Semester 1 Recap
We’re five months in to our homeschooling adventure and we’re alive. And enjoying it. Most days. Our oldest two are getting into a good rhythm and our littlest participates when she’s awake (although it’s honestly easier to focus when she’s napping)! It’s not perfect, but it is deeply satisfying to watch our kids grow and develop right before our eyes. They’re curious, they ask questions, they want to dive more deeply into subjects of interest, and best of all, we’re all learning together as a family.
Developing a routine
When we first started out we roughly had an idea of how we wanted our day to flow, but we were still very much in the middle of harvest season, so lessons ebbed and flowed as necessary based on the days’ demands. We still got all of the work in, but the schedule was more sporadic and less predictable. Even though we know how important routines are (both for adults and kids), it was challenging to find a consistent routine that worked.
On our 16 hour drive to Oregon for Thanksgiving we determined that a routine and sense of predictability really would help everyone know what to expect. So we (read Emily) scoured Pinterest and blogs for ideas and came up with a great visual schedule. We wanted to incorporate telling time into the schedule as well since that is a topic we’re working on currently. So we printed, cut out, laminated and cut out again all these little activity cards and time cards. Then attached velcro dots to the backs of each so we could easily change them out on our board each day.
So, how did that work out might you ask?
The first week was like magic – the kids woke up excited each morning to see what would be on the board and jumped right into their morning routine. But don’t worry, it’s not a perfect little household over here. They then began to rearrange and create new cards with the activities they wanted to do and continued to whine about some of the activities that were not their favorites. Sigh. But it is better. And it helps to be able to point to the schedule and say “we only have two more things to do before snack time” or “the schedule says we still need to do our reading before sports time.” Always blame it on the inanimate object. Diffuses the anger away from you as a taskmaster. And generally is pretty effective.
Are they actually learning anything?
I’m happy to report a resounding yes! It’s incredible to see what their minds soak up at this age. Concepts go in, they mull over them, and sometimes even weeks later they bring up a topic to ask more clarifying questions. It’s amazing. And because we have a little sister who never wants her brother to be ahead of her in anything, she’s not too far behind him in reading and math concepts. In fact, she may even be ahead in a few areas. Shh…let’s try not to encourage any sibling rivalry around here!
While we will continue to be flexible and adapt as needed, our current curriculum choices and approach work really well for us. We’re reading a ton – both us reading to the kids as well as the kids reading to us and each other. Our literature-based curriculum Five in a Row has introduced all of us to great classic children’s literature. Some are new family favorites while others have been interesting for a week. We love building our lessons off the concepts in the book and find so many ways to reference what we’re learning as we go about life. I think it’s making us better natural teachers as we can use the same skills while reading any book.
We’ve found a math curriculum, Life of Fred, that is goofy and silly, yet shows how math applies in real life situations. Well, maybe some of the situations are a little far fetched, like a 5-year old math professor who sleeps under his desk with his doll. And while it asks questions at the end of every lesson, it does it in a way that makes the child think critically, not just fill out worksheets repetitively.
When we’re diligent about daily reading lessons (because let’s be real, homeschooling is more on the parents than the kids at this age), we notice dramatic improvements in decoding, even in signs and posters and calendars all around us. We’re also participating in a great online program for kids in Utah promoting school readiness that has kids do 15-20 minutes of reading and 15-20 minutes of math five days a week. Both older kids actually have an account because I mentioned how much our little girl loved to sit and watch her brother do his “computer work”, so our rep gave her a special account too. They love the fun songs and stories to help reinforce the concepts we’re working on throughout the day.
Are we sticking with it?
Yes. For now, it’s the right choice for our family. We’re enjoying this time together to read, discuss, ask questions, go on adventures and incorporate learning into every moment of our day. As the kids grow we’ll evaluate the right direction to take for each one and see where it takes us.
We’re also trying to engage our family in the local school community as much as possible. We’ve gone to movie nights, participated in the Halloween parade, met Santa, found new reads at the book fair, and have become loyal fans at the hometown basketball games. The elementary school offers a 3-year-old preschool class (one morning a week for 2 hours), so our little lady will be heading up with me starting on Wednesday for her special outing. Our oldest is also excited that he can participate in school sports, so if you ask him about basketball he will proudly let you know that he will be playing on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 26-April 25. And if you get a text from me inviting you to come watch his games, it’s because he’s been asking me to send those to you for the past 4 months…but I’m waiting until at least March. 🙂
Once farming operations pick up again it will be interesting to see how our rhythms may need to adjust again, but we look forward to the longer days filled with more sunshine and outside time!