Hey, everyone! I gave a tiny update in my catching up post (you can read that here, if you’re interested). I promised a more indepth update soon. It’s not as soon as I wanted it to be, but here it is!
(If you’re interested in my beginning of the year post, check that out here)
(If you’re interested in why we decided to homeschool, you can read a post about that here)
What’s Been Working Well
While it’s not playing out the way I might’ve hoped, we are settled into a good routine. In my beginning of the year post, I really wanted to try to get lessons done in the morning. For kindergarten, we had always done lessons after lunch. We’ve met those two routines in the middle. Right now, we typically begin school late morning. We will do three to four subjects, break for lunch, and complete the rest of school afterwards. Sometimes we get done shortly after lunch, but it can be later, depending what we’re working on. On days we do science experiments, art lessons or history projects, we take more time, but we’re thoroughly enjoying ourselves, so we don’t mind. All in all, this schedule seems to work, so we will likely continue using it.
We chose to use The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading for our reading/phonics lessons. At the beginning of the school year, Claire was still struggling with silent e rules and easily got frustrated when asked to read books that had a lot of words on each page. The lessons in Ordinary Parent’s Guide are quick, simple and painless. She’s caught on well to all the concepts, so we haven’t done a whole lot of review.
Toward the end of November, she suddenly took off! By took off, I mean she went from struggling with longer picture books to reading chapter books seemingly overnight. She devoured her first Magic Treehouse chapter book within 24 hours and the next one even faster. She’s become a voracious reader, both independently and reading aloud. Right now we’re participating in Read Aloud Revival’s January Read Aloud Challenge. The goal is to get your child to read aloud 10 minutes per day for at least 25 days of January. Claire hasn’t missed a single day yet!
One of the biggest helps with making the leap from reading aloud during reading lessons to encouraging her to read independently was this article from Read Aloud Revival. It helped me teach Claire confidence in reading independently and she hasn’t gone back! Her favorite chapter books are Magic Treehouse and American Girl books.
We are still using both Miquon for our main math and Kumon for learning about telling time and money.
Miquon continues to be a very enjoyable part of our day! We’ve finished the orange book and are currently working our way through the red book. Claire loves math, thanks to Miquon and its engaging manipulatives.
Kumon doesn’t bring as much enthusiasm. On a day she doesn’t feel like doing school, she will suggest it, but I think that’s because it’s easy and a little boring. Still, since Miquon doesn’t cover telling time in depth or money at all, I felt the need to supplement with something. I didn’t like the idea of buying a whole separate curriculum simply for these things, so we work on our Kumon workbooks on days when we’re a bit more rushed for time. Claire received a watch from her aunt for Christmas, so that has helped her work on telling time in a very practical way.
We have absolutely loved using Mystery of History! I was a little leery of using it, since it’s technically a textbook. I was drawn to Story of the World for the way it reads more like an engaging story, but I loved the Biblical focus of Mystery of History and how it intertwined Biblical and secular history. I got our copy used for a great deal, so I figured it wasn’t a huge loss if we didn’t end up loving it.
I will say that we will not complete the book in one year, as the curriculum intends! We are not even a quarter of the way through the book. We have been taking our time, supplementing many lessons with living books that have been so enjoyable. Here are a few of our favorites we’ve discovered (so far) –
Boy of the Pyramids
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile
Adventures in Ancient China – Good Times Travel Agency
We are really enjoying Brave Writer! We use several of their products.
A Quiver of Arrows teaches grammar, spelling and the mechanics of writing through literature, copywork and French-style dictation. So far, we have completed Mr. Poppers Penguins and Sarah, Plain and Tall. We’re working our way through The Wheel on the School right now.
Jot It Down teaches young children to love writing and features creative writing projects. I mentioned in our beginning of the year post that we were working on the letter writing project. After that we took some time making animal mini-books (more on that below in the science section).
Art and Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation has been going well! We have been studying one painting a week from the Come Look with Me series. We completed the Animals in Art book and are working through World of Play. Claire always loves examining the paintings and there are brief artist biographies and discussion questions to accompany each painting.
Music appreciation has been much more relaxed. We have listened to classical music, but have not studied the composers in any way. During most of November and December, the Nutcracker was playing constantly in our home. We read several versions of the story and watched some ballet performances.
We are still plugging our way through Indescribable. It’s one of Claire’s favorite things we do for school. We’re more than halfway through, so I’m looking for options to select next.
In January, we began using a children’s Bible reading program with Claire provided by Dan Bohi Ministry’s discipleship program. It’s a 9 month reading program that works through many of the greatest Bible stories. We’re using an NIrV translation, but reading the actual Bible with Claire daily. Some days she reads on her own and we discuss it, but most of the time she prefers that we read it to her, so that’s typically what we do.
