The first week of the homeschool year can be nerve-wracking, but it is always interesting. Even though we school all year, taking a few breaks here and there, something about August and September induces us to review our curriculum, course of study, lesson plans, and organization methods.
This year was no exception. In our homeschool planning discussions, we admitted that no matter where we plan to ‘do’ school, we always end up in the dining room or living room. It’s more comfortable, and we are surrounded by picture windows. Even in winter, it feels sunny and warm and cozy. On the other hand, our basement, where our desks, computers, and materials are located, tends to be dark, and becomes chilly enough in the winter to be a distraction, although during the hottest days of summer, it’s a haven of coolness.
It is also right next to the kitchen, where drinks and snackage are just a few steps away. Not a big shocker that kids don’t want to be too far from the fridge.
Eventually we can install better lighting and address the heat issue downstairs, but there’s no point in fighting what we naturally do, so we moved our stuff upstairs, and gather around the table or curl up in chairs to do our work and have our discussions. We still have some more organization to do, but it’s coming along. Still not sure where to put the whiteboard. . .
We enjoy trying new educational programs and resources, especially since we work with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Right now we are reviewing Time4Learning, Rhythm of Handwriting, Institute for Motivational Living Student Keys Binder, Seed Sowers, The Presidential Game, VideoText Geometry, the Homeschool Mom’s Bible (KJV), Chess House. Coming soon will be Bridgeway English and God’s World News Top Story. All of these must be integrated into our regular studies. Sometimes we use them as a substitute for what we were using, others are inserted in some way, while some books and games work well as a supplement. The Presidential Game, Chess House, and Seed Sowers are used as supplements, God’s World News Top Story will be inserted into History as a 15-20 minute discussion of current events, while Time4Learning is Kenny’s main program for math, language arts, science, and history. We will also use Bridgeway English as our Grammar program when it arrives.
Because we like to use ‘real’ books, our curriculum not only changes from year to year, but sometimes from month to month. For instance, this year we started using Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages by Harold Bloom (I’m a Harold Bloom fan) as one of our language arts activities. We read a selection together, copy passages, and discuss unfamiliar and archaic words and phrases. However, each child also has a Wordly Wise workbook that they work through on their own, especially when our schedule is disrupted for various life-happens reasons.
Another change we made was to use Office 365 and SkyDrive for many of our subjects. It’s important, in my opinion, to have a balance between hand-written and typed assignments. Keyboarding is as much an important skills as penmanship in a digital world. Microsoft Office is ubiquitous in the business world, so knowing how to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are a natural addition to our homeschool program. The great thing about Office 365 is that for about $10 a month, we can download Office to 5 computers, and not worry about having the latest version. Then we use SkyDrive to synchronize our folders, making our lesson plans and the kid’s assignments accessible on any of our computers.
This year we had to take yet another look at our schedule. Noah is working a part-time job in the mornings now, so subjects that we used to discuss together after breakfast have been moved to the afternoon. Our new basic schedule looks like this:
7am-9am ~ Morning routines (chores, exercise, devotions), breakfast
9am-10am ~ Math
10am-11:30am ~ Language Arts
11:30am-12:30pm ~ Lunch
12:30pm-1pm ~ Bible
1pm-1:30pm ~ Composition
1:30pm-2:30pm ~ M/W/F Science T/Th History/Geography
2:30pm-3:30 ~ Electives and subjects like art and music
We are also going to be able.to take advantage of more opportunities for homeschoolers in our community. With my mom’s dementia increasingly becoming an issue, we weren’t able to participate as often in extracurricular activities for the last couple of years. Now that we have some help coming daily to oversee her eating and drinking habits and overall safety, we can leave the house for extended periods of time. Emma has decided to take a drama class and learn about set design. Our local homeschool support group, PEACH, has many social and learning activities for homeschoolers, and I’m adding several of those to our calendar.
It would be nice to be able to carve in stone the curriculum we will use and the routine we will follow, but the best thing about home education is the ability to meet the ever-changing needs of family, as well as the academic demands of a well-rounded education.
Whether you start your homeschool year in the fall, or in January, or you never really stop, there will be times of evaluation necessary so that your homeschool is fresh and productive and responsive to your student’s needs.
Did you re-evaluate your homeschooling methods and schedule this year? What kind of changes have you made? Share with our readers in the comments section below.