At this risk of sounding like a broken record – this year is weird. There are the ways in which this year is weird for everyone, global pandemic and teetering democracy and all. And then there are unique ways we managed to make this year even weirder for our family, like deciding to do a major remodel on our house. Anyway, it all adds up to a lot of weird. And – big shock – a lot of weird leads to stressed out kids and stressed out parents. So we’re just doing our best right now and taking things one day at a time.
We left our house on August 30th so we could remodel our basement and convert an unheated sunroom into a master suite. We thought we would be back in our house by Thanksgiving. Sometime in November we learned that was going to get pushed out by several weeks. But then two key people – including our general contractor – were exposed to Covid-19 and have had to quarantine at home, leaving the house project at a bit of a standstill. We’re in the tricky spot of figuring out if we can pause the project so we can move back in and celebrate Christmas at home and then complete the project in January. It’s not ideal. It actually completely sucks and we’re contending with competing interests like wanting to finish the project as quickly as possible and wanting to get our homesick kids home for Christmas.
In November we were lucky to spend two weeks in Sunriver, OR and we had snow on the ground for the entire time! Then we returned to my parents’ home in SW Washington and spent Thanksgiving with my parents and brother. My parents and brother have become our little quarantine pod, I guess.
So far this post isn’t about homeschooling at all. Ha! In some seasons homeschooling is a lot of life and a little school. But let’s dig in, shall we?
For most of this month we were doing the Quality of Numbers block. My first grader really enjoyed the container story for this block and enjoyed his main lesson book work, but I am also finding he is ready for much more academically than I covered with his big sister in first grade, so we are supplementing with Singapore Math workbook pages. We are also still plugging along with All About Reading – enjoying it but only getting to maybe a couple lessons a week. My seven-year-old is doing great with the mechanics of reading but doesn’t seem super interested in independent reading at this stage, and that’s fine! I know from watching his big sister that it’s all about laying the groundwork and then one day they just blast off.
We spent all of November on Ancient History. My fifth grader and I love History Quest so, so much and it’s been fun to find ways to flush it out and make the experience our own. We spent a lot of this month focused on Ancient Persia and India. We also read The Golden Bull, which is about Mesapotamia. My 11-year-old is really captivated by India, so we are lingering there for several weeks.
Some of the supplemental resources we are enjoying for India include:
- The Story of India (This is a six-part documentary series that we are watching together. We’ve seen the first two expisodes and they cover ancient India beautifully.)
- Mangoes, Mischief and Tales of Friendship (this was read independently)
- The Rajah’s Rice (enjoyed by my first grader too)
- The Iron Ring (we are using this as a read-aloud)
- Tales of India (I had intended to read this aloud but my 11-year-old beat me to it.)
- Aru Shah and the End of Time (for independent reading)
- Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth (all three kids loved this!)
- Ramayana: Divine Loophole (using as a read-aloud)
When I give my kiddo a book for independent reading I almost always have zero expectations from her after reading it. I just want her to enjoy the story and for the stories to help her fill in her mental picture of the subject we’re studying. So almost none of the books mentioned above will make it into her main lesson books! But they all matter and they all enrich her experience.
One of the most successful aspects of fifth grader right now is my 11-year-old’s independent work time. This is new for us – up until this year I did all of her lesson time with her. But this year while I am working with her little brother for first grade, my fifth grader has a brief list of independent assignments for her to complete. It’s going amazingly well, which is such a relief. I have found some things that are working really great for us, so I thought I’d share them here. Usually each day she does a few of these (not all!):
- Form Drawing
- Daily Word Ladder (I started her with the grades 4-6 book but it was too tricky so we bumped down to grades 2-3.)
- Handwriting (She is doing Level 5 – she loves that this includes drawing so if you have a kid who loves to draw this might be a great fit. FYI it’s not secular.)
- Key to Fractions
- Spelling and Writing Workshop (We just got this recently and my kiddo is loving this! Technically it’s for fourth graders. Whatever. I have been having a hard time fitting in All About Spelling lessons so this is standing in for spelling for now. This is part of The Good and the Beautiful’s Fourth Grade curriculum but I bought it as a stand-alone product.)
- German homework (This comes from an Outschool class my kiddo is doing with a native German speaker. Highly recommend!)
I take the Charlotte Mason approach with these independent assignments. They are meant to be quick and not to exhaust the student. There’s a lot of variety and all together the independent work takes my 11-year-old about 30 minutes on average. But it’s amazing what can be accomplished with consistency every day!
I wrote in last month’s post that it had become clear to me that my 11-year-old is missing some key fundamentals in math, and that we would need to abandon Waldorf math blocks and switch to a mainstream math curriculum. After A LOT of research (like OMG did you know how many math curriculum videos there are on YouTube!?!) I ended up going with a remedial math program made by Math-U-See called Accelerated Individual Mastery, or AIM. This program will allow us to quickly work through all the addition and subtraction facts and fill in the gaps she has. While Waldorf math is so beautiful and creative, it just did not have enough skill instruction and consistent review for my kiddo, so we’re circling back around to build her a more solid foundation. Math-U-See is planning to release a similar program for multiplication in January, which we will also do, and then I will likely transition my kiddo to some level of Math-U-See. This program is an especially great fit for visual learners.
This whole experience has me re-evaluating how I will approach math for my younger kids, as I now see how critical consistent and sequential math instruction is, especially for kids who maybe aren’t the mathiest of people (raising my own hand here).
This year is really shaping up to be the year of the sweater for me! In November I completed my fourth handmade sweater. I can’t even believe it! I am really enjoying the Kids Basic Raglan Sweater pattern by Urchin Knits. So far I have made the size 10 for my eldest and the size 8 for my middle child. Having something unfussy to stitch on during these stressful times has really been such a balm.
The transition out of Daylight Savings Time at the beginning of November is always a challenging shift for me. I have a family history of depression and experience some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder every winter, so mental health is something I’m taking extra care with this time of year. This isn’t groundbreaking, but some things I rely on for support are exercise, getting sunlight in the morning hours, remembering to take my supplements, going to bed at a decent hour, eating to balance my blood sugar, reducing or completely eliminating alcohol consumption, and making sure I do things that bring me joy, even if it’s as simple as knitting or reading a good book.
Last month I mentioned that I had signed up to do a guided detox during November and I realized that the kindest thing I could do for myself was to give myself a pass on committing to one more thing. I’m currently dealing with special diets for two of my kids, and adding another layer for myself was just too much to expect, especially while living out of our home and away from my wonderful grocery store. Sometimes self care is choosing to NOT do something and recognizing that I have limits. My hope is to get back to it in January or February when life settles down a bit.
During this time of year when our kids start going to bed at a decent hour again, my husband and I always get back into the routine of watching a good show by ourselves. This month we absolutely loved both The Queen’s Gambit and season four of The Crown on Netflix. We’ve also been enjoying some old movies, including Splash and The In-Laws. Classics!
Last month I wrote that I hoped that by this writing we would be back in our home, we would have peacefully elected a new president and that I would have found a math curriculum I’m happy with. Well, I guess two out of three is pretty good!
I hope you all are staying healthy out there. I’d love to hear what’s working in your homeschool, and how you’re taking care of yourself in these weird times.