We are already a couple of weeks into our new school year and things are rolling! We have already made some changes (*shock*) to our choices. I know that for some of you this post is pretty boring, but I am typing it up more for myself so that I can look back next year and see what I had “planned” to do vs what I end up *actually* doing. LOL. Can anyone relate?
So, without any fluff here’s the line up for what we are trying to accomplish this year!
Lea-age 8- 3rd-ish grade
Elly-age- 5-K/1st-ish grade
Cai-age 3- preschool
Zach-age 1- tot school
The girls are both very brilliant in math, although Lea has a bit harder of a time applying herself. We have been using Life of Fred up to this point with her successfully. We have purchased the intermediate series, however she is already getting bored with those so we are more using them as supplemental instead of the full curriculum, like we did last year. She is trying out Teaching Textbooks as well as Math Lessons for a Living Education (level 3, not pictured). She right now is bouncing between TT and the MLFLE.
Elly is using Math Lessons for a Living Education (level 1) and is adoring it. I would not normally push such a young student to do this kind of “book work” however she LOVES writing and begs to “do math” so I can’t really fight it. She is almost 3/4 of the way through this book already (we did some over the summer), so I am not really sure what we are going to do next. We also use lots of hands-on manipulatives and real life math activities.
We are really excited this year about some of our language arts picks! Lea is not really doing any formal reading program as she is fluently reading. This year we are focusing on quality writing, spelling and gentle grammar. We are using All About Spelling Level 2, Grammar Galaxy Nebula (not pictured), and incorporating Brave Writer Lifestyle to the rest of her studies. We are also using the Good and the Beautiful by Jenny Phillips handwriting program. Lea is on Level 4 as she wanted to learn cursive this year. Handwriting is not Lea’s favorite so we set aside 5 minutes (hopefully building to 10) for her to do her best effort work and whatever she completes at “best effort” for 5 minutes is enough for the day.
For Elly, we are using All About Reading Level 1. Elly is using the Good and the Beautiful handwriting Level 2, when she wants to. At this age, I do not really force any school. However, she loves to have her “own books” for things and is constantly writing.
Brave Writer Lifestyle
This year we are really embracing the Brave Writer Lifestyle…and I could/need to write a whole blog post on that. For now, there’s LOTS of other great blogs that do a fantastic job explaining what that is. For us, this looks like poetry tea time, free-write Friday, lots of creative writing and storytelling. In a nutshell, we are fostering and developing a love of writing without drilling mechanics until later. We are learning how to get the ideas that are in our heads, down on paper without criticism of perfect grammar, spelling or punctuation. I believe that children begin storytelling at a vary young age (imagination!), but there is difficulty in actually translating that onto paper. It is a very different part of your brain that you use when you do the actual writing process. My goal is to alleviate as much pain as I can from the actual writing process so that the children can focus on how to get what they are thinking or feeling actually in spoken and written word.
For writing mechanics, right now we are using a Charlotte Mason approach, doing copywork and discussing books that we read (noting how the author uses punctuation, inflections, etc).
We do lots of reading aloud! Sometimes this is a very difficult task as the toddlers are not always quiet…ok, scrap that, NEVER quiet. As much as I am working to teach them to play quietly, usually when I am reading every other sentence I have to stop and remind them “when mommy is reading no one is talking.” Children’s book authors should have just done me the favor of writing that in the books themselves. “SHHH” “STOP TALKING” “STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER” and so on.
Nevertheless, we push through. In the mornings when the littles are with us all we read aloud picture books, nature books, and silly stuff. In the afternoons when the boys nap the girls and I will pick up the chapter book that we are reading. These are some of our picks for this year! The girls are excellent listeners, occasionally they will paint or color while I read but for the most part they sit and listen. 9 times out of 10 they will re-enact what we read later in the day. We just finished Nim’s Island and their outside playtime ever since has included abandoned islands, floating coconut boats and talking sea lions. That is a gem for me that I tuck away for the hard days.
We have been doing nature studies for years now, but this is the first year that I bought an actual curriculum for it! We are really excited about using it. Exploring Nature with Children is a very gentle curriculum that covers the ENTIRE YEAR! It is seasonally appropriate and includes so much. It was also extremely affordable which made it an easy pick! Each week we study something different, and there are book suggestions, poetry to read, a famous piece of art to study as well as specific references to the famous Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock. Usually about once a week we go on a nature walk, collecting items to look at and observing. Finally, at the end of the week the girls and I will do some watercolor painting in our nature journals to paint whatever it is we found or studied that week! We reference the Wild and Free Nature Journal for inspiration!
