The question I get asked most often about homeschooling since we started is, “What curriculum do you use?”
Well, the long and short of it is we don’t use a set curriculum. At least not yet. In the beginning it was a lot of trial and error to find a rhythm and schedule that worked for everyone. I tried my best to create an inquiry-based learning environment. Instead of being the teacher, my goal was act as more of a facilitator in my 5-year old’s learning. Each week or two I would ask her what she was interested in learning about and we would form her lessons around that topic of interest. I did use Oak Meadow as a guide in the beginning (like this sample lesson plan) even though we don’t formally subscribe yet. It’s a resource I’m considering if we decide to continue homeschooling into first grade. I also used a printout of the kindergarten standards for our state, which was given to me by her teacher along with a few other materials for literacy and handwriting. These weren’t the forefront of my lesson planning, but more of a checklist that I would look at from time to time to make sure we were covering our bases. Lessons are typically in the morning after making our bed, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. Call me old-fashioned, but I always feel like that’s a good way to start the day. Getting dressed sometimes means a jazzy leotard and rainboots, but wearing whatever you want is a perk of homeschool life.
Every day we start with the same song, “Good Morning Dear Earth” from A Child’s Seasonal Treasury. I found that singing the same short little song first was a good way to transition into our lesson time. After our song, we talk about the date and what the weather is like outside, I recite a poem that was chosen for the week, and then we start our lesson for the day. A lesson will take anywhere from 20-35 minutes. On Sunday evenings I sit down and plan out everything that we’re going to do for the week on a chart (pictured above). The number in parentheses is the number of times we devote attention to that subject each week, but most of the time many of the prompts and activities apply to multiple subjects. Whatever the topic of interest is that week, I create or research activities and prompts around that interest in the various subjects and write them in the chart. I also write down books she’s read or we read aloud and whatever pages she’s working on in her workbook. Even though I had hoped to stay away from workbooks, she really loves using them– Especially these Brain Quest workbooks and the Handwriting Without Tears workbook her kindergarten teacher gave us when started homeschooling.
At the bottom of the chart, you’re probably wondering what the heck is “Neighborhood Time”? Well, it’s loosely based off of a library program my brilliant friend Cat Levinson created. She would show an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and then after they watched the show or clip, the kids would engage in an activity that relates to the show’s topic. I adapted that concept for homeschooling by showing my daughter an episode that usually relates to something we’re working on that week and then we discuss the episode or participate in an extension activity based on the concepts presented. This has been a wonderful platform to address social emotional topics. Even as an adult, I find watching Mister Rogers has a calming effect and I learn so much from him.
The late morning or afternoon is spent outside. We are outside ALL THE TIME. We go to the park, we go to the woods, we walk along the prairies, we splash in the wetland. Snow, rain, wind, or sunny skies we try to get outside and explore every day. She also attends 1-2 classes each week outside of home such as piano, ballet, swimming lessons, etc. What else… Oh yes. We read a lot. There are books in every room of our little house. We sit and read together at least once a day and also spend quite a bit of time at the library. Books are just a part of our everyday fabric. After lunch, the afternoons are devoted to either Neighborhood Time, free play, resting, free art time, or “project work“. Project work, also called “project time” in our house, is a time set aside for free, unstructured learning.
Her 2-year-old sister loves to do all of this with us. I give her her own special lessons to perform while her sister is working. These “lessons” are usually coloring, Playdoh, Magnatiles, blocks, or assembling a puzzle. Sometimes we have lessons in the afternoon too while little sister naps, but for the most part we stick to mornings. Sometimes we don’t get to everything. Sometimes we do. Sometimes a kid is sick and there goes the day. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, and continue to learn, from homeschooling, it’s to be flexible.
I started out planning our schedule a wee bit obsessively when I started homeschooling. I was reading as much as I could about homeschooling and wanted to make sure she was meeting all the standards her peers were learning in school. I had her journal once a week and I assembled pictures of her week along with the journal, but the truth is it was exhausting. What I learned the most about our months homeschooling was we could cover most of the material we needed to in one 30 minutes session. I stopped planning like a maniac. Now, it takes me maybe an hour to plan the entire week if I’m feeling ambitious. The internet is my most favorite co-teacher and I’m so so so grateful for all the educators and institutions that provide free resources. I’ve also found Instagram to be a terrific source of inspiration as well.
