When we first started homeschooling, Rory was already partly through the year of kindergarten at the public school. He had a very hard time at school, and we decided to pull him out for the rest of the year. This was pretty easy, because you don't actually have to attend kindergarten in our state. I only had to write a letter stating that I was withdrawing him from school. At that point, I knew very little about homeschooling. I also didn't know if we were going to continue for the next year, or put him back in school for first grade. So kindergarten was a bit hectic for us. I was really worried that he would be behind if he did go back to school, so I pushed him very hard. I got phonics books and workbooks and math books and all sorts of things to make sure he was staying on track. I made him sit at a desk and write. It was HORRIBLE! Luckily, we both survived, but I had to make some changes after that.
First grade went much better. I realized that we had to do state history sometime in elementary school, and figured that was a good place to start. So, I came up with a book and activity list and we learned New York History by reading books, looking at maps, doing projects, and going on field trips. That was the fun part. The other part was the math and reading and writing, which I was still a little too worried about.
For second grade I decided to use a packaged curriculum. It was really a good one, but had one problem. It was scheduled for 180 days, exactly the number of days we are required to log for each year. You may think this would be a good thing, but it drove me batty! If something happened and we didn't get everything done one day, it meant having to do extra the next. If we had a field trip planned, we missed a day and had to make it up. Also, there was too much writing for my dear writing-phobic son. By the end of the year, we were squeezing in the reading portions and skipping a bunch of the rest of the stuff. I also ended up adding in a handwriting book in place of the copywork from the curriculum, and further modifying things to suit our situation. Not so simple after all.
This year, I think we've finally hit on something. You won't believe my simplification secret, although those of you who have been homeschooling a while will probably laugh that it took me so long to figure this out. Are you ready? Here it is...You don't have to finish everything by the end of the year! You also don't have to start everything at the beginning of the year! If you think about it, the whole grade level marking thing is much more necessary in schools where kids have to move together in all the subjects. And because of the age cut-offs, the oldest kid in first grade is really a whole day younger than the youngest kid in second grade. If you're only worrying about one kid, you can move ahead at their pace, instead of worrying so much about the grade level they're in.
So, here is what we do. We have a basic schedule of things that we do every day. It looks kind of like this:
- Bible time
- Piano practice
- Language Arts
- History or Science
- Extra subjects (gym, music, art, co-op, library, etc.)
The order of things can change a bit, depending on what's going on, but the first three generally stay in that order. One thing I've found which simplifies things is working on a "loop" schedule for history and science. The loop has changed over the year, depending on what books we're using at the time. We started out the year with an American history schedule which included "living books" I've chosen arranged in chronological order, along with a basic history text. We also had a book about Native Americans, a Nature Reader, a book about the 50 States, and a literature book (The Wind in the Willows). So, we started a 3-day loop, reading two of these books each day. We'd go through the list, then start over again.
Since the beginning of the year, we've finished the book about Native Americans, and have started a new book on Astronomy, and another one on Ancient History. So, we now have an "American" day (history, and states), a "World" day (The Mystery of History), and a "Science" day (Astronomy and Nature Reader). We just keep rotating through these subjects, getting done whatever we can each day.
We also changed the grammar book we were using, from one that required me to teach every concept sort of from scratch, to one that Rory can work on by himself for the most part. It's a book that's supposed to start with 4th grade, but he just seemed to be at that level even though he's not quite finished with third. So far, he's doing well with it. I'm also trying to teach him to do more work on his own, partly because he's able to do it now, and partly because I need to start working with Lily more on her letters and numbers and things. As it is, she joins us for Bible time, and for history and science and most of the extras. She enjoys being part of things, so she has her own history notebook and joins in on the projects and experiments and sometimes the reading.
So, this homeschool thing is a bit of a work in progress, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it!
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