Saturday, August 13, 2011

Desert Hippie: Meet The Chanse Family

Hey there! I'm Susan, married to Andrew and mama of four boys 8 and under (Atticus-8, Creeley-5, Townsyn-3, and Dempsey-6 months). We live in the crazy, hot desert of Arizona in a town called Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix.

This picture of the boys and I was taken by my husband just last week when we were exploring southern California. I love how it captures my boys' personalities...Creeley the goofy joker, Townsyn the playful mischievous child, Atticus the sweet thinker, and Dempsey (in the wrap sleeping) the easy-going, good-natured baby...so far.

As soon as I began to think about having kids, homeschooling was something I considered doing. When Andrew and I settled down in Arizona and began having children, it became a reality. Up until 2007, we owned a retail story specializing in breastfeeding and other natural-living products. It was important to us that one parent was able to be with the children during their early years, and running the store, while difficult to manage, did allow the boys to be with one of us all the time. As we settled into the hectic schedule of a full-time job for Andrew and a full-time business to run for me, we agreed that getting the boys to and from school would be a hassle, most likely depending on others for some sort of care and missing a lot of the kids' daily life due to our schedules. We knew that keeping them home and teaching them ourselves was the answer for our family.

True to my hippie tendencies, my original leanings were toward an easy-going, self-directed education, or even radical unschooling. We eased through Atticus's Kindergarten year with a lot of games, manipulatives, and art projects. When he reached first grade age, however, we realized we needed to make some changes. Atticus craved structure, and as both his parents and teachers, we knew we needed to provide it. Through research we had come across The Well-Trained Mind a few years earlier and we remembered liking many of the ideas and resources listed. We revisited Susan Wise Bauer's book and decided that classical education was the way to go for our family. We also work Nature Study into our package, as well as some Waldorf ideas, especially in the early years. I guess you might say we are nature-focused classical educators with a twist of Waldorf.

We have recently added Creeley into the homeschooling mix as a old Kindergartener/young first grader. It is amazing to watch his learning blossom, showing a completely different style and drive than his older brother. It makes me feel even luckier to be able to keep them home and direct their learning toward their individual needs. I really believe they will get an excellent education because of this.

At first I thought I could throw everything together for our homeschooling day, but quickly realized that there were curriculum out there that would do this for me. I became a curriculum junkie, reading for hours on end about each program available. I narrowed my choices down to secular curriculum that is fairly teacher intensive, mostly open and go, and with very few workbooks for the grammar stage of learning. I believe we have found the main framework for our boys education, but we will continue to tweak it to fit their individual needs. It is structured enough to make me feel organized, but open enough to allow for extra time whenever the boys find something they want to explore in further depth.

We homeschool year round, really bunkering down in the dreadful heat of the summer so that we can ease up when the beautiful fall, winter, and spring weather is here. Our family enjoys our time together, and I am enjoying the journey of relearning through my childrens' eyes.

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