To Homeschool Happier: A Little Recap and Refresh, Part 2

Well, it’s taken me a bit longer than I had planned to get back to write the second part of this post! But here I am, nonetheless! To recap, last time I wrote about the end of our school year and how burned out I felt, essentially. Today, I am sharing what I am doing differently going forward in order to have a happier, healthier homeschool!

First of all, I have decided to switch from the year round school schedule we have been using to a more traditional school year schedule. There were several factors that helped me make this decision. Even if we had been finished with our previous year’s work by the end of December, I was leaning in this direction anyway. My husband’s work is now completely tied to the traditional school year, for one thing. My daughter will not be old enough to start Year 1 of AmblesideOnline until April, and I think she will be even more ready for that in late summer/early fall. My son will be doing Year 5, and I need him to continue building some independent study skills before diving into that next step up. Plus, I need much more time to begin pre-reading for Year 5! Instead of rushing us all to be ready when we aren’t, we will just wait and start a new school year in August or September!

So what, you may ask, are we doing in the mean time? Well, we are taking a step back from AmblesideOnline, but we are still doing things in a mostly Charlotte Mason style while “fun-schooling” a little bit. I have lightened the load for skill work somewhat while still keeping a daily list that includes some math, handwriting, spelling and such. I created a binder for my son that has all his weekly work already organized and laid out for each day, and that has been a HUGE blessing for us both! We are doing all of our books together as read-alouds in a “morning basket” style setting right after breakfast, which is working well for our daily routine.

For the current 6 week “term” we are doing an in-depth study of Chinese history and culture using a mixture of picture books, nonfiction, missionary biographies and folktale-inspired fiction. We have been watching a lot of fun videos of traditional Chinese music and art forms, as well. I chose this themed study partly because we have friends who live in China and because I travelled there for a few weeks before beginning college. Plus, we all love Chinese food, ha! 😉 Our normal school studies center very much on the western world, which makes sense, since that is where we live! But I do want my children to have an idea of the broader world in which we live and also have a heart for the people of other cultures and locations. We are all really enjoying this time learning together, and I am so glad I decided to give our homeschool refreshing change!

Of course, it isn’t just the schedule or subjects or routine that have helped make our homeschool a little happier. I am also being much more intentional about being totally present when it is school time, not distracted with my phone or trying to multitask and do housework when the kids are doing lessons. And perhaps more importantly, I am placing the emphasis on enjoying being together and learning together instead of just checking off the boxes. I am listening to my kids and seeing how they learn best in different subjects and trying to find ways to make the most of those strengths. I am looking for opportunities to practice grace and patience, and I am prioritizing relationships over academics right now. Of course I want my children to succeed academically, but more importantly, I want them to love each other, to know that I love them, and most of all, to know and love God with all their hearts. Because THAT is the key to true and lasting happiness in this life and the next!

This Year in Our Homeschool: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 3

This week I am continuing my series on our current homeschool year using the AmblesideOnline curriculum. I meant to have this post ready to go last week, but I went to the Nashville Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention and was too busy to actually write it until now. (By the way, if you have a chance to attend a TTD conference near you, definitely go! I was so encouraged!) So here we are at last, adding a little more information about what supplemental resources I am using with AO Year 4.

