I feel like I’m starting to get my bearings with homeschooling and finding what works for us. We are slowly transitioning from the preschool years with Emily into official school years. For us this looks like growing into Charlotte Mason’s concept of a generous feast and establishing it as part of our family culture.
On a practical level, this is what we have been working on this year in our homeschool:
Nathan started the year doing a Joy School co-op with our friends, with me teaching about once a month. We have continued doing Joy School at least a few times a month as a family now that we moved. This covers some great character training and life skills teaching for us in a fun way.
I bought The Homegrown Preschooler and have been using it as a reference for activities. They have a curriculum that you can buy for close to $200, but the $25 has more activities than I could do and I enjoy picking and choosing what works for us in the moment. At the beginning of the month I write out 3-4 activities in the following categories and I try to do at least one a week so that by the end of the month we’ve covered a lot of ground. (Math/Manipulatives, Sensory/Art, Science, Language, Large Motor, etc.)
I’m not super concerned with skill work in the preschool years (as in I’m not) – learning letters/numbers, math, reading, etc – and my big focus is just giving them time and tools for play as well as exposing them to experiences and ideas that will enrich that play.
For years we have done scripture study and memorization at breakfast. I’ve added quite a bit to that list (not all completed during breakfast, some after clean-up and at various locations in the house) to cover a wide variety of topics and give the kids plenty of ideas to grow on during the day. I have a schedule so we generally cover all of these in a week (scripture study is the only one we do every day). I keep everything we need on a shelf right by our kitchen table. With our current season of life we are probably get 3 out of 5 days a week on the schedule, which I count as a success because we are doing something.
Bible/Scripture Study – Come Follow Me, New Testament Scripture Reader, Book of Mormon
Memorization – The Living Christ (we are memorizing at a pace to learn it in one year) and scriptures (here’s the list of scriptures that of ones we’ve already memorized)
Poetry – I usually pick a poem or two to read out of A Child’s Anthology of Poetry
Composer Study – I picked up a collection of composer CDs at goodwill for less than a dollar each. I pick one each month to intentionally put on and tell the kids what we are listening to (Vivaldi and Mozart have been our favorites so far). I’m hoping to find some good picture books about the composers to round out this portion of our study. But the kids recognize songs and when they hear it from a different source or location they know who it is.
Hymn Study – I try to pick one each month for me to sing around the house. The kids pick it up just by hearing me listen to it. Since our entire family is in primary right now (Nathan’s in the 3 year old class, Andrew and Laura and I teach the four year old class, and Emily is in the 5 year old class) we also reinforce the songs we are singing there. Come Follow Me in English and Spanish is our latest hymn.
Spanish – First 1000 Words in Spanish I know enough spanish that we use this as a starting place to talk about pictures in spanish and teach counting, colors, etc along with vocab. We also learned Come Follow Me (Venid a Mi) and I’m hoping to add more songs to our study.
Picture Study – Winslow Homer, using the picture study kits from Simply Charlotte Mason
Biography – Our library has a great selection of biographies so I pick out a few when we go every other week and we read them. We have learned about some incredible people and bits of history this way. A few recent favorites: A Poem for Peter, Salt in His Shoes, The Boo-Boo That Changed the World, Reaching for the Moon, Hidden Figures, Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire,
Science/Non-Fiction – The kids come up with a variety of things that they wonder about and then we find books at the library to find answers or learn more. We’ve read about ants, where hills come from, what people lived in before there were houses like what we live in, race cars, ballet (lots of ballet), horses, etc.
Character – The Book of Virtues I usually pick one a month and we read a variety of stories. The kids have their favorites that we read over and over
Nature Study – The Burgess Bird Book for Children (we are slowly working our way through the stories and learning more about birds; I’m impressed with the connections the kids make!), Exploring Nature With Children (we are starting slow and just picking a few things a month, but it is a resource I plan on using for years and years and letting it grow with us), Phenology Wheels (this is mostly me right now, but I’m setting the example and the kids will grow into it – also something we will do for years), occasional nature journaling. Oh and of course time outside! We are trying to get out and explore the beautiful trails here, becoming more feasible as my dislocated shoulder heals.
