"Classical education in the fall, Charlotte Mason in the Winter, unschooling in the spring."
-Paraphrased from Julie Bogart
"What I mean is that there is a rhythm to the way learning happens here; there are upbeats and downbeats; there is an ebb and flow."
It's been awhile since I posted on the blog. It's been a wild ride this year and last year! Last summer, we had some tough times. We were dealing with constant construction on the house to fix the tree damage, one of the kids was struggling with increased anxiety, and we got a new developmental diagnosis for one of the kiddos.
We decided to put DC, age 4, in preschool. He spent the year at an absolutely wonderful play-based preschool with an amazing teacher. He thrived on the structure, the routine, and, I think, the separation from family. He needed space to come out from the shadow of his oldest sister, and this was the best opportunity he's had so far. He's now 5 and getting ready to start public kindergarten on Monday! It was a tough decision but I'm feeling comfortable with it. AW will be starting first grade at home on Monday. CE, at age 2, is still just a tagalong.
We took the summer pretty easy. Year-round school didn't feel like a good fit now that we are tied to the academic calendar for DC, so I'm just aligning the two school calendars to keep life simple. We visited Dutch Wonderland and the two older kids went to Ocean City with Himself and Himself's family. Now we are gearing up and I'm going to tell you a little about those two quotations at the beginning of this post.
Julie Bogart and Melissa Wiley are two veteran homeschoolers who have so much wisdom to share about their experiences. I identify deeply with both of their statements. With the excitement of a new school year, not just for but for AW, we dive into something that looks a little bit like "school." I have a schedule and lesson plans and we will probably follow a curriculum for awhile. Over the winter, we do tend to be a bit more cozy and focused on just books. In the spring, we get cabin fever, and her creativity tends to run wild. We don't go quite so linear fashion as Julie describes, but we have ebbs and flows more like Melissa's. When she described this rhythm in her homeschool, it sounded just like us. We'll stick to the plan for awhile, but then fall down a rabbit hole and go with more child-led learning for awhile. We planned on studying the Stone Age for the month of January, but stuck with it for the rest of the school year. Sometimes AW hits a learning plateau in math or reading. Then we stop, take a step back, and let her back burner those skills while we go more child led. When we come back to those subjects, she is refreshed, eager, and far more cooperative. It's taken me awhile to trust that process, but I now feel very good about it because I've seen the dividends of this approach.
So what's our homeschool plan for the year? Well, it looks like a lot. This doesn't mean we are going to do all these things all of the time. They are just the resources I plan to pull in when it's my turn to drive the homeschool bus. When AW is driving, we'll likely head to the library.
Well, I figure since it is officially the first day of summer, I should wrap up what we did for most of spring.
These three resources really brought music study to life for my kiddos. My kids can proudly identify Beethoven's Fifth and many of the instruments in the orchestra thanks to the book Welcome to the Symphony. We listened to Beethoven Lives Upstairs several times as well as selection of Beethoven's music. They have been humming the fifth for months now. I can't recommend these enough. Thanks, Torchlight!
We went on our first camping trip of the year down at Virginia Beach, at First Landing State Park. It was an amazing campground and fantastic experience camping with friends. It was chilly, but we all had a blast.
We combined History Unboxed and Pin it Maps for our studies about Plymouth, Jamestown, and St. Augustine. My kids really enjoy looking at maps, so even though they are young, we've had fun with Pin it Maps so far. The timeline in the picture is the one from History Unboxed.
One morning, I woke up and asked AW what she wanted to do. "Go see the bluebells!" she told me. So we dressed for the rainy, muddy weather, and headed to a local park with a bluebell trail. It was very muddy and flooded in places, and eventually we had to turn back because the water was too deep on the trail (connected to rushing water). We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Rain pants are my new favorite thing: the kids got super muddy (I even fell in the mud), and we just stripped them off before getting in the car.
We bought some new games, did some science, and enjoyed lots of time on our front porch. We did our morning time out on the porch more than once, and did reading lessons with chalk.
Then, in May, I had a really bad day. I completely lost it. I got ugly. Everyone cried. I had to leave the house. It was my lowest parenting moment ever. So, what did I decide to do the next day? Take three children 5 and under on the Metro, by myself, to the National Gallery of Art where they would have to be on good behavior.
