One of These Things is Not Like the Other (The Great Homeschool Experiment: Week 6)

Week 6 was an excellent week of school! It started as average, but I was privileged enough to watch the girls blossom and pull off an extremely successful week. I am very proud of where they are and how they’re growing.

One of my favourite things about my kids is just how different they are. They’re both in Kindergarten, yes. But they’re both in very different levels of Kindergarten, and both learn very differently. This can be challenging when teaching reading, as they both struggle in different ways and I have to teach two different lessons of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (“Easy” being the biggest misnomer ever), and even a challenge as I teach math, one blowing through Chapter 9 way ahead of schedule and the other a little bit behind in Chapter 5. But it’s an absolute joy when it comes to some other subjects.

I’ve mentioned before that we read and narrate fairytales. It’s one of their favourite exercises and they get very excited whenever I tell them to clear the desk in preparation for a story. I read a fairytale or fable, they repeat it back to me and identify the beginning, middle, and end, and then they draw the story in pictures. The artwork at the end is mostly the same, the only difference being their artistic skill level. And the stories I hear back are the same stories I’ve told, but they’re oh so different.

My oldest speaks in run-on sentences. She doesn’t stop for a breath while telling her stories, peppered with so many “and then’s.” You’ve probably never heard Jack in the Beanstalk told in one single sentence, but then again, you’ve never heard how long my daughter’s sentences go. She remembers so many tiny details, things I hardly take notice of until I hear them repeated in her story. She remembers exact verbiage. If I say, “The giant flew into a fury,” I will hear those very same words in her retelling. She is all logic, precise and detail-oriented. She doesn’t often make inferences or apply a moral to her life unless it’s something she’s been really mulling over for several days (as she did with Little Red Riding Hood and our need for obedience). But she does remember facts perfectly and I will often hear the fairytales being retold another way after school is finished, as she play acts the stories with her sister and their toys. She is the holder of all the information, unemotionally presenting facts and remembering things others might find inconsequential. I already feel the need to start saving for law school, because this kid presents arguments so well, she’d make an amazing lawyer.

My youngest is a walking cartoon character. She too doesn’t stop for breath when she’s retelling her stories, all her breath vanishes into voices and sound effects, dialogue between characters and explosive waving of her arms as she conveys all the action in the story with her entire body. I didn’t realise Jack and the Beanstalk was so exciting! She doesn’t tell me what she heard, she tells me what she gleaned. There’s no repetition of my wording, it’s her own interpretation. She makes connections to her life and to other stories with everything. “Jack is like Daddy because he had to cut down the beanstalk and Daddy has to cut the grass.” Often time she relates the overall theme of a story to something in her heart (the connections she made after we read The Ants and the Grasshopper resulted in a clean playroom for the next week). There’s new dialogue that I didn’t write suddenly being thrown about. Original: “Jack’s mother was so angry to find he had sold the cow for beans, that she threw them out the window.” Her version: “And then Jack’s mother said, ‘You bought those beans instead of selling our cow? Now we will starve! Oh I am so sad! Give me those beans! HUUUYA!’ (Insert throwing movement here) ‘Now go to bed!’ And when he got up…” There’s volume dynamic as she tries to tell the story as dramatically as she can. It’s the new and improved version of whatever I tried to give her.

Their minds work so differently. It’s hard to believe sometimes that they’re in the same grade, despite the fact that they’re both learning the same material and learning it well. They absorb things in totally different ways. Homeschooling has been very good for them so far, but one of the biggest blessings has been how much freedom they have to learn at their own pace, at their own level, and in their own way.

As much as I keep track of weeks and make extensive progress reports, I don’t feel confined to a very strict schedule of learning. My oldest is way ahead of most kindergarteners in math, story comprehension, and history. At the rate she’s going in math right now, she’s set to start the 1st Grade book in February. My youngest just had to go back to earlier lessons of the reading book again and, given some of her focus struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was still working on this book through the summer. But she can answer history questions and Bible questions that other kids her age couldn’t comprehend. At home, they’re not bound to the level of another class of kids. They’re not even bound to the other sister’s level! They have complete liberty to grow. They are challenged, yes, but they are also confident and receive as much one-on-one training as they need.

I love my little night and day students. I love watching them discover the world and I find myself surprised and delighted by their strengths constantly. What a privilege it is to teach!

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