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Our First Year of Homeschooling: Some Resources, Ideas & Thoughts

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IMG_3741I should preface what I’m about to say with this . . . I am a total rookie to this homeschool thing. (Also, I will probably say that every year because if it’s anything like parenting every year will bring new and different challenges, and I will feel completely inadequate almost always.) But given my must-read-everything-I-can-on-the-subject personality I thought I would share our experience from this year in case it might help someone else scouring Google for resources. If you aren’t homeschooling, skip to the bottom for my favorite banana pudding recipe. (Which has nothing to do with school except we made it to celebrate finishing our first year.)

For several years I’ve felt like homeschooling was something we needed to try. There were many reasons, but a big one was knowing there is a decent chance I will need to homeschool our adopted child to catch him or her up and to teach English. Knowing that, I wondered about teaching our other kids. Originally, Matt was hesitant, but he came around and has been our biggest supporter this year. I thought we would try it out for PreK since that seemed like a low-risk situation. I told myself, “How badly can you mess up her education in PreK?!”

Through several friends, I had heard about Classical Conversations which is kind of like a combination of a homeschool co-op and curriculum. It covers history, timeline, Latin, geography, music, science, art, and basic math and English things. I went to a preview day for a local CC group and loved it. It gave me the accountability and community I was looking for, and it gave Lydia the friendships and outside influences I wanted for her. CC gave us a basic structure, and then I could add on as I wanted. For PreK we kept it very simple. With CC, you are responsible for choosing a comprehensive math and language arts curriculum. I chose to do Saxon math because I liked how it told me exactly what to do and say. Math was the subject that most intimidated me, so this helped calm my fears. (Side note: several people mentioned to me that most kids can work one level up with Saxon so we did the Kindergarten level this year, and that worked well for us.) For language arts, I chose All About Reading. I wanted a curriculum that was heavy on teaching the rules of phonics instead of just memorizing tons of sight words. You all know I’m a word person, so I did a lot of research in this area. Lydia and I both loved AAR. We did Level 1 this past year, and on their website you can take an assessment to see which level is best for each child to start on. Next year, we will add All About Spelling by the same group. The thing we did the most this year was read. I read to Lydia from chapter books almost every time I fed Georgia. She got the Chronicles of Narnia set on CD for Christmas and listens to those during rest time and before bedtime every day.

And that’s all we did this year. We focused on the basics, and I had to tell myself no a lot. We didn’t do many field trips, although we did take a lot of nature walks with her field guide. We didn’t make a paper mâché volcano or create a tornado from a two-liter. During our CC days, she got to do all sorts of science experiments and art projects, but we didn’t do these at home. The first half of the year I was very pregnant, and the second half I had a newborn, so we kept things simple. And I’m glad we did because it allowed us to go slowly and enjoy the learning journey.

Next year, we will be official, and I will have to report grades and attendance and such. We will be adding a few more things to our lesson plans, but I’m still trying to keep things simple. We are doing Classical Conversations again, and I’m excited because we learn all about Africa this year in our geography lessons. Like I said earlier, we are adding All About Spelling, and we’ve been doing Handwriting Without Tears and will continue that as well. The umbrella school that we are registering with requires a Bible curriculum each year, so I’m praying through what that looks like. (After originally writing this, a new friend recommended Grapevine studies, and I think we are going to do their Old Testament study in the fall.)

Regarding our schedule, we do most of our school in the morning while Georgia is napping. Charlotte is in the kitchen with us. Sometimes, she wants to “do school” and I give her a math manipulative or a little slate to “practice” letters, but that’s only if she asks. She does sing the US presidents while brushing her teeth which is pretty comical because about the time she gets to Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and Hayes little toothpaste bubbles are dribbling down her chin. All the girls have rest time in the afternoon. The younger two take naps, and Lydia has quiet time by herself. This gives me a much needed sanity break mid-day.

Homeschooling is hard–hard because it demands time and patience and energy which, let’s be honest, often feel like they are in short supply. But if your heart feels stirred to try it, I would encourage you to explore it and see if it might be a good fit for your family. Several years ago when I started my list of life goals I wrote, “To teach my kids to read.” Sitting beside Lydia at our kitchen table with the early morning light casting lines through the blinds and hearing Lydia read her first sentence was a moment I won’t forget. I loved watching her little finger tracing underneath letters that were now unlocked and the look on her face that day when Daddy came home and she told him, “I can read!” That moment made all the hard moments worth it. (And trust me, there were some hard moments. Sometime in person, I can tell you the “milk” story, but let’s just say I thought I was going to lose it one day over that four-letter word.) We started out the year with the mantra “We can do hard things.” And we did.

Lydia loves a good party and requested a little celebration a couple weeks ago after we finished our last day of school. So, I made her favorite roast beef sandwiches, and she and Charlotte helped me make banana pudding, which means Lydia helped and Lottie licked the remaining whipped cream from the container. I got this recipe from Miss Nan’s cookbook, and every time I make it I think of Miss Nan and all she taught me.

Jackson Banana Pudding
– One small package of instant French vanilla pudding mix.

– 1 can of Eagle brand condensed milk

– Large Cool Whip

– Vanilla wafers

– Bananas

Make pudding according to package directions. Fold in the can of condensed milk. Then, fold in the Cool Whip. Layer with vanilla wafers and bananas. It makes a ton!

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