Himself thought I was crazy. Maybe I did too.
But it was exactly what we needed. It was a brand new experience. I went with low expectations and a plan for how to make it work. It was pouring rain, and we all got a little damp walking the few blocks to the museum. Then, we started with lunch (the most important part of the plan being well fed children). After we ate (an extremely expensive lunch), we stopped in the gift shop to buy a few postcards of Impressionist works from the museum. We used them to have a fantastic scavenger hunt. When we had been walking around for about an hour, the kids were done, and we high-tailed it out of there. We spent three hours getting there, two hours total at the museum, and three hours getting home. But it was totally worth it. We had a great time, the kids got excited about seeing art we'd read about in the Katie books by James Mayhew, and we reconnected.
Speaking of art, AW asked to have more lessons in art. I've been trying to meet that need. She did these portraits of girls from her dance class as gifts for them at the end of the year. She gave them each their typical hairstyle, in the correct hair color. Each one is in a different ballet pose. I just love them.
After dance, we did one round of swim classes. I was so proud of these kiddos and their hard work. DC especially made huge progress.
CE turned one, learned to walk, ate ice cream, and basically did everything she could to keep up with her big sibling. We've used sign language with all three kids, and she has taken to it the most of all three. Her current signs are: dog, nurse, more, eat, water, shoes, hat, and down. She understands a few more, and a whole lot of what we say.
I also rearranged the library/schoolroom. I realized that one reason we weren't using it was because we didn't have a sofa to curl up and read together. The other reason was because we didn't have a table we could all sit at together. I bought a new sofa for the basement for $20 on Facebook marketplace (yay) and brought up our old brown couch which fit perfectly. We've had the drop leaf table for awhile, but it needed organization and a new orientation before it could work for us. CE has been tearing our game and school shelf apart for a little while, and I have another child who can be extremely destructive with any art/school supplies. So, now it's all locked up when we aren't using it. But when we are in this space together, it feels quite cozy and intentional. We just used it for the first time today, because I've been sick all week (still not at 100%), and I really liked it. We cleaned up before closing the doors each time, a habit I'd like to maintain. AW said school was the best part of her day today.
That's about it for now! We school year round, but our "new school year" will start in July. We'll likely leave off math and reading for a bit longer, just because we're traveling. We have another week before we take a wee break.
It's also getting time to make us super duper homeschool official: this will be the first school year that I am required to notify the school district of our intent to homeschool and provide proof of progress at the end of the year. It will be AW's official Kindergarten year (we are really calling it Kindergarten Part Two). I'm excited for a good year ahead. Although we didn't *have* to start school when we did, I've enjoyed the learning experiences of the past year(s), and I feel like I've learned a lot about who we are as a homeschooling family. I know lots will change in the years ahead, and I can't predict what our family will need from year to year. Still, I'm feeling pretty good.
Facebook's "On This Day" featured informed me today that two years ago today, we had our first births here on our mini-farm. Our female rabbit, Juliet, gave birth to 11 kits.
Last year on Father's Day weekend, we had our first home-grown hatchlings. The eggs were laid by a collection of hens, three hens sat, and one hen took the two successfully hatched chicks and raised them.
This year, I may have gone a bit overboard. I ordered 25 chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. Fifteen are meat birds (Red Rangers) and ten are hens of varying sorts. I also received one free exotic breed chick with my order (I'm going to guess it will be a rooster). I also ordered an incubator. I put 12 eggs in the incubator. As of this moment, four eggs have hatched. One was not fertilized and never developed. There are seven still in the incubator, but no further signs of life. Given that I had some trouble with the humidity sensor, I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. Now I have one broody hen (the one that raised the chicks last year) sitting on a clutch of about eight eggs.
Whew! That's a lot of chicks. And let me tell you, they are super cute. So were the wee little bunnies, once they got some fur on them. And I am deeply invested in these little fluff balls. I am sad when we lose a chick, and I was really stressed out that I accidentally opened the incubator while one of them was trying to hatch (drops in humidity are dangerous). One got wet yesterday and I carried it around for awhile in a washcloth to dry it off (I lack a hair dryer). I check on them frequently. I love having these little baby birds.
