I've been thinking for awhile that I needed to do a homeschool update and share what has been working for us this year, and what hasn't. I know that I learn so many good things from other people that I thought I'd mention what we have been doing in case it is helpful to anyone...or if you have any suggestions of things to try.
This is our second year of homeschooling. Asher is doing 1st Grade and Rose started Kindergarten. Overall we have really been enjoying it. I won't lie and say that we don't have tantrums at least every other day, that often the things I plan turn out to be total flops (or I am too lazy to do them), or that there are not days I think I must be totally crazy for not taking the public school option and having at least five hours a day without FOUR kids under the age of 7 running around my house.
Yet, when it comes right down to it I know that this is what God wants me to be doing right now, and-- for the most part-- it working! It has been amazing to see how this process of home school has changed me as a mother and helped me learn to be a nurturer . Home school makes you face your parenting weaknesses and family problems in a head on approach. There is no avoiding them when you are together so much. We've worked through a lot of things, and everyone is learning. Things aren't perfect.... but there are moments that are.
It is also so rewarding to see the friendships between my children and to see them learn and to be an active participant in all of those moments. I'm grateful for this time in my life.
It is precious.
So I'll share what we have been up to as long as you realize that not everything goes perfect everyday. It is a work in progress.
Every Day Things:
Last year our home school group leader suggested I use a curriculum called Sing, Spell, Read and Write. I wasn't so sure about it but I figured I'd give it a go since they had a free set I could use. It worked really good for Asher to learn his letters and their sounds. All my kids loved the songs that went along with it and he enjoyed doing the worksheets everyday, which included lots of coloring, cutting, and gluing. Yet once we moved more into the phonics part of it he really struggled. The easy reader books provided with the curriculum were not great and WAY too wordy for a new reader. And it was so phonic based that he had a hard time getting the idea of sight words. He struggled a lot last year, and by the end of the year wasn't really reading very much beyond basic phonic words.
I knew that this year I needed to find something else for him but I had NO idea what would work. He was really discouraged and hated to even try reading. When we started school in September I had no plan for reading and kept praying that God would help me know what he needed. One afternoon we were at the home school group and I was looking through the pile of used books that people can take for free. I found an old Scholastic Phonics workbook that only had a few pages written in. It looked about Asher's level and so I picked it up thinking that it might have a few fun things for him to do.
I brought it home and forgot about it. Then several weeks later, on a Sunday night, I was getting things ready for school the next week and I pulled out the phonics book to see what was in it. As I looked through the book I was so excited because it was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. It had simple (photography packed) pages, that focused equally on sight words and phonics, and had wonderful two page books every few lessons. When I realized how perfect it was going to be for Asher I said a silent prayer of gratitude. I know it might sound silly, but I know that God led me to that book. It was like God was just letting me know that He was there and that He sees what I am doing and wants to help me be successful teaching my children.
We've been using the book all year, and it has been wonderful! Asher is still not a strong reader but he is doing SO much better and is starting to be able to read simple books (like the Elephant and Piggie books) by himself. It has been so exciting to see.
The book is old (it is from 1998) and is out of print, but you can still buy it through Amazon for about $4.00. I bought another copy of it and have started Rose with it just a few weeks ago (after she mastered her letters) and she is doing great with it too. I don't know if it would work well for everyone but my kids have really loved it. Which I know was an answer to my prayers!
We do a LOT of reading together. Everyday at around 10:00 AM we take a snack break and I read to the kids while they eat. Last year we started reading the Little House books. I thought we'd just read the first two, but my kids have loved them so much we've read almost all of them now. Tomorrow we are going to start the last one. I'm not sure what books we'll do next, so if you any suggestions let me know!
At bedtime Jon and I have been reading the Harry Potter books to the kids while they go to sleep. This has turned into one of my most cherished family experiences. All of us have loved these books and it has turned bedtime into something exciting and fun instead of a battle, which it usually is. We are half way through the fifth book right now, and I think we will finish all of them. I know that the last two get more scary but I think that my kids will be okay with them. Abe usually falls asleep not long after we start, and Asher and Rose are so enthralled with the story I don't know what they would do if I made them wait to find out what happens. In fact, they are two of the most Harry Potter obsessed kids I have ever seen. They carry wands (chop sticks) around in their pockets, and are constantly shouting spells at each other, and playing "Hogwarts" any chance they get. The other day they were asking me lots of questions about going to college and when I asked them why they said, "Well, college rocks! It is going to be like going to Hogwarts!"
Math has been our best subject this year. Which is exciting for me, because I hated Math growing up, but my kids seem to love it. Last year we used Horizons Kindergarten Math and Asher liked it for the first few months, but it is really repetitive and he got frustrated that they kept making him practice things he felt he already understood. It also moved really fast and it didn't give very many idea for how to teach concepts. I bought the teachers guide and it was COMPLETELY unhelpful. Granted I know that Kindergarten math isn't hard to teach, but I'd had no teaching experience and the book would give suggestion like, "teach the clock". Which was no help to someone like me who had no idea how to "teach the clock".
