I read a cautionary post recently on a woman’s blog who has been homeschooling for many years. She commented that with the influx of eager, new homeschoolers it’s tempting to look at what everyone else is doing and imitate it. But she likened that behavior to “the blind leading the blind” and said she has seen it lead to burnout and worse. Making the transition to homeschool is challenging enough without trying to follow so closely behind someone else that you are making all their same mistakes along with them.
So it is with a little more trepidation than usual that I’ll journal here some of the things we’ve been up to.
I would definitely say that this first year, homeschooling at our house has evolved a LOT. I still love all the curriculum I initially planned on using, but our implementation and pace has changed nearly every month. Flexibility is King and I love that we have the luxury of adapting as we go.
- History – For a long stretch after Daniel was born, history was not getting done. It just didn’t fit into our day so we let it go. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve been picking up our books and reading a few pages here and there, having Mackenzie narrate back to me. We’re both enjoying getting back into it.
- Kumon – I wrote about using it back here. We were easing into it at that point, back in November. I noticed at the beginning of January that Mackenzie was having trouble with diligence in other areas. She would start to do what she was asked, but get distracted and things would end up taking much longer to get done than necessary. This was frustrating to both of us because I found myself repeating myself and she was often frustrated she wasn’t “done” and able to play.
We were also at a point in her Singapore math book where she was supposed to have learned addition and subtraction to 40 and it was moving on. She completed her workbook pages fine but certainly hadn’t mastered that math so I decided to kill two birds with one stone.
I sat her down with 5 kumon pages (50 problems total) of addition and set a timer for 20 minutes. I told her if she finished before the timer did, she’d be done. If she took longer, she’d need to finish the whole packet (5 additional pages). I knew she was perfectly capable of doing it, if she chose to focus on it. *She was NOT ready for this when we started our school year in June, not even close.*
The first day I did this, she dawdled and spent an hour doing the whole packet. Doh!
The second day? She made more of an effort to focus but had to be redirected gently many, many times. I simply said “Kumon” when she’d bounce off her chair or ask me unrelated questions. She missed the cutoff by a few minutes had to do the whole packet.
The third day? She finished in 12 minutes and was glowing with pride. I kept my word and let her go play immediately.
Four weeks later, she still sits down and spends ~10 minutes 6 days a week focused on her math and gets it done. No reminding on my part, no getting distracted by her sister, just focus. She has slipped up once and was unhappy doing extra pages. The next day was her fastest time yet. I can use that simple experience now to illustrate how “doing the job quickly and well” makes sense in other tasks as well.
Flexibility – I love being able to combine character training with academics. Also, I was able to put a hold on her other math as we’ve established this habit (and until she’s solid enough to move on in the textbook). I’m also able to put Kumon into our day at a time when she can go straight to play when she’s done, reinforcing the rewards of focus and efficiency.
- English/Spelling – After 10 lessons in Logic of English, we took a month-long break and just experimented with fun ways to reinforce the ~120 words she had already learned and practiced the phonograms she had learned. We learned to alphabetize by making a train of flashcards all over the house. We made a spelling notebook and wrote the words on each phonogram page they belonged to. We did crossword puzzles, word shapes, and word searches.
Flexibility – It was fun, informal, and helped us find what works (word shapes!) and what doesn’t (word searches!) Those 120 words certainly aren’t essential to know by the end of this year, nor are the next 120+… we are free to go at our own pace and double-back as needed.
- English/Spelling – We tried to do a little “copywork” back in June but Mackenzie wasn’t ready. This month, though, we’ve been writing thank you notes for Christmas and birthday gifts she received and it’s been perfect. She dictates the note, I write it out, then she copies it carefully.
Flexibility – We’ve been doing this instead of any other english/spelling and it’s been a fun, different way to spot phonograms and learn through doing. I think it’s also helped her feel grateful as she’s now very aware of the many gifts she was given! :)
- Memory Work – We had been doing one scripture at a time and Mackenzie had memorized our church’s 13 Articles of Faith, but we decided to surprise Scott for Christmas by reciting The Living Christ together.
Flexibility – It was a tremendous amount of work but we started three months before Christmas and just did it during our morning memory work time. Mackenzie knocked Scott’s socks off on the big day and was so proud of the gift she gave her daddy.
If you don’t count time I spend reading aloud (currently Wind in the Willows, and The Borrowers), or the time Mackenzie spends reading independently, “school” easily takes us less than two hours a day. That leaves the rest of the time for play, reading, helping around the house, etc.
That being said, it is still not easy to fit school in! Mackenzie is a great reader but is still not even close to being independent in terms of school work because she’s so young. My bits of uninterrupted time with a toddler and a baby are somewhat scattered so we all have to be flexible.
With three little children right now, it’s not unusual to find myself nursing a baby on the couch, responding to email on my phone, while dinner is bubbling over on the stove, Caitlyn is getting into something she shouldn’t, and Mackenzie is sitting at the table impatiently waiting for me to check her work. It often looks and feels like a three ring circus around here.
But, we’re learning and growing together and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.