A Look Back

As I venture to embark upon my fourth year of homeschooling my kids (!) I decided to take a look back at where I have been. Its pretty crazy where this journey has taken me so far considering my limited knowledge of curriculum and even subject scope and sequence, if it were a sport I wouldn’t be surprised with an end of the year award for “Most Improved.”

Despite the fact that I was homeschooled K-8, the actual choices of what to teach, when to teach and whether to even educate myself by reading teacher manuals and book introductions became very overwhelming as we had baby number 3 and 4 and bought our first house. Now that I feel I have found my footing, one of my greatest joys has become understanding a concept and helping their little minds experience that wonderful “ah-ha” moment. I have discovered the simple yet necessary joy of sitting down with my preschool aged little ones and practicing with a crayon or pointing at words left to right, top to bottom. There is just so much wonder in watching their little minds do what they where created to do, grow and learn.

So, without further ado, a look back:

In 2012 I began the formal education of my oldest. She was 5 years old the fall of that year so we started Kindergarten. I really hadn’t done much with her in terms of letters and numbers, mostly just arts and crafts, which she did amazing at. So I singed her up for Connections Academy, an online public school. It didn’t take long to realize it was not for us. A public school even if it is online is still a public school and the reporting and tests and level of intensity was something I was not ready for. They sent us two huge boxes of free Calvert curriculum which looking back was really awesome material.

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We unpacked everything with excitement and high expectations, and much of it we did end up enjoying. My biggest mistake that year other than a short temper was telling my Kindergartener over and over, “This will be so much fun.” We both actually expected it to be only fun and when it wasn’t we got easily frustrated and had a hard time getting much accomplished. This usually happened long before completing the daily-recommended subject lessons, math, language arts, science, social studies, and then the bi and tri-weekly music, phy. ed. comp. skills and art. So when it came time for scanning and emailing finished assignments, talking with her “teacher” on skype and all of the tests and assessments, there was major stress in our home. She was expected to know, upon entering Kindergarten, each letter of the alphabet, how to write them and each of their sounds so that she could continue to sound out short three-letter words and eventually by the end of the year, some 4 and 5 letter sight words. It was impossible to finish these tasks since she had little to no understanding of the alphabet, (I guess I had thought preschool was for games and fun.) By the end of the year the simple task of sitting down to “read” together was so painful that Ellie would get tense, be unable to sit still for even a moment, and our time would end in angry outbursts from both of us. We could have taken off the complete year of school and accomplished more. So that’s pretty much what we did the following year. Over the summer I met some wonderful people who own a store in Elk River called Heppner’s Legacy. If you homeschool and live in the area you have probably at least heard of them. The minute I walked into that store I felt put at ease about all this homeschooling stuff, inspired even. They had posters on the wall that said something along the lines of “Mommy didn’t fail” They were saddened when I shared my story of the previous year and reassured me that I didn’t need to report to the school district till the following year when she was 7 and that I still had plenty of time to meet any goals I could think of. This calmed my nerves and set me in a much better direction for the coming year.

In September of 2013 we bought a house and that January baby #4 was born.

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So I bought an easy Kindergarten math workbook made by Singapore, an Explode the Code workbook, and then dug out an old phonics program and first reader my mom had given me. I used these things that year.

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By 2014, 2nd grade with my oldest and Kindergarten with 2nd oldest, it was finally time to begin reporting to the school district on our oldest who was 7 (insert ominous music).

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I decided to get a bit more serious and make up lost ground. It turns out Explode the Code is supposed to be used at a rate of about 5-7 books/year. Silly me, I thought the number 1 on the front had meant 1st grade!!! (Like I said I am most improved) Needless to say we hadn’t covered much language arts in the 2013-14 school year. So I decided on a language arts program that I have fallen in love with. Its called Foundations Logic of English by Denise Eide.

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We covered books A-D in one year catching my 2nd grader up quite a bit in that subject. The program worked great for my classroom style teaching that I did for both my Kindergartener and my 2nd grader. From fun games to worksheets we had lots of work to do and lots to learn. We turned spelling rules into songs with familiar jingles and got SO MUCH BETTER at reading:)

For Math, I jumped right into Singapore Math’s 1st and 2nd grade material.

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We covered both grades in 1 year. Lots of work but well worth it, now she is all caught up. I really like these books for the early grades but cant follow it for older grades since the teachers manual is written more for math minded people….I think I should understand a 2nd grade teachers manual…..then again…maybe I will get most improved next year too!

My 2nd grader used the Alpha Phonics primer for all the little sounds we had missed along the way in reading practice as well as small short reads like Arnold Lobel’s Grasshopper on the Road, Owl at Home and Mouse Soup.

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It certainly takes a little experience to decide which books are at an appropriate reading level especially with a struggling reader. Although most books have a level listed on them these levels really aren’t universally similar in word types and sizes. We would come to some books and I would need to be willing to just set them aside if they were too difficult, being forced to push through with tons of words that are too hard is no way to learn! My Kindergartener shared our “class-time” where we covered “calendar-time” with months, seasons, days of the week, ordinal numbers and such.

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The kids love to look ahead at the family calendar and see what exciting events are coming up. During our “class-time” we would also cover counting on our 100-chart frontwards to 100, backwards from 30, by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, 6’s, and 10’s. We didn’t start out with all of these but ended the year with all of them, turning most into songs (just like days of the week and months of the year.) We also did some basic math on the board I would show them some simple ideas with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, even though we were covering these things during math for my 2nd grader, and she would often feel annoyed by the redundancy, the review was so helpful for her and I found that she learns far better in that classroom setting anyways. Then we would launch into our phonics and Foundations for the day and end with some “floor-time” music, phy. ed. science, stories etc. On top of our “class-time” where she had more than enough of 1st and 2nd grade material shoved into her mind, my Kindergartener learned to read using 100 Easy Lessons a very popular approach that I wish I would have found sooner.

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My Kindergartener also ended up starting some of the 1st grade math workbooks from Singapore that my oldest had skimmed over at the start of the year.

This past year was actually amazing. Looking back at my planner is so impressive, with all the grade levels and material to cover I had to pick and choose through 6 different books which things to teach and which we had already covered. To my surprise my 2nd grader tested at nearly a fifth grade level in science by the end of the year and that’s the subject we barely covered, go figure!!

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