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We did it! We survived family pictures. The last time we took family pictures Strummer was a baby (so, uh, three years ago? Yikes.)
Our friends at Driftless Imaging did an amazing job of capturing the unique personalities of our kids. I cannot get enough of looking through them and marveling over how each person in our family is different.
Since you probably don’t want to just look through photo after photo of my family, I thought I would pepper a little homeschool update throughout here as well. Oh how I wish we did school in these dusky fields every day, but I won’t show you the lego tower/paper scrap/discarded apple core laden space where we try to do school every day. It’s not pretty, certainly not Instagram-worthy. But you know what? It’s ours. Just like these goons.
Lola is in second grade this year. WHAT. Seriously. That seems so old to me.
Casper is in kindergarten. The beauty of homeschool is that you can tailor it to each child, and we’re taking this level a little slower than I did with Lola. It’s really hard to teach two different levels with a baby right now, and I’m hoping it will be easier to teach him and Strummer almost entirely together next year than to stress out about it right now.
Technically Strummer is in preschool, which to me means he gets to play all day. He is great about staying out of the way and playing quietly and independently whenever needed. Every now and then I’ll ask him what a color is, or how many of something he sees, or I’ll just ask for hugs because he’s very sweet. Let them be little.
Wiley is the chief of all disruption. Pretty much no school can happen when she is awake since she is always shouting and commanding everyone’s attention. Her naps aren’t that long any more either, so we’re mostly trying to cram school into a 1-2 hour window, with the exception of things like practicing piano or copywork which can happen without my help at any time.
At the beginning of the year I was trying to follow Year 2 of the Ambleside Online curriculum. I quickly realized that just because it matched Lola’s reading ability didn’t mean it matched her attention span. We were getting burnt out big time every day and she wasn’t retaining any of it.
I decided to select only a few books from the curriculum and save the rest for another time. So far that has helped take a lot of the pressure off and we’re able to get everything done in a comfortable amount of time.
Here’s a breakdown of a typical week with subjects:
Reading: We just finished Charlotte’s Web. Next up will be The Wind in the Willows. I set a timer and have her read aloud to me and anyone else who will listen for five minutes, then we switch and I read for five minutes. We do this every day and I’m hoping to stretch this time as she becomes more comfortable and interested. She does a lot of free reading on her own of books she owns or gets at the library, so I don’t make it a requirement at all. She also enjoys Shel Silverstein poetry books and we’ve been studying Walter de la Mere together.
Copywork: I have Lola copy two sentences from something we read every day. I was trying to be laid back about it and let her do it in a normal notebook with drawings, but her handwriting was atrocious so I switched to handwriting specific paper and it has improved exponentially.
Language Arts: I’m not pushing sentence structure too much yet, but she will occasionally get worksheets on capitalization, punctuation, and identifying nouns, verbs, and the like.
Math: Lola loves blowing through math problems, so I use a lot of different things here. I have a workbook from Singapore Math as well as a few different workbooks I got at garage sales that I make copies from. Most days she’ll ask to do Easy Peasy math or Khan Academy math and if I don’t need the computer at that time I will let her. She does at least one assigned section of something each day.
Science: My kids are not fans of nature exploration (what?!) so I’ve started going through a book I got at a garage sale called Bugs to Bunnies. They are LOVING it and I even let them do some of the crafts and experiments from time to time (which is so hard for me). We do this 3-4 days a week.
Art: We have been studying Manet since the beginning of the year from a couple books I got second hand, and just switched to Renoir. I also try to leave room for one messy or time consuming art activity per week. We usually do both of these things on Thursdays.
Music: We have been studying Mozart since the beginning of the year and just switched to Beethoven. We usually listen to some of his music on Fridays while we have a tea party or eat lunch. If I’m feeling ambitious we might also read some poetry at this time. Both Lola and Cas are taking piano lessons once a week, and practice pretty much every other day of the week.
Foreign Language: I purchased Rosetta Stone Spanish, which was a huge investment but great quality and it will last a long time. We hit a bit of a roadblock because they’re real sticklers for pronunciation and Lola can’t roll her “r”s, but I decided that she would still be learning quite a bit and would have a lot more fun if I did it with her and helped her get past anything the program was calling unacceptable. That really reignited the fire for her and she is loving (and thriving) in Spanish now.
Circle Time: The kids LOVE this. I don’t know how often I do it, basically whenever it fits in or I think of it. They think it feels like “real” school and we cover anything that can be done as a group. We’ve been practicing tying shoes, discussing broad topics like culture and kindness, or doing our Bible readings.
Whew! Eve though that seems like a lot when you write it down, we’re really only doing school for a couple of hours per day, and only about half of that is hands on for me. Thanks for sticking with me through this long post. Of further note, I also just finished reading Teaching From Rest because I tend to feel like we need to do more, more, more! While this wasn’t my favorite book, I certainly felt like it had some encouraging things to say about filling my own cup before I fill anyone else’s and making sure I focus on what is really important on any given day. Spoiler: it’s not always going to look like “school.” I also read A Charlotte Mason Companion before the beginning of the year and found so much inspiration from that (although as I mentioned above, it didn’t work out 100%).
While I’ve been struggling to know if I’m doing the right thing by homeschooling, I think we’ve found our groove (for the semester at least) and things are going pretty well. If you’re homeschooling and it feels challenging, don’t be afraid to take a step back, cut out some “requirements” and focus on more natural ways of learning.
If you’re homeschooling (or have done it in the past) I’d love to hear from you! Lay all your wisdom on me or let everyone know what your curriculum looks like. If you have a blog be sure to leave a link because you know I want to stalk out your homeschool life as much as possible!
Aaaaand we’re done here.