We are also doing Junior Bible Quizzing (JBQ) through the church we’ve been attending. Claire has been studying and memorizing a lot of Scripture. She’s been to one quiz meet and absolutely loves it!
What We’ve Changed
Here’s our big switcheroo. We began the year using Science in the Beginning (by Jay Wilde). While it was an excellent curriculum, it just wasn’t a good fit for us. A lot of the language was very technical, which was difficult for a first grade. Each lesson begins with a science experiment, which was very fun and engaging. However, there were several science experiments that I simply couldn’t find the materials I needed. The lessons didn’t make much sense without the experiments and since the lessons built on one another, skipping a few lessons made everything immensely confusing.
I took some time off from using a science curriculum. We instead used our writing program (Brave Writer’s Jot It Down) to create several animal mini-books. These involved going to the library, doing lots of research and finally making books with facts, pictures, stories and poems about the animals Claire chose. We had such a blast learning all about bats and octopuses (yes, that’s a correct plural of octopus … As are octopi and octopodes. I learned new things too!). In that time frame, I was trying to decide what to do.
Enter The Good and the Beautiful! I have many homeschool mamas I follow on Instagram who love their curriculum. I liked the looks of it, but just wasn’t sure I was ready to take the plunge.
But during the month of December, The Good and the Beautiful had an amazing deal. Their marine biology curriculum PDF was FREE to download. I figured even if it wasn’t a good fit, I could check it out for free. I loved it and decided to print it off. While I used up a crazy amount of ink (thus making it not so free; I will buy the printed copy next time!), it was worth it.
We are five lessons in (there are 13 total) and we absolutely love it! It truly lives up to its name of being good and beautiful. We have done some science experiments, worked on project and read some amazing book recommendations. We don’t complete a lesson in each setting, as they are a bit lengthy for first grade. We typically split a lesson up into two and do it over the course of a week.
Claire has already decided that we are going to do the space lessons next! The curriculum is so affordable, too. I highly recommend it!
While we have enjoyed quite a few trips to the zoo in the past few months, we have not done a very good job of going on nature walks consistently. One of my goals is to change that in the second half of the year!
One of the biggest obstacles for me in nature study is that I don’t know how to go about it. I liked the idea of going for hikes and finding interesting things to study, but I didn’t know how to start the process or what to look for specifically. I know embarrassingly little about nature.
So I purchased a curriculum called Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon over at Raising Little Shoots. It was on a great sale (it’s under $20 anyway), so I snatched it up! It’s a year long curriculum that you can use over and over again. Each week focuses on a specific thing to study in nature that week that relates to the season around you. This week is winter trees, so we are planning a nature walk this week to study that. It gives you talking points, tells you how to start a nature journal and even gives seasonal poems, artwork and crafts you can do to tie it together. We’re looking forward to diving in!
What We’ve Added
I have not done a great job of consistently doing art. We did a few random lessons last fall, but nothing big. I think we needed to settle into our new normal routine before I could add anything beyond the basics.
Last week, we started the curriculum I mentioned in my beginning of the year post. It’s from Yellow Spot Sun. It’s all about ancient architecture of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (check it out here). It ties in perfectly with where we are in history! It has six weeks of lessons if you do art daily, but our goal is to do art two days a week, so it will take us quite a bit longer to get through the curriculum. We’ve enjoyed what we’ve done so far!
As I mentioned our in Christmas traditions post, I have been trying to be more intentional about adding handicrafts to our homeschool.
Handicrafts are not just arts and crafts. They deliberately teach a skill. These aren’t projects you complete in a few minutes with paper plates, paint and glue (and then then wonder what you’re supposed to do with all these crafts laying around everywhere ). Some examples are watercolor painting, crocheting, and woodworking.
Handicrafts are typically part of a Charlotte Mason style of education (you can read more about that here and here). Upon trying to find handicrafts that would work for us, I recently stumbled across Rooted Childhood. Rooted Childhood is all about connection with your children during each season. Meghann has seasonal collections and has three issues for each season (one for each month). Each issue includes seasonal poetry, songs, fingerplays, stories, handicraft projects and simple, healthy recipes to make together.
We used Rooted Childhood a lot in December to create some Christmas gifts. Claire discovered that she loves to sew and used some Christmas money to buy a sewing kit. We’re getting ready to try our hand at some embroidery with this month’s edition of Rooted Childhood.
We don’t complete all of the projects, but we do enjoy a few of them each month. It’s not about making sure we do each one, but slowly, skillfully spending time together on the ones we choose. Plus, we’ll have these for next year to complete the projects we didn’t get to.
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Well, that pretty much covers everything! I know this was long, so thank you if you made it to the end! Hopefully it will be interesting/helpful to someone, but even if not, I love being able to document all of this and look back.