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Warning: long post ahead. With no recipe at the end. If you only visit me for food I get it, and I love you, and I promise I’ll have another recipe up in just a few days! Today though, we’re talking homeschool.
I don’t dive into too much personal stuff in my recipe posts because I know a lot of people just show up for the recipes. So if you didn’t know, this past year has been extremely challenging for us. We’ve dealt with a variety of things that have left us weary and wondering what we’re doing with our lives.
About a month ago my husband, who has worked from home for the last ten years, took a job in an office that keeps him out of the house most of the day. This has been a huge adjustment for all of us, and quite honestly something we’re still getting used to.
This year has by far been the most challenging as far as deciding if we’re doing the right thing by homeschooling. We’ve always said we’ll take it year by year, and I took that very seriously this year in considering if it was time to send one or more of the kids to school. In the end, I made a big list of pros and cons to both sides, and even though my perfectionist personality worked really hard to make both sides even, in the end I still felt myself leaning towards homeschool as being the best option for my kids.
While I consider education important, the primary focus of our day is getting along with one another, creating a loving family environment, using our imaginations, and reading all the books. These are all things that would be much more difficult in a traditional school environment, and they are more important to me than the pros of public school.
While I would really love to have grown up time and work for eight hours each day, I now spend the hours between 7:00 and 1:00 dealing with all things homeschool, which I’ll dive into a little more in just a minute. Actually, my mother-in-law has been very kind to come help on Wednesdays so I can get some work done. I’ve also hired a babysitter for the first time ever(!) who is around Monday mornings while I either work, get some things done around the house, or run off for a little free time (that one’s kind of just a wish).
Now, down to the nitty gritty! Lola is in 3rd grade this year, Casper is in 1st, Strummer is in 4K, and Wiley is just wild. After agonizing over curriculum choices I have moved away from traditional curriculum for a few reasons. One, it can be incredibly expensive. I only recently (and too late) found out about some virtual charter school options that would assist in paying for curriculum, but I’m not sure I would have used them anyways. This is because the second reason I’m not using curriculum is because my kids just don’t fit neatly into an age or grade when it comes to learning, which is one of the really great things about homeschool. Without curriculum there is no “advanced” or “behind”, they just are who they are.
Maybe we’re closer to unschooling than I ever thought we’d be, but we still spend roughly 3-4 hours on school each day. I’ve created a daily lesson chart with the three oldest’s names on it and every Saturday I print off five pages, gather all our materials, and figure out what needs to get done. I have yet to decide if it’s more cost and time effective to make copies from workbooks or just let them write in them and buy a new one for each kid. I kind of feel like we’re single handedly keeping the paper and printer ink companies in business at this point, but it also seems ridiculous to buy four of the same workbook.
Even though I’m not using curriculum it’s really helpful to get an idea of what they should be learning at each stage. For this I use curriculum I’ve used in the past for Lola, Ambleside Online, and Khan Academy.
Math – I have one (affiliate link –>) Singapore Math workbook for Lola that I make copies out of, and a few random K-2 math workbooks from garage sales that I make copies out of for the boys. My favorite math resource for Cas and Lola is Khan Academy, a free online resource/curriculum. It guides them through what they should know for their grade – if they get it easily they move on, if they struggle with it they get more instruction either through videos on the site, or one-on-one explanations from me. They get to customize their avatar (pretty much their favorite thing to do in any type of program) and earn points. I love not having to worry about what they should learn next and the great instruction that the program offers. I would love to get a more comprehensive workbook for Cas in the second half of the year.
Science – Science has always been a real struggle for me in homeschool, but I’m trying to make more of an effort with it this year. I would love to have nature notebooks full of adventures, but this is just not for my kids. I could force it, but why? Instead we’ve been studying The Complete Book of Animals, Things Outdoors, and the solar system. We’ve also done a few lessons from Easy Peasy Science – Phys/Chem. I’m hoping to work up the stamina for some real hands on experiments and maybe a study of elements by the end of the year.
History – I’m also amping up my history efforts this year. We did a long study of Christopher Columbus and other explorers of that time, and are transitioning into colonial life and the first Thanksgiving. I plan to continue expanding west with American history for the year and then go back to more ancient history next year. Each day we read a chapter out of Pilgrim Boy, History Stories for Children, A Child’s History of the World, This Country of Ours, or American Pioneers and Patriots. We also just finished up Brighty of the Grand Canyon, which we started last year. My kids have zero patience for me reading out loud, but I’ve started doing history during lunch and using a dramatic voice, and they’ve really gotten into it.
Reading – Lola has been an excellent reader for a long time, and we got about halfway through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons before the end of last school year and Casper just figured out the rest over the summer. I will probably wait at least a year before teaching Strummer to read unless he starts showing interest. Currently I have Lola read one chapter of Black Beauty each day, and once that is done I think we’ll try Anne of Green Gables. Casper gets kind of shy reading out loud, so I only have him do a few sentences here or there from our Bible, history, or science lessons. Lately I’ve been scheduling him one story from Aesop’s Fables each day because he pretty much asked me to. Those stories are ridiculous but kind of fun. Nothing I assign him to read is very easy, so it offers plenty of instruction on difficult sound combinations. All the kids enjoy lots of free reading time, and we go to the library every two weeks or so and check out about 40 books.
Language Arts – I mostly print off worksheets from Spectrum Language Arts and Language Fundamentals. They’re both for first grade, but I find that they work as a great introduction for Casper and a review for Lola. Lola is always writing stories, and we’re working on polishing one up for a contest in the spring. Strummer gets worksheets from the Kindergarten curriculum that I purchased last year from My Father’s World.
Bible – The Bible isn’t a huge part of our curriculum, but I like to spend five minutes each day reading either Jesus Calling for Kids or My Big Book of 5 Minute Devotions. Lola has requested that we add prayer time in with that (bless her heart), which we have not yet implemented but definitely should.
Keyboarding and Computers – This is an easy subject to overlook, but I think it’s so much more important than it was when I was their age. We love, love, love Keyboarding Without Tears (all three kids use it now), and I’ve been trying to take a few moments here or there to teach them how to open programs, save files, etc. Lola has also taken an interest in some pretty high level coding work within Khan Academy. Even though it’s a little over her head it interests her, and I think it’s important to let her explore that.
Art and Music – We’ve been doing less of this so far this year as we make more room in our schedule for the previously overlooked history and science. A study on composers didn’t go so well last year, so this year I’m teaching them about American music from 1950-now. I’ll probably move on to a closer study of instruments at some point. Cas and Lola both continue to take piano lessons and practice every day. They draw on their own accord every day, and we paint any time the mood strikes us. I try to schedule one lesson each for art and music from the Easy Peasy website each week.
Whew! Thanks for hanging in there and following along on this crazy adventure with us. If you’re also homeschooling I would LOVE for you to leave a comment or a link to your own blog post telling me all about it. I’ve had a number of people reach out to me for advice as they begin their own homeschool journeys, so hopefully some of you have found this helpful. If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask! I’ll be back with another recipe soon!