2nd year of homeschooling – planners, curriculum, and controlling the circus

It’s crazy to believe we are racing to the finish of our second year of homeschooling!  I’ve made changes to our approach this year, as I’ve learned more about myself and more about my son!

Last year seemed like the year of personality struggles and the big adjustment to schooling full-time.

This year feels like a full-blown attempt at scheduling & curricula.

Things you should know:

Momma doesn’t always know best (sshhh don’t tell anyone)

The hardest part of homeschooling for me, has been that I’m a recovering control-driven perfectionist.  I think every day should follow the schedule which is set apart in my happy little noggin.  Then, all of my dominion shall act like scholarly little subordinates who love learning and enjoy worksheets as much as a young Leah did. When do I get my way?  About 1 out of 15 days.  Maybe once a month.

I’m learning to choose my battles.  I go “old school” in that I try to focus all of my energy on that which I think is most important- reading, writing and arithmetic.  Then I read (to the children) some more.

Sometimes I’m discouraged because I feel like something I’ve chosen isn’t working for us and so I’ll spend a day or days or weeks trying to tweak.  I have to tell myself, THIS IS WHY WE DO IT…because we can tweak it and we can make our boy get the most out of it.

Basically, like most things good things in life, homeschooling is work and it does take some adjustments!

It’s hard to keep the troops in line

I really thought life with 3 under 4 was the 3-ring circus, well it turns out life with a 1st grader, preschooler, and energetic 3 year old can be just as hectic.  One of our major battles is distraction (which is probably true in a public/private school room, too).  The younger kids listen in for our read-aloud time (we’re on our third book in The Little House series) and Bible.  Beyond that, if they are wanting to be more involved, they’ll do map time during history or I’ll pull out some alphabet flashcards.  I also have age-appropriate workbooks if they want to join.  For preschool books, C has cheapos from The Dollar Tree.  Olen is very particular about any workbook (he’s my hands-on man) so I have these Star Wars books which he adores!!

Chewy                                                Anakin                                           C3P0

We live or die by a plan

One of the major changes I felt happened between kindergarten and first grade is that a schedule was even more important.  I’ve used a planner like THIS the past two years and I love how easily I can break down our days and still have a space to write the things I need to do, too.  I’m a planner by nature and I think Jackson needs to know what’s expected each day, too!

I usually only plan a week or two ahead.  Most of the time I do this while Jackson is working on math problems so it doesn’t eat time out of the evening.

A sample of last week’s planner

Due to The Plan, we don’t get out of the house as much as did last year.  In the spring and fall we’re playing outside, but I’m really missing the playdates and social time!  We DID just move though so I think we’re just generally missing our friends — along with March cabin fever.

Curriculum loves and hates

I shared in the recap of our first year about our curriculum choices.  We changed our phonics from A beka to Explode the Code and I’m thankful we did!  It’s just a much simpler format for both of us!  I ended up buying A beka 1st grade History because it covered US History and countries of the world, but I don’t love it.  I’m considering putting the boys in Classical Conversations next year- so if I do- we’ll have history covered.

We’re continuing to use Long Story Short for our Bible time and I really can’t imagine using anything else.

For science we’re bouncing around between some Charlotte Mason work and Our Father’s World.  I like both, but the Charlotte Mason is a nature study with many outside things and well, this is Ohio. 😉

For math we’re using Horizons Year 2.

New room

Maybe the most welcome change since the new year is that we now have a school room!  It’s still evolving, but I’m so thankful I’m not longer clearing books so we can eat, then cleaning the table so we can restart school.  Gosh, it’s just made the day a lot easier!

So that’s a little (800 word) update on what’s been happening at Yoder Academy.  What does your homeschool day look like?  Do you feel like you run a three-ring circus?  Any thoughts on Classical Conversations?

Take the kids out of school for vacation? Yay or Nay?


A few weeks ago on Facebook, another blogger posted this video from the Today Show in which the anchors discussed whether parents should be able to pull their kids out of school for family vacations.  It’s not just that the absences would be considered unexcused, it is actually considered illegal in some states.


As a homeschooling family, I find this debate really compelling.  It seems to me it is one more situation in America where parents are ultimately losing the right to make decisions for their family.  I also find it interesting that we relate merely time in the classroom to the ultimate measure of what is “learned.”  You can be one of the valedictorians of your high school and still have much to learn upon graduation.  (*Cough* Cough* ME *).

I spoke to a few friends of mine that are educators – one in the US and one in Australia.  They feel that taking children away from school creates a difficult scenario for the teachers because oftentimes the kids come back from the trip and are behind in their work and then the parents expect the teacher to catch the child up.   (Oh, no no no) I can see how this can create a problem.

Last year when we traveled to Australia, Jackson would have missed close to 20 days of school (17 for travel, a few extra for jet-lag since we were up til 2 am the first few nights).  As a way to supplement, we did school for one week of Christmas break, and while we still finished up at Memorial Day, we started up again the 2nd week of July.  I don’t think our 4 weeks break suffered him anything but rich experience.

Also, when I was at my parents house not too long ago, I found my report card from my year on exchange.  I missed 23 days of class!  I’m sure I made it up in the social skills I learned while living with people I’d never met (yikes!) and giving impromptu speeches.  I also learned so much about the culture and political environment and industry.  23 days was nothing!

Now I realize that this experience is out of the norm, but I think we totally disregard skills learned during travel.  At the least of things- how about real world skills like boarding an airplane, figuring out distance and time to the destination, exchanging currency (if applicable).

If going to the ocean there are so many things to learn- tides, ecosystems, maybe even just more time spent as a family to hone cooking skills with mom or learn the physics of flying a kite with dad.

Yes, these things could be done at home or in school, but in a world of rushed families where many parents both work full-time, doesn’t family time win?  Don’t studies show that even if Junior has dinner with mom and dad 5 nights a week he will be more successful than someone who scores all A’s in school?

What do you think- should parents have full-range to pull kids out from school for family travel?  Should there be different restrictions- i.e. going to a National Park v. going to Disney World?  Or maybe you homeschool for this very reason- the flexibility of your time for travel and outings?dsc_0758

 Want more information?  Check out this article in the Boston Globe or this blog from a retired teacher.