I sat down at the kid’s school table the other day and reminisced about the past year. All we have accomplished in reading and writing and the struggles we went through in math. Through the tears, whining, and frustration, there were days of joy, wonderful Ah-Ha! moments, and accomplishment. We had fun in first grade. Yes, it was hard at times and sometimes it took a while for the information to “click” but we had fun.
The stack of finished first grade curriculum sits on the shelf. The edges of the workbooks are beat up, pages are all filled out, and doodlings are drawn on almost every page. Right next to it are the fresh, new second grade curriculum books. Flipping through the pages, reminds me of that new shoe feel. No pages have yet been creased, there’s no writing in the margins and the name line is still blank. You can flip through the pages and feel the stiffness of the paper. They’re just waiting to be put to use.
I took a pad of lined paper from the shelf, the kind that has the dashes in the middle for early writers, and I placed it on the table in front of me. My kids were playing nearby. My almost second grader was playing with his cars, with a fresh reading of Beverly Cleary’s Mouse and the Motorcycle book still in his thoughts. My daughter making use of the stencils as she added more to the piles of papers on the table of letters she wanted to send to people.
I grabbed a pencil from the middle bin and asked, “So, what do you want to learn in second grade?”
My son looked up at me with a puzzled look on his face and said, “I don’t know.”
I had asked him this question when he entered first grade as well, but I hadn’t received much of a response. He was interested in robots, but not much else piqued his interest. So, I decided to choose a few things for him to see what he would like. We found a few things that worked and a few that didn’t. We enrolled in 4-H (didn’t work out), started violin lessons (doing well in), joined a science group (a little advanced), took lots of field trips, learned about the weather (passing fancy), and the American Revolution (which he LOVED learning about).
I left the list sitting there for a while. The paper just as blank as it had been ten minutes before. “Well,” I said, “any ideas?”
Suddenly, he face changed from bewilderment to excitement, “Planes!” he shouted.
“That’s a great start! Planes would be so fun to learn about. What else?” I pressed.
That’s when the ideas started pouring out. I had him write them down on his list.
“I want to cook every Friday! I want to play soccer! Ooh, swimming lessons too! Reading my favorite books!” he added.
“Great! These are wonderful ideas!” He continued adding to his list, thinking carefully about each idea. I suggested a few ideas too to help with brainstorming. He rejected a few with indifference, but others happily added to the list: the water cycle, simple machines and a homeschool style Olympics all made the cut. Then came Tuesday game night, theater, rock climbing, inventors, Spanish, art, and more history, wanting to know why America fought America in the Civil War.
“This is quite a list we have going!” I said.
Then his face saddened, “I’m going to do everything in second grade and there will be nothing left for third grade.”
“No,” I reassured him, “there is plenty left. You have the whole world to learn about and a lifetime of learning is not going to cover it.”
Now, we may not get through that whole list this year but that’s not the point. The point is this is his education and he has control of what he wants to learn. There are a few weeks left before we officially begin second grade. The curriculum, still uncreased on the shelf, will have to wait until then but without the child-led activities to fill our school year our school year would not be complete. One of the best reasons for homeschooling is the freedom we have to choose our own path. Freedom not only for the parent, but for the child to choose his path in life. We are blessed in this country to not be tied down to a one-size-fits-all method of education, but to choose the one that works best for our family.
Homeschooling is so much more than academics. It’s about life! There must be an interest, there must be trial and error, there must be failure — with tears of frustration when it’s difficult and tears of joy when those wonderful Ah-ha moments are reached!
We are embracing the freedom we’ve been given and are going to make this a great year to remember.
Now, we are ready to start second grade.