photo c/o my friend Holly Fish
This is what my favorite moments of homeschooling look like. This is VERY RARELY what homeschooling looks like. Also, you can’t see all the mud on the floor behind that pink couch. Just keeping it real, y’all.
This time of year is definitely when most of us homeschooling moms start feeling the blahs. Cold weather and burnout make a terrible combination and leave us all reconsidering whether this homeschooling thing was just a terrible, terrible idea.
In an effort to stay motivated, in January I like to take stock of what we’ve done so far and where we’re headed before the end of the year. So I thought I’d share a mid-year update about what’s working and what’s not.
If you’ve never read any of my homeschooling posts before, here’s some background. I homeschool our three kids: a 2nd grader, a kindergartner, and a preschooler. I am not a type A homeschooling mom. If I had to pinpoint my “method” it would probably be some kind of Charlotte Mason/Unschooling hybrid. My basic ideology is read, read, read, read, and read some more. Everything else will fall into place.
Only the 2nd grader is doing math this year. If you remember, Singapore Math (1A and 1B) was a HUGE failure. He understood it, but hated it. After we switched to Life of Fred the angels in heaven started singing. I really love Life of Fred and so does Benjamin. He’s flying through the books so I think we’ll actually have 3rd and 4th grade math completed by the end of his 3rd grade year. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
We supplement with Khan Academy math. (A great free online resource!) Khan Academy is great for drilling the concepts until the student achieves mastery. And there’s fun badges to win, so what’s not to love?
Now that we live in town and close to the central library, we spend time there every single week. The name of my homeschooling game is read alouds and audiobooks.
For the preschooler and the kindergartener I love bringing home books from this preschool curriculum Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park. The picture book lists in it are worth the price of purchase.
Lately I’ve also been hunting for the picture books Sarah Mackenzie over at Read Aloud Revival shares for each month. Here’s her February list if you’re interested!
I don’t think anyone’s ever too old for GOOD picture books, but a couple of years ago we added chapter books to the mix, particularly for bedtime reads. These are some that we read as a family or with individual kids (read alouds or personal reading) or are currently reading.
- Shakespeare Stories for Young Readers by E. Nesbit
- Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
- The Felicity Books by Valerie Tripp
- The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (read out loud by Daniel)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
- The Kirsten books by Janet Shaw
- The Trumpet of the Swam by E.B. White
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
- Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houselander
- Secret of the Shamrock (Chime Travelers) by Lisa Hendey
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
Here’s a few of our favorites that we can choose from for reading this spring:
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Redwall by Brian Jacques
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
If you’re interested, you can read about our favorite authors and favorite picture books. We’re also very into audiobooks. I’m not ready for the kids to use an iPad or anything with an internet connection to listen to stories so we just ordered a simple CD player from Amazon and use actual CDs from the library. How old school, right? I came up with a big list of audiobooks we especially love and where to find good audiobooks (and free ones!)
We also discovered Playaways from the library. They’re a tiny little device that has just one audiobook on them. You add a battery and a pair of headphones and my kids feel SUPER COOL while listening to The Chronicles of Narnia or The Secret Garden and I love it.
We used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann to teach our oldest to read and now we’re 3/4 through it with our kindergartner. Even the preschooler wants to try it and is 10% done. Highly, highly recommend.
This is the first year we added handwriting to our curriculum. My 2nd grader started Handwriting Without Tears. I started him with the grade 1 book since it’s a new subject for him. He finished a few weeks ago and has started on the grade 2 book. So we should be caught up to the grade 3 book before his 3rd grade year begins. So I think it’s a good curriculum and we plan to stick with it at least for now!
We haven’t done much this year apart from watching some Liberty’s Kids and reading some books from the library with historical themes.
The little homeschool co-op we joined last year used Classical Catholic Memory curriculum. We’re going to use it to cover geography this year. We got a little stuck on all the tiny New England states (I was stuck more than my 2nd grader was!) but we’ve got all the continents and oceans down, all the Canadian provinces memorized, and now that we know where everything in New England is, should have all the states and capitols memorized by the end of the year. (Georgraphy is a huge hole in my education so I’m learning with him!)
P.E. Art, Science:
We’ve been LOVING our co-op for this sort of thing. Benjamin has also been loving joining the local beekeepers association and once a week we go to the farm where Daniel works for some good enrichment time.
Check out this awesome icon Benjamin made in his art class at co-op! I’m obsessed!
This year it was my plan to do more focused writing with Benjamin, but I’m only just now getting going. Now that his handwriting is so much better I think we can move forward on this one. Still not planning to add any official curriculum until next year. Probably just going to encourage him to write letters to pen pals for now.
One of my favorite things we did this year was focus on poetry. We learned some Robert Louis Stevenson poems and some Shakespeare. This is something the girls join in on, too and everyone has a lot of fun.
Benjamin started doing the DuoLingo app so he could compete with Daniel. He’s actually learned a ton and I’m really impressed. Free, folks.
tl;dr : 2nd grader does Life of Fred and Khan Academy math, Handwriting Without Tears, handwriting program, reads constantly and listens to audiobooks, practices Spanish, memorizes some poetry and geography here and there, and does some enrichment classes through our co-op. Kindergartner is learning to read, memorizes some poetry, and enjoys read alouds and audiobooks. Preschooler is along for the ride!
Just so you know, we do NOT do every subject every day. Not even close! There are plenty of mornings that we spent outside at the park or the zoo without any official “schooling” happening at all. But I think that’s also valuable (perhaps even more valuable at this age).
Our typical school day schedule looks like this:
- Morning Prayer (might be the Morning Offering or Daniel will read aloud the Mass Readings)
- I read aloud to the kids during or after breakfast (usually a chapter book)
- Benjamin starts math while I do reading practice with Lucy.
- I go over the math practice section with Benjamin and get him going on handwriting.
- We MIGHT cover some Geography, or Poetry. But most likely not.
- Benjamin does some Spanish and maybe some Khan Academy Math.
- I read picture books to the girls (and Benjamin if he’s interested).
- DONE! Usually by 11am we are 100% done and either go to the park, library, museum, or zoo or get ready for lunch and an early nap.
- Rest time (quiet time for Benjamin, nap time for the girls and maybe for me, too).
- Extracurriculars or dinner prep.
- Anytime we’re in the car: an audiobook.
And there’s usually some Netflix happening somewhere, too. Sometimes in lieu of naptime or if mom needs to shower or maintain her sanity. Hang in there, fellow homeschoolers!
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