We dipped our toes into the homeschooling world beginning in 2016, in Hailey’s last year of preschool, when she went three days a week. Counting that, we have now been homeschooling for 5 years.
That sounds crazy to me; but when I look back at the journey of the past few years, the challenges, the different things we’ve tried, and the comfort I feel now in making the choices that work best for us, in some ways it does feel like we’ve been at this for a while.
In fall, Hailey will begin 4th grade and Kaitlyn will begin 2nd grade. Here are some things that are working well for us.
- Learning together. Some subjects have to be separated somewhat, but for the most part, our two child family resembles a one room schoolhouse of yesteryear. It’s great for us for so many reasons including ease of teaching, absorption of facts, and teamwork for learning.
- Not having a strict schedule, but having a consistent routine. With the help of responsibility charts, the girls understand that after breakfast they must accomplish their responsibilities before free play and earning their screen time token. It’s expected now and not often fought against. With this set up, we don’t need a strict start time. Sometimes they are up and at it, ready to knock it out and are done by lunch. Other days it takes them some time to get going and we “do school” into the afternoon as well. It’s nice having the flexibility.
- Homeschooling in rhythm of the seasons. I now fully embrace this concept and wanted to give you a peek into what that looks like in one season in particular- SUMMER! It’s just around the corner and here’s a look into how we homeschool in the summer.
Our end of year testing (which is required in North Carolina, though we don’t have to submit it) is on Friday. We use the Woodcock Johnson exam, proctored by a local homeschooling mom. For the past few weeks we switched from our regular curriculum to review mode. *Helpful hint: you can go to IXL.com to see standards broken down by state and grade level if you want to have an idea of state standards.*
After our test, we’ll ease into our homeschool in the summer vibe which consists of the following:
- Continuation with math lessons. We keep math going consistently year round since we go at a gentle pace, taking our time to ensure a concept is fully understood before moving forward. We still use Singapore as our core curriculum for math, but we also slow down and work on any basic skills that need some extra practice, like multiplication tables.
- Reading! Lots of reading. Our next read aloud books just arrived: Flora and Ulysses, The Vanderbeekers of 141st St, and The Penderwicks, all well known and loved books. The girls will also pick their own books to read silently each day. Hailey is currently enjoying Nancy Drew and the Tuesdays at the Castle series. Kaitlyn can read but doesn’t have a lot of confidence in her abilities, so I often sit with her and we alternate sentences for a chapter of The Kingdom of Wrenly. At the end of each chapter she’s so proud of herself and realizing more and more each day that she can read the books she finds challenging.
- Some spelling practice. I bought both girls Explode the Code workbooks. They are open and go so they will do a couple pages of those a couple times a week to keep those skills fresh.
- Challenges. David started a thing where he proposes occasional challenges to the girls for a chance to earn bonus tokens. These have proven to be a huge success because the girls enjoy them and work hard on them to try to earn max tokens. Some of these have been presentations (what did you learn at The Biltmore?), others have been experimental (egg drop challenge, build a small, functional boat/raft), but they’ve all been a big hit.
- Playing outside. We will have swim team, certainly, but we’ll also fill time with backyard toys, tennis, kayaking, knee boarding, etc. Inspired by this Adventure Girls book, Hailey has been inspired to draw a map of the neighborhood and has been biking around to get the number of cul-de-sacs correct. It’s been the sweetest project to watch unfold!
- Life skills. Homeschool in the summer has a relaxed schedule that lends itself to discovery. We have a lot of conversations about what skills they want to learn. This summer they’ve talked about wanting to learn more about: knitting, sewing, cooking (goal is that by fall, each girl can make a simple dinner on her own), outdoor skills like fishing and fire starting.
- Travel. We have two big trips planned for this summer- rafting in Utah and a dude ranch in Montana. Since experiences and flexibility was our initial motivation to homeschool in the first place, we are all really excited about these adventures!
And that’s it! We don’t keep things strictly scheduled for homeschool in the summer, but we do keep up with responsibility charts, just because it gives the girls a good visual of what is expected of them.
I love this time each year when learning feels relaxed and natural. It makes me feel like we should always do school like this, but inevitably fall rolls around and we’re all ready for more structure and a change of pace. But more on that in a future post!