There’s nothing like celebrating the end of our first year of homeschooling with a little Alice Cooper. #notyourtypicalhomeschooler Ha! As of today, we are d-o-n-e, done. Now that’s not to say we won’t do some review over the summer or keep up with our daily kids’ devotional, but no more 4-days-a-week-2-hours-a-day for the next 3 months.
I’m going to break down what went well, what worked and what didn’t- mostly for my own reference to just.keep.swimming. However, SO many people asked me about homeschooling this year. Questions about curriculum to schedules to state requirements and even things like “Don’t you want a break from your kids?” Only 3% of American school-aged children are homeschooled, so it is rare, and people want to know more- I totally get that! So here’s my two cents- along with what I loved and what I didn’t love.
Things I loved/that went well:
Do you know how hard it is to get three kids out the door on a Sunday morning by 9:30 am when both parents are home? HARD. So I shudder at the thought that I would have had to either drive or walk Jackson to school every morning with two other children fed and out of their pajamas. I love the flexibility of homeschooling, to be able to easily maneuver our day around sick children, appointments, naptimes, and the like.
That said, I felt like I spent much of the year trying to find a weekly routine that worked for our family. I started out trying to school mostly in the afternoon while the toddler slept, but I realized after the holidays that Jackson was pretty tired in the afternoons (as was I) and I was treating his lack of focus as disrespect even though he was just facing a drop of metabolism like I was (but without the coffee). Since March we’ve moved to mostly doing school in the mornings (typically 9:30- lunchtime) and I’ve seen a small, but helpful, change in ALL of our focus.
I also adore the flexibility, not only on the daily notion, but as a whole. A quick review of my calendar shows at a minimum, had he been in public/private school, my little man would have missed 5 weeks of school! I’m sure some truancy officer would be sending me hateful letters. In reality, I can’t imagine how much of life-altering on-the-road schooling Jackson would have missed had we not taken that time off. Nonetheless, we DID do school when all of the neighbors were off for Christmas and Spring Break.
I like the idea that our school year can revolve around our travels and my husband’s busy/slow seasons at work. We have talked about doing some type of private education in the future, and I think the flexibility would be one the single hardest things to give up.
In July and August last year, I spent a lot of time asking trusted homeschooling friends and acquaintances what their favorite curriculum was and why. I tried to give them a feel as to where Jackson was at and get their feedback on what they thought would be appropropriate. Since it was just kindergarten, I didn’t want to overwhelm him with a bunch of history/science/etc but just work on setting a good foundation for phonics, reading, and math. We also did a handwriting and Bible lesson everyday.
We used the following:
Math- Horizons Grade 1
Phonics and Reading- A beka K5
Handwriting without Tears – Letters and Numbers Kindergarten
I think what I picked worked really well for our first year. I will continue to use Horizons next year. My only complaint is that it really goes quickly from one item to the next, so I’ve been supplementing learning with a Rod and Staff grade 1 book and worksheets I find on blogs or Teachers Pay Teachers. I think A beka worked well, but I am going to use something different next year. While Jackson thrived with this, everything was formatted for a larger classroom and I disliked having to buy the curriculum that includes handwriting and numbers, when I didn’t want to use those.
We finished the Handwriting without Tears curriculum before our trip to Australia (I may have required too much, too soon), so since then we’ve been working through A Reason for Handwriting and we’ll continue to do a page/day next year. While I’d like my kiddos to have nice handwriting, I worry that I’m teaching them a lost art. I wonder if I should start teaching them to type! 😉
I didn’t focus on science and geography this year, although I know we did so much learning in Florida and Australia and during local field trips. Our local arboretum also offers a preschool science class every other week and we attended most of them.
Things that didn’t go so well or I didn’t expect
Strong-willed child v. strong-willed mama
I always laughed when a comment was made like, “Wow, you must have more patience than me.” or “It’s great you have the patience for homeschooling.” Let it be known, if there was a character trait I was to be praised for, it would NOT BE PATIENCE. Because I did a little bit of homeschool for preschool- maybe 2 days a week for 45 minutes a day, I was naive about the process of schooling approximately 8 hours a week. If ever there was a sanctifying process, parenting full-time AND teaching your children to read, write, etc, is THAT. Poor Mr. YT fielded a lot of calls during his workday between a stressed out mama and a frustrated, antsy pants, little boy. Whatever the cost of it though, we’ve both grown up (maybe me as much as the little man) and we’re resilient to keep going (his decision, too).
Time-management/playtime for Mommy
From having three kids in four years to having three kids and one needing to do school was a big change. I would be lying if I didn’t say that much of that past 5 years was spent in survival mode, a cycle of diapers, dishes, and, eh, drama? Once this Momma entered the world of teaching a child, schedules had to become more concrete and social time diminished. I used to have many more playdates and outing during the week, but when most of your friends are also homeschooling, the time alloted to get together with other ladies and children is reduced. Much of this has made me consider how doing a co-op would help with the social time for both the kids and Mommy– although the oldest needs no help to his sociability- TRUST ME.
The first year of homeschooling was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, years of my life. I know that many may read this and think, “well if it’s so hard, why would you keep doing it?”
I ask myself once a week! No, really, most good things are never EASY things, and even when days were hard and exhausting, I remember how much Jackson has learned and grown (and how much I’ve learned in the process).
This process of growing up isn’t just for the kids, right? Each new phase of parenting (and schooling), grows me, too.
I’m not sure we’ll always homeschool, but for right now we’ll enjoy learning new things while constantly being there to see every new milestone and learned skill.