We are still relatively young in our careers as homeschoolers, with our oldest (7) entering 2nd grade and kids in 1st, kinder, pre-k, and… baby school, but we still have enough time under our belts to have learned a few things.
When we first started looking ahead into the new school year, I anticipated that we would continue with the curriculum we were using and piece together the rest from resources we found online. However, the more we prayed about it and evaluated the previous year, the more I realized I’d have to bite the bullet and change everything.
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I’ve learned a lot during this process. Such as…
- Just because I love the idea of a curriculum doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for us
- My habits and learning/teaching style are just as important as my kids’
- Trying to force something to work solely because I really want it to, or because it seems to work for someone else, is a recipe for disaster
Somebody could have told me all those things (and someone probably did) but I like to learn by experience. 😉
Honestly, I feel like we’re sort of starting over. I am a researcher type of person who loves gathering information, so I know a LOT about homeschooling and curriculum. However, I think this coming year is where the rubber really meets the road.
Things I observed about myself in the past year:
- I am easily distractible
- I have self-discipline issues
- I can’t do rigid, because my head will explode
- I can’t just wing it either, or nothing will get done
- I sometimes put unrealistic expectations on myself and my kids
- I want to do everything all the time, and right now
- I have more anxiety and comparison issues than I realized or care to admit
- I’m a closet perfectionist who likes to make plans and then chuck them in despair when day 2 doesn’t pan out
Things I observed about my home and family:
- My children come to the table with a variety of learning styles and needs
- Toddlers and babies need to be handled first, because nobody learns with screaming in the background
- My house needs to be clean enough (but no more than that) or we can’t function
- Our week needs to have a decent rhythm (with flexibility) or we can’t function
- We need to intentionally balance with external activities and distractions
- Christ and character come first, for us and our children
Why We Changed Our Entire Homeschool
You know what? Our homeschooling isn’t about doing school at home. Homeschooling is about enjoying each other, learning together, and preparing our children for whatever plans and occupations God has for them.
In other words… Homeschooling is a tool, not an end-goal, and I’ve learned that I need to start designing our homeschool experience to fit the needs of our family. After all, that’s one of the many beauties of homeschooling, right?
Here are some of the changes we made:
- We refined our weekly family rhythm, blocking time for the most important things first
- We moved to a 4 weeks on, 1 week off schedule, still year-round (fun and planning on the off weeks)
- We moved to a 4-day school week (post coming soon)
- We took steps to reduce the household chaos (post coming soon)
- We now have a “work first” policy (their time is theirs once the work is all done)
- We greatly reduced screen time (harder for me than for them)
- I spend a LOT more time in prayer over our homeschool
- We made curriculum choices that were easier for me to implement and better fit their learning needs
Our 2015 Curriculum Choices for pre-K, Kinder, 1st and 2nd Grade
Bible and Character
We are continuing with Bible Road Trip (love it!) which includes notebooking, and Sound Words for Kids for theology lessons. We’ll also be joining Community Bible Study once a week starting in September. I can’t wait to get back into a class, and they have kids’ studies available all the way through high school!
For character studies, I’m writing a simple curriculum starting with anger vs. self-control that will be coming out soon. Otherwise, nearly all of our character training resources come from Doorposts. We plan to start implementing regular activities from their books Polished Cornerstones and Plants Grown Up, among other things, for our girls and boys.
We’re pretty stoked about this one! We will be going through many of the YWAM Christian Heroes Then and Now books as read alouds with the kids. I plan to do simple unit studies with them as well. My 7 year old will be using some of their reader versions of the books to do presentations for his dad and another homeschool family that is joining in this effort.
We also purchased the Torchlighters video series, which has several missionary DVDs to go with some of the YWAM books. We already started with Jim Elliot and the kids are really into the story!
We tried Logic of English Foundations for learning to read but there were too many parts for me to stay focused. So we switched back to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and we couldn’t be happier. My 5 year old will be finishing it up soon and her younger sister will start when she’s ready.
