Thursday, November 12, 2015

Homeschool Notes: Year 1, Week 12

We are in our 12th week of our first year of homeschooling.  I thought this would be a good place to stop and gather some notes about where we are at and how it is working.

This post is right up the homeschool junkie's alley.  Lots of specific details about our right here, right now homeschooling.

(Note: I'm on easy street at the moment.  Homeschooling one 5 year old--labeled kindergartner, doing a lot of 1st grade work.  Managing toddler twins and trying to include them in as much as we can but also not stressing over a set of goals or curriculum for them just yet.)

+ Reading instruction 

Last year we worked through 100 Easy Lessons. This year we are working through Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (lesson 109 as of today).  I did not like the Ordinary Parent's Guide the first time I attempted to use it. I think the poem used to teach vowel sounds is more overwhelming than it is helpful for a blossoming reader (and we actually lurve poetry here, so... yeah). I skipped that section. Everything else has been G O L D. It's extremely thorough. I'm a huge fan. We are on track to finish by May.


We just started First Language Lessons this week, so I won't give my opinion yet. From what I can tell, it will fit our needs nicely.  We shall see. There are 100 lessons in this book. I'm aiming to complete this by end of year.

We started the year with a handful of poems to memorize. I eventually ditched that. Momma gut. It just didn't feel right to me.  I know just about every homeschooling family memorizes poetry. We will do that.  Just not now.  I'm starting right where we are at: 1. We already love it so we will keep reading lots and lots of it.  2. Building up a collection of resources.  My mom & dad gave us a little bit of money to use for homeschooling and we used it to buy, among a couple other things that were sitting on my Amazon wish list for forever, A Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa.  Totally swooning over it.  I'm going to have "Little Things" memorized in no time.

+ Independent reading

Thomas declared a goal to read all of the Elephant & Piggie books. He has one left that we are waiting for from the library.  I keep beginner readers in our morning basket so that he always has quick access to those. It's my gentle nudge for more practice, but mostly he reads all the picture books we have in the sunroom (A LOT).  He reads everything though. He is really hitting a stride, and I'm amazed every single day at his growth.  He's starting to read comic books as well. I'm excited to see what he will be able to read by the end of the year, but I feel very confident that no matter what we do--he'll be fine.

+ Read aloud stuff

I'm a little sad that our read aloud experience isn't the same as when Thomas was 4 and I would read him to sleep every day. It was so lovely and I have so many fond memories.  RIP Thomas's naps.

But we have to be true to our season and so that's how it is.  Now our read aloud time looks like this: We put the twins to bed.  I clean up the kitchen a little. Thomas plays with Lego on my bedroom floor and I read to him from my bed.  [No, we don't include the twins in read aloud time right now. We will eventually. We did last year and it pretty much felt like a pot of boiling water with a lid on top. Right now we just read lots of picture books to them and poetry too.]  So far this year we've read The Green Ember, My Father's Dragon, and Hoot. I'm really, really wanting to start the Chronicles of Narnia series. Too soon?

+ Our picture books goal

I made a goal to read 1000 picture books this year.  This experience has been awesome. We are behind a touch, but I still think we can still do it by the end of the year. I've been taking all sorts of notes about the books we read.  There have been some really awesome ones, and I've grown to love children's lit in a whole new way.  We just signed Thomas up for a library card this week. Now we will be able to check out 100 books rather than only 50 at a time. True sign of a homeschooling family. One library card does not cut it anymore.

+ Handwriting

Thomas flew through the kindergarten level of the Zaner-Bloser book. He's about a sixth of the way through the 1st grade ZB book now. He told someone this past week that handwriting is his favorite thing to do for school. However, he also told a man in Walmart two weeks ago that his favorite part of school is the breaks. I'm sure the guy thought we were really hitting the books hard... or hardly.  Next semester I'll have him to a bit of copy work from either The Harp & Laurel Wreath or other bits of beautiful language and wise words I've collected.