Supplemental Resources for Year 4

  • MathMEP and Khan Academy
    • We have been using MEP math since Year 1, and I am still firm in my appreciating on this curriculum. It teaches concepts in a different way than I learned them, which is sometimes a challenge for me. But it is strong in the problem solving, logic and mental math skills that I wish I had had growing up. This year we started into long division, which was discouraging for my son. So when he started struggling, we slowed down a bit and added in one day a week doing some review work on Khan Academy, just for a change of pace and something to remind him that he can do math and have fun!
  • Artist Study–picture study aids from A Humble Place
    • We are using the AO art rotation again this year, and I have found Rebecca’s resources a nice supplement to looking at the pictures every week. She has a brief biographical sketch about each artist, along with some information or things to look for in each painting. Also, if you are unfamiliar with how to do a Charlotte Mason style picture study, she always includes that information at the beginning of each artist packet. Best of all, she makes these PDFs free of charge!
  • Art Lessons–Brushwork and What to Draw
    • This year I wanted something that would lend some loose structure to our art lessons because what I have tried over the past couple of years has not really worked out that well. I found two lovely vintage books to start with and will likely add more as we finish these. The first is Brushwork by Marion Hudson, which gives several simple layouts for practicing brush forms with watercolors. The second is What to Draw and How to Draw It by Edwin George Lutz. This is really just an old-fashioned version of a step-by-step drawing book, but the vintage pictures are fun to copy, and the kids have both enjoyed making their own creations using these instructions as a jumping off point.
  • SpanishPoco a Poco and Duolingo
    • The last two years we have used Song School Spanish from Classic Academic Press, but this year I wanted to try something a little more conversational. I found an other free resource in the public domain Spanish text book Poco A Poco, as well as the Teacher’s Manual for said text book. We are going through it very slowly, but so far I am liking it. We also continue to use the Duolingo app for practice one day a week.
  • GrammarWinston Grammar (Basic level)
    • In my previous post in this series, I mentioned that grammar lessons were new for us this year. While I was at the Teach Them Diligently conference, I visited the Home Works book sellers and stumbled upon a Winston Grammar kit. I looked up some reviews on the AO forum and elsewhere and decided to give it a shot. We’ve only done one lesson so far, but I’m looking forward to getting farther into the method!

Whew! That ended up being a bit longer than I had expected! I hope that some of this information has helped you if you are planning for AO Year 4. I will be back again soon with an outline of our current schedule/routine and how it is working out so far this year.

What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Homeschool Mom Self

Recently I have had a few conversations with younger mothers who are eager to embark on their homeschool journey. These chats have reminded me of all the things I wish someone had told me when I was considering homeschool in those preschool years. Since this is on my mind, I thought I would share here on the blog in the hopes this advice helps out some other mom who wants to make the most of the early childhood years! Before you go out and buy some expensive preschool curriculum or fill your child’s days with endless workbook pages, read on…

Tip Number 1:

My number one tip to you as you consider learning at home in the early years (up to age 6), is this:

RELAX!

Seriously. Just take a deep breath. It is easy to get caught up in the current cultural ideas of early academics. But the research does not back up the push to get kids reading, writing and doing math drills at a young age. The best thing you can do with your young children is to enjoy them being little and not worry about skills that will be easier to teach/learn later when they are more developmentally and behaviorally ready. Instead of stressing about curriculum, why don’t you spend some time researching different homeschool styles and philosophies. Take the opportunity to educate yourself and consider what sort of educational philosophy most resonates with you.

Tip Number 2:

But, you may ask, what can I do to add some intentional learning and structure to our days without going overboard? My first advice is to read aloud. A lot. Every day, multiple times a day, sit down and read a picture book to your child. Read the best books you can get your hands on. Get a library card and go as often as you can. Borrow audio books off Hoopla or Overdrive, and listen to them in the car. Look at AmblesideOnline Year 0 book lists for some great suggestions. Sign up for the free book lists from Read Aloud Revival for seasonal picture book ideas and family read alouds (not all for preschoolers, but still a good resource.) Or get your hands on a copy of the book Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, which has a great book list, as well as inspiration for reading with your children!

Tip Number 3:

Other than reading all the time, go outside as much as possible. Take advantage of the good weather whenever you can and get outside. If it is cold, bundle up and go for a nature walk to see if you can spot migrating birds or find interesting seed pods or look at beautiful frost flowers. If it is hot, turn on the sprinkler or fill up the kiddy pool and get wet. If it is rainy, put on your boots and go splash in the puddles. Go to any scenic parks and nature centers you can find locally, not just playgrounds. Notice animals, birds, leaves, rocks, sticks, bugs, clouds, flowers, etc. Get dirty.

Tip Number 5:

For indoor play, look up sensory activities to experience together. Sand, water beads, “clean mud,” plain old water, pouring beans/rice, play dough, cloud dough, etc. (Google and Pinterest are your friend here!) Listen to beautiful music. Sing children’s songs (I have a list of good ones here —> 100 Songs to Sing with Children.) Look at beautiful art. Your library should have some books with collections of art prints to flip through. Let them paint, draw, color, stamp, and paint some more. Teach basic household chores like folding washcloths, matching socks, wiping the table, sweeping the floor with a little broom and dustpan, setting the table, and washing produce.

