Well, hello old blog! I started this post in October…but then the hurricane hit our house and I lost my computer! So, here we are in December. Better late than never. I hope it is helpful for anyone considering homeschooling. Forewarning: this is very long! I’m sure that is partially why it has taken so long to pull together. My new normal (less work, more time home with my kids) has consumed most of my time, and things like blogging fall to the wayside. Still, I say all of that with gratefulness and excitement! I’m not sure when it happened but I realized the other day that the emptiness in me where my business had been no longer feels empty anymore. My new normal hasn’t changed much since I stepped back, but now I truly feel content. The Lord has such perfect timing. He knew it would take me probably longer than it should to adjust, and has brought me into a new journey, with a heart fully ready. Part of that journey is homeschooling! Last year it would have felt like a burden, but now it is a joy.
Why We Chose to Homeschool
Being homeschooled myself all the way through, I was fully aware of what a homeschooler’s life looked like from day to day. I could see all of my own personal pros and cons. I had a wonderful experience, so I didn’t have a negative view at all. Even still, I wasn’t so keen on the idea because I also knew how much time, effort, sweat and tears it costs the mother who chooses that path. Jonathan and I talked at length about what we should do for Eleanora as she approached the start of school. I honestly didn’t know how I could do it, run a business and keep up with our church life and everything else. We kept talking and praying for direction, and felt like homeschooling for at least the first few years would be best for her. She is a very active, vibrant, extremely extroverted and exuberant child with an incredible amount of energy. She takes a lot after my husband and he brought his experience in public school to the table. Honestly, it was an easy decision - even though I faltered for months over whether I could actually do it or not. We knew she’d thrive and learn best at home. Jonathan knew way before I did. But after much prayer for direction, I felt the Lord nudge me to get over my fear and just do it. So we did.
After months of research and waffling back and forth over my final ‘ok we are doing this,’ we settled on The Peaceful Preschool Curriculum. I have nothing but good things to say about it. We wanted our learning guide to flow naturally into the day, be flexible and easy to execute. I actually just made myself start to get out of my head on a random Tuesday in July. Ha! It was the best week, and everything made so much more sense once we just jumped in. Elle LOVED her work and could not wait for week two to start. The Peaceful Preschool is an alphabet-based curriculum and is very easy to follow. Honestly my favorite parts of the whole thing are the Bible memory verse list and book list that coordinates with each letter week. We have also purchased several pre-k and early reader workbooks just to add in if needed.
(If you know me, you know I can’t fully go by the book anyway! Ha!) I have also added the Tiny Theologians “Names of God” flash cards into our lesson plans. They often coordinate so well with the Peaceful Press material, but I sometimes change the verses we memorize to fit better with our study. G for example, is Good Shepherd, so we memorized John 10:14 instead of the verse listed. I also don’t go by the daily schedule they have laid out. Every week I highlight the activities I know we’d like to do and write in the rest of my ideas. Elle has already worked on quite a few of the fine motor, art and life skills or would easily be bored with some of what is listed. I improvise a lot there. Again, that is the wonderful thing about an alphabet-based curriculum! It makes it so easy to add in tie-ins for each letter.
I’ve also added in a Historical Person to learn about that starts with the letter if I can think of a good one, a country or place to learn about or some kind of math or science concept. I learned pretty quickly that Elle needs several different things to learn about in a week to capture her attention. For example, Letter I week: what was listed are things like ice-cream activities to go along with a book about ice cream, learning about inches, making a glitter glue I and so on…I’ve added igloos (including making one out of sugar cubes), India, Italy and iguanas and Igor Stravinsky. I reserved books on all of those things and she will happily devour all of that information. She’s bent towards facts, science and math…just like my husband.
She also enjoys her art projects and we end up doing more of those than prescribed as well. Just about the only time she is ever quiet, is when she’s painting. Ha! She loves to have an idea and get to see the finished product. She’s so proud of her “art collection” and we’ve made a place to hang them in her room…as well as all over the house. For Letter I Week, she painted the Leaning Tower of Pisa, from her study on famous landmarks in Italy. Will she retain all of it? Probably not, but it’s a fun start and keeps her interest in school. I don’t spend much time on extras and mostly find free printable worksheet from doing a google search. Easy.
I am a weird mix of half planner/ half creative free spirit. It has taken a few months, but I think I’ve nailed down a good process for us. Overly planned weeks go terribly. Overly flexible weeks leave me running to the store for supplies day-of. Landing in the middle, or rather, simply staying true to who I am has been best. I try to look ahead at the coming months to get seasonal ideas, then I lightly pencil in each week, so I know where I probably need extra time due to particularly busy schedules. Then I make a master list of all the countries, composers, artists, historical figures, math & science concepts, or any thing else we might want to include for each letter week. It’s incredibly helpful to have that list to refer to on weeks I’m pressed for prep time. I also make sure we have most of the craft items we need: lots of crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, canvases, craft paper, glue, felt, etc…Then I look ahead at the coming week on Wednesday, or at the latest Friday. I reserve our library books and jot down any specific ideas for each week. (The Library is so much better when you don’t have to wrangle a toddler and 4 year old while trying to search for books! Reserving is a life-saver!) Come the week of, we pick and choose to suit each day. Sometimes we do something totally different than I planned. Some items we never get to, and that’s ok. Usually Elle has plenty of ideas and interest for each letter.
