We are halfway through our first year of homeschooling and my how things have changed since we began in mid-August.
We’ve gone from highly structured to nearly unschooling to funschooling and then on to structure with fun. I’ve learned so much about Firefly’s learning style. Our schedule has changed from mostly schooling in the afternoons to the mornings, mostly based on Love Bug’s naps, or the lack thereof.
Love Bug decided to make things exciting here at Creekside Learning by frequently refusing to nap or not napping until very late in the day. However, he has spent increasing amounts of time playing on his own with cars and other vehicles (his passion) and he is being less disruptive to his siblings homeschooling activities on most days. We began the school year doing the bulk of our school work beginning at 1:00 each day but now that he naps later (if at all) we often get going with school in the morning. We all have more energy for it this way and our afternoons are freed up to play with friends or relax. Love Bug turned two this month.
Here are some of my reflections on what I’ve learned as a new homeschooling parent. Perhaps it will be helpful to some, amusing to others.
If you are reading this and you are also a homeschooler, you probably have been told not to go all out and buy tons of curriculum because it will wind up sitting on your shelf, mocking you.
Or you’ll feel compelled to use it because, dammit, you paid sixty bucks for it and you will not want it to go to waste. Yeah, I read those things, too, but I went ahead and overbought curriculum anyway. You know why? Because it made me feel better. It made me feel more secure, like I had an actual homeschooling plan. So I am not sorry I did it. It helped me start out our year feeling confident and, quite frankly, even though some of my curriculum choices turned out not to be the right fit for Firefly or some of them have yet to even be opened, I’m glad I started out feeling prepared and ready to homeschool my child. And who knows, maybe they will be useful with my other two kids. Or I’ll sell them at a used curriculum sale. Whatever.
I also overscheduled. Where in the world I thought I would find time to do daily reading, handwriting, phonics, math, history, science, art and nature studies, plus Five in a Row and weekly field trips and homeschool group outings, all while taking care of a toddler and a preschooler, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, I do not know. Clearly, I was insane.
It was (not surprisingly) overwhelming to Firefly, and I had to majorly back off and do a bit of deschooling for a while. Then we settled into a really fun routine with Five in a Row, plus added phonics/reading and math. But then I fretted about not having enough science and history. And handwriting. Sigh. If only I had three or four more hours per day.
So now we are revamping things for after the holidays. Here’s what we will do for Firefly, age 6.5, 1st grade:
Five in a Row We will only “row” a book once or twice per month, rather than weekly. And we will row a little differently. We’ll likely skip the math lesson that goes with F.I.A.R. since we will be more rigorous with the RightStart Math curriculum. I also often do more of a craft rather than the detailed art lessons described in the F.I.A.R. planner because that fits my kids better. And guess what I got for Christmas? F.I.A.R., volume II! Yay!
Handwriting Firefly has daily handwriting workbook pages to do (we use Handwriting Without Tears), but he often works ahead of himself now and gets it done in a couple of days. He’s finished the kindergarden book after a rough start of refusing, complaining, whining, oozing out of his chair at the site of the book, etc. We put it away for a while, but even he knows that his handwriting needs a lot of work so we’ve settled into a nice rhythm with this curriculum and will start the First Grade book now. I expect to move through it at a good pace, skipping the first part of the book, which is a review of kindergarden.
Math Our goal is to complete three lessons per week in our RightStart curriculum, with a few detours based on Firefly’s interests. For instance, he wants to do more work with counting money as well as learning to tell time, so we will skip ahead to some of those lessons. If he struggles with them we can always review again later, but I have the feeling he will do quite well with them.
Reading We are plugging away at Progressive Phonics. We are working on the intermediate level and we read each book as many times as needed, until Firefly reads that book with ease. We do the extra worksheets and even flashcards, downloadable on their website. I am not a big proponent of flashcards but Firefly enjoys reading them to his siblings, his cousin, even the dog. Hey, whatever works. He also writes each of the words several times, so that counts as spelling, too.
Science We are going to get back to our R.E.A.L. Science curriculum. We completed the first section on cells earlier in the fall but again extreme resistance reared it’s ugly head (more whining, complaining, oozing onto the ground out of one’s chair). And time is always an issue, just never enough of it. But we are going to make a very good effort to get science in at least once a week from R.E.A.L. Science and one more additional project a week from something like Science in the Kitchen.
