Our homeschool year in review: a look back at first grade. What worked, what didn’t, and frequently asked questions.
With the culmination being Hailey’s end of year testing last week, I have officially declared that our regular scheduled schooling is on break for summer! We are still doing fun workbook pages everyday (I chose these for the girls) and reading, but it’s definitely more unschooling/relaxed homeschool vibe for summertime.
I am in a little bit of disbelief that we’ve been doing this for 2 years. I never pictured myself homeschooling, but honestly have a hard time imagining it any other way now. Here is why we choose to homeschool and how long we plan to do it, in case you’re catching up.
The fall will bring some new excitement, as I’ll have a second grader and a kindergartner. Also, we will be attending co-op two days a week instead of one. But before we get into what is to come, I want to take a look back at our 1st grade homeschool year to see what worked for us and what did not.
Things That Worked Well in Our Homeschool Year
Subjects we can all do together. This includes science, Beautiful Feet, and read alouds. It’s so nice to approach a topic together rather than have to play ping pong back and forth between the subjects/levels with the girls. We have to split for language arts and math, though Kaitlyn is usually interested and listens along with Hailey’s lessons, too.
Co-op. Our co-op is structured a little differently than most co-ops. Most I know of, the parents must teach a subject in one of the time blocks, usually something like baking, STEM, physical education, etc, and it’s mostly used as a social structure.
Ours is academic-focused (science, math, language arts, and history), has trained conductors (teachers) for the classes, and is even expanding next year to include electives like Spanish and typing. My girls love it and the women/moms that run it are incredibly passionate about what they do. I feel fortunate to be a part of the group, especially because I take full advantage of the drop-off option and use that time to work.
Audiobooks in the car. Our co-op is not close by. We drive 45 minutes one way, so audio books have been such a blessing for us! A few favorites have been: Little House on the Prairie, The Tale of Despereaux, and multiple Jim Weiss CDs- a favorite being this one. The girls also like listening to Stories Podcast.
Games. We still play Sum Swamp. We play a lot of card games, like War (and addition war), chess, and recently I introduced them to Scrabble. It was a slow process, but they both were really into it, so I bought Scrabble for Kids, and can’t wait for it to arrive this week!
Multiple Maths. I feel like the system failed me with math when I was growing up. I always did fine grade-wise but felt I was always just kind of pushed along and tried to keep my head above water. Because of that, I felt like I was no good at it and have been compelled to not let my girls follow the same path. We love Singapore Math as our primary curriculum. However we also added in Math Lessons for a Living Education and Bedtime Math just to give us different angles to approach math and it’s helped make it more fun and easy to sprinkle throughout different times of the day.
Things That Didn’t Work for Our Homeschool Year
Language arts curriculum. I feel I spent most of the year piecing together parts of Bravewriter, Explode the Code, and The Good and The Beautiful. I appreciate different parts of all those programs but didn’t feel like I found one that perfectly fit all our needs.
Comparing to what other people were doing. I shake my head at myself for this one because my personal rule is to keep my eyes on my own paper and work my tail off on my own life. However, when it comes to being responsible for my children’s education, it is so tempting to peek around. What are our friends in public/private/charter/homeschool working on right now? This did not serve me. Some weeks I felt like we were ROCKING it, then I’d see another first grader doing multiplication and I was all… oh shoot, are we behind?! The truth is I can clearly see progress in my own kids, and that’s what I should be striving for.
Following a strict schedule. My kindergarten homeschool post from two years ago is so cute. Little block schedule and all. When we start the year I crave that kind of structure, but the reality is we thrive better when we don’t try to recreate school at home, but rather go with the flow. Some people may do well with a “start” time and “end” time, but we do better with a routine, a general flow to our days and weeks, instead of a schedule.
Recent FAQ from Instagram
What end of year test do you take?
Last year and this year Hailey has taken the Woodcock Johnson test at the end of the year. We take her a local woman who is a certified proctor and the test takes about 45 minutes-1 hour.
How often did you meet up with other homeschool kids?
All the time! Between co-op, poetry tea time, art class, and just play dates with friends that homeschool, I feel like we had to focus more on staying home to do school than trying to find people to hang out with.
What are you favorite kindergarten prep recommendations?
Read a lot of books and play! That’s truly my focus, but for a little more structure, I’d recommend Handwriting Without Tears for learning and practicing letters and Singapore Math (with the teacher’s guide). Kaitlyn really loved The Good and The Beautiful Curriculum and reader. It has a lot of little activities and games, so I’d recommend that, too.
Do you do school 5 days a week?
Yes and no. We typically “do school” 4 days a week with Friday being for field trips or something fun, but I really feel we’ve adopted the “learning every day” philosophy so we try to learn something new or practice a skill everyday.
How do you incorporate kid chores/responsibilities into the day?
This is a work in progress. They complete their chore/responsibility charts in the morning, and I’m grateful a lot of those things have become second nature by now. I recently switched to having them be in charge of their own laundry (washing, folding, putting away). They clear their dishes and team up to rinse and put in the dishwasher. And that’s about the extent of it right now.
What time do you start and finish school?
I started with a start and finish time, but that fell by the wayside. Sometimes we start and 9:00 and work right through and are done by lunch. Sometimes we do a little in the morning and a little in the afternoon.
Are there a lot of people that homeschool in your area?
I didn’t think so at first, but now I feel like it’s just as common as any other school choice (though it might just be because I’ve immersed myself in that community). In North Carolina there are more kids that home school than do private school, so I would say that yes, it’s prevalent.
How do you take breaks as a homeschool mom?
If you figure this out, let me know! 😉
A more real answer- I take full advantage of the early morning hours. I typically get up at 4:40 to go workout, have “me” time and start my day in peace. Also, our co-op has been a huge blessing for me. I take advantage of the drop-off option and have a chunk of four hours to myself once a week (twice a week next year). And finally, I am 100% present with my kids when we do school, but often times after lunch, I’ll do an hour or two of computer work while they play on their own. And lastly, I hire a sitter sometimes to help out if I’m really needing some time, but that’s only really easy to find during summertime!
Right now we are enjoying all summer has to offer- swimming, sunshine, later bedtimes, and all! In the next month or so I’ll start to piece together what our next year will consist of. I am going to reread The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart before I dive into our planning because her enchanting approach to homeschool is exactly the vibe I strive for. Homeschool first and foremost is about the relationship I have with my children and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to walk this path with them.
I’m so curious… with your kids and their academic year- What worked well for you and what didn’t?
And if I missed anything, just ask! I’m happy to answer 🙂