The following information is not intended to tell you what to do with your child’s education. Look at it as a testimonial. Don’t judge, don’t tear me apart, just say “Hey Kara, it’s super cool that you are so excited about your homeschool year, have fun!” and leave it at that 🙂 If you can in any way learn from my mistakes, make this cool bird feeder project or mimic my cool and easy art station, have at it!!
Last year was among one of the most stressful of my life. I was super energetic, then I was pregnant, then I had severe insomnia for over 5 months. Whether I had the energy or not, our long awaited time-to-homeschool was upon me. I am the teacher. It’s my job to figure all of this stuff out. I was not ready, but ready or not, here it came. My husband and I both feel very strongly that the right path for teaching our children is to homeschool. We knew we would have to take a long break for the baby being born and we knew that there were the possibilities of a move to New Mexico from Missouri. Something had to give, and I had to make some decisions about what homeschooling would look like that first year. I needed to make a few decisions about how to survive all the chaos as well as challenge my extremely bright 5-going-on-6-year-old to have the best start she could.
First off, I had to let go of unrealistic expectations of me and my child in an effort to give her the best first experience with school possible. I saw myself as raising the next Ben Franklin or Tesla, and while totally true (heehee) I thought I had to do ALL the things RIGHT now. We started first grade because K4 was so easy for her. Reading was something that came so easily to her between 4-5years old and I didn’t want to fall behind with all of the changes that would be happening in our lives and schedule. The thing is, the problem was not my believing in my child, it was that I was taking the first few steps into her education at a gallop instead of the baby steps we should have taken. I went too much too soon.
As somewhat of a side note, I will say that Jeanette did incredibly well as long as we stayed consistent, but the best thing I did to course correct the going-too-fast-too-soon mistake was to cut out all of the mess. Perhaps it was out of necessity, but I believe the Lord God lets things like this help us realize our limits and help us admit our need for his help. We cut the noise and just stuck to learning phonics and math…..sometimes in a hotel because we were moving cross country and a hotel would be our home for about 2 months….Through much prayer and talks with my husband, we made a hard decision.
I came across the Homeschool Sisters’ Podcast when I was overwhelmed by the incredible responsibility I had just taken on. I was looking for confidence, support, and encouragement from anywhere I could find it. I stumbled upon (more like the gracious God who lead me down this path laid it in my way) this podcast and 2 very real and very raw moms who have for several years now taken their kids out of the traditional model of the public schools and been piecing together a make-sense approach to homeschooling. On their blog, you will not find them selling some sort of a curriculum, in fact they talk about everything from morning routines to Charlotte Mason to Unschooling to Waldorf homeschooling method to interest based learning. I found listening to their podcast was like someone walking over to me and helping pry my tense fingers open, taking the homeschool experience out, giving me a hug and saying “now relax, you have a sister by your side.” Thanks Cait and Kara, you are part of what helped me to say, it’s time for a course correction.
Course Correction for Our Homeschool
Again, I have to reiterate, in no way was this last year lost or was my daughter cheated or slighted in her education in any way. She has just turned 6 and can spell her first and last name, can add, subtract and understands basic money concepts. She knows how to sound out words and even retained many of the spelling “special rules” like oi, oy, ow, and ou. We did fall crafts, baked, went to the store and studied pints, quarts and gallons. We read and did weekly library trips and read-alouds with siblings, but I knew that we needed a fresh start within me and I needed to have a serious talk with my partner in homeschool, hubby (a.k.a the one who often helps me find truth when I don’t want to see it). He said it’s ok to start over fresh. It’s not defeat to start first grade again (yes, even though you made it all the way to lesson 98 out of 170), it’s giving Jeanette a full chance to have consistency and get a great foundation before moving on. Once I gave myself permission to start over, it was like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders.
Free To Start Again, Free to Choose
I began thinking through what I wanted our homeschool to look like now that I had had a little flavor of what a traditional model would taste like in our home and family. I didn’t like it…I didn’t like sitting down and doing nothing but worksheets (which I think have their place) and the way that traditional school feels like it’s made for one type of learner. So far with 3 little kids, I have 3 different styles of learning I am dealing with. When I pictured our homeschool, I pictured us taking one day a week JUST for the library. My kids love reading and being read to, and I want learning to be a lifelong pursuit, not something they can’t wait to escape from. I also wanted to incorporate a lot more crafts, cooking and baking, value teaching them how to care for their rooms, household chores, exercise, and music. In short, I wanted a more holistic approach. I decided to cut the handwriting for first grade, science will come from interest in a subject and frankly, from our kitchen. and we are focusing our structured work on math and spelling/phonics. We are taking on day a week to do nothing but read and we are focusing a lot more time and effort on crafts such as painting, story writing and various Pinterest lovelies seasonally based.
A New Energy
I am so stinking excited about this year. We basically took the summer to focus on learning some basic things that will help us in the coming school year. While that may sound incredibly organized, it really is quite simple. Here are a few things we did….
- Cleaned out our home office and set up a school space.
- Made a designated art space where everything has a place.
- Made ALL my copies for the year (for math) ahead of time so they’re there for easy grabs.
- Mapped out my year with lots of grace for long holiday breaks and scheduled library days.
- Deep cleaned and got the kids involved (with some protest) so they would appreciate and value keeping our home ready for school.
- Developed a morning routine.
Our Summer morning routine starts with the kids getting dressed while I cook breakfast. Then they make their beds and make sure their rooms are generally picked up. They eat and then we pray together, read a Bible story and memorize a verse and sing a song. Then we have Elijah (3 years old) does outside play while Jeanette does her flashcards for 15 minutes each of addition to 10 and subtraction from 10. After that I’ve assigned a few simple chores which I will outline some ideas for in a separate blog post (but generally its trash collection, laundry switching etc…
The school routine will start with the “A.M. Routine” as it is labeled on my to-do list but will be followed by math, spelling and lunch, then chores. As of right now, my husband is working with J on some basic piano instruction in the evenings. It has become something they both look forward to. Right now the goal is to craft weekly, and baking/cooking is something they regularly take interest in as well. See below for a bird feeder craft we just recently put together 🙂
I am really excited about more projects like this coming up in the fall and winter (fall is my FAVORITE season). I also have talked with a local orchard and they are very encouraging of homeschoolers visiting and touring, picking etc… so I think that our first field trip is all settled! I feel as though I am a lot more confident going into this school year and hopeful that by God’s provision and grace, my kids will get started on a journey to LOVE to LEARN as is my dream for them. Thanks for reading, please pass this article along to any first time homeschooling families who need some encouragement to make the hard decisions, because they may turn out to be the BEST decisions.