn't hesitate to take a stab at it and be wrong knowing no one would laugh at him. I heard the giggles and delight in conversation as we learned about the life stages of human beings and discussed why babies drool, what the word "infant" really means, and Matthew shares his knowledge with the girls who had never been around babies before. We talked about developing muscle tone as babies learn to suck on a bottle or breast and how that effects speech issues such as Kenny's. We touched on how important it is to love and touch infants, and how it can change who they become if they don't receive that nurturing as with Joshua. Our education was tailored to our kids' specific life experiences, and I could quickly see how THIS kind of learning would help all of our kids, but especially the girls and Kenny, to build foundational knowledge.
I know what they do not know, a classroom teacher does not. A classroom teacher would make assumptions never realizing our daughters had never, ever been around infants before...never seen one teething, never heard their cries, never seen one reach for a rattle and be fascinated with it's sound. Talking about infants yesterday was almost like talking about our girls and in some ways Kenny. There are these wide eyed children set before me, eager to explore, touch and experience all that they have never had the chance to see before.
I am their best teacher, and Kenny's words last year come back to encourage me "Mommy, how come you know what I don't know? How come you explain things when I don't even ask the question?".
Because I am Mom. Why did I EVER think that precluded me from being Teacher?
I can do it.
We can do it.
We are Team LaJoy, and we ROCK!!!