Homeschool Start Review

When we made the decision last March to homeschool, I began the process of figuring out how to go about it.  I had about 5 months before we’d begin around the same time when public school would begin.  I knew that I was destined to be clearly wrong in many choices I would make, but we all have to start somewhere.  It’s interesting now to look back and see how the first 4ish months went!

There are several areas to look back on:  Academics, Day-to-day Life, Family Impact.  This post is about the academics. One of the earliest things I decided was my general approach to homeschooling.  I originally decided on classical homeschooling.  However, the language arts approach that classical education uses just won’t work with my boys.  They both have issues with writing that really need to be worked on in a very individualized manner that just isn’t consistent with what classical education calls for.  However – I do still value many of the tenets of classical education such as a heavy emphasis on history, literature, and “living books” rather than textbooks. As far as specific subjects go, that has been quite interesting!  The “original plan” is in red.

Science –  Just get books from the library as interests come up, discuss things at home about science all the time like we always do.  This plan made me feel uneasy with “keeping up”.  I know it probably would work out just fine, but it’s just not my style.  We did get an actual science curriculum and DH agreed to teach it!  He follows it very loosely of course, certainly not “cover to cover”, and we still throw in lots of our own science conversations.  They both highly enjoy it.

Literature –  Get some good reading lists and start working through them.  Include historical literature from the historical period we’re learning about.  This is still basically what we’re doing!  I’ve added in some American historical literature and biographies.  Fuzzy plows through books about twice as fast as I thought he would!  I did get a book for myself to help me have a conversation with Fuzzy about what he read that extends beyond either a verbatim re-telling of the book or a “it was good” statement!

ReadingFuzzy doesn’t need formal reading instruction anymore.  Use a good phonics-based program for Bear with lots of practice.  I still feel this way for Fuzzy, he reads a TON of literature.  However, for Bear this has been a bit of a struggle.  In retrospect he learned to read quite easily.  It took a long time for ME to learn that he will learn to read when left on his own with minimal input from me.  Our phonics work is actually behind his reading level now pretty much just to put my own mind at ease, but he really enjoys it and gets irritated when I skip it!

History –  Use the classical approach of starting at the “beginning of time” and working our way forward.  Yep, that’s what we’re doing and it’s working quite nicely!  I did change one big thing.  At first, I integrated our Bible study with history.  Well, I came to realize I don’t actually believe the Bible quite that literally (this is a whole different conversation).  So, I separated out the religion from the history and we’ve been happily studying ancient history ever since.  We’re up to about 440 BC to the Ancient Greeks.

Math Horizons Kinder Math for Bear (transitioning to Singapore Math in 1st) and 2nd grade Singapore Math for Fuzzy.  Bear already knew all of Horizons Kinder Math before school ever started it turned out.  Fuzzy blew through 2nd grade Singapore Math in about 2 months – I think he actually already knew it all in retrospect.  Bear is having struggles with the abstraction needed for 1st grade and I see no need to rush him, so we are playing math games.  Fuzzy is sailing through 3rd grade math so quickly that I’m looking into other resources to complement our math program that will deepen his understanding.  Perhaps strategy/logic games or Math Pentathlon resources will work.

American History / Social StudiesNo plan, didn’t think we’d need these in year one!  After a while of doing World History, I started to feel a bit strange that we weren’t discussing American History at all.  I also realized that when social studies issues came along (say Columbus Day or Thanksgiving) – there was absolutely no part in our week specifically devoted to any kind of study of these things – other than literature.  So I added a bit in!

ArtClueless!  Let them play around?  Find a class?  They absolutely love studying different famous artists.  It really surprised me.  We’ve studied Picasso and Pollock so far.  They are fascinated.  They love trying to copy a painting and they are quite the little art critics as well.  By the way – they both think Jackson Pollock was a terrible artist!  🙂

PEUse family time fitness to incorporate daily active time.  Ha ha ha ha – that plan bombed.  This has morphed into our home therapy program.  They also take a once a week PE class now.  At first I thought I could successfully do a real PE class at home.  I actually possibly could, but frankly I just don’t feel like it.  It’s also nice having them off at a class for 3 hours once a week, I won’t lie!  🙂

Drama – this was a total whim and not planned at all.  It was cheap and close to the house.  Well, they LOVE it.  We definitely plan to keep it.

Homeschool off to a great start

I’m shocked at how well homeschool has started out for us!  In my original “Where to Start” post I laid out a very basic plan that I felt was not detailed enough and sure to be completely changed by now – week 3.  That hasn’t been the case at all!

The curriculum choices I made originally have worked out pretty well – largely thanks to my dear neighbor who homeschools and let me talk her ear off.  My biggest curriculum problem has been that Bear appears to more on the 1st grade curriculum level than K level.  I suppose this isn’t too surprising as my public school Kindergarten teacher friends have told me they feel like 1st grade teachers now!  We now have 1st grade materials for him.

Fuzzy’s curriculum has been fine.  He’s a bit ahead in Math and a bit behind in writing which is all no surprise to me at all.  It has been wonderful to be able to really work with him on his weak areas and get in there to see how I can help him.  It’s still a huge work in progress but it’s progress! I don’t do subjects by the clock, but we do have a general order of things for the day.  They follow this just fine.  Fuzzy having been in public school was a bit more concerned about the clock, but after I told him I didn’t care at all about the clock and we could take it out of the classroom for all I cared, he seemed to be able to let that go.

Bear has been very enthusiastic, he just seems to love everything EXCEPT the reading program I got for him originally.  He started complaining of a “sore neck” every time it was reading time.  I decided to get a different program.  While I do believe there will be times when he’ll just need to stick it out, reading is WAY too important to do anything that may result in him disliking it.

I had definitely underplanned the reading!  Fuzzy can fly through books much faster than I thought – and he tells me what each one was about in great detail so I know he’s absorbing it.  I now have a spreadsheet planned out 6 weeks at a time with reading lists for the various times of the day (free read, independent read, read aloud).  I mark which ones are at the library and reserve them in advance.  It’s working out well.

I wasn’t sure if I really needed a “classroom” space or not, but that is working out GREAT so far.  I don’t know if they’ll gravitate away from it when they’re older, but for now it’s fantastic.  I plan to post pics of our “classroom” soon. We’ve found 2 homeschool groups that I am very excited about.  One is the Austin Museum Explorers which will be great for our field trips, we like to get out.  The other is a general support group that meets in my area of town.  They have all kinds of events like park days, curriculum share days to see what everybody is doing, fall group trip, halloween party, white elephant party, field day, talent show, science fair, etc.  They are so nice. This has been fantastic so far and easier than I thought.  I promise to post when I’m dismayed sometime for the flip side. For now – I’m planning for a trip tomorrow with our Museum Explorers pals to go visit an Egypt exhibit…