History We managed to complete our pre-history unit in early fall but haven’t done any history curriculum since then, except as it came up with F.I.A.R. books. My goal is to plug away with science for a couple of months, and then, if we are doing well sticking to that schedule, we’ll add history in as well. I have Story of the World ready to go, although I’m not sure if this will be the right fit for Firefly, but we are going to give it a try.
Art I purchased Mona Brooks’ book, Drawing With Children, as well as Draw Write Now, Volume 1. Firefly was less than thrilled with them both. The Queen Bee, on the other hand adores Draw Write Now, so much so that I ordered the second volume. I have yet to try the Brooks’ book with her but I have a feeling it will be a hit. Firefly has done well with random seasonal crafts and so we will continue with that. I just can’t see making art a battle. I’ll save my energy for more important things, like Reading. I am hoping at some point in the future that we could do Meet the Masters or Artistic Pursuits or both. After all, there are only so many paper snowflakes and handprint crafts one can make, right?
Social Stuff Initially, we did too much. Yes, that’s right, homeschoolers who were oversocializing. We like to defy stereotypes over here at Creekside Learning. We went to this homeschool group and that homeschool group, we had playdates with friends, we went to our weekly playgroup that started when the kids were tots. We went on field trips and to parks and playgrounds and some days, I’d think, “Gee, we really should do some school work today.” And that was before all of Firefly’s winter activities started: basketball, Lego League, Roots and Shoots.
It’s okay. We had to find our social niche in this very new and different lifestyle of homeschooling. We had to forge new connections with other homeschooling families and meet the challenge of keeping the connections we had made with publicly schooled friends. It takes more of an effort to keep friendships going when you don’t see your friends every day. Schedules, activities and lifestyles amongst homeschooling and between homescho0ling and publicly schooling families are vastly different. But friendships with kind, supportive, fun people are worth it. Quality, not quantity. I’d heard this before but now I really get it. My child does not have the quantity of “friends” or really, many of them were just acquaintances, or classmates, or kids who rode the same bus or whose class was out on the playground at the same time. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve understood the value of a handful of close friends.
Initially, I thought it was critical that we find a homeschooling group that met regularly but we just didn’t find one that was quite the right fit, for one reason or another. Then it dawned on me that we didn’t need it. We actually had more than enough social opportunities. We had a couple of friends who homeschooled and we got together with them. And Firefly’s basketball team and Lego Club are made up of kids that all go to different schools. He may be the only homeschooler, I’m not even sure. It doesn’t seem to matter much to anyone. Our challenge, truly, is to only select the activities that are most meaningful to us, and not say yes to everything that comes our way. We are so fortunate to live in an area rich with opportunities for groups and field trips and activities. There are certain things we will drop everything and say yes, we’ll go do that right now. But lots of others we need to decline, often reluctantly, so that we can stay focused.
For The Queen Bee, who is four and a half, and will now be joining us for home preschool, we will focus on a few key areas, with little organized curriculum:
- Letter of the Week. Lowercase letter recognition, letter sounds, pre-reading
- Number recognition of teens and higher, counting, sorting, patterns and very simple addition with manipulatives.
- Lots of read alouds.
- She will join us for Five in a Row.
- Handwriting Without Tears manipulatives and workbook, if she so desires. Other writing as it comes up.
- Lots of crafts.
- Draw Write Now. She does the drawings with assistance, when requested, and dictates to me what she wants written for each picture.
- Daily calendar.
- Play, play, play!
For Love Bug, age 2: Other than play, play, and more play, we are focusing on learning the names of colors and shapes. Love Bug also has some toys and games that focus on fine motor skills. He enjoys building toys, like the large and medium size Legos, plain wooden blocks in various shapes and simple wooden puzzles. Have I mentioned how thrilled I am that he is actually sitting for longer periods of time and playing with toys on his own? He also is able to be in our art room with us, doing his own version of the crafts that the big kids are working on, or playing with play dough.
Thank you! Finally, I want to say thank you for reading my blog. Writing is such a great outlet for me and a way to organize my thoughts and keep a type of journal that I can look back on. I’ve tremendously enjoyed reading the comments people have left and “meeting” new friends, other bloggers and homeschooling mommas. The support of family and friends has been so important to me and The Husband as we embarked on this new adventure of homeschooling. Thank you all for that!