School is OUT!

Kindergarten in our house ended much like it started–quietly and with little fanfare. There were no end of the year parties, no tiny processional of gowned children. And this was okay with us–JC is not the party type.

Instead, I mentioned to him that he had completed his first year of homeschool and that after the summer, he’d be starting first grade.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

A year ago, a comment like that would have thrown me off-kilter. Not this time.

“Well, everyone has some type of school. So what should we call it?”

“Super awesome dinosaur battle time.”

Alright, then.

Just because we’re not the last-day-of-school-party type doesn’t mean I’m not taking some time to reflect on out first year of homeschooling. I’m working on a yearbook for him, noting not only his academic achievements but his emotional and developmental ones, too.

I feel like this year went…differently than I thought it was going to be. I made a lot of tweaks and changes as we went. The phrase “unschooling” has always turned me off–but I have a suspicious feeling that we leaned a little to that side in the end. Some things that I thought went well:

  • JC continues to stay at the level of or excel the public school standards. I was concerned about his writing and word recognition/spelling earlier this year, but the moment I stopped pressuring him was the moment he started doing it. His strong subjects are still science and math.

  

  • He is finally warming up to hanging out with other kids. I think he still prefers the company of adults, but he’s learning there are perks to finding a crowd his size who like superheroes as much as he does.

  

  • We have found a co-op we really like and we’re looking forward to their summer sessions and joining them again in the fall.
  • Project based learning really works for JC. I love watching him getting excited about learning–especially when he doesn’t realize he’s learning. Favorite topics this year were the solar system, trains (of course), dinosaurs and World War One.

 

soldiers vs. jedi in an epic battle

 
It is a little bittersweet to see kindergarten come to a close. We had a lot of ups and downs as a family during the school year, and I’m excited to sink into summer. While there’s always things to work on, my singular goal for this summer is to have fun and play–because after all, that’s the way we all learn best.

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How I Wrote Our Homeschool Curriculum

I’ve done a lot of writing in my life, but I’ve never attempted an educational curriculum. I spent a good part of the summer researching home school curriculums, poring over standards and getting frustrated because I wasn’t finding exactly what I wanted. Since JC is in kindergarten, I decided that I would write my own for now. Here is how I tackled–and am still tackling–it.

I pulled from my favorite methods. I love the idea of project based learning, but know that at this age, JC would happily sit and build Legos for 8 hours a day if he got to direct how his time was spent. Great for a lot of things like pre-engineering and math skills, not so hot for writing skills. I love the Waldorf method for reading…but I’m not crazy about the zero tolerance screen rule they have. I love the freedom of unschooling and being able to pick up and travel, but I need more stability than that–and my kid does, too.  I went through all the methods I had researched and plucked my favorite bits out of them to apply in my own teaching.

MonsterHS

Making our “M is for Monster” craft was a hit.

I wrote out our school year goals, derived from various standards. I have plenty of issues with the Common Core Guidelines (that’s another post entirely) but I wanted to make sure JC was at least on par with his traditionally schooled counterparts, so I used those to set a starting point. I also looked at academic standards for private schools, and from other states that consistently ranked top in education. I combined that information and made academic goals for JC based on where he’s at now and how far I think he can go this year. For example, I had to pull from higher grades for math goals for him, but he HATES putting pen to paper so I know we have a long road ahead of us in the written word department.

Writing

He balks at worksheets, but loved writing notes to Dad. If it gets him writing, I’ll take it!

I thought about how I wanted our day to go. In our house, we have a pattern but not a schedule. I would do the same things at the same time and eat the same foods every day if I could (I like my stability, people) but my husband is the complete opposite. JC falls somewhere in the middle. I love our sleepy snuggle time in the morning, so our official home school day starts around 9. That’s when we do our calendar, days of the week, letters and whatever else “desk oriented” I have planned for the day. After a few weeks, JC knows home school happens in our little learning nook and usually beats me there.

Of course, not all learning happens like that. I’m a big proponent of play and nature based education, so we spend a lot of time outside and active in other parts of the house. Home school happens all day, even if my kid doesn’t realize he’s learning. I just know JC tends to get a little obstinate and fall apart around 3:00, so we save the afternoon for reading, playing, quiet time, invitations to create, etc, and use the mornings for the focused activities.

I go a month at a time. When I first started to plan out our weeks, I got overwhelmed. Fast. So I plan in detail a month at a time, stashing activities aside for other months as I come across them. Three weeks in, I know I need an organizational system, but I’m still figuring out what is going to work best.

We get social. JC started going to a nature-based co-op last year that we adore, so I bumped it up to twice a week this year. We are lucky that we found a group so in tune with how we think! We also try to make it to some other home school group field trips in our area, but I’m discovering that a lot of the groups don’t really pick up until mid-elementary school.

Playgroup

We love our co-op.

I ask for help. To be a homeschooler, you have to be a control freak who can let go. You have to be able to take responsibility for the education your child is getting–but be able to realize that you can’t do it all yourself. I have a friend who used to be a literacy teacher and curriculum coordinator, and I send her questions daily. I find out what other parents are doing, where they’re going for field trips, and if they ever feel like burying their head in the sand (the answer is yes).

What I’m really learning is that homeschooling, like the rest of life, requires balance. It’s very time-intensive right now that JC can’t do much “self-study”, and sometimes both of us need a break to go back to just being mom and kid. And one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that we have time to do just that.

TakingTime

Sometimes you just need to snuggle and read.

Every parent is a teacher, whether you homeschool or not. What kind of educational things do you like to do with your kids?