So then they grow up. And I eat them. Just like I did the rabbits. A lot of people say they couldn't eat food that they raised themselves because they get too attached. I do understand that point of view. I have made the occasional emotional decision. Our former rooster, Ned Stark, was supposed to go to the chopping block with 12 other roosters, but was switched out at the last minute because I'd bonded with him when the other roosters were picking on him. On the other hand, when he attacked my kid...I had no problems putting him in chicken and dumplings.
How do I reconcile this?
Well, I think it's really helpful to know from the beginning that these animals are food and not pets. For the most part, we don't name the food. Our breeding rabbits get names, but their offspring do not. We occasionally name a hen. But we pick tragic names, like characters from Game of Thrones or Shakespearean tragedies. Just as a reminder.
My goal is to be a good caretaker and give my animals a good life. When it comes down to it, I got into this hobby because I wanted to know that the meat I eat comes from a well cared for animal. I've gone through a vegetarian phase or two in my life. It was never because I thought killing an animal was cruel. It was because I thought that the way commercial livestock production works in this country was cruel. Even buying organic, grass-fed ground beef at the store isn't a guarantee of quality of life. I much prefer to buy food from local farms where I can meet the animals. But that's an economic privilege. I can't do it for all of our meat. So, we got into raising meat ourselves.
My birds aren't free-range, because my small flock can't withstand the number of predators. But they have a spacious run, a nice coop, and plenty of food and water. They get to be chickens. We are working on plans to let them have some time in the garden during some parts of the year. Our meat birds and rabbits are pastured on grass.
When it's time for my animals to go, it's quick. It's outside. The time in which they are afraid is as short as we can make it. We try to use as much of the animal as we can. And I get to feel connected to my food.
One of the big homeschool questions on the internet is: What does your schedule look like?
Ok, so here's my schedule:
6am-7am: Wake-up and have Mommy Alone Time
7am-8am: Get dressed and get kids ready for the day
8am-9am: Throw in laundry, eat breakfast and drink coffee with Himself
9am-9:30am: Morning clean-up
9:30am-10:00am: Together Time: reading stories from Torchlight and singing songs.
10:00am-10:30am: Kids have snack, I put CE down for nap
10:30am-12:00pm: Kids play and I do chores
12:00pm-1:00pm: We eat lunch as a family
1:00pm-1:30pm: Reading lesson
1:30-2:00pm: Math lesson
2:00pm-3:00pm: Quiet time for big kids, nap for CE
3:00pm-5:00pm: Torchlight activities, subscription box activities, or free play
5:00pm-6:00pm: Kids' screen time, I cook dinner
6:00pm-7:00pm: Family dinner
7:00pm-8:00pm: Putting kids to bed (later on Fridays, Family Night)
8:00pm-10:00pm: Clean up and prep for next day then: Work (Monday-Wednesday), At-Home Date Night (Thursday)
(On our days out, we are usually gone from 9-2 and do lessons at 3 instead)
Oh look at that pretty schedule.
This is the schedule I have written on paper. Here's what happens more often:
7:00am: Kids jump on me and wake me up. I struggle to wake up because I stayed up too late the night before or had trouble sleeping.
9:00am: I am still in my pajamas. 2-3 kids are still in their pajamas. I still have coffee left in my mug. Himself heads downstairs to work. CE is already ready for a nap because she was up early. I leave the kids running amok and go put her down for nap.
10:00am: I have finally gotten CE to settle down for a nap. The kids clamor for a snack. I microwave my coffee.
10:30am: We start reading aloud. I hear complaints that they didn't get to choose the books or requests to watch television.
10:32am: There is a fight over who gets to sit where on the sofa. We manage to recover and read for awhile.
11:00am: I remember my coffee is in the microwave and hit the button again. I put on podcasts or music while the kids fight over crayons, Legos, or play dough.
11:30am: I wander downstairs to talk about lunch.
12:00pm: We eat lunch. Or rather, the grownups eat lunch and the kids abandon food on their plates.
1:00pm: We might read, play a game, or do lessons.
2:00pm: Quiet Time. Sometimes it happens early. But Quiet Time is a pretty firm part of our day. It happens pretty much every single day that we are home because I'm an introvert. I might not get my full hour. CE might not nap. But I will lie on the floor and zone out if I can. It's vital.