+ Math

We are making our way through the 1st grade Saxon curriculum.  I was slow to warm up to the Saxon program, but I'm seeing how the spiral method is so good for Thomas.  I still think that a great teacher can make almost any resource shine. However, I give Saxon two thumbs up so far.  We also started Life of Fred this week <heart eyes>, and Thomas and I have really enjoyed it. It's a world apart from Saxon, so I think it's a great way to switch things up. I also set Thomas up on Kahn Academy and let him practice there every once in a while.  I think it's great for him to see math in different formats to reinforce what he learns primarily with the Saxon materials.


This year we've read the 1st Story of the World (The Ancients) book. We are about halfway through the 2nd book about the Middle Ages. We read 2-3 picture books a week that are either on the topics we are reading with the SOTW book (castles, the feudal system, Marco Polo, etc.) or are just social studies/history books in general.  We plan on taking a trip to D.C. next year for our family vacation. I'm rolling around in my head how we can utilize homeschool to really prime Thomas (and the twins??) for all the awesome things we will see.

+ Science

We read 3-5 science picture books a week.  We look through a lot of science materials we have on hand (children's encyclopedia and other science reference books).  We do *some* science experiments when I have extra time.  I love that we are learning oodles. I do not love that we are not doing it in an organized manner or even just recording it in an organized manner.  Even though reading & math (in my opinion) trump science education at this age by far, I still want to be a bit more orderly in the way we approach things.  Working on it.

+ Art

We manage about 1 formal art lesson a week. I have him practice simple concepts related to art, complete different activities with materials that are more open ended, or we imitate the art of someone else.  Last week we just painted together.  About a third of the art we complete is just that. It's art that has a natural purpose and prompting to it, and isn't set up as a structured activity.

+ Music 

We could definitely do better with this.  We sing lots of songs with the twins, listen to lots of classical and international music, and read (as with everything else) some picture books that are music related. I just listened to Pam Barnhill's Morning Basket podcast about music appreciation, and that was very helpful.  It's time we beefed up this area of learning.

+ Other Stuff

We do a lot of learning in the kitchen. Thomas cooks with me several times a week. We work on communication skills with a lot of intention (Thomas loves to talk, but we are both working a lot on listening right now). We also practice a lot of practical life skills-- everything from manners to matching socks to fixing things around the house.  I realize every mom does this, but I am noting it. I think it's just as important as phonics and subtracting numbers, and I would like to give even more thought and planning to this area of our schooling.

*    *     *

Oh gosh. I've barely made a dent into what I was going to type. Maybe I will do another post on all the other stuff about homeschooling: ordering our home and day, finding balance, where we are headed, the fulfillment I've found, the stuff I'm working on and thinking about, my observations on the learning process, and so forth.  I have tons and tons I could say.

Any questions for me on the nitty-gritty stuff? Anything I left out that you want to know? Ask me anything. And if you're homeschooling, how's it going?


  1. I'm excited to hear more about your journey. My oldest is 4.5 and so we're dipping our toes into homeschooling this year with lots of reading, a little bit of writing and some art. I'd love to glean all your wonderful wisdom from your first year!

    1. Isn't it so much fun?! We read a ton last year, and I'm so glad that we did. We are more focused on covering so many thing this year that the year before we formally started school will always hold this warm, magical place in my heart!

  2. I read the Chronicles of Narnia to John Paul and Cecilia starting when they were 3 and almost 5 and they loved it! I'd give it a try with Thomas if I were you - they're just so wonderful :) And if he doesn't have the attention span, try again later, but MAKE SURE to start with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe!

    1. Ok. Awesome. Attention span is definitely not a problem. I have been eyeing a set for forever, but I think I'll sit on my wallet and put The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on hold instead. Thanks!

  3. I love this and hope you write the other post too. I'll have to save my comments for an email!

    1. Yes, definitely email me. I love homeschool chat. I'll try to get those other outside-the-curriculum thoughts up sometime this week.