This fall has been a busy one, and I’m just now getting a moment in mid-November to reflect back on October in our homeschool. September was a wild adjustment to our family’s return to in-person activities and it took some trial and error to find the right combination of activities to meet everyone’s needs (as best as we can – it’s never perfect). But in October we settled into a really good mix where every kid had an activity they were super excited about.
My sixth grader is adjusting to her new schedule, where she is doing all subjects daily or weekly, rather than working in monthlong blocks. Honestly it was a harder adjustment than I expected! There have definitely been weeks where we got to the end and realized we had forgotten to get to math or science or something. It’s hard to keep all those balls in the air. But she’s enjoying the resources we’re using, which I laid out here and here.
Highlights in October were definitely learning about the Crusades and the Magna Carta, along with the stuff she’s learning in science about space.
In mid-October my 12-year-old and I got away for a weekend – just the two of us. It was something we had planned back in the summer as a celebration when she was able to get vaccinated, but then we postponed it due to the Delta variant wave that hit in late summer. I’m so glad we made it happen – it wasn’t easy in the midst of fall soccer and my husband’s MBA program. We spent two nights in Hood River and spent our time on a fun mix of Christmas shopping, eating lots of good food and watching shows and a movie in our room that would not have appealed to her younger siblings.
I really struggle to find one-on-one time with my kids. I’m not sure if this is a challenge unique to homeschooling or if it’s just hard, but she and I had so much fun. It was really helpful for me to focus on my 12-year-old as an independent person rather than within the context of family. The tween years are hard! Tween years + pandemic = even harder. So if you’re struggling too, I can highly recommend getting away and just enjoying each other.
We spent October focusing on a Saints block! It was so lovely and my second grader absolutely loved the stories of the saints. I used the Lavender’s Blue curriculum and didn’t deviate from it much, aside from leaving out one story and incorporating a story about my son’s patron saint – St. Augustine. He loved that! I appreciate the LB saints block because it includes stories of Jewish and Native American people who fit the spirit of what it is to be a saint. I think the block could be even more inclusive than that, and I know other homeschoolers who get very creative here, but it worked for me to not reinvent the wheel with everything else I’m juggling.
We plan to continue reading about more saints this winter from this book. The illustrations are a bit dark and intense for an eight-year-old but we have enjoyed the stories we’ve read from it so far. I also have this book about St. Francis that we will read when we find the time. (We did cover St. Francis and my son really loved the story of him taming a wolf and protecting the townspeople.)
Teaching my second grader is by far the most time-consuming part of our homeschool at the moment. We are right in the thick of reading clicking for him, so we are doing All About Reading lessons daily and he also needs me to sit with him and encourage him to stay focused while he does math. (Keeping my knitting close by is critical for patience here!) I don’t mind this at all, but just remind myself that this investment of time in these early years where we really get the basics down will allow us to focus on fun stuff – stuff I enjoy teaching much more – in just a few short years.
My third child turned five on Oct. 2 and it was amazing how she suddenly became very ready to do a bit of school herself seemingly overnight. She started asking how to spell words that she wanted to write down, so I would spell something for her and she would get frustrated that she didn’t know how to form the letters. This is school readiness! The beauty of homeschooling is we get to run with these signs as they are revealed to us. So I re-purchased The Good and the Beautiful’s pre-k curriculum, which I had used with my son and was very happy with. My five-year-old is picking things up really, really quickly and she often wants to do multiple lessons in a day. She even recently asked a babysitter to sit down and do a lesson with her. We don’t spend a ton of time on it and sometimes I ask my 12-year-old to do a lesson with her while I focus on math or reading with my eight-year-old.
I know there’s a lot of debate out there about the best time to begin teaching a child academics and I really believe that if you’re tuned in, you’ll just know. And it may be mid-year! I think my oldest child gave me signs that I totally missed because I wasn’t very confident back then, and allowed the Waldorf idea of starting at age 7 no matter what lead me rather than letting my instinct lead. Well age 7 was too late for her and she missed some foundational knowledge that we had to work really hard to establish at a later age.
Also, funnily, my five-year-old lost her first tooth just 12 days after her fifth birthday, right around when she started showing signs of reading readiness.
In October I was:
Listening to: I don’t get a ton of listening time these days, but did enjoy an episode of the Good Inside with Dr. Becky podcast called Parenting is Exhausting.
Watching: The BBC miniseries Le Miserables is so good! My husband and I are thoroughly enjoying it. It was fun to see Lily Collins from Emily in Paris play such a different role and Dominic West is amazing as Jean Valjean. I enjoyed the new season of Modern Love, especially the first episode with Mini Driver in it. Get some tissues!
Cooking: We have had kid activities four afternoons a week so right now long, involved dinners are not happening. We’ve been enjoying entrees from Kevin’s Natural Foods, which I get from Costco, that gives me a cooked protein and a sauce so I just need to cook a pot of rice or quinoa and make a salad or steam some broccoli. I’ve also been relying on something I call “three-ingredient dinners,” which I came up with when I was pregnant with my second child. These dinners looks like salmon patties with rice and broccoli, sautéed ground lamb with quinoa and peas, burger patties with roasted yams and sauerkraut, chicken thighs with new potatoes and salad greens – you get the idea. I was always amazed at how well my oldest did with SUPER simple dinners and am being reminded of that in this season – kids don’t mind simple food.
Now that Halloween is behind us it feels like we’re catapulting toward the holidays. I wish you sanity if you’re feeling the same. Until next month.