As we are rounding out the end of our second year of homeschooling, I can’t help but reflect on the things I’ve learned thus far. I very much still consider myself to be “new” to homeschooling, we have done kindergarten and first grade for my oldest, also pre-k and kindergarten with my second oldest.
The Short Story of our Homeschooling Journey Thus Far
I am so thankful that the Lord called us to homeschooling and opened my heart to this journey, it has been both very challenging and very rewarding! It is so worth it! Here is why we homeschool from my other blog Abiding Woman if you would like to know more about that. I began with a great love for Charlotte Mason and Classical Education, but most importantly for me was that my children would have Bible centered education. I chose my curriculum based from that. I felt like I needed help, needed a plan, needed someone else to map it all out for me. I didn’t quite trust myself to piece it all together and cover all the bases, which is funny because I have my Masters in Elementary Education. I think my knowledge of the education system was what steered me in this direction initially, because I knew what went into meeting the standards, planning the lessons with clear and measurable objectives, and to be honest….. I had done enough of that in college and grad school. I wanted someone else to do it for me, and I could just enjoy the kids. I knew from the beginning that we would year-round school and I had many reasons for that which I shared in a guest post here on My Joyfilled Life.
Our First Year (kindgergarten and pre-k)
So I went with My Father’s World which included all the subjects, books, worksheets, and everything was mapped out and planned for me. It was Charlotte Mason with a little bit of Classical style. And very Bible centered! I also used “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” because I really wanted to get my girls reading as soon as possible. We bought a Classical Conversations book and audio CD and used the parts from it that I wanted to use at the time which were the history sentences, the timeline song, the math memory, and the books of the Bible memory song. We participated in a Classical Conversations community for pre-K, but opted not to do it for Kindergarten.
We loved My Father’s World Kindergarten!!!! It was so much fun! We had the deluxe package so we also got the read-aloud books, and they were all great! We still grab that old material and those books and do some of the activities just for fun! My oldest did amazingly well with MFW Kindergarten! She loved it! She also flew through “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons“, often doing two or three lessons in a day and begging for more. She was reading from her ESV Bible and could read any of our children’s books she wanted by the end of the year. For my pre-Ker, things were different: I had to make many accommodations with the material, she wasn’t quite ready for the handwriting and reading lessons. I used high-lighter and allowed her to trace the letters to gain muscle memory and practice correctly holding her pencil and forming letters. I only went to lesson 50 in “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, and we ended up having to repeat those again this year for kindergarten. She had a very hard time sitting still and completing even the coloring and fun assignments at times, but other times she loved it… it was really hit or miss. I think it was a combination of her age and personality: just turning four in October, so she was three when we started her pre-k and her personality which is a very”get up and move”/ hands-on/ want to be outside jumping and running/ and wanting to socialize and talk kind of personality. Verses my older daughter who is much more of a sit and draw/ do a craft/ clean the house/ read a book and sip some tea kind of girl, although she does love to be outside too and definitely can have her moments where school is not what she wants to do. It amazes me how very different they are though, and the beauty of homeschooling is that I can try to find ways to teach to both of their personalities and learning styles, and they probably would not get that in a classroom setting as much.
All in all, I would say My Father’s World kindergarten is awesome. The only negatives would be that it does require a good bit of time with mom and has very little independent work. I felt like the math could be more, but that’s just a personal opinion because it does meet all the kindergarten math standards easily. The crafts and extra activities are what make the curriculum so sweet and memorable, but as any mom knows… these things are a little more time consuming to deal with than a workbook activity that may be able to teach the same concept. It’s definitely all in what you want and what your schedule will allow.
Our Second Year (first grade and kindergarten)
We loved My Father’s World Kindergarten so much that I went with it for our first grade curriculum as well. I also planned on accommodating and using it for kindergarten with my second oldest because she had just done the MFW kindergarten (as preK) and I didn’t want her to have to repeat it. Our year started off so crazy…. I had our fourth child in June (so a new baby and a toddler to schedule around), we were in Canada on a road trip in August and September when school started, and then we moved in with my husband’s parents a few months after our return from there and have been remodeling our house so we can eventually move in (this is still in progress currently), and I got pregnant again so I had about 5 weeks of morning sickness to contend with. Needless to say schooling through all of that was (and still is) a huge challenge when it comes to our scheduling and the girls’ ability to stay focused. But that’s why we year round homeschool though! So we will just keep plugging away until we reach the end of our material. (Probably some time in June) My Father’s World First curriculum is wonderful, but I had to cut many of the more fun activities and use the materials in a way that would meet our needs best during this crazy time. I also had to change things up a bit and buy some extra curriculum. I do plan on revisiting some of those special activities at a later date though because many of them look so good…. perhaps as I’m working through it again next year with my next first grader.