If you’re interested in homeschooling or learning a little more about how we balance our home/school life, below is a list of resources that I found helpful in our homeschooling adventures. Only the first couple of the books are actually about homeschooling, but all helped me in finding a new rhythm for our homeschool life. The last book is actually a picture book that my daughter felt she could identify with as a homeschooling kid. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to know what they are!
The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori McWilliam Pickert
Home Grown by Ben Hewitt
How Children Learn by John Holt
The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule
This is My Home, This is My School by Jonathan Bean
FURTHER READING + HOMESCHOOL INSPIRATION
It was the day before school started back up after winter break and every twenty minutes I was asking myself: “Am I really going to do this?”
And then we did it. This past January, we decided to homeschool my 5-year old for the remainder of the kindergarten school year. It was both challenging and wonderful all rolled up into one big whirlwind, and it completely changed whatever opinions I had previously about homeschooling. Yet, it’s still a very personal decision that has taken awhile for me to be vocal about.
Each homeschooling family have their own unique reasons for making the decision to homeschool. Our reason was that after several months of kindergarten, our 5-year old was shutting down. “I hate school!” she would cry while getting dressed in the morning. Every single morning was a battle to reassure her. She had gone to preschool every weekday since she was 2 and has always loved school. We assumed that this was going to be a natural transition. Maybe this was a phase? Lots of kids have a rough time starting elementary school, but these outbursts lasted for the entire first semester of kindergarten. Along with tantrums in the morning she exhibited extremes of every emotion when she wasn’t in school. Over winter break she transformed back into the kid she was before starting kindergarten. She whistled to herself in the morning. She was different. She was herself. My partner and I worried. We didn’t want her to lose her inquisitive, creative spirit and above all we didn’t want her to hate learning.
Both my partner and I went to public school. My husband is a public high school math teacher. We are big advocates for public education. So, what this post is not about is public school bashing. I love my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and her elementary school, but it just wasn’t working for her. Academically, she was doing well. She has a lot of friends at school. Maybe it was too overwhelming? Maybe we should have waited until she turned six? Maybe we needed to take a step back and reevaluate? I laid all the maybes on the table one night and decided aloud, “Maybe we try homeschooling.”
She didn’t return to school after winter break. Our days found a quiet rhythm. I enjoyed both children being home and taking on the responsibility of my daughter cultivating her learning. She found the flexibility encouraging. I used her interests and natural transitions of the year as a guide for her learning… OUR learning. Sure there were days that were hard and frustrating, but more often than not our days were filled with playing, creating, exploring, and moving at our own pace.
When we first started homeschooling there were a lot of questions. Have you ever thought about sending your child to a therapist to pinpoint why she doesn’t enjoy school? Doesn’t it drive you crazy to have your kids home all the time? Have you thought about private school? What will happen if you go back to work? Isn’t homeschooling extremely time consuming? Aren’t you worried about socialization? These questions were asked out of genuine curiosity or concern, but here’s the thing– We gave a lot of careful consideration to all these questions for weeks. Lots of reading and researching and reaching out to individuals and in the end we decided it was worth a try. If it didn’t work out, well then it was a good experiment. So far, so good! A lesson I continue to learn time and time again as a parent is that sometimes (actually most times) things don’t go as planned. We’re forced to adapt and improvise. We do our best to find what works best for our kids, for our family, and for ourselves. This is what works for us.
Originally, homeschool was a temporary arrangement and now we’re faced with the decision of “Do we keep going? Are we a homeschool family now?” Regardless of what we decide, I’ll always look back fondly on this time and think to myself.. I can’t believe we did it. Even if it was only for 6 months, we did it.
Meet our sweet, little puff balls of love. Two weeks ago, we made a trip to pick up four day-old chicks from a local farmer and boy, oh boy, are we smitten chicken owners already. They’re growing fast and we’re already seeing glimpses of their personalities. Over the past several years, my partner and I have been talking about raising chickens and finally decided to go for it. Originally, we were waiting to own chickens until we were living in our forever-home, but that may take awhile. There’s no time like the present, am I right?
