In 2012, we started formally homeschooling my oldest in kindergarten. And boy, did we conquer kindergarten. We had a very rigorous curriculum that we followed religiously. We did at least one field trip a month, but usually two. We had “colour” days, where we would all dress in that colour and try to eat that colour food. I made a (grounded) hot air balloon that he would sit in daily, and I would photograph him each morning with the letter of the day. I would make pages of plans that I would hope to get accomplished, but they didn’t really have him, or his learning styles in mind.
As I started adding children in to our homeschool time, the plans would get fuller, and yet I was not able to carry them out. I would add in awesome, amazing, super cool things, but as I started listening to the kids, their behavior prompts and the temperature of our home life, I would rightly drop them by the wayside. I also completely stopped doing kindergarten, as I don’t think it’s necessary at all.
2015 was one of our most challenging years. We dealt with a lot of loss, a lot of change, a lot of hurt and a lot of pain. We did the bare minimum of curriculum and learned a lot as a family.
In 2016, we started adding little bits back in. I was starting to understand the rhythm of our days and weeks, and I could start to see when “my” plans were just for me, and not so much for the living, breathing people in front of me. Things started to get easier- balancing became just a part of life and not the tightrope it once was.
And so on. Now I have five (if you count kindergarten, which is still a “meh” from me) that are school age, and two toddlers. This is going to be a great year.
Don’t get me wrong. This year is going to be CHAOS. We are moving (again!) a month into the school year, and have a baby due in February. Those are both big life changes that require a lot of my head space and energy. So I think I’ve made some good adjustments to my plan.
We are changing around our whole day. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but we have had this schedule for over eight years- and I’m tossing it out the window. We started, at the end of last year, to do school in the afternoons instead of in the mornings. It helped so much- once I stopped heaving into a paper bag. I live for routines, structure and schedules, so I’m still a bit traumatized but am feeling the benefits.
Afternoons are a better fit because the littler ones will have a nap or a rest time, and that gives me so much more head space. Also, as my oldest is in grade 8, I am finding that what I want to do with him takes longer in general. The window between lunch and dinner is just bigger than the morning window so I don’t feel that time pressure. For some reason, I can never get back to it after lunch. I know lots of people can, but I can’t. We will start at lunch- as they are eating, I will start Morning Basket.
Morning Basket is everything we do together. We have:
Family read alouds, which are books I want to share with them.
Country-specific read alouds that have to do with our country of the month. I like reading novels and picture books written by people of the culture we are studying, I find it to be so much more enriching.
Bible Road Map, where we are covering the whole Bible over three years.
My Brother’s Keeper, a study on learning to love your siblings God’s way. Cough, cough.
History Online! A daily video covering history and science. The kids will be attending in person workshops once a month that go with these themes (some this year are electromagnetism, engineering, aerodynamics.)
CNN10- A daily news video summarizing current events.
My country specific Youtube playlists- I have a pile of videos about each country we’re studying that includes the geography, history, culture, “day in the life,” food, etc. We will watch these as we have time.
I love that our morning time has videos because as they are viewing, I can get little ones down to rest, wipe off the table, start dinner, etc and still be a part of it- and it’s not dependent on me. In total, this takes us about 1-2 hours, depending on our chatter. This is the heart of our school, to me.
We will be doing the normal math curriculum we use (I like to use math that is aligned with AB government, because if something were to happen outside of my control, they would be able to jump in. Just my own opinion, that’s not important to everyone, and that is 100% fine.) They each have picked five or six literary novels to study, and will read for 30 minutes on their own during school time. They each have their own typing program and I don’t have goals in that- they will just continue until mastery. Stephen (grade 8) and I will be doing a formal study of “The Odyssey” by Homer through the whole year on top of his novel studies. Honestly, I’m a mite terrified about that one, but he loves Greek mythology and anything along those lines, and he chose it. He is also starting an independent science curriculum, which I’ve never done. I want him to get some practice in test taking. The boys (Grades 6 and 8) will be continuing Fix It Grammar, but will be doing it over two years instead of one. My three oldest (Grades 4, 6 and 8) will be doing the Phonetic Zoo spelling program independently over the course of a year and a half, instead of a year. Silas and Hosanna (Grades 6 and 4) will be continuing Institute for Excellence in Writing, and complete it this year as they got about halfway through last year. They don’t like it, so I’m expecting pushback, but I like the program and have seen great results. Abigail (grade 2) will be using All About Spelling and All About Reading. I’m going to do some informal writing projects with her. This all takes anywhere from one hour for Abby, to two or three hours for Stephen. When they are done, the time is theirs until Chores at 5pm.
Fridays we do a bit of lighter day. We do an abbreviated morning time, individual reading and math. Then we do art, Magic School Bus experiment kits, and French. We also try to get the house in super good shape so Saturday can be more of a fun, break day.
I’m soooo excited about this. We are studying Mexico, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Brazil, Sudan, China and Ecuador. Like I said, we have Youtube playlists lined up for each month, people coming over to talk about their experiences in these countries, Zoom/Skype calls to people over there (for some), recipes to try, and All. The. Books. I’m going to try and make a display each month (in the new house). A couple months we can go and eat at local restaurants. We are going to spend some time praying for each country, and for the Church over there.
Poetry Tea Time
I’ve always wanted to do this. The real, fancy homeschool moms do, but they go ALL OUT. We are going to “try” coincide it with out country studies. So, spicy hot chocolate in Sept for Mexico, black/chai tea for Kazakhstan, pulled milk tea for Malaysia, etc. I would love to have the tea cups and dishes they use (in Kazakhstan in the videos it looks like more of a little bowl) but I’m not going to get carried away. We will do it once a month, and I will buy snacks. Store bought cookies, anyone? If we are able to make something, great, but I just want to read a bit of poetry- that is the goal above all else. Not decorations, drinks or food. Worst case scenario, we have a cup of Bengal Spice tea after dinner and I read them a fun poem. This will forever be my challenge: I get excited about something and want to do ALL THE THINGS. When, in reality, a little bit would have been better and sweeter than nothing. My goal is to do this five times through the year.
The Crazy, Upside Down Days
We will read the Bible Road Map portion together. They will watch the History Online video and do their math and individual reading.
So, that’s my plan. Some days are going to be great, and some are going to be TERRIBLE. It’s real life. I’m excited for the good days, and praying for God’s most precious grace on the bad. At least, in the end, we will be living our days together and I am so thankful for the precious gift of time together. The years are going by so fast!
What are you excited about this year?