While our first year of homeschooling was successful, there was a bit of a learning curve as I learned how to structure my day as a stay-at-home mom while at the same time trying to provide educational experiences for my oldest child. Some of the changes I’ve written about below I’ve already implemented and are working wonderfully for our family (following a more specific routine). The other changes will be made near the end of August when we begin our school year again.
In addition to the changes listed below, I’ve also recently made up a ‘family rules’ poster which has helped to provide consistency in our house in regards to behavioral expectations. This will be detailed more in a later post.
What we’ll do differently moving forward
Purchase the whole Sonlight Core instead of picking and choosing books!
This year, in order to try and save some money, I ordered from the Sonlight P4/5 curriculum a la carte. I figured that we could just use our Magic School Bus science trade books and other non-fiction texts to teach science and social studies. As the year progressed, I realized the quality of the books that Sonlight recommends and ended up either buying or borrowing the rest of the books in the core. It would have made more sense to just buy the whole core at the beginning rather than trying to nickel and dime and end up with more of a hassle in the long run.
Keep the routine as consistent as possible
Near the end of this school year I wrote up a ‘routine’ chart that has helped provide consistency to our days. This came out of necessity once our toddler dropped his morning nap and I had to figure out a way to involve him more (in a constructive rather than destructive way) into our learning time. Although we followed a general routine before this, our new routine allows both children to be involved in our learning time. Rather than being a schedule, the times are general guidelines for me that help to ensure that I accomplish everything I set out to do during the day.
Sticking to a daily routine also lessens power struggles throughout the day! I find when we deviate from our routine for too long of a period, my preschooler begins to think he has more options throughout the day as to what he wants to do and how it will get done. As a result, I get frustrated: frustrated with the attempted negotiations, power struggles, free play messes and fights that can easily dominate our day.
I also found there were days this school year when I would let quiet time slip out of our routine. When this happened, I quickly lost my sanity. An hour or so of quiet (to do chores, eat, and relax for a minute without answering questions!) allows me some time to rejuvenate. If I skip quiet time, I am often frustrated and frazzled at the end of the day. A routine makes for a win, win situation on all fronts!
Finn’s fine motor skills have improved this year and he shows more of an interest in drawing and writing. In order to help develop this interest, we will spend more time ‘journaling’, which for the most part, will mean him drawing and me scribing for him. Some teacher friends recommended the book, Talking, Drawing, Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe. Reading it has solidified the importance in my mind of my son learning to draw and include details in his drawing so that he learns later on the importance of including details in his writing.
Personally, prepping crafts is not something I enjoy doing. I don’t love messes; I don’t love spending a lot of time prepping something that is completed in 15 minutes. So, again, to further develop the fine motor and art skills I believe are important, I plan on signing my kiddo up for art classes once a week. I’m also secretly hoping that being presented with a range of ideas and watching other children create will help him to expand his interests beyond drawing treasure maps.
Play more games
I’ve spent a lot of time while washing dishes listening to podcasts by The Homeschool Sisters, many of which recommend playing games to teach. At this young age, my son loves playing games and has already shown how much he can learn through playing games and play. He’s learned counting from 10 to 0 by pretending to launch a rocket. He’s learned names of coins by playing ‘store’ and playing with daddy. He’s learning much of his counting from playing hide and seek.
Next year I plan on spending more time playing board games and card games to teach numbers and calculations. Playing games also allows ample time and opportunity to teach discipline and self-control.
Provide more structured ‘free play’ experiences
While I will certainly still provide plenty of time for free play, I also intend to plan for more structured free play experiences. Pinterest provides tons of ideas under the titles of ‘invitation to create’. I plan on supplementing what we’re learning about science, math and the content of our read alouds with more creative play opportunities.