The kids have been terrific with the chicks. On the way to pick them up, the the girls and I were giddy (and I was a teeny bit nervous), but so far it has been going well. Mira really loves ducks, and I did debate getting a couple ducklings as well but in the end decided chicks were enough for now, especially since we have no idea how to raise poultry. Lorelei is eager each morning to clean the brooder, spend time with them during the day, keep an eye on their water and food, and clean the brooder again at night before bed. We have quite a few chicken books in our personal library that we read often, but one that really struck a chord with Lorelei this past fall. Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl. Just like Sonya in the story, Lorelei repeatedly tells her chicks, “I’ll be our mama.” That book actually played a big part in our decision to start raising chickens this year.
Our brooder is a used plastic tub and an old window screen purchased from the Restore for $1.50. The screen is bungeed onto the tub, which is lined with newspaper and several inches of pine shavings. We have two cats that would probably love more than anything to have a chick sandwich for lunch, so the screen is a must. An inferred heat lamp is perched to a chair and bungeed for safety and that’s our makeshift brooder set up!
We have zero experience owning chickens, so it’s a learning curve. We’re looking to build a portable chicken coop for our ladies, so if you have suggestions or coop preferences please leave a comment below. Actually… ANY chicken advice would be helpful if you have some to spare. I’m already daydreaming about fresh eggs in the morning!
Hello dear friends! How was everyone’s holiday weekend? We stayed in town and had a casual Christmas at home with family and puzzles and jammies and candles and slow, slow days. This year, all decorations on our Christmas tree were a homemade smorgasbord of paper snowflakes, pinecone weavings, and such that accumulated throughout the past several weeks. It was our stress-free alternative to chasing a busy 2-year-old and unruly cats away from fragile ornaments. One of the more recent adornments to our small scotch pine were these wood and paper stars pictured above that look lovely against both twinkle lights and sunlight. The idea to make these sweet stars came from The Eric Carle Museum blog, and were so enjoyable to make and I created extras for the window that floods with cool light in the late afternoon. I’m considering making enough to hang in every window of the house to leave up throughout the new year!
The light of 2015 is going out with 2016 quickly approaching. It goes by so fast. Do you have plans for New Year’s Eve? Any big plans for the year ahead? Wherever you happen to be or whatever you happen to be doing that evening, here’s to a very happy new year ahead to you! Thank you for spending time here with me if you are a veteran reader or someone that just happens to be passing by. Here’s little of this and that for the last Sunday morning of the year:
The clearest nights are the coldest nights, but star gazing is vivid and worth the frosty bite. Take a minute to enjoy the winter constellations. Here’s a guide for constellations in the northern hemisphere.
A look back at winters of yesteryear in LFK. And an explanation behind the warm weather we’ve been having this winter.
Last, but not least, an end of year reflection on purpose.
Happy New Year!
Currently listening: Andrew Bird’s “Auld Lang Syne”
When was the last time you swung your partner round and round? I learned how to square dance in 4th grade and that was probably the last time I did any dosey doe-ing on my own accord. Earlier this week we attended an all-ages folk dancing introduction put on by the good people at Lawrence Folk. It was thrilling! My childhood self who watched Little Women almost every Saturday morning, dreaming of parties with organized dancing reveled in the experience. More often than not when I attend parties I feel awkward and self-conscious… I stand around talk, talk, talking, while I’m dream, dream, dreaming of social events of yesteryear. The shuffle of feet, the holding of hands, the gathering of community, and the dancing of dances that have been passed down through generations. This morning we have the radio on and are looking up dance steps, preparing from the next gather. Starting a Sunday off dancing is always a good start to the week.
Is there a lost practice from long ago that you wish still existed today?
Below I’ve listed few places to visit on the interwebs to start your week. I’ve had some recent illness that has kept me from posting the past several weeks and I’m finally starting to feel well enough to spend more time here again on SfCT. For little bits and pieces in between, follow along on Instagram.
Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? I share this article every year around this time because it’s an important read, especially if you have or work with children: How to talk to your children about Thanksgiving’s ugly history by Susan Rohwer. And this video Everything You Know About Thanksgiving is Wrong is also a good watch.
One photographer gives thanks to nature’s tiniest gifts with this stunning photo series.
It just started getting chilly here in Kansas– Winter is almost here! These two articles: The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter & Get cosy: why we should all embrace the Danish art of ‘hygge’ are a great read on these two countries’ positive outlook on the winter season.
How are you feeling this very moment? There’s a poem for that feeling.
We Don’t Need No Education, by Ben Hewitt via Outside is a lovely look inside his homeschooling life with two boys on a farm in Vermont. Their entire world is predominantly spent outside. Makes me want to live on a farm.
