Homeschool year in review (preK and 2nd)
So I haven't updated, except here on there on Instagram, since blogging our plan for the year last August. As I'm returning to blogging, I'm planning to share much more frequently about how we homeschool in the coming year. But first I'll tell you about the past year.
I had grand ideas of what our schooling life would look like, but life threw some significant wrenches in my plans this year. No wait, not wrenches. More like table saws. jackhammers. freight trains. You get it. This year has been one of the most difficult I've ever experienced in my personal life. I've struggled with my health, and various trials that I'm not ready to air publicly. I've also been very busy with work. And we moved to a new house. These all made homeschooling a bit inconsistent and difficult to say the least. I considered alternative options multiple times. There's a public elementary school around the corner from my house—a five minute walk—and I can't say I haven't been slightly tempted to walk myself right into their office on our worst days. In the end, I know homeschooling is the very best thing for my kids and our particular family. The best thing is not always the easiest thing, but it's worth it. So we continue onward.
We used My Father's World- Adventures in US History, for a good portion of the year. And we loved it. It was exactly what we needed for a time, and then it just wasn't anymore. Once again I had to learn that boxed curriculums, even good ones that allow for flexibility, are not the best fit for us. Crafting my own curriculum, specific to the needs and interests of my kids and myself, and pulling from various resources, seems to be my sweet spot. As we made our way through the weeks, I was starting to feel like we were just trying to "get through it" and check things off the list, and Seth didn't seem inspired. The lack of inspiration was likely mostly due to my own lack of enthusiasm. Due to the kind of year we had, we fell far behind the curriculum's schedule, which gave me such a sense of failure. Seth would show a desire to branch off and study something unrelated to the curriculum, and I'd resist it because I wanted to try to catch up. Then I remembered that chasing their interests is one of the most important things to me in homeschooling, and I made the decision to shed the thing holding me back from that. I don't feel like the time we spent with it was a waste at all. We acquired some excellent books in that curriculum that I'm happy to have in our collection. We also went back to Beautiful Feet as our primary history program, and since we're still in Early American History, we can use many of the materials from MFW in conjunction with it, and it's all flowing together really well.
Most importantly, I learned that even when I'm unable to formally teach—even when I'm so unwell I can hardly move and my kids have to spend their days mostly playing, they learn. Goodness that takes the pressure off, doesn't it?! Now, I'd never want to exist in that place too long, but it was such a relief to see that after months of almost no "doing school", Seth had still improved in his writing, handwriting, reading, and even math. He'd continued to learn! It's humbling and freeing to see that it doesn't all rest on our shoulders.
In my planning post, I listed that I planned to use Brave Writer's Quiver of Arrows for language arts. I do think it's wonderful program, but it wasn't clicking well for us unfortunately. Since we have a lot of read-alouds for history, and the Arrows lessons are also based on chapter books, it was hard to keep up with the reading for each lesson. We switched to Language Lessons for Today, which provides a simple, easy-to-use Charlotte Mason approach. We combined this with Spelling by Sound and Structure.
We did so much less art this year than I'd wanted to, but I'm hoping to change that in the coming year. It's so important to me for so many reasons.
Spanish lessons were fairly informal and sporadic, and we didn't make a ton of progress with it. It's another thing I'm hoping to do more of this coming year.
We finished the book we were using in Math Mammoth, and decided that rather than moving on to the next one, we'd look into other curriculum options. Math was such a struggle, and getting him to sit down with the MM workbook was a huge argument nearly every day, accompanied by quite a lot of dramatic whining. I really don't want my kids to hate math (like I did throughout my school years). I researched Montessori homeschool math programs, and ended up finding ShillerMath. It's been such an amazing change. Seth loves it, and I enjoy teaching it. My husband also picks up much more of the math instruction now. The Montessori method, which is more conversational and manipulative-based, just works well for all of us.
For science, we've focused mostly on nature study, often letting Exploring Nature With Children guide us. Seth also has an interest in space, and has (mostly of his own volition) continued his study of the solar system. We currently have multiple overdue library books about pluto and asteroids.
Isaac's preschool year has been very non-academic, which I'm completely comfortable with. At this age, it's important to me that any formal learning be child-led. I may ask if he wants to do a certain activity, but if he says no I usually just say "okay let me know!", and he frequently comes around in ten minutes asking to do it. Often while Seth is doing schoolwork, Isaac will grab a pre-k level workbook to trace letters and color the pictures. In the last few months, we started him on the first ShillerMath book (which Seth tested out of when we first received the curriculum). So far he's really enjoying those lessons, but again I never make it mandatory, and I always stop if he shows any signs of frustration. He enjoys the manipulative that are part of the program. We've begun to talk about the fact that he'll soon be in kindergarten, and that means doing schoolwork every day like his brother, so he's getting used to that idea.
Books are increasingly the most important aspect of our homeschool life. I desire, first and foremost, to provide them with a banquet of ideas and the beauty of the written word. The conversations that come out that provide some of the best learning possible.
This summer we'd planned to school straight though, since we took so many breaks throughout this year. It turned out that I felt comfortable calling it a wrap, and we needed a real break more than I realized. Ever since June we've been playing and swimming, beaching and reading, and it's been lovely.
Now I'm sitting down to make our plans for the first six weeks of our 3rd grade / kindergarten year! I'm almost to the end of the Moleskine planner I've been using, and I don't think it's going to work as well for planning for two students at once. What are your favorite paper or printable planners for homeschool?