Saturday, May 29, 2010

Homeschooling Year One

We are close to finished with our first year of homeschooling, and we are planning to continue next year. I thought I’d do a little post about what we did, what worked and what didn’t, and what we’re planning on doing next year.

What Worked

Not having to get all the kids out of the house by seven! :)  I kid, but with four kids five and under, this is not an insignificant consideration!

 The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I’m very impressed with this book. We’re about halfway through it. It’s very easy to use and very, very thorough. My daughter’s learning to read well, and I’m learning things I never knew about my own language!

            For handwriting practice, I have my daughter choose a sentence from her reading lesson every day and copy it.

Math U See, Primer. This book makes me unafraid to teach math. I love how the concepts are illustrated visually and in a tactile manner with the manipulative blocks. For example, in teaching time, the book has you make a clock out of the five-unit blocks, one block between each number on the clock, so that the student has a visual illustration of the number of minutes between each number on the clock. It then uses the skill of skip-counting-by-five (taught in an earlier lesson) to teach the child how to read what is indicated by minute hand. Very clever, very effective.

More Mudpies to Magnets. We’ve been doing experiments out of this book, and every one of them has been a huge hit.

Bible story narration. We’re slowly reading through a Bible story book. I read Bess a story, and then she narrates back a two-to-three sentence version to me, which I copy down for her. Then she illustrates it. Thus, she’s slowly making her very own Bible story book. I got this idea from Berquist’s Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum, and I’m very happy with it.

Scripture memorization. We’re using Well-Versed Kids, and we got a fair way through it this year. (I'm lucky, and my mom is lending me the copy she used with us when we were kids. It's pretty hard to find now.) We’re also memorizing the verses off of the fliers the kids bring home from Sunday school.

Poetry memorization. Bess has memorized several poems this year. She gets to pick them. Once she’s memorized them, we copy them down into her poetry journal. This is another idea from Berquist’s book.

Art lessons with Grandpa. My dad’s been coming over to do art with Bess. She’s learned some basic drawing skills, and been introduced to tools like charcoal, and done lots of other fun projects, like using construction paper cut-outs to make a big scene on poster board and like lighting candles and then drawing the flames. This has been very cool. 

Spanish Lessons with Aunt L. My sister has come and done Spanish with the kids (Bess and her little brother). These have been really neat too, and have included writing her own stories in Spanish and illustrating them, and having snacks and talking about them in Spanish, and even visiting with my sister's classroom hamster and talking about it in Spanish.

Lots and lots and lots of read-alouds. We’ve read a lot of age-appropriate science books and history books and fairy tales and Spanish children’s books.

Homeschooling P. E. class. Our local university offers a P. E. class for homeschoolers – it’s how they give their elementary ed. students a practicum in how to each P. E. This was a blast – Bess got to do all the fun P. E. stuff like playing with parachutes and running relay races and bean bag tosses and all that jazz.

What Didn’t Work

A formal Spanish program. I’ve got one I want to use next year, but this year we ended up doing conversation days with my sister (as mentioned above) and lots and lots of Spanish picture books and some Spanish music.  It was informal, which I didn’t expect, but it was good. My kids were really resistant to speaking something other than English at the beginning of this year, but now they’re getting used to it. They’re even excited about it (when it involves music they like or stories they like). My daughter’s even tried using Spanish when the occasion called for it, and that’s a huge step forward!

A science experiment a week. It just didn’t happen that way. They were there, but less frequent than I hoped.

What We’re Doing Next Year

Friday school. This is the biggest change. Next year the plan is to enroll Bess in a private school satellite program. This means that technically, Bess will be enrolled in private school (which, among other things, simplifies our paperwork), though she will only have school on campus once a week. The rest of her lessons will be at home, taught by me. The bigger benefits are that she gets to go to classes once a week, and will get music lessons (they do choir and a musical every semester) and P. E. and some extra history and science classes and FIELD TRIPS. Basically, it fills in all the gaps – all the stuff that’s hard to do on our own. And it lets her continue to get used to classes with other kids and to other people teaching her, but without the uber-long public school day.

I’m glad we did the first year on our own, because I got to find my feet without anyone looking over my shoulder. But for this next year, now that I know what I want and need, I’m excited to have a bit of support and a little more structure.

First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease. This is what we’re moving to for Language Arts once we finish OPGTTR (which should be within the first month or so of school, as it’s the one thing we’re planning to keep up with over the summer). I don’t think I’d be homeschooling if I hadn’t read The Well-Trained Mind, and so I’m cheerfully going ahead and following most of Bauer’s suggestions, including using her curricula where they exist. We’ll also be using Spelling Workout A.

 Bible stories and Scripture memorization. Just continuing with what we did this year.

 Handwriting . . . um. Of some kind. I’m leaning Zaner-Bloser, but I’m also thinking about Handwriting Without Tears.

El Espanol Facil (forgive the lack of accent). It was hard to find a Spanish curriculum that wasn’t aimed at high-schoolers, and that also wasn’t crafts-based, and that also wasn't just memorizing odd bits of vocabulary, but this one looks good. I'll try to report back. :)

       In addition, I’m hoping to have at least one time a day (probably a meal) where we only speak Spanish. I’m working really hard to get my Spanish to the place where I can facilitate this!

Biology WTM-style. We’ll be using the suggestions in WTM, and studying plant life, animal life and the human body.

Story of the World I: Ancient Times. I’m looking forward to this!


I think that’s the bulk of it. There are a few things I still need to figure out, but this is the plan going forward. Of course, the very fact that I’m homeschooling – when I never ever expected to do that – makes me know that I can’t count on everything working out just as I plan!


Anyone else more-or-less know what you're doing next year?

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


Amber said...

I'm so glad to hear that your first year went so well. The one day a week option sounds good - it sounds like they don't dictate the curriculum too much, which is nice.

A spelling book you might want to take a look at is Spelling Power. New it is quite pricey, but you can get used versions of the third edition for not all that much (~$15, when I bought it last year). It is book and method you use for as long as you teach spelling and it works incredibly well. Don't bother with the special notebooks though, just use a plain composition book or some other book with appropriate line spacing and make a little cheat-sheet for the 10 study steps for referral. I can't say enough good things about this book or this method - the way it teaches spelling is fantastic and Emma has made some amazing progress in her spelling over the course of the year. It also takes all the drudgery out of learning spelling and hones in on just what needs to be learned and helps the child learn it in a very effective way.

I'm in the midsts of planning next year and I'm realizing that I'm wanting to do way too much - as usual, come to think of it!

MirCat said...

Wow. Thanks for this awesome post, Jess. I really appreciate you sharing what did and didn't work. Best wishes for next year. :)

Jessica said...

Thanks, Amber, I'll look into Spelling Power!

MomCO3 said...

I tried Spelling Workout A (and B and C) for the same reason you're suggesting... and we did three years without any visible effect. No more Spelling Workout for me.

I have a page on my blog with our plans for next year-- you can find it at the bottom of my sidebar.

Jessica said...

Amber, thank you, I'm checking out Spelling Power to see if it looks like it would work for us. And, Annie, I'm headed over to your blog!