I found that MFW first was just way too much for my young kindergartner, even with accommodations. Again, it is partially an age and maturity thing (so I know I have to be gracious about it), she had just turned 5 in October and in a public or private school settings would have been made to wait another year to start kindergarten. I know there is a reason they do that, however as her mother I know what she is capable of academically and our umbrella was okay with letting her try it). She could and did do the material from MFW first which to me meant she definitely could do kindergarten, but again it was the sitting still and processing for long lengths of time that she really had a difficult time with. The reading and phonics passed her pretty quickly, after about a month it became a struggle of tears and sadness each day. So I changed everything and made her a simple kindergarten curriculum. It turned out to be a much better fit for her and us (ah the beauty of homeschooling!). What I did with her is what I will probably do with every kindergartner I have from this point on. I simplified it down to the basics! Bible, reading, writing, math. And reading her stories. I bought simple handwriting practice and phonics workbooks, here’s an example of one (you can find them in grocery stores, target, office supply stores, amazon, and they are pretty cheap). We started “100 Easy Lessons” all over and I made sure she mastered each lesson before we moved on, sometimes this meant repeating. I also got a Spectrum Kindergarten Math Workbook. I downloaded two apps on our ipad that worked so well with her personality. Splash Math kindergarten and Touch and Write. Most days I tear out a handwriting page, a phonics page, and math page, and place those in her work boxes. She also starts off her morning with reading and tracing over a Scripture (I write it with highlighter on student paper) in her best handwriting. Then we do her reading lesson, piano practice, and we are done for the day. Usually takes us about an hour and a half to two hours depending on how well she works and if she takes breaks. The ipad I use on the more difficult days and not every day. I’ve come to realize that kindergartners needs can be met pretty easily. They need to learn to read, write, and have an understanding of numbers and very beginner math concepts, and obviously Scripture and Biblical understanding is very important to us, so I would add that to the necessary requirements as well.
With my actual first grader, the MFW phonics/language arts was a bit too easy at first,but this actually really worked in our favor because we missed so much school time with all our craziness. In order to catch up, she doubled and sometimes tripled up daily assignments. The Bible reader is very neat I love the Bible reader and journal and I love the Proverbs writing, and instead of doing it once a week, we do that every day and repeat verses to work memory. We also add the Truth and Grace Memory book to our Bible memory which teaches Scripture memory and a children’s catechism. I was not impressed with the math for us, and I didn’t have time for all the little math activities, so I purchased Bob Jones 1st grade Distance Learning Math. I love it! and so does she! It was costly, but so worth the money! The expense is mostly with the fact that it is the distance learning which means, it has dvd’s with a full lessons and assignments each day. The teacher on the dvd’s is great! They bring fun characters and puppets in, have the student use manipulatives and work along with the dvd, and they bring the math back to Scripture and use Biblical stories in the lessons to teach concepts. (which remember is one of my main goals in our homeschool, to have Biblically centered teaching). I chose to do the dvd’s because I needed something she could do more independently during this busy and chaotic season our our lives. I feel like these will really be building a good math foundation for her, and with our current circumstances it’s the perfect fit for us. She has read through the science books from My Father’s World , but I (sadly) skipped most of the science experiments, which is the primary way they learn science concepts in this curriculum. As I said before, we will probably revisit these next year and actually get the chance to do them, and since we did so much last year hands on for science and currently have a garden and goats that they were very much a part of, I feel like we will be okay on putting those off.
In February, I was very discouraged because of how many breaks we had to take and because I felt like my girls were getting behind and felt like I was totally failing them as their mother and homeschool teacher. It was like I woke up from a slumber of morning sickness and moving craziness and felt like all hope was lost. But that was really not accurate, and recently as I looked over the girls’ school work to organize it into their portfolios, I realized how far they had come even through this chaotic season of our lives. I realized my kindergartner is actually way advanced from where she would be if in public or private school because she wouldn’t even be allowed to start until next year! and yet she is in lesson 70 of the 100 Easy Lessons book and is reading and writing very well for her age. She is almost complete with her spectrum math book, and has made tons of progress in her handwriting. In reality, she’s doing great! My First grader was who I was really worried about and feeling a lot of mommy guilt over, not that she was behind, but that I had done her a disservice because she could be so advanced when given the challenge to rise to. But as I looked over her MFW portfolio and have been watching her work through this first grade math and language arts….. and as I look at the stack of chapter books she has read through this year, and I see her maturity in helping me with more practical things around the house; I know we are doing fine. I feel like we are building a foundation with her, and that is really good and right. What a sigh of relief it was for me to see that! It’s far too often that we buy into the lie that things have to be “just so” for us to be successful, and even if my girls weren’t where they are now, that still wouldn’t necessarily mean I failed. Homeschooling is way more about honoring Christ with my children than it is about academics anyway, but on the flip side, I believe one way we honor the Lord is with our minds and that makes education a noble pursuit (love Him with all of your mind…), I want to equip my children to be able to do that well if/when He saves them and directs their hearts to that end.
A few things I learned so far that have surprised me.
-I’m way less Charlotte Mason than I originally thought. Although I love Charlotte Mason, I have found that I really like just working through a text in a very traditional way and then adding in Charlotte Mason style activities that correspond and reinforce what we are learning as time allows. I also still love Classical style, but we aren’t fully classical either.
-I was afraid of not using a boxed curriculum, but I’ve seen that it’s actually easier without one in many ways. While I loved many things in the MFW boxed curriculum, there were some things I didn’t care for. I am glad I did it for a while as it helped me establish the kinds of things I like, but I’m glad to move on to handpicking those things for myself now so that our school can be a perfect fit for us.
-Choosing some work they can do independently such as worksheets, questions and answers, and copy work is so important for a busy mom with younger children. It adds to their structured learning time without taking from my work time. Usually I do chores while they do their workboxes with their independent work.
-I thought because they were close in age that they could do the same material and I could modify. I was dead wrong. There are so many reasons why it works better for them to be doing two different things, but the top two are: it eliminates comparison (I saw it facilitate pride in the older one and discouragement in the younger, and I didn’t want either of those) and they simply have different needs and I want to meet them both at the appropriate time, I don’t want to make one wait when she is ready to move on or make school a constant battle and struggle for the younger one who is trying to do work she isn’t quite ready for.
-I have learned to trust the Lord more through this. He has called me to do this, and He will give me what I need to accomplish it. I don’t need to entertain thoughts of failure, failure would be not doing what He has called us to, and we are doing it, so we’re not failing…. it may not always look perfect, but I will do my best and I will trust that where I am weak, He will be strong.
Walking in His Grace