February is my least favorite month to homeschool. The days are short, we’ve been stuck inside together for too long and patience is in short supply. Normally February is the month I spend exploring local school Web sites to imagine there is a better way than this homeschool gig. But, thanks to the pandemic, there was no other option to fantasize about this year. We are here, it is hard, and it will be OK.
We spent a lot of time outside this month, and what a blessing that was. We reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen much during our remodel at local parks and we embraced a daily walk or bike ride in our neighborhood.
In February I had planned a History of Chocolate block for my fifth grader. I use the term “planned” generously. Last summer I managed to sketch out plans for quite a few blocks successfully and others I left as a general outline, certain that I would find time over Christmas break to plan the rest. Ha! That never ends up working out very well. So I went into this block with a pretty vague idea of what I was doing, and it worked out OK anyway. I covered the two Latin American chapters in History Quest: Early Times, which covered the ancient Andes civilizations and Mesoamerica. We read some fun picture books and read a lot of mythology. Mythology is always so fascinating because at this point we have read myths from many cultures and it is really interesting to see the commonalities and differences, like finding a reference to a flood that wiped out the gods’ first attempt at making humans in the Mayan creation story in the Popol Vuh.
My secondary goal for this block was to introduce decimals and percents. I had dreams of being pretty creative here, but ended up just using the workbooks from the Key to Decimals series and it was just fine. And in February fine = fabulous.
We also had a lot of fun with chocolate! We made spicy chocolatl and brownies and tried different kinds of chocolate.
This block was very, very loosely based on a guide offered by Marsha Johnson, a Waldorf teacher here in Portland, but I hesitate to mention it because I ended up barely using it at all. I find that if you have some good stories and understand a basic two-day rhythm you can build your own blocks from there. This used to be a mystery to me, but thankfully now comes pretty easily.
Some books we enjoyed during this block are:
- Grandma’s Chocolate
- No Monkeys, No Chocolate (this is a great book for incorporating some botany concepts)
- The Chocolate Tree
- From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate
- Popol Vuh: A Sacred Book of the Maya
- Golden Tales: Myths, Legends and Folktales from Latin America
- Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains (a fun one for younger siblings!)
- Secrets in Stone: All About Maya Hieroglyphics
- Draw Mexico, Central and South America
- History of Chocolate for Kids (This is a YouTube video – please preview YouTube videos to decide if they’re appropriate for your kids!)
- Bedtime History’s History of Chocolate (another YouTube video)
My fifth grader continues to really blossom in her independent work, and she is plugging away daily at language arts, math, geometry and more while I work with her younger brother. In addition to her daily independent work, which I write down for her in a bullet journal, she is also getting more independent in her main lesson book work.
Up until just a couple of months ago we were still reviewing the prior day’s lesson together, jotting down notes and composing a summary together. Then she would copy my writing verbatim. Increasingly, lately, we just review the past day’s content together and jot down the notes, with me making sure to write down the correct spelling for challenging words. Then she takes it from there and writes her own summary into her main lesson book. The spelling and grammar aren’t perfect, but they are pretty good! And she gets immense satisfaction from doing it herself.
I find these transitions so fascinating. You never know when they are coming until the moment arrives. I couldn’t have planned on switching to this level of independent writing at this exact moment, but because I’m paying attention and I know my “student” so well, we are able to make these shifts together without much fanfare. Her drawings, by the way, have become completely independent and she has far surpassed me in artistic skill. She really enjoys planning her own illustrations and they are another wonderful expression and measure of comprehension.
My seven-year-old completed his last fairy tales block this month. To be honest, my son did not love the fairy tales like his big sister did. He didn’t mind them, but he didn’t love them either. This was intended to be a six-week block and I cut it off at three weeks. There were no new language arts skills being introduced and I felt comfortable cutting it short since he wasn’t resonating with the stories. These are the moments I am grateful to homeschool because I get to decide. I don’t have to run a change of plans through a committee of 10 or anything.
Originally I thought I would just move ahead to our second grade curriculum, but then I realized I’d be going from one language arts block to another one, and knew he would enjoy returning to math, so we are doing the last first grade arithmetic block in March and then will be moving on to second grade in April. I think it will be perfect timing for him. We’ll do two blocks of second grade in April and May and then break for summer, picking it back up in September.
We are still chipping away at daily skills practice (something we do together). Depending on the day, this might look like tossing the beanbag back and forth and reciting some math facts, doing a couple of pages in his Primary Mathematics workbook, doing a few pages in Explode the Code, or an All About Reading lesson. I find the key is to take a very Charlotte Mason approach and keep the lessons quick and varied. We are trying to wrap up all of the first grade form drawings before the end of this month too, which is something he enjoys doing.
I find myself in an emotional and physical rebuilding mode after the stresses of a five-month remodel and being out of our home. I’m reconnecting with friends, unpacking boxes in our new basement, decorating my new master bedroom, working on finding time in my day for quiet and exercise and always looking for opportunities to connect with my kids and husband.
One fun thing I did this month was participate in the Simplicity Parenting workshop happening in the Art of Homeschooling community. We worked through the book and met for weekly Zooms where Jean discussed the principles and we each made a commitment on a focus for the following week. I had read the book, but really loved going through it again and having the accountability of a community. It was through this that I recommitted to getting us outside everyday, which has been so good for our winter-weary souls.
So February has been about taking it one day at a time, being gentle with myself and my children, and reconnecting with what’s working and what isn’t working. It’s also been about binge watching Bridgerton. 😉 I hope you all are finding ways to take care of yourselves as we tentatively step towards spring.