I’ll say it again…

Most importantly, I want to reiterate my first point. Relax. Enjoy this precious time with your young child. Embrace the wonder and curiosity that he or she naturally has right now. Don’t sweat the academics. There will be time for that later. Slow down. Don’t rush. They will grow up so fast, even though I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. Trust me…you won’t regret holding off on those workbooks and curricula, momma. Just love on your kiddos. It will be okay.

Further Reading and Resources:

The Homegrown Preschooler is a book that comes highly recommended and has lots of ideas for learning in the early years.

A helpful blog post by one of my favorite homeschool mentors, Brandy Vencel: Looking Back: What I Wish I’d Know About Homeschooling in the Early Years

Another of my virtual homeschool mentors, Mystie Winkler, also wrote on the topic of the classical kindergarten: Dear Mom who wants to give her 5-year-old a classical education

Sarah MacKenzie of Read Aloud Revival’s blog post on the early years: 6 Ways to Early Years You Won’t Regret

Advent 2018 Memory Work Plans and Free Printable

During the month of December, we take an official break in our homeschool. Since we value consistency and enjoy our morning time together, though, I still like to continue some sort of recitation and read-aloud routine. It will look a little different than our regular monthly memory work because of it being Advent season. I planned several hymns and carols and no catechism or motto for this month.

Our full morning time plan is to read the “Parents and Children” part of one devotional from Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp. After that we will do our recitation/memory work, followed by a chapter or two from a read aloud, and ending by opening a card on our Advent tree to find out what the day’s activity will be. So far, I have planned that we will read aloud The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The True GiftWhen we finish those, I will choose short stories from either The Children’s Book of Christmas Stories or Louisa May Alcott’s Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag volumes (which are not all Christmas stories, but I found at least one in each collection.)

Advent 2018 Memory Work Plans:

Scripture: Our scripture passage this month is Luke 2:1-7.

Hymns and Carols: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World” are our hymns. “Good King Wenceslas” and “Cradle Hymn” are our carols. I created a short playlist with variations of each song in case you would like to watch/listen to them with your family.

Poem: We will be memorizing “A Christmas Folk Song” by Lizette Woodworth Reese for our poetry selection.

Free Printable Plans:

If you need some quick last minute memory work plans, here is the free download link to print and use in your own homeschool morning time. These are formatted only in the horizontal style for use as a booklet or in a mini-binder because I didn’t have time to reorganize them for full size binder pages this time. Enjoy!

September 2018 Memory Work Plans with Free Printable

We stepped outside this morning, and the air was almost crisp, with the scent of dry leaves hanging in the air. Fall is coming! It is still August, and I know hot days are still going to be with us for a while, but that hint of autumn weather got us all a little excited. September is right around  the corner, so here are our new memory work plans for next month!

I have been trying to add a little thematic material to our memory work, sometimes to go with the season or holidays. At first I thought maybe we would do a poem and folk song with some sort of autumn theme, apples or leaves or the like. But when I was flipping through our poetry books, the poem “Eletelephony” caught my eye. I’ve always enjoyed a good tongue twister type of poem, so I chose it along with “One Elephant Went Out to Play” (made popular by Sharon, Lois and Bram back when I was a little kid!) I think my kids will get a kick out of these silly rhymes, and it’s always good to start out our homeschool day with smiles! I hope if you use these plans, your children will enjoy them, too!

August Memory Work

Hymn: Children of the Heavenly Father

Catechism: Review Questions 1, 2 and 3 of the New City Catechism (shorter version)

Motto: Family Way #3 from Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson, and “Obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude, every day.”

Scripture: James 1:22-25

Poetry: Eletelephony by Laura E. Richards

Folksongs: Cockles and Mussels, One Elephant Went Out to Play

Free Printable Plans

As I did last month, I am including a free printable version of these memory work plans for you all! I decided to simplify and just do formatting for the vertical 8.5×11 version this time. But you can still choose to print booklet style or 2 pages to a sheet if you wish, which is what I will be doing. Let me know if you are using these memory work plans, and if you have any questions or suggestions. Until next time, have a happy homeschool day!