This has been such an interesting academic year for us. While it has been an extremely difficult year for us personally as a family, it has also been a really amazing year for our homeschool. It’s been an interesting juxtaposition and I am so grateful that our time learning together can be a source of comfort and joy in spite of the challenges we face.
At the very end of January we moved back into our house after a remodel that was supposed to take about three months had stretched to five months. I can’t even explain how difficult the experience was for us – both just the stress of the remodel and also the stress of being out of our space and the complexities of changing locations and sometimes sharing our living space with extended family. Suffice it to say: we are so very happy to be home now.
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In January we focused on Ancient Egypt, Ancient Africa and Ancient China for fifth grade. I am using History Quest: Early Times as my spine for ancient history and then expanding on topics from there. So for example I could have spent one week on History Quest’s Egypt but planned for two weeks so we could fit in all the other books and art projects I had planned. The place where planning lessons and actually doing them meets is always interesting and hindsight is 2020. We loved spending two weeks on Egypt and easily could have also spent two weeks on Ancient Africa and two or three weeks on Ancient China, but alas, we squeezed it all into four weeks. Mental note for next time!
Some of our favorite extra resources for Ancient Egypt were:
- Egypt in Spectacular Cross-Section
- Mummies Made in Egypt
- The Ancient Egyptians: Dress, Eat, Write and Play Just Like the Egyptians
- Food and Cooking in Ancient Egypt
- Voices of Egypt
- Treasury of Egyptian Mythology from National Geographic Kids
- Boy of the Pyramids (my kiddo read this independently and wrote a book report on it)
- Write Like an Ancient Egyptian and this Papyrus paper set. (My kiddo made a cartouche for her name and one for each of her siblings.)
- This King Tut painting kit.
- Egypt Mummy Excavation Kit
- And we used a painting lesson from Waldorfish’s Diving Deeper course for the beautiful pyramid watercolor you see in these photos.
For Ancient Africa, we covered the chapter in History Quest: Early Times about Kush and Aksum. We also read Ancient Wonders of Ancient Africa and African Beginnings. We didn’t cover these two resources exhaustively, but they were a great compliment to round out the week.
For Ancient China, we used the two chapters in History Quest and also pulled in a lot of extra resources. Some that we loved include:
- Favorite Children’s Stories from China & Tibet (I read these to all three kids at the end of our circle time – everybody enjoyed them. Good to pre-read – some were better than others.)
- The Tiger Prince (This is a picture book we found years ago but got it again and loved it again. Great for mixed ages.)
- China Through Time – this book is amazing! Such a visual feast.
- We watched the new live action Mulan on Disney+ and I bought my 11-year-old this book by Grace Lin, which explores Mulan’s life in the time before the movie’s story begins. We also read this picture book – Fa Mulan – by Robert San Souci.
- Also on Disney+ we found a cool three-part documentary series called Ancient China From Above. We watched the first episode, which is about The Great Wall.
- The Emperor Who Built the Great Wall and The Girl Who Became Emperor by Jillian Lin. She has so many amazing-looking books. I had to stop myself at these two.
- I had my 11-year-old read Hidden Army: Clay Soldiers of Ancient China by herself.
- I intended to revisit this calligraphy book, which we used during a third grade block on Chinese fairy tales, but we didn’t get around to it! There’s never enough time. 🙂
In January we did the first arithmetic block in Lavender’s Blue. It’s been interesting to do first grade again and see in real time where I feel like my oldest got lost with certain skills. This arithmetic block introduces the four processs (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and my seven-year-old really struggled with understanding how the four interacted and at the end of the month didn’t have a solid grasp of this idea. This is not for lack of math ability – he is really, really good with math. But the way Waldorf utilizes so much story really throws him off. He is the kind of kid who just wants to understand the concept and practice with problems. He enjoyed hearing the stories, but they also confused him. He also really didn’t want to do art for math pages (so unlike his big sister!) and I definitely honor his desire for math to just be math. I have a pretty strong feeling that I’ll be separating out math for this kiddo by next year so he has a math curriculum he can work with daily.
While this first grade summary may sound overly negative, this is the gift of homeschooling! We get to observe each of our individual children and adjust to make a customized education for them. We do not get it right the first time every time, and what worked for an older sibling may not work for a younger one. That’s OK! We get to adjust course and when we know better, we do better.
Personally, January sent me reeling. We took a kiddo to Urgent Care on January 1 (pulled muscle, nothing broken), the Capitol riot happened on the 6th, then our precious seven-year-old was in a serious sledding accident on the 17th and he needed to go to the emergency room. We spent five days living with the possibility that he may have broken three vertebrae until a CT scan showed his spine was OK and it was just a soft tissue injury. Then we packed up five months worth of our traveling caravan and moved back into our house on the 27th. I spent a lot of this month just trying to do the next right thing while my brain felt like it was in constant fight or flight mode. So there wasn’t a lot of mother culture to speak of this month.
I wasn’t able to focus enough to read or knit very much. I did read Katherine May’s book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times and had both really positive and really negative feelings about it. Maybe I was just too close to a personal season of ‘wintering’ to enjoy it thoroughly. I loved her many insights on ‘wintering’ as soul care, but felt like there were a lot of tangents and a lot of just downloading of her research rather than weaving it into a bigger narrative. I did really enjoy her interview with Krista Tippett in the On Being podcast.
Interestingly I’m able to focus on quite a lot when it comes to homeschool (see above!) but my brain seems to be able to compartmentalize. It’s early February now as I write this and life is settling down and feeling more manageable, thank goodness.