3:00pm. Snack. My kids know 10:00 and 3:00 are snack times, and they hold me to it. Usually they ask to do projects in the afternoon, until AW starts begging me to watch TV
4:59pm: Close enough. I put a show on the TV. The kids alternate days for who gets to pick. I cook dinner.
7:00pm: I'm pretty regular on bedtime. We start on time unless dinner took longer than expected to cook, and we are almost always done by 8:00 (officially, not counting children wandering downstairs because they "can't sleep" in the two minutes since I left the room).
We are pretty regular with our evenings. I'd like to be better about the clean-up and prep part. But joking aside, I do have pretty solid anchors in my day. We are done with breakfast by 9:00, when Himself starts work (and we often leave the house at that time). We eat at 10, 12, 3, and 6 pretty much everyday. And like I said, quiet time almost always happens and it's usually close to 2pm. But in between those times?
I love the idea of Tidal Homeschooling. It fits our family pretty well. Sometimes, the kids are really independent and creative. Because of their ages, I rarely interrupt imaginative play, art creation, or peaceful sibling interaction to do any sort of formal lessons. We've been more in the unschool groove in the past few months, as CE has taken fewer naps and declined to follow a predictable schedule. They are still learning all the time. My main goal is to be present, available, and strew materials for them to explore. When they say, "Mommy, can we do a project," I want to be ready to grab that moment.
They love being read to, so that is really a major part of our day. If I can remember to stay calm myself (which isn't always easy), the best solution to non-stop squabbling is to find a way to sit together on the sofa and read. Sometimes, just with one kid. We do Poetry Teatime several days a month because the kids love it (mostly for the snacks and sweetened tea, I suspect, but they seem to like the poetry too). We listen to podcasts and music regularly in the car.
We have been taking a purposeful break from Logic of English because she's hit a bit of a plateau. So we play board games like Happy Hats and Super Why's ABC to practice. She reads BOB books to me, to her sister, or to visiting ducklings. She writes letters and labels drawings. I point out phonograms in the environment.
One of my favorite bits of wisdom: Curriculum is the servant, not the master.
So I love having all of these resources ready to go, but we aren't doing school at home. My vision involves having my kids love learning, know how to find information, pursue their passions, and keep their curiosity and imagination intact. It's not a race to learn to read, multiply, or recite the Gettysburg Address. So we do what's working in the moment.
And I do refer to the pretty schedule when I'm feeling lost in my day. But it's not posted or enforced. It's a guideline. Just like curriculum, the schedule is the servant, not the master.
AW will be six in September and DC is three, so I feel like I'm right in the sweet spot of this age group right now.
If you ask on any homeschool Facebook group what you should use to teach your preschool and kindergarten age children, you will get the following response:
Just let them play!
Read lots of good books.
There's no rush to start school.
All three of those statements are excellent advice. Children learn amazingly well just by having constant interactions with the world around them. So why do we need a whole blog post about this topic?
Well, I'm really good at reading lots of good books. We have checked out hundreds of library books over the past three years, and my bookshelves are overflowing with finds from used book stores. We don't read-aloud every single day (*gasp*), but we do most days. DC and AW each get their own bedtime story every night unless we are out or it's family night (because we stay up later). I scour book lists for ideas, check out library displays, and let the kids wander and choose books from the picture book shelves (they can check out one book for each year of their life). Sometimes we pick a topic and dive deep.
But reading isn't enough for my kids. They beg for projects, especially AW. I think part of it is that she loves being creative. I think they also both love doing learning activities because it's something we do together and they love the connection. If I were someone else, I might be able to just make that happen in more organic ways. But I am who I am, and I sometimes need externally imposed structure for motivation. Where do I go?
I planned on delaying academics until age seven. It was part of my motivation for homeschooling. But I have at least one more academically minded kiddo, maybe two. We needed a little bit more for AW. So how about academic curriculum?
Wow! That looks like a lot! Does that mean we do school all day every day? Well, yes and no. But that's a story for another post.
No one argues that bullying is a major issue in classrooms today. Some people argue that it builds character or resiliency. If I homeschool my child, then they will not be exposed to anyone they don't like and they won't learn to handle tough situations. Or so people say.
