Bonham Academy: Kindergarten

This is what my mornings look like these days:

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It’s a big change for us.

This time last year, I mentioned that Nate and I had decided on a new venture that was sure to make us crazy.  (Well, mainly me crazy.)  But nonetheless, last year we decided that, given our current options, it seems that homeschooling is the best choice for our family right now.   So I spent the last year researching, talking to some veteran homeschooling mamas, and doing some “practice days” here and there with the kids to see what they thought.  (Munchkin Consensus: YES PLEASE!)

This summer, however, the twins turned 5 and Luís turned 6…which means it’s time for REAL kindergarten, not just some fun practice days here and there.  So “the playroom” transformed itself into “the schoolroom” as we hauled out the toys and hauled in the curriculum, books, and art supplies.  We put a big star on the calendar for September 14 and declared it “The First Day of School.”    A late start, but we had to get our Colca Canyon and Sacred Valley trips out of the way first.  And here in Peru, the first day of school is usually in March (the school year runs from March to December), so our calendar is completely out-of-whack as far as they are concerned.

^ Obligatory "First Day of School" photo. Those are some excited boys!
^ Obligatory “First Day of School” photo. Those are some excited boys!  September 14, 2015

Now we are about a month in, and things are going better than I expected.  It didn’t take us long to get into a good rhythm, and I think we are all benefiting from having a solid morning routine for the first time.

And while we are off to a good start, I’m a little nervous about the rest of the year.  With our impending HMA (Home Ministry Assignment) coming up–more on that later– I have no doubt that our routine and schedule is going to get bumped around a bit.  And by “bumped around,” I mean demolished completely.  Somehow I am going to have to figure out what homeschooling will look like with an insane travel schedule while we continent-hop.  My goal at this point is just to finish a curriculum year within an actual year, however that ends up working out.

And as I mentioned, the Peruvian school calendar is different from the US calendar, so there’s always the question of which calendar we should stick to.  Or maybe we should just have year-round school with short breaks whenever we need them?  Who knows.

And there’s the ongoing issue of making sure I’m far enough ahead in my planning and preparations that I can order the supplies we need and have them brought down in plenty of time before we need them, which means that I’m already having to start researching and making decisions on first grade materials.  (…and also experiencing deep denial that my children are old enough for me to consider looking at first grade materials.)

All that to say….  we have one month down, and I’m pretty proud of that.  I have no idea what the rest of this year will look like, or what new complications or considerations will arise.  But for now, we have jumped in head-first, and we are loving it!

***

 

Here are a few more pictures of our first few weeks…  Hover for captions, and click for larger view or slideshow view.  

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A new venture that’s sure to make me crazy.

For years, Nate and I have been able to put off the education question.   After all, we had no idea where we would end up long-term, and we had no idea what the school options would be in whatever city/country we settled in, plus our kids were too young anyway.  It was easy to just sit back and say, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see when the time comes.”

Then suddenly we were settled in Arequipa and our kids were getting bigger.  As we started working through what we would like our family’s home-life/ministry-life balance to look like, the school question just kept coming back to the forefront as an important factor in those plans.   It was time to tackle it.

For an expat, that’s a more complicated decision than I expected, and there are many more factors involved than I had ever realized.  Then we threw Luís’ developmental needs into the mix, and it became a big convoluted mess.   In the end, a few things stood out as deciding factors:

  • the state of the Peruvian public schools (which PISA ranks as #65 out of 65 countries tested every few years)
  • the cost of the Peruvian private schools and international schools
  • the need for substantial supplementing of things not taught here (US history, English reading & writing, English lit, etc) in order to keep them on track for what would be required by a US college
  • the fact that our life as missionaries often requires travel
  • the fact that we have to return every few years to the US for several months at a time to give reports attend to agency-related issues, and update our supporters.
  • the fact that I don’t want the kids to have to be in school all day long when family visits
  • the fact that Luís needs some extra one-on-one attention and help that he isn’t going to find in schools here

Taking all those things into consideration, it became pretty clear that homeschooling would be the best option for us right now in this season of life.  Maybe not forever, but at least for now.

Of course, there are logistics involved with that too, because finding the materials here is next to impossible (especially in english), and having things shipped costs a FORTUNE and isn’t even guaranteed to arrive…which means any visitors will be doubling as school-supply mules as well.  Sorry about that.  (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)   Plus, I still want the boys to retain the spanish they’ve learned so far and continue on to fluency, so I will have to add in lots of cultural activities and opportunities to be immersed in spanish (such as a soccer team) in addition to our church activities and inviting people into our home.