Read-Alouds – technically everything we do is read-aloud, but these are the “fun books”, strictly stories, that we’ve read so far this year that the kids have LOVED. I read it aloud with everyone the first time and then the kids listen to them over and over and over again as an audiobook. We bought a $30 kindle during black friday a few years ago that is connected to overdrive (our library’s app) and they listen to most the books on there. We also have a few that we bought on audible.
Winnie-the-Pooh and House of Pooh Corner; Charlotte’s Web; The Boxcar Children; The Wizard of Oz; The Chronicles of Narnia (all seven); Mr. Poppers Penguins; The Little House in the Big Woods; Farmer Boy; The Little House on the Prairie; On the Banks of Plum Creek; A Mouse Called Wolf; Stewart Little; Alice in Wonderland
We also read a lot of picture books, and our favorites can be found here (it is a growing list!)
Handcrafts – Lots of things can get slotted into this category from cooking (the kids help daily with this) as well as making things, which happens a lot at our house. The last few months we’ve been really focus on making things out of wool in different ways: felted wool sweaters and sewed mittens with the material, needle felted snowmen, wet felted pom-poms, and made little knomes out of wool felt and remnants. We are becoming a lot more comfortable with the material and keep coming up with new things to make which has really helped us this winter!
Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales – this isn’t officially in my morning time rotation, but we sing and read these A LOT! Laura was given a huge stack of books of nursery rhymes and children songs and she would sit on my lap and have me sing them all day long if she could, and the other kids quickly gather around. Nathan often walks around the house singing them and Emily has them all learned too.
This is an area that I let the the child lead when we start when they show signs of being ready AND are great at imaginative play. Right now we are doing the following:
Reading: We have been working through Teaching Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I bought it full price and it’s been worth every penny!
Math: We are occasionally working on patterns, counting, evens/odds. etc. I try and make this a physical whole body activity (number line on the floor and jumping) or we use our basket of peach pits and acorns or dried beans. Usually our math is just the math we encounter during our every day life.
Piano: Emily just started the second unit for Hoffman Academy and is thoroughly enjoying it (she just told me she will have her kids take piano lessons from Mr. Hoffman when she is a mom) We pay for the premium option and it is complete piano lessons with the most thorough curriculum I’ve ever seen integrating things I learned as a senior in high school and college. I cannot say enough good about this option.
Currently our focus has been developing morning routines for all of us. As Andrew and I have been coordinating our mornings and owning what’s important to us, we’ve also been helping the kids develop a solid morning routine. This has a few purposes:
- When they wake up with something to do it keeps them from asking me to do things or starting projects before 7am
- They are ready for when we need to leave the house, instead of trying to get everyone dressed in addition to getting ready to walk out the door
- It allows each child in our household to wake up as slowly or quickly as they’d like since everyone is working on their own tasks
- They are developing some important life-long habits that will hopefully make their life easier
For the kids we introduced their “Big Five”, an idea I got from Elsie at @farmhouseschoolhouse. I drew my hand on a piece of paper and wrote in each finger the following: make bed, brush teeth, get dressed, read a book, say prayers. We have each child hold up their hand the night before an talk through their big five. In the morning we lavishly praise as they work through their list and give big high-fives as they finish their big five.
I’m quickly realizing that being consistent and getting started is challenging. I’m also discovering that once we start we enjoy it. Written out it sounds like a lot, but our days don’t fill crammed and the kids have LOADS of independent play time (most of the time). Otherwise it is mostly reading together, which we love and doesn’t feel like doing school.
I’m also learning to “chase the spark”. I’m learning to take what the kids start (getting into aluminum foil to make something) and facilitate them by adding a bucket of water and some coins. It is a something I want to get A LOT better at, but I’m thrilled with the little moments of success that I’ve had.