As I write this post, I want to be clear that I don't think homeschooling is the answer for every family. None of my closest friends homeschool. Some are active in their private schools and others in the public school system. I believe being a teacher is one of the most noble professions. This is a choice that we've made because it felt best for our family. Everyone's story is going to be different. I think that's amazing and beautiful.
One of my fears about homeschooling was that people would treat us, and in particular, my kids as weirdos or outsiders. I've read so many times that homeschooling is 'so controversial'. I have to say, maybe I'm just fortunate, but we haven't received any negativity in regard to our decision to homeschool. Most people have been supportive, curious or indifferent, but not negative at all. Everyone who we've encountered has been gracious about it. So that's been really great.
Last July, I mentioned our curricula choices. Now that we've used them for a full year, I thought I'd report back on our experience with them, in case it's helpful for anyone else.
Both Jude and Indigo did Singapore Math and, wow, I really can't say enough good things about that program. I was amazed to see how much they learned this year. Jude did 1 1/2 years of math in one school year. The kids also did the Singapore Intensives, which are their advanced math problems, along with their workbooks. When we were living in the townhouse while our floors were being repaired, I asked Jude if he'd like to take a break from the intensives because math was getting really... well, intense. He said no, that he liked the challenge. The kid's got grit!
Big Brother of the Year!
Jude did the Grammer Island series which we loved. He learned some Latin stems, can diagram sentences like nobody's business, and even had a unit on poetry. I actually learned a lot from this series, which is one of the really fun parts about homeschooling.
In addition to reading so much on his own, Jude also read the six classic books from the Oak Meadow 3rd grade curriculum: The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, The Velveteen Rabbit, Little House in the Big Woods, and Charlotte's Web. We would read each book separately, then we'd discuss them together. That was so much fun! For the last two books, we did Bravewriter - The Arrow along with the books. It was not at all what I expected. I was expecting creative writing exercises. Instead, it was copy work or dictation (we chose the former) and advice/insights on writing in general. I felt it was an interesting way for Jude to learn the rules of punctuation and capitalization.
Jude also took piano lessons, sang in our city's Children's Chorus and all three of the kids attended a three hour playgroup every Tuesday. Thankfully, we were able to find a babysitter who could help us with some driving, which made that all so much more manageable.
Dan and Jude after Jude's spring Children's Chorus concert
Indigo did the Oak Meadow 2nd grade curriculum, even though she was in 1st grade. Oak Meadow takes a gentle approach to reading and Indigo had attended a very rigorous kindergarten (sounds like an oxymoron but it's true) so we went with the 2nd grade package as it seemed to fit her.
We did not do the Oak Meadow verses nor did we use their math. But otherwise we followed the curriculum.
I love the way Oak Meadow structures their Language Arts stories. You read the stories as bedtime stories anywhere from 3 to 5 nights a week. Then you let the story ‘rest’ overnight. In the morning, Indigo would draw a picture of the story she heard in her Main Lesson book, which is like a journal. She could also paint a picture, make something out of clay that resembled the story, the possibilities are endless. Then she would write a sentence or two in her Main Lesson book, either about the story or a quote from the story.
Main Lesson Work
Oak Meadow emphasizes arts and crafts, which was so perfect for Indigo. We made ink and paper, masks, worked with clay and beeswax, and then did lots of painting and drawing. Indigo and Jude also learned how to play the recorder.
Art by Indigo
I taught Jude and Indigo science and social studies together using the Oak Meadow Curriculum. These subjects were mainly taught through stories. Waldorf philosophy warns against destroying the magic of childhood by getting too scientific about the natural world at this age. The stories were great and we often read them at bedtime. For social studies, we studied ancient civilizations: China, Mali, Ireland. They also learned basic geography and economics.
Jude complained he didn't like social studies, but always had his nose buried in this book. When homeschooling, you can be sneaky like that. ;)
For science, in addition to the Oak Meadow curriculum, I would often put library books on hold related to the topic at hand. And even though we don't do screen time during the week, we did make an exception for science-related YouTube videos, which are awesome.
Indigo's paper stuffed animal
We did not chose a religious-based curriculum, but spirituality is an important part of our family life. I believe nurturing a child holistically includes nurturing their spirituality. This year, the kids and I studied the Old Testament of the Bible, using this book and this one as guides. We memorized a key verse from each book of the Hebrew Bible and then recited them together each week. We also write letters of encouragement and send photos to our four Compassion children, ideally every month. Developing relationships with those kids has been such an amazing experience for all of us.
I ended the year doing standardized testing. That was a huge undertaking! But I'm glad we did it. I want the kids to get used to taking tests and to have confidence going into tests. I didn't 'teach to the test' at all, so I wasn't so sure how it would go, but I think they did great!
I have loved being a part of my kids' education this year. I've loved watching them grow academically, personally, creatively and spiritually. I've loved the way their relationships with one another have grown so close. I love that we're living a slower paced life, that gives them time to read a lot of books, to invent the most magical games, and to have plenty of time to play outdoors. That's not to say it was always easy. It wasn't. At times it was really, really hard. There were days - particularly after our house flooded - that I wondered if I could or should do it. I think that's probably just part of it. For us, it was worth it.
I plan to write a follow up post on what we did with our two little girls while homeschooling, as well as our curriculum plans for next year - which will mostly be similar to this year.