Thursday, January 4, 2018
In Fall of 2016, we began homeschool preschool. This year, we're doing a hybrid of preschool and kindergarten. To give a little background: Liam just recently turned 5 and is too young for kindergarten, so if he went to a traditional school next year, he would start kindergarten in Fall 2018. However, he is reading (voraciously) and comprehending at a 2nd grade level. I am planning to homeschool him for his kindergarten year next year, but using mostly 1st grade materials.
At this point, Shawn and I don't have a long-term vision to homeschool the kids all the way through. We are open to sending them to public or private or charter schools in the future. We root these decisions deeply in prayer and are asking the Lord to guide our family in this. At this point, our local school options are not ideal and with Liam's reading skills, it concerns me that he would be bored (I've seen this play out already). This is also such a short, impressionable season with our kids and we feel a deep conviction to be the ones teaching them, at least right now. We plan to use Sonlight curriculum as I desire a bit more structure and the prep to be done for me. A handful of trusted moms have highly recommended Sonlight (along with some additional curriculum to go alongside it), though I'm just learning about it all myself. Hopefully in a few more months I'll be prepared to discuss kindergarten curriculum in more detail.
I hope it's clear that I am no expert. I do not hold a teaching degree and am still extremely early in this journey, with my oldest child just 5 years old. But I am willing to share what has worked for our family so far and what hasn't, and to continue this ongoing conversation. I love the homeschool movement that is sweeping across our country right now and empowering mothers to teach their children at home. Almost every time we are at a playground, we meet another homeschool family, and there is such a wide variety of styles when it comes to schooling at home. I have already benefited so much from wiser moms who have shared advice from further along the journey (including my sister, who has 4 kids and currently homeschools).
For preschool last year, we used The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, which I love and recommend. Liam so enjoyed the activities and art projects and recommended books. I will probably repeat this, in part, again with Lanie next year. It does require some weekly prep, but apart from finding the books (which I either reserved at the library or purchased from ThriftBooks.com), it isn't much. Most of the materials could easily be added to the weekly grocery list, and I love how hands-on this curriculum is. It involves art projects, lots of reading, cooking, learning to help around the house. It's the most beautiful aspects of homeschooling boiled down into a very doable preschool curriculum.
This year, I decided to do Playful Pioneers, the same company's kindergarten curriculum. It felt like a natural next step. We purchased the curriculum and the books and started reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We love Laura Ingalls Wilder (even giving our third baby Wilder as a middle name ;)), so I thought it would be a great fit since the kids were already familiar. After three weeks, I realized it just wasn't a fit for our family - at least not right now. My kids were minimally interested in Farmer Boy (or any of the recommended chapter books), and I think it was just too early to introduce some of the activities. We even tried listening to the audiobooks, but it just wasn't clicking. So we shelved it and started down our own path. There's little pressure because they're both technically in preschool and I didn't want to keep pressing into a curriculum they weren't interested in when I'd seen them thrive with previous activities.
So here is what we've done. We do have some routine in our house, but my work schedule changes from week to week, so we must remain flexible. However, there are a few things we do at least 4 days a week.
Reading: We used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I know there are some strong opinions on this one, but it worked beautifully for us. We worked through this together over a period of 3-4 months and Liam went from recognizing letter sounds to reading fluently by the end. It was astounding to watch. Liam looked forward to our short lessons, and now reads level 2 and 3 readers with ease. We will work through the same book with Lanie in a couple years, but if it doesn't work, there are plenty of other approaches out there.
Bible: We read or listen to the Bible together daily, though this is something we would do whether or not we chose to homeschool. Our favorite Bible remains the Jesus Storybook Bible, and we also really enjoy the New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. It has simple questions the kids can answer to interact with the Bible story. A few days each week, we are reading a chapter or two from Missionary Stories with the Millers to teach the kids about Christian missionaries around the world and locate their stories on a world map. Each Friday, we also practice a family Sabbath (a day we both have off of work). We are working through memorizing the New City Catechism as a family, a resource I can't recommend highly enough. There is even an app that goes along with it that has kid-friendly songs to help us all remember each catechism. The kids are loving this time each Friday morning - accompanied by a special breakfast - and we love that it helps them form a framework for theology and the truths they learn in Scripture.
Handwriting: We used Handwriting Without Tears, though admittedly, Liam hasn't been thrilled with practicing handwriting. It isn't something I've hammered down too much as I don't want him to get bogged down in practicing handwriting and lose interest in learning.
Science: We have this science kit and we do some experiments from this book. But really... we don't do much science yet. It's still preschool, after all.
Free play: Honestly, this is most of their days, as it should be at these ages. Building with Legos and Magnatiles, play dough and sensory activities, playing outside at the park, playing with their play kitchen. It's all so wonderful for their brains and something we might miss if we were gone most of the day.
Math: I was clueless where to start when Liam asked for a math workbook, so I went to a local homeschool store and asked the lady to help me pick one out. The one she chose involves lots of coloring, some basic addition and subtraction, cutting and pasting, and some word problems that are slightly more advanced. Liam loves it and asks to do it during free time. I can't find it online, but this one and this one look similar.
Art: See this post and this post and this post. We do a lot of art around here.
Social interaction: This was always one of my main concerns and the number one reason I was always hesitant about homeschooling. We've all met homeschool kids that are just kind of... strange. The kids go to Sunday school at church every week, Bible Study Fellowship every Thursday, and we hang out with friends at least 3-5 times a week. Plus, they have each other. I'm less worried about this aspect of homeschooling than I ever have been.
Please don't let this overwhelm you. Writing it out makes it seem like we do a lot, but really, it's only a small bit every day and only when the kids are interested. It's just too early to enforce a regimented school, in my opinion. Like all moms - whether homeschool, private school, public school - my hope is to nurture life-long learners... not just kids who give the right answers.
Additionally, I'd love to hear from other homeschool moms in the comments with helpful advice, tips, curriculum recommendations, and encouragement to other moms considering homeschooling. There are so many ways to homeschool well and I think we'd all be encouraged to hear from you!