Welcome to the New Year! As we start back after a nice winter break, I’m doing my annual analysis of what’s working for us this school year and what’s not. I figured I might as well share it here.
Where we are
We’ve already hit the midpoint for this year because we “officially” started at the ungodly month of August. I don’t worry about how many days we homeschool, but I do keep track of the required 180 days that our state insists on. It’s really meaningless except the midpoint is the time I usually go over what we’re doing and make changes for the next part of the school year.
This school year our lives have been in constant flux. Because of that, and because Child 1 has hit the 3rd grade “structure” age, I chose to make his education a little more formal. We’re doing more sit-down work and curriculum than we ever have, and I expect more out of him. Child 2 is in 1st grade, and she’s more academically minded than my other two kids. She thrives on workbooks and activities, so she’s included in everything Child 1 is doing even if it’s not her grade level. We are no longer in a co-op, so that’s simplified things a bit.
Child 3 – formerly known as the Destroyer, now officially the Explorer – is in that weird birthdate range where he “could” start kindergarten early. By public school standards he’s still preschool. I’ve started him on a loose kindergarten flow, but he’s far happier building train tracks, Lego creations, or playing with his superheroes. I’m not pushing him. Like my oldest, he abhors busy work and needs more hands-on learning.
Child 1: Third grade
- Singapore Dimensions Math: started with level 3B
- Explode the Code: started at 3, currently on 4
- Evan Moor Grammar and Punctuation, Grade 3
- Evan Moor Daily Science, Grade 3
- Evan Moor Daily Geography, Grade 3
- Social Studies, early US History: A Kid’s Guide to Native American History, King George, What Was His Problem?, assorted library books, Liberty Kids episodes
- Spelling: dictated word lists pulled from Explode the Code, or consistently mis-spelled words from creative writing
- Reading: Smart Alec reading comprehension series, Spider magazine, and assorted library books
- Creative Writing: nature journal, illustrated stories, comics
- Dragonbox apps: Elements, algebra, and Big Numbers
- Art: Directed drawing, various art projects
- Usborne Times Tables book
- Sticker math practice books
- Geometrocity project:
- Human Body study: assorted labs, worksheets, Crash Course videos, How the Body Works videos
- Fossils study: assorted labs, videos on Paleontology, fossils, etc. from The Kid Should See This
Child 2: First grade
- Singapore Dimensions Math: started with 1A
- Explode the Code: started with 1, currently on 2
- Evan Moor Grammar and Punctuation, Grade 1
- Evan Moor Daily Science, Grade 3, see Child 1
- Social Studies – see Child 1
- Spelling: dictated words from Explode the Code
- Creative writing: illustrated stories
- Dragonbox apps: Big Numbers, Elements – see Child 1
- Art: Directed Drawing, see Child 1
- Sticker math practice books
- Reading: Tug the Pup reading set 3, Spider Magazine, assorted library books
- Geometrocity project, see Child 1
- Human Body study: see Child 1
- Biology: Usborne How things Grow, assorted labs
- Fossils study: see Child 1
Our daily routine is pretty simple: breakfast, chores, and start school by 9 or 10. I try to get them outside for some active play and some fresh air, but that’s hit or miss. They reluctantly disengage from the extremely absorbing play they’re engaged in to start school.
This year, I focused on filling in gaps, keeping a consistent flow of math and ELA, and expanding their social studies and science. We’re experimenting with giving the kids more control over their subjects – I select the content for the week and the kids split it up into chunks for each day. They’re expected to do math and Explode the Code every day for repetition and practice, but they get to chose when to do the rest.
We do 3 Singapore math lessons each week, and focus on practicing concepts on the remaining two days. That can be anything from dice math (roll the dice and add/subtract/multiply) to sticker workbooks, connect the dots, or any of their other math books.
I shoot for at least 2 field trips and 2 activities per month, depending on how my health is doing. We have a membership to the aquarium and frequently go there for art and science. Right now we’re limited in our social exposure, and the kids are thriving with the down time and extra play time.
Struggles and battles
Child 1 still struggles with reading although he’s fully capable of doing more. I’ve continued emphasizing learning over reading/handwriting, and will often read the content of their work and have them verbally answer while I scribe for them. Copywork is the official handwriting practice, and everything else is limited to the focus of the specific lesson.
Child 1 has finally graduated to creative writing without massive battles and struggles. He’s just now tolerating phonetic spelling – before this everything had to be done perfectly, and since he couldn’t spell at all, he point-blank refused to do any writing unless he was copying it. Phonetic spelling is a huge step forward for him! I still have to limit writing assignments to no more than 2 a week because he gets frustrated, but we’re seeing progress.
Child 2 is barreling along with reading, and is almost to her brother’s level. She loves writing and illustrating stories, but also suffers from perfectionism and won’t even start unless the drawing is done “right.” We’re slowly working on growth mindset along with the school lessons. She is absurdly happy doing her workbooks, but balks at math even though she does well at it. She’s definitely her mother’s child.
All of the kids have shown a love of board games, so we’re slowly expanding our game collection. The favorites so far are 5 Minute Dungeon, Catan Jr., Uno, and Monopoly Jr. Gaming has helped immensely with the kids’ ability to tolerate transitions, take losing gracefully, and work as a team. Hopefully gameschooling will be a larger part of our school going forward.
I’m surprised by how well this year is going, and how settled we are in our school routine. I’m not really changing anything, but I am scrambling for more “stuff,” because all of the kids are blowing through their extras like mazes, word searches, and practice activities. So far, so good!