This year we are trying a dedicated “Morning Time” hour for the first thing that we do. As part of this morning time we kinda do a little bit of everything. Firstly we do our devotions and prayer time. We are using Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing in the first quarter. Not sure what we will use after that. Lea will sometimes read a passage out of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Both of these are fantastic resources. After that we usually do some memory work then some singing and dancing to get the wiggles out.
One of our favorite additions this year is doing composer studies on classic composers using a curriculum that I grew up with called Color the Classics. Basically, about once a week the kids will get a coloring page for a composer and we will listen to the music and read a small bit of information that goes along with the picture. We study each composer for about 6-7 weeks. Kids have enjoyed it so far, and even Cai is really dedicated to coloring. Don’t worry though, Zach is still wiggling and trying to eat the crayons so all is not peaceful. Don’t get any ideas that I somehow have mastered the art of getting kids to sit still and listen.
We utilize a Loop Schedule for morning time, meaning we don’t do the same thing everyday. I have a list of activities (like the composer study) that we rotate. Sometimes we play math games, reading games, simple crafts, or study something the kids are interested in at the moment.
Finally, we wrap up by doing a short lesson in our Grapevine Bible Studies. By this time Cai is bored to tears and ready to go play so the girls and I do the stick-figuring through the Bible curriculum together and then move on to our other studies.
For history this year we are sticking with our co-op buddies! We selected to use Homeschool in the Woods unit studies. We are starting with The New World Explorers, then Colonial Life and finally The American Revolution. We will be spending about 8-9 weeks on each subject and meeting together at co-op for activities and discussion. We’re really excited about it!
This is the first year that I am trying a more structured routine. We will see how long that lasts, LOL. For the most part we get 80% of our work done before lunch then the kids have a nice long lunch break. The boys go down for a nap and the girls and I finish up. I usually save intensively messy projects for the afternoon as it takes so much time for clean up. It’s honestly a tough season with the boys, Z being so little and wanting to get into everything. Cai does play nicely on his own now, but he is LOUD! He is always talking and making noise, so thats tough when we need some quiet focus time.
Things that are really helping this year…
Minimalism! We have gotten rid of so many toys and unneeded things around the house. For toys, we have 90% of the kids toys organized and put away in the closet. They can have 1-2 things out at a time, clean up and put away before they get another out. It’s working out great, I really never have to ask them to clean up more than once. This year the favorite toys are Legos, Calico Critters, Beanie Babies, Tegu blocks, and Playmobile.
Alex also got a new job this year that allows him to work from home. He is home all day, so that helps if I need to run a quick errand without the kids, go to a doctors appointment or whatever. He also takes his lunch break with us and helps get the boys down for a nap. We have had such a great time with him home and I am convinced that I am spoiled to the point that he can never ever have another office job again. We are incredibly blessed!
Oma days! Having my mom local is such a blessing as she helps out with the kids at least a couple of times a week. The kids enjoy an “Oma Day” where they go out and about and do things that I don’t always have the energy to take 4 kids to. Parks, zoo, libraries, swimming. Gives me a smidge of a break to catch up on housework, business stuff, or coffee with a friend. Weekly sanity check.
Finally, I’d say the last thing thats really helping is that I am getting up earlier and trying to have some “me” time in the morning before the kids get up. Right now, that usually means I get up, go to the living room, put on some worship music, read a verse or two off my Bible App and fall back asleep. Just bein real. It’s peaceful resting in the Lord. I am trying to learn just to “show up” even if I end up drifting off. After that, I get up and make coffee and breakfast. From 7-8, I sneak off into Alex’s office to catch up on emails, make plans for the day or take care of business stuff. That has been a huge help as I don’t feel stressed in my school day to deal with business needs as I know I’ll get to them either that morning or the next day. It’s working good for now!
Again, I wrote this post for my own reference so that I can look back from year to year. Lest you think that I have it all together, let me assure you there are still plenty of days of tears, me looking for the resignation office, days where we try to do school, fail and eat donuts instead. Yet, I have my best intentions of connecting with the kids and wanting to give them a quality education. So I am committed to sticking it out through the hard storms. All of the above only serves as a guide. It also gives me something at the end of the year to see what worked and what didn’t. So it’s all good. If you are connecting with your kids, you’re doing a great job regardless of school choices, curriculum choices or daily routines.
You got this. Leave me a note or connect with me on Instagram if you need some encouragement. I am here. 🙂
Peace and Love,