We are wrapping up our fifth year of homeschooling! This one was the best one yet. There were hard days, certainly, but there were also a lot of really great moments we had together. I thought I would share a list of what worked and what didn’t work for us this year. I like to take some to reflect on the year we just finished before I launch completely into planning for next year. (But let’s be honest, I had my master plan for next school year mostly ready in February. I can’t help it. I like to plan.)
- School Room- The biggest change that worked was definitely our new school room when we moved houses in December. Our home was built in the sixties, so it has what I think would have been used as a formal sitting room. We aren’t formal, and we don’t sit a lot, so that would have been wasted space. It gets the best morning light, and it’s a wonderful size, so we made it our school room. We’ve got a big white board that Lydia puts up our CC grammar work each week. We have a big oval table and four rolling chairs around it, one for each girl. The table is almost never clean. It is used for art projects, play dough messes and lots of learning. I have a little desk and rolling chair too. Right now we have one small bookcase which is overflowing with school books, so we plan to do a wall of bookshelves in there this summer. And some paint, but I don’t know what color yet.
- Our Classical Conversations community- This was our second year with this community, and I loved how much our friendships got to grow this year. I tutored the youngest class this year, and getting to know the parents of my kids was such a blessing not to mention the fun, crazy, wonderful group of tutors I got to know and love so much.
- One day with nowhere to go- When I was planning out dance classes and violin lessons, counseling sessions, etc., I tried to make sure we had at least one day per week that we didn’t have anywhere to go. This allowed us to have a slow morning and linger in our read-aloud for a bit longer or explore an interesting composer for a few more songs. One of my primary reasons for homeschooling is so I can set the pace for what our mornings look like, but if I’m not intentional with the planning of our week then it can start to feel very choppy. We prefer days with a bit more margin and fluidity.
- No TV until late in the afternoon. (I would include all screens. My kids don’t have any screens other than the TV, but if they did then this would apply to all screens.) This has been a rule in our house forever, but I’m including it because I can tell on Saturdays how much morning TV drains them of their creative and learning energy. Really, I think this would be a good thing for me to adhere to as well regarding social media.
- Read-alouds. This is everyone’s favorite. We love books so much. We are currently reading The Green Ember, and it’s fantastic. I’ll include this below but we need to figure out a better system for our morning basket time. I’m hoping to improve this next year.
- Caring as much about emotional growth as intellectual growth. This is an area God has really impressed upon my heart as my girls get older. It’s an area where I’ve gotten to see fruit this year and also an area I want to continue to pour into. In that vain, we are working on habits this summer. I talk more about our summer plans at the end of this blog.
What didn’t work…
- Saxon math for Lydia. This is our biggest didn’t work this year. Lyd did Saxon 5/4 in the fall. I ended up getting videos for her to watch to make it better. (The videos we had were not the Nicole lady who I heard great things about but another person. They were so boring.) I was thinking we would try the Nicole math videos, but then I heard about Teaching Textbooks. They had a free trial, so Lyd gave it a try and we both love it. She loves it because it’s more engaging than before. I like it because it grades all her math stuff for me, and since I’ll have three students next year and four the year after this was a big deal to me. The price was reasonable, and it still teaches using the spiral method which I like. We just made this change a month or so ago. I’ll update after we’ve been using it a while, but so far we love it. (I am still using Saxon for Lottie and Georgia next year.)
- Late night Wednesdays + early morning Thursday. Our community met on Thursdays last year, and our Missional Community meets on Wednesday nights. While this isn’t the worst thing in the world by any stretch and certainly kids in traditional school deal with it all the time, I’m not sad at all that our community day is moving to Tuesdays. I’m grateful to not feel rushed to get littles to bed on Wednesday night so they aren’t grumpy for CC day.
- My school planner. I used one I got at Target. It was fine, and I made it work for two students, but I need something a bit more for three students with three different workloads next year. I’m going to try Emily Ley’s Teacher Planner that launches tomorrow.
- Planning for two semesters. For the past five years, I’ve treated our calendar like a traditional school calendar–start mid-August, fall break, two week Christmas break, spring break, end for summer before Memorial Day. It’s worked okay, but it felt like there was room for improvement. Come late-July we are all craving some sort of structure and also all the air-conditioning. January and February always feel weird because we are prepping for state-testing, and this year Lydia was prepping for Memory Master. In December we want to sit by the fire and read and sing Christmas carols and bake yummy things. All that to say, it felt like we were imposing the same structure on every season even though seasons are just that–seasons. December isn’t like May, but it felt like we were trying to make it be. My friend Erin shared how she does mini-terms instead of two semesters. Each mini-term is 4-6 weeks depending on the calendar and holidays. I thought this was brilliant, and immediately decided I wanted to give it a try with our master plan for school next year. I will still get in the same amount of school days, but they will be spaced out differently, and our areas of focus will shift with the seasons. I really like how it’s looking right now, and we’ll see how it feels when we live it out. I can share more about our specific master plan for mini-terms in a future blog.
- Morning basket time. We struggled with this this year, and I think it has something to do with the planning for two semesters I described above. It feels like there is so much I want to fit into this time and I struggled to do that in an intentional way. When I was reworking our master plan I reworked our morning basket time too, and I’m hoping it will be more meaningful next year.
There you go! (I should mention I felt the need to have the same number in each list, but I curbed my perfectionist tendencies and left you with 6 and 5. That’s growth, people.) I’ll share more about next year’s master plan and the plan for morning basket time in a future blog.
Our summer term will be 8 weeks long. We are going to read some great books through Read Aloud Revival, work in the garden a lot and learn about habits using Sean Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. On rainy days we will watch Our Planet on Netflix and Monty Don’s Gardeners’ World on Britbox. And, of course, time with grandparents and cousins and friends and ice cream… lots of ice cream.
It’s been a really good year, and I’m incredibly grateful for the memories I’ve gotten to make teaching my smart, creative, delightful girls. Lydi and Lottie, you make me a better learner. I’m so glad we get to do this adventure together. All my love.