Matt Kirkland, a friend of ours, was kind of a big deal this past week when CNET pick up his fun side project: Dumb Cuneiform preserves your fleeting tweets in ancient symbols.
Have a great week!
Currently listening to: “Old Old Fashioned” by Frightened Rabbit:
Happy Halloween my witchies and ghouls! Are you dressing up this year? I still haven’t put together my costume for a Halloween party this evening… It’s a make it work moment!
What I enjoy most about Halloween is actually the tail end of Halloween. That moment in the late night when the trick-or-treating has ended, the kids are sleeping, the streets are dark and the afterglow of jack-o-lanterns are flickering and fading. It is quiet. My partner and I either read in the glow of our paper lanterns and Halloween baubles or watch something not-at-all-scary because someone is a wuss (me). While I enjoy the the hustle and bustle and dress-up and parties and goodies and pumpkin carving and rushing from door to door, that brief moment of calm after the leaves have settled is my Halloween.
To send you off into this jolly, Halloween-y weekend, below is a list of tricks and treats for you and yours enjoy:
Celebrate All Hallow’s Read! All Hallow’s Read is a tradition started by Neil Gaiman to give someone a scary book on Halloween or the week of Halloween. Here’s a list of Neil-approved spooky books for all-ages AND if you want Halloween picture book recommendation for young little goblins check out this list.
Once your jack-o-lanterns have had their BIG night a-glow on All Hallow’s Eve, consider turing your pumpkin into a bird feeder. The birds will appreciate your generosity as they fly south or prepare to bunker down for the winter months.
Fall down the rabbit hole… Err… Troll hole (?) visiting the Spooky Science spotlight on Science Friday. I especially enjoyed this clip about the science behind why certain songs scare us complete with creepy music playlist.
I leave you at the door with this nice, old witchy and her gargantuan fungi. Because this is who I aspire to be when I’m 90:
Oh, hey Sunday! Before we get into the week, how is everyone’s weekend?
On Friday, we ventured to Clinton Lake, a 15 minute drive from our house. Not a cloud in that wide blue sky, myself and two mom friends and seven kids for a picnic, hike, and playtime on the shore. The sumac was a brazen red in the tall golden grasses. Green is quickly draining from the leaves on the trees leaving vibrant ambers, reds, and browns. The native sunflower stalks are almost unrecognizable, petal-less and brittle, dried stalks standing tall with sunflower skulls.
It was a happy time of adult conversation and unadulterated free-play for the kids. Both activities rare and sacred. That was my highlight. Feeling thankful for that blue sky and new friends.
I hope you take it easy today. I’ve selected a few places for you to visit on the interweb for you if you’re feeling so inclined to fall down the rabbit hole:
These absolutely beautiful cast plaster plants from a London artist, Rachel Dein look like modern day fossils. (Thanks Rebecca for the link!)
Speaking of fossils… Fossil hunting just became more connected with this fossil location and identification app. Looking forward to trying this out with the kids!
The National Book Awards shortlist finalists were announced last week. Check out what titles made the list!
Tired of answering all your kids questions? I love this article by a good friend, a dad of two young kids who has a few questions of his own.
Why you should leave the leaves in your yard instead of raking and bagging them. (Not to mention more time for reading or caffinating or walking or nothing-ing on the weekend.)
As I type this post, I’m listening to this song. It’s one I’ve been listening to for days and days and days. From a band I’ve been listening to for months and months and months. On play and repeat:
Enjoy your day! Take it easy and have a great week.
This picture is of a “fairy path” the kids created one evening last week just before the sun slipped away.
Last week I had the best intentions of going to bed early. Every evening I made a silent declaration that tonight was THE NIGHT. It was happening. Instead, books piled high on my nightstand, another glass of red wine with a new friend, writer’s block, and I fell through the infamous internet rabbit hole. Allowing these happy distractions resulted in blurry eyed mornings, but nothing a cup of coffee couldn’t fix. Ah, well… Maybe this week.
At least not tonight.
Forecasted for tonight, the Harvest Moon is going to put on quite a show. It is a super moon, blood moon, and there will also be a total lunar eclipse. It’s going to a spectacular sight! Here’s more information on how to see the rare super blood moon total eclipse.