Needless to say, Asher and I were both a bit fed up with math by the end of last year. I knew that I needed to find something different. When I went to go visit my cousin this summer I saw the Singapore Math curriculum that she was using for her kids and was really impressed. I bought the 1A and 1B textbook and workbook for Asher (both about $10) and the two Kindergarten books for Rose (both about $24) and they have been awesome. The Kindergarten books have lots of good illustrations and they give suggestions for EVERY section about ways to make the learning more concrete-- by playing games, doing a project, etc... I think it is designed to be used in a classroom but it works perfect for a not- so- good- at- math-mom like me to be successful in teaching. Asher has excelled with this program too, and I'm impressed at the way it encourages mental math and problems solving skills. It isn't just memorization, but is giving them a strong basis in how to THINK about math.
We actually finished the first books really quickly (before November) and so we took a break and read the first Life of Fred book (Life of Fred: Apples) . Life of Fred is my type of math, because it is math in WORDS. Jon thinks it is a bit weird (because he hasn't read them yet) but the kids really liked it. We read two chapters a day and then I'd have them do the questions at the end (there are just a few) in their heads. I've told them that their reward for finishing their next math book is to read the next Life of Fred book, and so far it is a pretty good motivator.
Once a Week Things:
This is my favorite subject, so I'm afraid that we do more of this than just about any other "extra" subject. We've been using the first volume (Ancient Times) of The Story of the World books and it has been a lot of fun. I bought the read-a-loud book, the activity book and the Audio book (which is SO wonderful). Usually about once or twice a week we read a chapter, do the map work, and then do a project out of the activity book. Sometimes I print off a narration page and have them write about what they have learned and then stick it in their history notebooks. Honestly, I think I learn just as much from this as the kids do. It seems like public schools usually don't do a good job of teaching history!
We aren't moving through it quite as fast as I'd expected, but I guess that is okay because we have been really enjoying it. Some of our best lessons have been on Gilgamesh (mostly because we read these books which are awesome), Moses and the Israelites (we watched The Ten Commandments, it took us three days, but they loved it) and our lessons on Egypt. We actually made a chicken mummy for one of our activities... which deserves a post in and of itself because it was quite the adventure!
Asher is incredibly talented at drawing. Literally, he spends at least two hours a day drawing pictures on any piece of paper he can find. He mostly likes to draw boats and ships, but I've noticed lately he's been branching out into dragons and robots. His pictures are fun because he "plays" on his paper just like he would with Legos or action figures. His pictures are action packed, with arrows and scribbles documenting who shot which cannon, who jumped into the water, or who got strangled by the giant octopus.
|This is one that was just sitting on the table. I think it is suppose to be a dragon's lair!|
So I really don't need to encourage art too much, because it naturally happens ALOT around here. But last year I heard about Artistic Pursuits and bought their Preschool book. It is a mix of classical paintings and projects to go along with them. The preschool book focuses on helping parents learn how to help develop their children's creative talent, which was awesome for me! In fact it gave ME much more confidence in my own artistic abilities (which aren't very much) and has given me courage to try to express myself through art (which is scary for me).
This year we are doing the 1st Elementary book and it has been just as good. I bought all the recommend art supplies through Rainbow Resource and while it was a bit of an investment (around $50) they have gotten a lot of use already, and I think most of them will carry us through next year as well. We usually pull this book out in the afternoon and do a project. Most of the time my kids give the project an attempt and then just spend the rest of the time drawing, painting, or coloring whatever they want. I think maybe when they get older they might enjoy going back and doing the lessons more closely, but for right now it at least gets us to pull out the paint and the pastels and that is good enough for me! And if I can get Asher to draw something other than a boat, I feel like it was a really good day.
I'm afraid this is the one subject I haven't been as dedicated at. But honestly, I feel like science is something that is most easily taught by just living life and taking the time to be curious about it. We do nature walks quite often (okay, not right now because it is cold and I am wimp) and we have notebooks, magnifying glasses, and backpacks for documenting, inspecting and collecting. One of my favorite thigns to hear is Rose say, "Hey mom, can we investigate this?" And then we usually do, to whatever extent she wants. So in my book... that counts as science.
We also put together a worm composting bin and have had fun exploring that. I've also loved this book (actually I love all the books by this publisher) and we've made several different things out of here-- like perfume, scented oil, crystal stars, and liquid lasagna. I think my kids would like it if I did science more often, but it takes more work to put together. So sometimes I am too lazy. I did buy some of this stuff though, and am excited to try it out!
This is one of my other favorite subjects and I really want my children to have a good grasp on the world and the different type of people who live in it. Over the summer I spent a lot of time putting together some boxes for each continent that have books, maps, activities, pictures, figurines, objects, coloring pages, etc... dealing with people and animals from that area of the world. If you are interested in the type of things that I have put in you can see my Pinterest board where most everything is listed. So far we have done Australia, Asia and Africa, and are going to do Antarctica next (I guess I like the "A" continents the best!). I think the best part of the boxes has been the read-a-loud stories that we have done with them. We read "Little Pear" for Asia and my kids thought he was hilarious and learned lots about Chinese culture. It was months ago but they still talk about him. For Africa we read the Anna Hibiscus books and they are wonderful. They are about a middle class African girl and really give you a good feel for African culture and the way that other children live. For Antarctica we are going to read Mr. Popper's Penguins!
That is about all that we do! And like I said, sometimes it goes well an some times it doesn't. But the important thing is we are trying and that we are spending time together. That is worth more than anything right there.
And just to keep it real.
Here is an image from last week-- when doing home school was such a battle I gave up at 10 AM and we just watched movies the rest of the day. Sometimes that happens.
I'd love to hear what has been going well for you in your home school-- or not so good-- and if you have any suggestions or ideas!