If you all have been following my blog for awhile now, you might have noticed that we have two children: Big Sis, who turned 9 this month and is entering 4th grade, and Lil' Sis, who is 6 years old and starting 1st grade. Well, we are very happy to announce that we are anxiously expecting the birth of our third child - another girl - in August! Both my children were born after their due date, so I imagine we might be in for a wait of a couple of weeks yet, but this pregnancy has been so different than the first two, I guess anything could happen! I'm not sure what I'll be calling the three kiddos here on the blog (baby girl doesn't officially have a name yet in real life either... still trying to decide on that perfect fit), so you might see a revamp of the nicknames. For now, I might go with Baby Sis for the newest addition, but we'll see. Just a heads up, though, that you might see shorter or fewer blog posts in the coming weeks. However, if I happen to be breastfeeding and just sitting near the computer or my phone, I'll be doing my best to keep up with things. If you contact me and I don't respond right away, please be patient. :-)
Some Curriculum Choices
Because of the new little one and the subsequent adjustments that we'll be making to settle into our new adventure as a family of five (!), I've been heavily reconsidering and evaluating our curriculum and all educational materials in the home. I've begun to lean toward simplifying life in recent months and years and we downsized our home about a year and a half ago (we live in a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhome!), so keeping things to the priorities around here is important.
Nonetheless, when it comes to homeschool stuff, I have a hard time parting with things because I feel like anything educational could have value and we might want access to it! Still, I've been driven to organize, streamline, prep, and eliminate the excess lately (maternal nesting, perhaps?), so I've been trying to choose our absolute favorites. The following are just a few of our selections. In case you're wondering, none of them are affiliate links (meaning I'm NOT making money off of them) - I'm sharing the links for those of you who might be curious to learn more about a few of the tools we use.
1) For Lil Sis: We'll continue with First Language Lessons and continue handwriting practice using Handwriting Without Tears to reinforce what she knows, as well as the cursive writing app I've blogged about in the past.
2) We'll be doing IEW - Institute for Excellence in Writing - for Big Sis' language arts this "school year" and that is anything but simplified, in my opinion. I am very much hoping that it is not too overwhelming as we move forward. I've found that simplicity in a curriculum is usually the best way to ensure we get it done, so curriculum this is out of character for our style. My only saving grace here might be that we'll be doing it with a Classical Conversations (co-op style) community, so we'll have support and accountability. Wish us luck! Big Sis will also continue practicing cursive through the app and some simple copywork.
1) For Lil Sis: RightStart Mathematics has been a fantastic addition to our homeschool lives. It DOES take up more time than many other programs might, but the return on our time investment has been worth it. We'll see how that goes after baby is here - especially in the toddler months & years - but we're going stick with it for now and hope we continue to reap the benefits that we've been seeing.
2) For Big Sis: I'd love for Big Sis to use RightStart as well, but think that two children in two different levels with a new addition in the family to adjust to, might be a bit much. So, for Big Sis, we'll be using CTCMath, which is an online curriculum program, at least for the first next few months. She is able to do it with little help or guidance from me and I feel like that will ensure she stays on track when I'm super tired and recovering after baby's birth. Daddy wants to do Khan Academy with her as well and they seem to bond over this father-daughter time, so I'm sure that will be a part of the weekly routine as well.
3) Just for fun, we'll be supplementing with Life of Fred books since both girls enjoy them, and Beast Academy workbooks (for Big Sis), when we need something for "car schooling", travel, or a break from routine.
Art & Music
Both girls continue to take violin lessons, which they love, plus a couple of note reading exercises and a monthly composer study.
We'll also continue using Artistic Pursuits to give us guidance on our art lessons. Artistic Pursuits was so simple to use that we actually implemented it into our weekly routines. That's a big deal for us! Unless the girls take outside art classes, it's been a struggle to "find the time" for art until we started using this program.
Home & Life Skills + PE
We don't have a curriculum for any of these areas, so if you have something you love that you use, please do let me know! That said, I don't feel a structured program is necessary for most homeschooling or educational pursuits, particularly when it comes to home and life skills. Nonetheless, if there's something out there that makes learning particularly easier or more fun, I love to try it out.
The girls want to learn more about cooking, sewing, and finance, so those will be areas we put particular focus on in the coming months. I plan to have Big & Lil Sis get much more involved in not just meal prep for breakfast and lunch, but also meal planning, budget, and shopping (especially Big Sis). I'm going to offer them some recipe books and have them make choices for weekly meals, we'll determine a budget they can spend to purchase supplies for those meals, and then I'll let them be heavily involved in shopping for the necessary ingredients (within budget, if possible). We'll be experimenting with this and I'll try to remember to report back on my blog on how it's going.
Health, Nutrition, & Physical Education are all part of our daily lives and something we discuss or do frequently. For PE, the girls often participate in a program at a local gym for homeschoolers that is offered once a week and they take regular swim lessons throughout the year. Plus we are always incorporating things like roller skating, hiking, running (there is a even track in our neighborhood), tennis, basketball, biking, and more!
Science, Social Studies, and History
There is a love of both science and social studies/history in our home, so we grab a list of the required "standards" and try to use them as a guide, but we generally follow the interests of my children when it comes to these subject areas. If there's something they "need" to know (our state requires testing at certain grades), then I'll introduce the topic or concept if we aren't naturally gravitating toward covering it already. Otherwise, we select educational materials as needed from the library, science kits, online resources, local field trips, co-ops & classes, etc. Right now, our curriculum in these two subjects is not structured. I am, however, open to possibilities, so please feel free to comment or email me to suggest something! That said, we DO listen to The Story of the World audio CDs (but we have the books too), they are learning a history timeline, and we love Sassafras Science Adventure books (and we like Elemental Science in general).
The above curriculum choices and approaches are not a complete view of what we do in our homeschool, nor are they set in stone - ever. We do, however, make an effort to stick with something for a decent amount of time before trying something new. Nonetheless, we feel that homeschooling should be at least partly child-led and open-ended to include the child's needs, wants, interests, and personal style. I've found that anything we do is far more effective if the kids are having fun and actually truly want to learn (i.e. that it's something they are interested in). I love the unschooling approach, but we found that a pure unschooling method doesn't fit our lives or needs at this time. Maybe one day, it will! And as contrary to unschooling as it may seem, many of the aspects of classical education seem very valuable as well. So in the end we just try to use what we find works from different styles of homeschooling and incorporate them as they best fit into our lives. Therefore, I'd say our homeschool lives are very eclectic and it works for us (so far)!
What works for you? What do you use? I'm always happy to hear about other homeschool families experiences and what they love to do or use in their homeschool and daily lives!
I'm a homeschooling mom of two, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.