The past few weeks I have been in the throes of researching curriculum, co-ops, great literature, and lots of other fun resources for our next homeschool year. I suddenly realized that I never gave an "end of the year" update on our first year!
The bottom line? I absolutely LOVE homeschooling! I am passionate about education and get ever so excited about not only what my girls are learning, but also what I am learning in the process! I love having my girls home all day with me and although we've had our share of unproductive or down-right bad days, I wouldn't change it for anything!
My absolute favorite part about homeschooling? Without a doubt it is spending hours of our week snuggling on the couch reading my all time favorite childhood books to my girls. That is definitely my favorite part of our day!
My downfall? Curriculum. I'm a nerd. I love books. I love it all. I want to do it all. I always plan waaaaay to much. You remember my "great plan" for the beginning of the year? Yeah, I pretty much only followed for a few days. It was too structured for a baby with a changing schedule (who didn't want to follow "my" schedule :). And it didn't leave enough time to take advantage of those "teachable moments" or to really dig in deep to our favorite read-alouds. I was also going to do a "Letter of the Week" theme for Karlie but soon found out that she had learned all of her letters and sounds already from Karis and was pointless. So I just did phonograms with both of them instead.
The best advice given to me? A sweet friend named Jessica who has 3 precious stair-step children (even closer in age than mine!) told me not to try to do it all at once. To start one thing, build it into a routine, and do it well for a week or two or even a month before adding something else. Then work on doing those two things til we were set in the habit and ready to add something else. Very simple, but priceless advice. It worked. My girls thrived on doing the one bit of schoolwork I had them do every morning and then got ever so excited each time I finally added another piece to our routine. We ended up with only 3 real schoolwork periods: a short 10 minute breakfast memory board, a longer reading time on the couch, and a half hour table work time in the afternoon. "Preschool" really doesn't take long. (Although I will admit that I totally flunked the arts and crafts part of preschool... definitely not my strong suit. We painted when they asked for it and did a few special projects, but other than a non-stop coloring obsession, that was about it. If anyone loves to do art projects and wants to have my girls over once a week, PLEASE let me know!)
Our Routine? It now looks something like this (but is very flexible):
8:00 -- the girls all get up, eat breakfast, do our "breakfast board" (daily memory work), get dressed, do chores
9:00 -- we take a walk and play outside
10:00 -- Abbi goes down for a nap and we settle on the couch for reading time. Karlie and Karis first get to take turns picking out books for me to read to them. After about 30 minutes, Karlie goes to play on the living room floor (usually doll-house). Karis does her reading lesson for the day and then chooses a "read-aloud" (chapter book) for me to read. Karlie is playing but also listening and usually runs back to see the pictures in the read-aloud.
11:20ish -- (this varies greatly depending on whether we can put down our read aloud :) -- we break for playtime. I do chores, dishes (yep, my breakfast dishes are still there because we have to get outside by 9 to beat the heat), and make lunch.
12:00 -- I get Abbi up from her nap and we all eat lunch. If it is a pretty day, we go play outside again (usually pool, water table or sprinkler when it is hot!)
1:00 -- come inside, cool off and the girls play while I do some chores
2:00 Nap time! Abbi sleeps but I put the laptop in the big girls' room to play audiobooks. They hardly ever fall asleep anymore. I try to do chores and dinner prep.
3:00 -- I let one big girl choose a quiet activity to do in her room and I do table work with the other one and then switch. I usually do around 20 minutes with Karlie and about 35 minutes with Karis but it varies, depending on what we are doing and if Abbi wakes up in the middle of it. I never thought I would do a lot of workbooks with my girls, but they absolutely LOVE them! Karis practices her handwriting, reads a beginning reader story to me, does her phonics workbook, and then gets to choose some other table work to do with me. Karlie pretty much gets to choose what she wants to do with me. She has a number of pre-school type workbooks that she enjoys and we also play learning games together. I have really enjoyed getting to have this one-on-one time with my girls and they really look forward to it as well. They know to be quiet and listen to their audiobook because the worst punishment ever is not getting get up from naps early and do table work with Mama! A lot of time I will cut up veggies for dinner while helping them do their table work.
4:00 -- They play while I cook dinner
5:00 -- Clean up for Daddy
7:00 -- Abbi goes to bed
7:30 -- big girls go to bed
Favorite Curriculum/ Books we used:
For Teaching Karis to Read:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading -- the girls loved the initial alphabet rhymes but the reading part was not super exciting. Still, it has a great simple phonics and grammatical progression and is exactly what Karis needs. I am more than happy with it.
Alphaphonics -- I take turns with this and the above to give Karis some variety and to help with fluency. She likes that the letters are larger.
Bob books: She reads me one story each school day and they get progressively more difficult. It has been great to use them as we go through our phonogram cards because she sees how the phonograms help her figure out words. I just get these from the library.
The Writing Road to Reading and phonogram cards -- The book is great and I am certain I will utilize its techniques next year since Karis is actually writing more now. The phonogram cards are key -- there are only about 70 key phonograms in the English language and once a child can recognize them, she can figure out how to read almost any word. They have REALLY helped Karis take off with her reading. We memorize several a week and say them each morning as we do our "breakfast memory board."
Explode the Code Workbooks -- she absolutely LOVES her workbook and I am thrilled with the effortless way it teaches her to read and practice her handwriting as well. This is probably her favorite "reading resource"
Chapter "Read-Alouds": Our favorite part of the day is curling up on the couch with a good book! I absolutely LOVE Sonlight's reading list for preschool and kindergarten. We did not buy the curriculum, but instead I just got most of the books from the library. There are a few great collections that I purchased from Amazon, but most of them are at our library. I also requested books from the library from THIS classical book list. Here are some of the books Karis most enjoyed hearing:
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Uncle Wiggily's Storybook
James Herriot's Treasury for Children
The Wizard of Oz
Twenty and Ten
Grover's Dolphin books
Beatrix Potter Collection
Make Way for McCloskey
Corduroy and Company
The Boxcar Children
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Collection
Milly Molly Mandy Storybook
In Grandma's Attic
For next Year: I have been talking to the area Classical Conversations director to try to get a new group meeting here. I've been on the waiting list for 2 years now for the one that is here and they just always fill up with younger siblings of current members. For a while, it looked like I was going to have to be a director, which I really didn't feel that comfortable doing since it would be my first year with CC. But thankfully, another Mom who has been a tutor for several years stepped up and is willing to take over. There are a few more details to get worked out, but I am planning on it all working out for the fall! Next week I go to a 3-day parent practicum and my big girls have an educational play-camp and we just can't wait!!! I will blog more about CC as we get started with it.