Let's be clear: bullying is abuse. It might be verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. If bullying behaviors were carried out by an adult, whether or not it was to a child or another adult, we would condemn the behavior. And certainly, many people condemn bullying. But do we ever argue that we should leave a child in an abusive environment because it will build character? No. We don't.
So if my kids aren't bullied, how will they learn to be resilient or handle tough social situations? Here are some examples of my kids being resilient.
AW takes a combination ballet-tap class. It's challenging for her, and she has a love-hate relationship with dance. She loves being in class. Watching her on the monitor in the waiting room is a joy. She is absolutely engaged and she always comes out with a big grin on her face, absolutely energized. But she's impatient. She wants to dance on point (sorry kid, you have years of work and growth ahead of you) and she doesn't like stretching. She doesn't like to change for dance class and every week she tells me she doesn't want to go. We push past the discomfort of getting ready for dance because the reward is worth it. Her growth in dance this year has been wonderful to watch. This girl has dance inside of her and she dances all day long, whether or not she takes a class. But now that she has had some formal instruction, her movements have taken on new grace and purpose. She has an interest in ballets and their music. It's been a growth experience for her, but with a gentle and caring teacher.
Recently, AW was faced with a challenging social situation. We were at a friend's house, and the friend asked her to keep a secret. The friend was breaking a house rule (nothing earth-shattering but a very reasonable rule) and told AW. AW replied that we don't keep secrets at our house. The friend got upset and said she would be mad if AW told. My little girl came out of the bedroom, looking very worried. She told us the "secret" and the friend's mom thanked her. I was so proud that she stuck to our family values even under pressure from a friend. AW also has to balance when some of her friends don't get along with each other. She feels the conflict very deeply and struggles to be friends to both kids and help them play with each other. It's something for her to work out on her own, although we talk through the situation frequently. She's learning all kinds of social skills, but in a safe and supportive environment with other kids who are really good kids.
What about getting along with kids they don't like? Well, AW has hardly ever met a kid she didn't like so it's hard to say. But my kids fight with each other like cats and dogs, so they are certainly learning to manage frustrations with other people. DC is a little more selective with friends, so I imagine we will have to spend more time learning these lessons as he gets older and more interactive with other kids.
And resiliency? Well, my kids are handling the upheaval of a tree falling on our house. It's very difficult to convey just how terrifying it was. One of my kids has really struggled with the fear of it happening again, and we are working through that fear. That kid will come out of this event with tools for managing anxiety. That's resiliency right there.
I just realized that I haven't posted an actual homeschooling update since November. Wow. I can't even begin to talk about everything we've covered since then.
I have to get real for a minute: I've barely been keeping my head above water. I love blogging, but it's been at the bottom of the list. In fact, right now, I should be going to bed. But I just wanted to take a moment. I did update about two of the curricula we are using, because they come up a lot in Facebook groups and I thought I could just drop a link instead of typing out the same thing over and over again (TL;DR: I love Logic of English and Torchlight and highly recommend both).
I actually took a four-month Facebook break. I still used groups as a resource, but I deleted everyone from my Facebook feed and stopped posting on Facebook. I wanted to use that time as a chance to connect with people in a more personal way--I'm not sure that I succeeded. But it was good to take a bit of a break, even if it wasn't a complete one.
I've been doing some reflecting, trying to work on figuring myself out. It's a never-ending, life-long process, of course. I've realized over the past several years that I'm an introvert, and I'm learning how to nourish that so that I can have stronger relationships with others. I'm working on managing anxiety. In reading about parenting, I've learned things about myself too.
I've been spending a lot of time on research and writing for History Unboxed. I love my job, and I take it very seriously. I'm not a perfectionist about everything, but I am about research. It's really hard for me to stop reading and start writing because I'm afraid I'm going to miss some all-important detail. Access to peer-reviewed journals may or may not be a good thing for me!
