5.04.2014

Because Home's Cool Part 2 : A Marathon Recap of Our First Year Homeschooling

Last week, we finished our homeschooling year.  And that felt big.  Really, really big.  When I finish a sewing project, I usually feel a sense of satisfaction for a couple of hours.  But as we wrapped up our homeschooling year, I've felt a sense of wonderment and elation for the last month or so.   I kind of can't believe we did it.  But we did.  It feels good.

flowers 
I had quite a lot of trepidation as we started our school year last July.  For me, big life changes/decisions are often marked by some degree of fear.  I don't think that fear always, or even often, means we're on the wrong track.  In fact, some of my best decisions have been the ones I made in spite of feeling fearful about them.  That can be where courage comes in.

my little loves

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.

tia the flower finder

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.

iris paints

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!

nail painting
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.

big brother of the year

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. 

spring concert
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.

iris and indigo

We did not do the Oak Meadow verses nor did we use their math.   But otherwise we followed the curriculum.

math time

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
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
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 the bookworm
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 handmade stuffed animal
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.

by indigo

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.

fun at the park

15 comments:

  1. I'm wide awake w pregnancy insomnia and 2 sick kids when I saw your post. Funny bc I just saw another post today on oak meadow and wondered how you liked it! There is a lot they offer that appeals to me but I still don't think it fits us quite right...at least not yet. We do also use Singapore and the other day griffin actually whined about the fact that I didn't have the time to teach him an extra lesson for the day! I wi have to look into the intensives....I didn't know about those! We should be wrapping up within the next few weeks which is pretty good for us considering the year we've had! I just wanted to make sure we were done before baby #5 shows up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Shannon, I was having the same thing two weeks ago. I call it pregsomnia. :) I'd be up for two hours during the middle of the night! I'm glad Griffin likes Singapore Math, too!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Aw, thanks so much for stopping by, Rebecca! xx

      Delete
  3. Yay! I'm so glad to hear that it went well for you guys! My babysitter home schools her two kids and she's said there's nothing more gratifying than being able to witness the moment when your child finally understands a new concept or idea. So happy to hear that the school year was a success!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Three cheers!!!! Congratulations to you, your husband and all your little ones. I'm so happy for you! Enjoy the summer of rest and hears to another great year =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Rachel! I appreciated your help so very much. The curriculum we landed on was so perfect for our family! <3<3<3

      Delete
  5. I know we just chatted about this, but I really enjoyed reading about each part of your homeschooling, and seeing the pictures. It just radiates peace and makes me feel encouraged.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amazing Rachel! Your description of your homeschool year almost makes me want to try the same! However, I know how much my middle child and I already butt heads while helping her with her homework, so don't think it would be a good fit for us. But I get excited when I read about how enthusiastic your kids are about their learning. I was a 5th grade teacher before having my first baby, and seeing that love of learning is the best reward! Congrats on a year well lived and on all the academic, social and spiritual progress that has been made! You all deserve a restful summer:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Lucinda, 5th grade! That's great!

      I was worried about Jude because helping him with his homework was often really tough, too. In fact, when we first decided to homeschool, Indigo was the only one that was going to do it. Then Jude heard us hatching plans and wanted in. :) But I think helping with homework is different because you're usually helping them when they are at the worst - at the end of a long day. And maybe we aren't always at our best then, either. :) Most homeschooling families try to get their work done in the mornings, when we're more likely to be at our best. This really was key for us. We did some one-on-one work at night, but usually after a very long break, and homeschooling is (generally) not as tiring as a school day, at least not for my kids.

      Delete
  7. A whole school year! Awesome! An accomplishment - for you but mostly for the kids!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm so impressed, Rachel! Pretty amazing. I can see how being the one to help your child learn could be sooooo satisfying. The hardest part about helping Em with her homework is I don't know what/how the teacher has taught her something, so if she says she doesn't know how to do the homework I don't know whether it's because she's not paying attention or because she hasn't learned it yet! Anyway. You're awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I loved reading this summary/reflection on your year! Sounds like it was a wonderful success. How nice to find something that fits your family and children. I look forward to reading more! And I agree with what you said above about learning in the morning. As a teacher I cherished those first few hours of the day for learning. By the afternoon we were all a bit tired out!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I really enjoyed your post about the various curricula. I have been curious about home schooling and this is the most detail I have read about the topic! I was actually wondering as I read, how you had time to sew and look after your other two while doing home schooling so I am interested in your follow-on post! It seems amazing and out of my reach all that you do, but I know full well that life looks more perfect on a blog site than it can sometimes feel in real life! Others have said this to me about my site. Well done for taking on this commitment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it definitely helps that two of my kids are 9 and 7 - their ages make a big difference because they are very helpful. I do hope to write my follow up post soon. Unfortunately- so you don't get your hopes up :)- there aren't any perfect solutions. Just various things that we learned along the way this year. Our toddler, Iris, was a very intense baby and toddler so there were days that were definitely trying but I also think we learned a lot, too. Many of the tips I read online were simply unrealistic for her. She turns 3 in the fall and we are thinking about sending her to a really great 2 morning/week preschool next year, where she could burn energy and do art and play, without me having to 100% facilitate everything. During these days, the older kids and I would focus on their math - which was the most time consuming. I think this will leave me feeling less stretched being we will also have a new baby. And I will be able to give all of the kids more of my undivided attention this way as well, in the long run. :)

      Delete

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I generally respond to comments via email. If your profile does not link to your email account, I try to respond here. :)