Today is also the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, also know as the Harvest Moon Festival, a special holiday gathering with friends and family, giving thanks, and celebrating the harvest season in China and surrounding areas. To celebrate, have a moon picnic outside, make lanterns (like these) and turn out the lights, read a story about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (we enjoy this book), or make a wish on the moon. Another way to celebrate is eat round foods for dinnertime like pot pie, pizza, or a bowl of soup. If you have an Asian grocery store near you, pick up some mooncakes for a sweet treat. One of my former storytime families were from China and brought me mooncakes to the library one year and they were delicious! The mother of the family mentioned that what she enjoys most about Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is that when you look up at the moon, you think of loved ones far away, and it is comforting to know they are looking up at the same moon that evening thinking of you. If and when you look up tonight, look up and think of someone(s) you love. Who knows… They might be looking up at that very moment thinking of you.
I hope you’re able to take a moment to soak in some moonbeams tonight! Have a great week!
Happy Autumnal Equinox!
Today is the first day of the fall season. This morning, the girls woke up to a couple tiny tokens and nature treasures from the autumn fairies, an equinox and solstice tradition in our house. The leaves have barely started turning (this photo is of an arrangement I made last year in late October), but it always happens fast. Autumn can be a busy time of year and I hope you’re able to find some solace, even if it’s only for a moment to enjoy the glow of an autumn evening. Maybe even catch a glimpse of that mischievous Harvest Moon.
As a reminder to slow down and take pleasure in this time of year, I wrote a to-do list for myself for these next several weeks.
MY AUTUMNAL TO-DO LIST:
Take a long walk with only the trees as companions.
Jump in a leaf pile.
Listen to records in the evening twilight.
Write a postcard to a friend.
Attend a fall festival.
Visit a pumpkin patch.
Play outside with my babies.
What’s on your autumnal to-do list?
Lookie who decided to join us.
I was writing in the back room while the baby napped and heard a scratching sound over my shoulder. Thinking it was one of the cats up to no good, I went out into the kitchen only to find no sign of shenanigans. I sat back down and started clacking away at the keyboard and the quiet scratching came again. I stopped and listened. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. Our pet pupa was a pupa no more. A crinkly, orange leaf of a butterfly emerging from it’s pale green sarcophagus. I watched in wonder.
If you’ve never seen a butterfly emerge from it’s chrysalis, the process takes a little while. Their wings need to dry and that can take hours. Our butterfly took her time. By the end of the day she slowly stretched her wings, but no flight attempt was made. It was starting to get dark, so I thought it would be best to release her in the morning and so the entire night she sat on the window sill. In the morning, she still showed no signs of attempting flight. To gently inspire her, I took her with me on our walk to school. She sat happily perched to the top of the stroller as we walked down the ally. The kids left her on a flower, but when I was walking back home from dropping the oldest off at school, there she sat on the same flower. I scooped her up and walked with her for awhile and had a talk:
“You’re a monarch butterfly, capable of a spectacular migration over an entire continent. Flying might seem scary, that journey might seem incomprehensible, but just think about all the places you’ll see! All the friends you’ll meet! There will be birds and thunderstorms and days that make you wanna give up on the whole adventure, but you seem like a willing-and-able-sort-of-butterfly not a quit-before-you-even-try-butterfly. Why not give it a shot? You can make it. What have you got to lose?”
I set her back on the stroller and within a few steps she lifted off and flew to one of the wild sunflowers that hover over the alleyway.
Bye bye, butterfly.
I’m rereading poems by my favorite poet, William Stafford. This blog is named after the last line in one of his poems. Anyway, the introduction of The Darkness Around Us Is Deep recounts an interview between William Stafford and Cynthia Lofsness and how during the interview she inquires about his practice about writing a poem every day asking, “What do you do if you’re not so good that day?” and his response was “Well, then I just lower my standards.”(xii). How often do I let fear take ahold of me before even trying? You see, I’m going though a transformation myself. My wings are new and I’m not quite sure where to go next. The definition of progress requires movement. Even if that movement is blind and the birds and the thunderstorms are at my heels, do I let that stop me? Do you?
So, the chat with the butterfly also happened to be a chat with myself.
If you are going through a similar transformation, have courage. Lower your standards. Don’t be afraid. Lift off.
Listening to Caroline Rose “I Will Not Be Afraid” (7:20 minute mark)
Stafford, W., & In Bly, R. (1993). The darkness around us is deep: Selected poems of William Stafford. New York: HarperPerennial.