And there’s that tiny little issue that those 3 boys have a slightly extroverted mother who tends to get stir crazy in the house after awhile, and there aren’t exactly homeschool co-ops here… so I’m going to have to find a way to do this without completely LOSING MY MIND.

But, on the upside, I’ve always been someone who likes to learn.  I loved school (which is why I kept going back and may go back again one day in the future, who knows?), I love to read and still read anything I can get my hands on, and I love teaching.  All of those things combined make me think that this will be a fun journey as long as I use a literature-saturated curriculum and can figure out a way to do it without feeling confined to the house all the time.  (Field trips, playdates, and experiential learning, anyone?)   Oh, and as long as Nate understands that HE will be teaching higher math.

Really, though, I’m not too worried about it right now.  My kids are still really young, barely kindergarten age, so most of “school” consists of a few basic things and a whole lot of life skills.  I’m just as concerned with teaching them bathroom hygiene as I am with teaching them to read at this point.

So I looked at a bunch of curriculum options, ordered a few little things to get us started, and we will spend the next year or two figuring out what kind of groove fits us best and working on some home routines that might help us down the road when we start the real stuff.  Because kindergarten is supposed to be laid back and fun, right?  I hope so.

For a bunch of reasons, we decided to go ahead and get started now rather than wait until the Peruvian school year ends in December.  They’re finishing out the month, and after that, the new journey begins….with 3 boys at 3 COMPLETELY different levels and with completely different needs despite being the same age, all of whom are hyperactive and without a smidgen of self control.

We’ll see how this goes.

Mississippi… according to 4-year-olds.

In June, we went back to the states for a couple of weeks to update a bunch of documents, visit a bunch of doctors, give a few missions reports, and visit our families.  Given how much we had to get accomplished in only a few short weeks, it was a whirlwind trip!

But more on the “grown up” part of the trip later.

It happened to fall during the couple months of the year when all three boys are the same age; the twins had just turned 4 and Luís was still 4 as well.   I always get questions when I’m out and about, but it’s especially funny when they’re all the same age.  “Your boys are adorable! Wait, are they triplets?”  “No.”  “How old are they?”  “They’re all 4.”  “…But they’re not triplets?… How does that work?” Lots of confusion all around.

Anyway,  it was pretty exciting to visit Mississippi (and Chattanooga!) with a bunch of 4 year olds who had no idea what it would be like.  The twins had no memory of Mississippi since they were so young when we left (they had just turned 2), and this would be Luís’ first trip to visit.  They’ve heard me talk about it constantly for 2 years, and they know its where all the people they love live, but they didn’t understand much more than that.   Seeing it through their eyes was even more entertaining than I expected.

Here are a few of the astute observations of Mississippi from the minds of 4 year olds:

Halfway through the longest leg of the 18-hr trip to get there: “Mama, when we get to Mississippi I’m not going back to Peru. This is taking too long and I don’t want to do this part again.  Tell Daddy to bring our house with him when he comes.”

“Where are the volcanoes? And they don’t have any mountains?  Then what DO they have?”

Eating chicken nuggets from Wendy’s: “What is this? It’s not chicken.  This isn’t chicken.  I don’t like it. You can have it back.”

“What do you mean, ‘the water is clean?’ You mean I can drink it? Like put it in my mouth?”

“Why do you put the toilet paper in the potty?”

“Mama why are the trees SO BIG?”

“Why is there grass EVERYWHERE?”

“What are those?” (a.k.a. raindrops on the windshield)

“That scared me! That scared me! THAT SCARED ME! What is it?”  (a.k.a the first storm that woke Luís up in the middle of the night)

*Note: We lived in Bogotá, where it POURED daily… How did they forget that so fast?!

“Why are the buildings apart from each other?  It’s just one building and lots of grass. Why aren’t they stuck together?”

“The people don’t drive crazy here. Why aren’t you driving crazy?”

“We are in the car ALOT in Mississippi.”

At the Chick-fil-A drive-through: “Are we getting out? They’re giving you food THROUGH THE WINDOW?”

***

Apparently, reverse culture shock even happens when you’re 4.  But they loved Mississippi (and Chattanooga), and they basically thought the whole thing was one big adventure filled with swimming pools, playing in the grass, best friends and cousins, and lots of attention.  They told me a hundred times throughout the trip that they weren’t getting back on the plane to Peru (thankfully they did without a problem!), and they have asked me a hundred times since then when our next trip back to Mississippi will be.

I only have one thing to say:  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  I might not be living in Mississippi, but I’ll raise boys who love it either way!

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Good times.