With my first child, I purchased the full on multi-subject curriculum which I stuck to with such intensity. I wouldn't dare skip a lesson or let a sloppy p or g go unnoticed at handwriting time. Tears, well, they were a common part of our school days. I knew that I wanted her to love learning, but I also was very, very worried about getting behind or being lazy. I nearly destroyed our relationship with my desire for her to excel and honestly, with my fear of how things would reflect on me if she didn't.
Fortunately, God showed me a bit of the darkness in my heart and with each of my children, my approach to teaching reading (and most everything) has become more and more relaxed. I still have my freak-out moments, but for the most part I really believe what I say to most moms when asked about homeschooling in the younger years. They often ask me about curriculums and programs and such and I usually say to them, "The most important thing you can do is teach them to love learning. Read to them a lot. Take them on field trips. Help them discover things. Focus on shaping character and teach them to love Jesus. Have fun. Relax about the skills and teach them a few at a time, as they are ready."
They don't want to hear that. Well, most of the time they don't. Their eyes glaze over and I understand, I didn't either when people told me that 10 years ago. The shiny curriculums were just too appealing. I was to eager to do "real" school.
This year, for first grade, I decided to do a basic phonics curriculum, a basic math curriculum, and for everything else, I finally decided to use a curriculum with Abe that I have rejected with the others because I felt like it wasn't enough. The truth is, it's just right for where we are these days. It's called Five in a Row and it's a gentle approach to learning. The idea is that you read the same book every day for 5 days. Then, each day you explore some aspect of the book like a science, social studies, or art concept that is there.
Let me just say that another one of the reasons that I initially overlooked it is because the thought of reading the same book aloud 5 days in a row made me want to rock in a corner. I'll confess, we've never actually made it for 5 full days. My goal is 4, and we usually accomplish that. So far, we have "rowed" 7 books together. Abe and I have had a great time and it has set my very busy boy up for success.
Last week we explored a book called "Who Owns the Sun." It's one of the few books that I wasn't already familiar with and it was a profound book for us to work through. The book focuses on a slave boy who questions his father about who owns the sun, the moon, the wind, the flowers, the birds, etc. With each question, his father explains that each of these things is too wonderful to be owned and he helps his son see the wonder in each. Then, toward the end of the book, the boy overhears his plantation owner comment about how he owns his father. Confused, the boy goes to his father, questioning how this could be. At that point, the boy realizes the awful truth that his father, and likewise he, are slaves.
The book is beautifully written and provided an excellent way for Abe and I to have one of our first real discussions about slavery. You can imagine the questions that he, as brown boy, had for his white mama. Once again, I was reminded of how terribly unqualified I feel for this inter-racial parenting gig. But, I am always amazed at how God gives me the grace and wisdom for each situation as it arises. I just pray that when it's all said and done, he'll know how loved he is and how powerfully the Lord can use his life.
I'm trying hard to treasure the moments each day when Abe crawls into my lap for his reading time. I've been on this train long enough to know that they grow up too fast. I'm so thankful that the Lord has changed my heart concerning first grade. Now, if I could just gain some wisdom about teaching Algebra, I'd be in business!