One of the things I have to remind myself of every single year is that it’s okay that we’re out of sync with everyone else.
You’d think that this would be obvious. When you homeschool, you step off the beaten path to make your own trail. We all know we’re not in sync with the goals, curriculum, or style of brick and mortar schools. And we’re often in while they’re having teacher workdays or other random days off, and out and about while they’re in class.
However, a lot of homeschoolers loosely follow the school calendar for a whole host of good reasons. That’s why, in the last week, my social media feeds and my friends have all been talking about starting back to school.
The thing is, we did school most of the summer and we’re taking our break now. It’ll be another month until we start properly. And it hits me on some level every year that we’re really far off from everyone else, including our fellow homeschoolers. There’s a sort of discomfort and defensiveness, which is silly, but it’s there.
So every year, I have to remind myself that it’s fine. And that we can do things our own way. If you’re also way off from everyone else’s school year, remind yourself that having your own schedule is one of the benefits of this homeschool gig. I don’t know about you, but I need to tell myself that I wasn’t a meanie for making the kids do math in July and that I’m not lazy for letting them relax through most of September. There’s nothing special about math that it needs to be done only from September through May and nothing special about vacations that says they need to happen in the summer months.
I tend to just dive into work, but with one more visit from relatives and other things going on, it didn’t seem like a good idea to start in on regular math and writing and so forth last week. Then again, I hate when we have our “Box Day” and then we don’t actually use anything for a couple of weeks because, you know, life.
I decided instead to break out some of the fun stuff and take a few field trips. It worked out well and I think it got all of us into a better frame of mind for school. Is it possible that homeschooled kids need some deschool learning now and then? We’re constantly doing stuff that’s out of the box and our daily school looks so different from kids in most brick and mortar schools. Yet I still found we needed a week of doing something different every day to break that sense of learning as sitting down at the table. Routines are good, but so is breaking away from a routine.
We also had a chance to see our co-op friends, we went to the Museum of Natural History to play with the fossils, Miles played in a marimba concert, we cuddled to books on the sofa and raided the library for a tall stack of dinosaur books, and tried our hands at math problems with no numbers (more about those in a future post). Overall, a very good week.
Sorry for the lack of posting lately. We are enjoying the final days of summer. We used our Read to Succeed tickets to Six Flags and made it to Brickfair. We also went to the county fair (of the more suburban county to our north, the subway-accessible Give us Statehood Fair is in a few weeks) and have been checking off a few more things on our American History checklist. Did you know that you can get Civil War trading cards from National Parks? Well, now we do.
Also, because the kids began nagging, I let us have our Box Day a little early. On Box Day, we put out all the materials for the next year as well as exciting new school supplies, like Lego pencils for all, a purple sparkly notebook for BalletBoy and everything orange for Mushroom. I put up new school posters in the hall, including this one of animals and a reading tree for the kids to add a leaf when they finish a new book. We had our largest order from Home Science Tools, which you can see below. We bought petri dishes, stains for slides, agar, bug boxes, a plant press, dissection kits and number of things to dissect, including a cow eye that sat there in its packaging as a subject of jokes for several days. I lay it all out like Christmas, except for school supplies.
If you’re curious about our curriculum, I actually, for the first time, stuck a page on my links above that lists it all.
It’s hard to say if it’s really “third grade” now or not. We will still put one more entry in the portfolios labeled “second grade.” Mushroom is finishing up the last couple of weeks of the math and phonics I had intended him to finish for second grade. On the other hand, both boys have already started in on the third grade reading list I made and BalletBoy started on third grade Math Mammoth several weeks ago. Plus, we’re talking about two kids who would have been in one grade this year here and another one if we lived five miles north. So who knows what “third grade” even is anyway. Whatever, we’re still swimming along and Box Day was fun, as always.
In any case, we’re enjoying the last days of summer, gearing up for fall and starting to see friends again.
So, the first week of school has somehow zapped my creativity and ability to do anything else. Which sort of sucks. I didn’t feel that way last year and it’s not like I sit around making lesson plans or anything like that. I like to think ahead of time then have everything ready to go so we can pajama school in the morning for a couple hours.
I think it’s just getting back into a routine that’s getting to me. This is not to say I’m not glad. I was ready and Mushroom was even more ready than me. That boy loves him some routine. BalletBoy, who lives in some magical BalletBoyLand, couldn’t care less what we do as long as we give him a ticket and pull him along.
It’s also might be the fact that I socialized with people every single day last week. Mushroom was less keen on that part and BalletBoy was more excited. Poor BalletBoy who has to be an extrovert in a family of introverts. It was great to be back together with our friends, and that includes my favorite homeschool moms!
So far, I’ve learned that Mushroom was apparently dying for a formal math program. We did a lot of informal math last year, but no formal program. He looks like he’s ready to do cartwheels every time I pull out the notebook with the MEP stuff or the Miquon books. You’ve never seen a child so giddy for math.
I’m pretty much putting some icing on the cake, getting us all ready for the “school” year to start. The kids are in summer camp as I write, but next week the public schools go back and my most favorite co-op has agreed to meet at our usual island (no, that’s not a metaphor, we have meeting place on a certain woodsy island nearby) on Monday to kick things off for a week of just hanging out. Plus, there’s sort of a fall feel in the air. By the way, weird weather we’re having, huh?
So, here it is, the obligatory what are our plans posting:
Math: MEP, with lots of other stuff thrown in for enrichment, including probably some Miquon.
History: Story of the World 2, which covers the Dark Ages through the end of the Sixteenth Century. We mostly use the book as a loose jumping off point and don’t have the Activity Guide to go with it.
Science: I never found what I wanted, so I made my own plans. The kids were interested in doing physical science, so I made a curriculum map using the Usborne Science Encyclopedia as a spine. It relies heavily on the Magic Schoolbus and Let’s Read and Find Out series. I may actually post it here abouts at some point for others to use if they’re interested.
Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears for grade 1
Reading for BalletBoy: A little Explode the Code 3 and 4, a few games and lots of books, books, books.
Reading for Mushroom: I had gotten Explode the Code’s online program thinking that it would be a good thing for him to work on getting up to speed on some of the basics he’s missing while I worked with BalletBoy on actual books. Just from the times they’ve played it, I can already see that it’s going to be the opposite. It’s good for BalletBoy to work on some of the gaps he missed as he flew through reading mostly on his own in kindy, but it’s useless for Mushroom, who has already cannily figured out somehow how to game it without learning a darn thing. I’m sure he’ll still use it some, along with Starfall and a some otheronline reading games. We’re back to the BOB books and we’re going to start over with some more basic phonics work in a more deliberate way.
We’re also pretty out and about every day with something to do. BalletBoy will continue with Ballet. Mushroom wants to start the drums. Both boys will probably take a homeschool art class or two and they attend the free theater classes offered by a local performing arts organization. We’re doing soccer again. These choices have been really hard this time around. BalletBoy expressed an interest in doing the violin but it was tough to get the right class and the price boggled my mind so in the end we decided against it, though BalletBoy says he wants to reconsider for next year, which I’m totally open to doing. He’s a young 1st grader and I want him to focus on ballet as his daily practice thing.
Then, of course, we have our wonderful two co-op groups. But that’s enough for now. Next week I’m sure I’ll be posting love poems about being back together with some of my favorite homeschool moms.