My oldest will begin the reading program with Christian Light Education this year. For book lists, we use the one from Exodus Books. The oldest two have daily read aloud times and, of course, we do group read alouds each day.
We were using Getty Dubay for handwriting but have switched my 7 year old to New American Cursive with Memoria Press. We just like the style and simpler teaching approach of Memoria Press better than GD. My youngers will be using the Write Through the Bible Jr. curriculum and then we’ll probably move them to Memoria Press for cursive.
We switch from Logic of English Essentials to Christian Light Education Language Arts. I love the LOE Essentials curriculum but it just wasn’t working for my son. He was having trouble retaining it and began to dislike language arts. With CLE, we can use their easy workbook and teacher manual format that we love from their math, and I know he is getting a fantastic foundation for some spelling, grammar, and more.
We’re also giving All About Spelling a shot. We had tried it a while ago weren’t ready. I’m glad a friend convinced me to try it again because I think it’s going to be very helpful and effective, especially where Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons can leave kids weak with spelling. We love that it is hands on and I appreciate the scripted teacher aids and simple flash card system.
We are continuing with Christian Light Education Math and are pleased with it. My 4 year old using some Horizons K math books we already had but will move to CLE when those are done. With CLE I learned the hard way to just buy their flash cards instead of trying to make my own. Their organization system and card markings are worth the cost to keep everything tidy and moving forward! We also use the free version of Xtramath.com for fun and math facts practice.
We were doing our own science animal unit studies last year. That’s really just in theory. I WANTED to do it but I couldn’t find the time to pull things together or the focus to keep it moving. I just need something easy, high quality and laid out well!
We started Apologia’s Astronomy book and I’m very happy with it. It’s a lot of reading aloud with one or two simple and fun projects each week, and then my 7 year old completes the accompanying Jr. Notebook. As we go through it, we are going to stop and rabbit-trail on topics the kids show particular interest in. I’m less worried about them completing the book than having fun and learning!
Last year we read History for Little Pilgrims and just loved it. We actually still need to finish it, and we’ll probably just do that during read aloud time since they enjoy it so much. Other than that we did Bible history with Bible Road Trip.
This year we started Mystery of History Volume 1 and I’m so glad we did. You can try it out for just a few bucks on Kindle! We’re keeping it light with reading aloud (we have the audiobook as well), a simple project to go along with the lesson, and our wall timeline from Homeschool in the Woods.
Again, we’ll rabbit trail when we want to on this one. The kids also listen to the Classical Conversations timeline song and history sentences that correspond pretty well to MOH.
For art we’ll continue bouncing between ARTistic Pursuits, Draw Write Now, and Pinterest ideas. I would like something that is a little more systematic for drawing with my 7 year old, but haven’t looked into it yet.
For music, my 5 and 7 year olds are taking piano lessons with another homeschool mom in exchange for me hosting an art activity. It’s working out really well!
A lot fits in this “other” category. These are things that I hope to draw from as we go through the year and see where our time, interests, and needs lie.
- SchoolhouseTeachers.com – This is a fantastic resource with several different subjects and courses for homeschooling families and we plan to use it all year. For example, I’m really interested in the literature studies they have, so I’m planning on alternating some of those with our YWAM studies.
- Geography – With Bible Road Trip, Mystery of History, and YWAM books. I also have the Draw Around the World USA and Europe curriculum from Brookdale House if we can find time for it.
- Spanish – my kids have been asking to learn forever, so a hispanic family is helping us learn and we’re also using the free online Salsa videos. Soon we hope to try to review some great Spanish curriculum with the Schoolhouse Review Crew!
- Unit Studies and Nature Studies – Our kids enjoy unit studies and nature studies, so I bought some that I hope to work them into science and other subjects this year.
So there you have it! I hope that you have a wonderful homeschool year with your family this year, keeping an open heart and mind to all the things God would have you learn about yourself and your kids. Enjoy!
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