Today, we’re kicking off Genna’s 4th grade. I asked some friends for their favorite school and homeschool routines and extras and some were confused that Genna is starting 4th grade (in March). Genna’s schooling has been the part of following God’s call the mission field that has caused me the most confusion and searching for what is best. The last three years have been an interesting mashup of schooling for her, so on this, our first day of 4th grade, I thought I’d go through the history and reflect on where we are now and where I think we’re headed with her schooling and with Juliana’s.
One of the things I looked forward to as Genna approached school age was the idea of homeschooling her. To go on an adventure of learning, to share my great love and curiosity for the wonderful world around us with her…how great is that?
Then she turned three and saw the church preschool being set up and was in love with it all. So, we signed her up for two days a week and she loved it. I liked having two days a week to plan on my own.
The next year, I could tell she was ready for something more than preschool, but there was no way I was going to put her into a five-day kindergarten at 4 1/2 years old, so we started weighing our options. The idea of homeschool was still there, but then we learned about Providence, a University model school. For kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade, the kids go two days a week and are homeschooled according to the teacher’s curriculum plan the other three days. (When they’re older, they’re in class three days and at home two.)
It was the perfect fit for us. Genna had school and a teacher and classmates and I had structure and school-mom friends and I still got to take part in her learning. So, she spent kindergarten, 1st grade and six weeks of 2nd grade at Providence.
Then we moved to Peru and our options were to homeschool or put her in a private Peruvian school. We thought it would be great for her to really learn Spanish and meet other kids, so we went forward with the school. When we tested her with the school, they wanted to put her into first grade, so she could learn Spanish. We wrestled with the decision, but in the end decided that part of the reason she had started kindergarten early was to make space for an opportunity like this. She clutched her Spanish-English dictionary for dear life that first day of school, but pretty soon she was comfortable and doing well.
The thing about school in Peru is that it begins in March and ends in December. So, after her (second) first grade year (in Peruvian school) we had to figure out what to do for third grade (or was it second?). We had a year left in Peru, but knew if she was in Peruvian school again, she would have just finished second grade, but age-wise should be half-way through third grade when we returned to the States for home assignment…what to do?
We pulled our second grade curriculum back out and tried to hit the high points until August when we jumped into Providence’s third grade, so she could finish third grade at Providence during our home assignment for the first half of 2014.
I learned a lot during our year of homeschooling in 2013. I learned that I would have to restructure my work/ministry role to make space to do a really good job homeschooling. (I didn’t that year.) I also learned that I would have to have a more streamlined curriculum than we had been using at Providence. I like the various curriculum elements from Providence, but they are beautifully arranged and supplemented by the fabulous Providence teachers in a way that I couldn’t imitate or succeed at on my own.
So, while we were back in Arkansas in 2014, Genna finished 3rd grade and a couple months later, we moved to Ambato, Ecuador. We were doing double-duty as Cluster Support and Short Term Missions staff, so we thought putting the kids into Ecuadorian school was the best idea. In September, Genna started Ecuadorian fifth grade (which is equivalent to US fourth grade because they count “kindergarten” as grade one.) Several weeks into the school year, it was apparent that jumping from first grade in Peru (all in Spanish) to fifth grade in Ecuador (all in Spanish) was way too big a leap. By that time we had a better idea of how our 2015 schedule was looking (busy, with a bunch of travel), so we pulled her out of Ecuadorian school and began to homeschool.
I found Alpha Omega’s Monarch curriculum, which is all online and super-easy to plan for and we signed up. I was uncomfortable with the lack of continuity of Genna’s language arts instruction from 3rd grade into 4th, so when I set up her curriculum, we took a step back into the 3rd grade material. So from October 2014 until now, we’ve been reviewing and trying to get into a schooling rhythm. When we came back to Arkansas for our three month home assignment, I had planned to wait until returning to Ecuador to start 4th grade material. As I watched Genna get frustrated with the material and way we had structured our homeschool (way too far on the independent work side of the scale), I knew it was time to reset, refresh and move forward.
So, today we came to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to mark our first day of school. We’re starting our new daily structure of hands-on supplemental curriculum (for handwriting, literature, artist and composer units) combined with Monarch online for her Math, Language Arts, History & Geography, Science and Bible. Tomorrow we’re going to the library for Juliana’s first day. I’m hoping that by doing an activity that anchors the year, Juliana will get a little more on board with the activities from the preschool curriculum I have for her.
Among other changes to the way that Chris and I are scheduling our days, we’re really making homeschooling a priority instead of an addition. I want Genna to love to learn and I know that leaving her alone with a computer will not cultivate that love of learning.
It’s been an interesting journey that I could never have predicted up to this point and the future could bring educational options we can’t anticipate. But for the next year and a half, we will be homeschooling (best I can tell) and, for today, we are in a beautiful place, marking the beginning of what I hope is a beautiful new chapter in Genna’s schooling.