It’s our fifth year homeschooling and I’m feeling quite the veteran. It’s actually probably nothing to do with me and probably just the golden years of childhood we’re in right now (five, seven and nine).
The “what” of method and curriculum was easy this year. Most of what we are doing are just things that have worked for us in the past (and I do promise to outline it all below.)
The hard part? Giving up our afternoon rest time for school! As most of you know, I am an avid proponent of afternoon rest times and have been napping with my kids since I was pregnant with my third bay. Well, it was a very happy six years of that, but the time has drawn to a close. We need Levi to be asleep in order to accomplish our school time. It has officially become impossible to do anything productive with this guy around! This little boy needs to be active or out of doors or he is, how shall we say….difficult to keep happy. (Or happy because he is vigorously running a matchbox car across my keyboard or playing with a chef’s knife.) And I confess that I never understood other parents when they talked about this, but now I do.
I did think maybe we’d have to do this one day and I dreaded the day it would come. The relinquishing of my alone time has been a very slow process over the years with the birth of each child and the addition of home education to our days. This change was a pretty big chunk all at once, but here I am darling, living to blog about it! I used to wonder how other moms could do it without at least one quiet hour during the day. The answer, for me, is that there is a tradeoff that makes it worth giving up. Keeping everyone happy and having their needs met now brings more peace to our home than my “me” time.
Oh yes, there are days when I cancel school to take a nap to survive. But for the most part the girls very much look forward to a few quiet hours in the afternoon where they have my full attention and are free from the terrors of their books being ripped or their paints dumped out. They have always appreciated quiet activities and they are to the age now where they especially enjoy little baking and reading times.
Our Afternoon Schooling Routine
Here’s a little bit of what our day looks like this school year:
I wake up around 6:00 and have a few short minutes to sip some coffee and read a chapter of my Bible before Levi wakes (or I sleep until he forces me up). He likes to get right up and get dressed and brush his teeth. He knows that my morning routine is to walk, so he asks for his shoes and to be put in the back pack carrier, which is simply too sweet to refuse. (“”Side? Pack pack?” he says.) I have been taking him with me on my morning walks since he was born. When I am back I make breakfast for everyone. If David doesn’t have early meetings he sometimes has it made already.
In the morning hours we do chores, run errands and spend time outside. A few days a week I force in a work-out because after four babies my core and my pelvic floor are in need of, ahem…repair. A few times a week or so the girls will attempt to entertain the baby while I shower and get ready. I’d like that to be the norm, but disappearing in the the depths of my bathroom to do things like using very hot irons on my hair and applying liquid eye liner is not always worth risking the disaster zone that must be created in the rest of our home for this to happen. (But it does make me feel wonderful, as a person.) So a baseball cap and leggings it usually is. After lunch (here’s a post about that) I lay Levi down for his nap and school time begins. We do math, some form of language arts, our read aloud for the day, and any projects from our curriculum.
After Levi wakes up I have learned it is wise to start moving towards dinner and our evening routine.
Every other Monday morning we meet up with our Wild and Free nature group. We have done a lot of creek playing this year, both with our nature group and in the creek behind our house.
June is very adamant that she do school with the big girls. So she has a simple kindergarten math and phonics workbook that she does to make her feel like she is included. (Libby was also very much this way and taught herself basic phonics and math with very little instruction from me.) I try to sit with her to do these but sometimes she insists on forging ahead without me so then I let her write in them wrong and backwards and tell her what a great job she is doing. I will also read picture books to her exclusively, either before the baby wakes for his nap or after he goes to bed at night.
So, in the evenings I have one to two hours to do things that I cannot do with kids around. I have curated those evening activities down to reading, blogging or spending time with David. (Right now I’m taking a risk to write this post in a free hour before dinner. The level of noise and movement happening behind me tells me that I have five to seven minutes before someone is about to cry or injur themselves.)
Then I sleep. It feels as abrupt as it sounds. And it always sounds very boring the moment that I need to do it (about 9:30), yet so wonderful and glorious the next day (groan) when I have failed to do it, having stayed up till midnight doing useless things with my life.
This is the tradeoff we make to be home educators, and it is worth it, I think. It’s seasons-of-life transitions like this one that help me actually see how much time I waste on empty things and forces me to innovate with the resources I have.
Now, onward to what we are using for school this year. We are using a literature and project-based curriculum by the Peaceful Press called The Precious People. This takes us from creation through ancient history, including studies of non-Western people groups. Right now we are studying the Jewish holidays in parallel with the Gospel Story Bible and the All of A Kind Family series. (Last year we studied European history from the middle ages through WWII. Out of order, I know, but I allowed the girls to pick.) This curriculum covers literature, science and history for us. Mainly, we read books and do projects! Of course, we are also working on making a timeline of all the events we study too. I love how this guide is formulated for families so that multiple age groups can participate at their own level.
We have been using Math U See for the last few years and it has worked beautifully for us. We rarely ever need the manipulative blocks any more; we watch a short lesson and then use the workbook to practice what we learned for as long as we need to until the concept is mastered. That may be two days or seven. Right now both of the girls are in the same math and we are halfway through the Beta book. I finally got tired of putting DVDs in and purchased online access to the lessons. I love the way the teacher explains the lessons, and I use his scripts all the time! It is very gratifying. I realize how much I missed in my elementary math years (I re-learned junior high and high school math in a remedial class in college.)
We are keeping the two things that have worked for us in years past: Explode the Code workbooks and written narrations. We are in book six of Explode the Code and I think maybe they are outgrowing them, but it is such an easy activity for them to do independently when I need an easy “something” for the day.
This year I really felt like the girls were ready for formal spelling because they are constantly trying to write letters and stories and asking me for the spellings of things. They very much want to know the right spelling. So I got a simple curriculum called Sequential Spelling, which is formulated especially for homeschoolers. I was worried my girls would not like the format at first. It is very minimalist: I call out new words and they have to guess how to spell it. They write what they think the spelling is and I correct each word on the spot. Well, my fears were unfounded: they absolutely love it and ask to do it daily. It is very much like a game to them; I try to make up silly sentences when I call out the word and we enjoy laughing over misspellings together. I think it is the one-on-one interaction we have together that they really love so much.
Written narrations of course are a weekly habit that we are getting back into. Writing is one of the hardest things we do in our homeschool, so I only assign one a week and try to make sure there is as much choice as possible in what they write about.
We plan to travel and see family in October, so we will just take that month off instead of December (as we usually do). We will be cleaning, packing, driving and recovering and I know that I won’t want the extra burden of school on my shoulders.
If you want to see more in-depth explanations of my philosophy or the curriculums I mentioned, you can read my other homeschool planning posts from years past! They can all be found under the “homeschool” menu, along with other tips and pictures of our space. I left a few links at the bottom for you, just in case!
You’re New To Homeschooling: Here’s a Simple First Step
Homeschool Plans 2019/2020
Homeschool Plans 2018/2019
Homeschool Plans 2017/2018