For example: Elle said “organs start with O mommy! Let's learn about the body!” And so we printed out all of the central organs from google and make a life-size Elle with all her organs to put in place for active learning. I already had the paper roll, so it was easy to do spur of the moment. If she hadn’t shown interest, we would have gone with something else. I’ve found the best learning happens when I play of her cues and go with her interest when she has questions. We don’t take it too seriously (she’s only in pre-k) and there is plenty of time to go over it all again. Everything has the opportunity to tie in math or letter study or color for the most part. When we did organs, I had her add and subtract them from her body and tell me what letter they all started with as we went. You can work on spelling, etc. Nothing has to be broken up and it all flows together. This is a huge plus for homeschooling to me.
8:30 - Circle time
This is where we sing and learn some hymns or worship songs, talk about our name of God for the week, learn our verse for the week, review all the old verses, read our Bible passage for the week and pray. We sometimes read a few of our books from the library and work on skip counting, sequences, or Spanish words. (Elle added that one in all on her own. A few weeks ago she said she wanted to learn and asks me all the time what different words are in Spanish. Thankfully I still remember a little from college!)
9:30 - Curriculum work
We choose one or two activities to work on from our curriculum. I usually help her start while doing some household chores.
10:30 - Crafts or Music
We’re fairly flexible on our schedule each day, but after we do some workbook items I have Elle practice her piano, do paper crafts or anything I can think of that (maybe) ties in to keep her busy! She’s a very active child!
11:30 - Lunch
Genevieve is up and we all break for lunch, then run errands. I normally try to have them outside for a while around this time too.
1:30 - Nap/ More School/ Painting
Genevieve goes back down for a nap and Elle and I work on more projects. We read or she starts an art project. I’m normally trying to get a few other things done while she works…which is usually hard to do, as she always wants almost constant interaction. Ha!
3:30 - Independant Play
I’ll be honest and say this is like pulling teeth for Elle. It’s a struggle for me to enforce because it’s so unpleasant for all of us. Honestly, we often end up doing more school projects or she helps me prep for supper or do chores. A lot of times she sits right next to me at my desk while I try to edit and she pretends “hair salon,” colors or just talks to me the entire time! Ha! I try to make her play by herself though, because it’s good for her. She gave up naps at 2 1/2, so it’s been a struggle since then…Genevieve on the other hand, will not require such prodding. She already does this extremely well. Each have their own strengths, and I’m grateful that homeschooling helps us work on weak places and encourage strengths in each unique child.
4:30 - Daily walk/ Outside time
When we lived in our house, we’d take walks around our circle every afternoon to cure the afternoon cranky time if the day permitted. Sometimes we’d run more errands or go to the park. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, they always seem happier when we take the time to get some fresh air…let’s be honest, I love it too.
5:30 - ?
It really depends on the day. A lot of times we’re headed out somewhere else. If not, we’re eating…or almost eating. The kids get hungry so early! Then baths, play, bedtime routines and to bed hopefully by 7:30 if we’re home!
Everything also changes from day to day. Mondays we have to grocery shop for the week. Tuesdays we have co-op in the morning. Wednesday afternoons we have piano. Last spring she took ballet. Fridays we try to do field trips. Plus other events and activities, playdates, meetings, etc.
My biggest challenges are honestly just trying not to put too much pressure on myself or get overwhelmed. So many moms are doing such amazing things with their kids. Then the Lord reminds me that I AM THEIR MOTHER, not anyone else. If I am faithful to spend time with Him first, get my heart right and surrender my expectations, it all goes much more smoothly. I put so much stock in preparing sometimes, but often the best days are when we make it up as we go! The Lord so very often gives us the most perfect things for our weeks! Seriously, we found a birds nest outside our back door for Letter E, when we studied birds and nests and eggs. On Letter M, we studied the Mayflower and pilgrims the week of Thanksgiving. She had a nativity performance at the start of Letter N. She had her piano recital at the start of Letter P week. And so many others. It was like little surprise gifts. We couldn’t have planned it better. Now I’m all for plans, but I’ve found so much more peace in trusting the Lord with the timing instead of trying to force things. When I get my attitude right, (my biggest challenge) then everything else flows better.
Most Wonderful Things
I have to say the whole homeschooling experience has far exceeded my expectations. My favorite thing has been the opportunity to weave in the gospel and the wonder of God into everything we study. What a privilege! It’s also such a joy to experience how her brain is making connections, tailoring our subjects to her interest, and being the one to hear and answer her questions. I love making room for play-learning. All our hours spent outside or at the park exploring and learning have been my favorite. I love that I get to choose our field-trips. It brings me so much joy to bring in as much art and music into our schooling as possible. Sometimes coming up with ideas for us feels like a lot, but most days I absolutely love pouring all of my creativity into learning experiences for us to do together. It’s also a blessing to be able to teach Elle, but also make sure Genevieve gets the attention and specific schedule for her own needs too. We all get less time to ourselves and I have little 1-on-1 time with them, but I think extra time and flexibility is definitely worth it for us.
A few of my favorite memories
I’m no expert, but it has been so much fun for this first half of our school year! I hope this if helpful for any of you who might be considering homeschooling as well. (Also note, most of Elle’s friends are not homeschooled, and I believe there are many good choices for schooling children. This is just the current way for us, and I love it.) If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll to my best to answer!