We also had a major event at our house at the beginning of March. During a major windstorm, a tree fell on our house. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It came through in multiple places, and we are truly lucky that no one was hurt. I am so desperate for life to get back to normal, and we have a long road to go. The two big kids are sharing a room. Himself and I sleep in the basement because Princess CE can't sleep in a room with anyone else. The other two bedrooms are out of commission. Two kids sharing a room wouldn't be such a big deal if it was an event that had been planned and prepared for, but it's a difficult dynamic when one kid is basically a guest in the other kid's room. It's better now, but one of my kiddos has had a lot of anxiety about another tree falling on the house, and the disruption to routine didn't help with that. We are still probably over a month away from completing repairs. As of this point, the only change is that we have a tarp for a roof. At least the weather is *finally* starting to get warmer.
Let's see what else:
Well, that's the short story. You can always follow my homeschool Instagram page for more regular updates. For now, here are some (ok lots of) photos from the past few months. Click for full images.
I’m not huge on big all-in-one curricula, especially those that are really formulaic. A Year of Playing Skillfully worked for me because it was more of a monthly checklist of activity ideas than a strict curriculum. I use curriculum for reading and math because it’s less stressful for me than pulling together ideas cohesively but I tend to use it flexibly as well.
Then along came a secular humanist literature based curriculum. At its most basic, Torchlight is a very detailed and well thought out book list. The books are selected to represent diverse authors and characters, and a secular humanist worldview. There are accompanying discussion questions as the year goes on.
At at the kindergarten level, the theme is Around the World. Each week features a different country. Generally, we read a story from the culture, the biography of a woman from that country, and cook something from the country. We may also read about a local animal. There are novels as well. The curriculum centers around spines, books that we will read throughout the year. The novels and picture books supplement the spines. There are art and music study elements as well. Add in recommended resources for podcasts, apps, even more books, and games, and it’s pretty much exactly how we like to do school. The curriculum was especially appealing to me because it included resources for secular character education. That's not always easy to find.
Here are some of the questions I've seen in groups on Facebook:
1. How much does it cost?
The curriculum costs $30. That price includes the extensive booklist, 36 weeks of lesson plans, and suggested supplements. You can preview the booklist here. You will need to add phonics and math instruction if you are planning on teaching those subjects in kindergarten. I love that they are not included because it makes the program more customizable. Torchlight does recommend curriculum for these subjects.
The booklist includes over 100 books. If you have a great library system, you might be able to do this curriculum inexpensively. Don't forget about Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and used books. I'm not going to lie, it adds up quickly. I spent a little over $500 on books for around half of the books. I had some of the resources already. The rest are available from my library or through Amazon Unlimited. I bought as many used books as I could through Amazon, eBay, and ThriftBooks. Any books that we don't find ourselves re-reading will be sold at the end of the "year" whenever that happens. Torchlight users estimate that if you buy every single book on the list, it will cost $900-1000.
2. How long does it take each day?
We do most of the reading during our Together Time (some people call it Morning Time). We tend to do activities in the afternoon. I'd guess we spend about 30 minutes reading and 15-30 minutes on activities.
3. How old are your kids if they are doing Level K?
AW is the main kiddo, and she is 5.5. Her almost 4 year old brother, DC, tags along for most of the reading but doesn't get much from the character education at this point. I read everything because AW is just learning to read and isn't fluent yet.
4. What other curricula are you using?
We use Logic of English for phonics and language arts, Primary/Singapore for Math, and Brave Writer's Jot it Down for writing. The last is optional for us and not daily, but I have a kid who loves telling stories. We're all about the Brave Writer lifestyle...but that's an entirely different post.
If you're still curious about Torchlight, check back on this post. I plan on adding updates as I think of other answers. I'll likely do a separate post about how things are working out for us, but I'll link it here. If you have a question, drop it in the comments!
If you spend much time in the homeschool discussion groups on Facebook, you will see lots of people asking (and answering!) about reading instruction programs. When AW first started showing reading readiness AND a desire to learn to read, I read the recommendations. Here were the top three recommendations at that time:
How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
All About Reading
Logic of English
AW was only four, and I hadn't planned on starting formal reading instruction until she was 6 or 7. The last two are expensive and felt like a bigger commitment. Since she was so young, I decided to go with the cheap and "easy" route. The first, 100 Easy Lessons, is just a book. While I know other people have had success with this book, it bored both of us to tears. It felt really inauthentic and both of us dreaded the book. We took a break from learning to read. But she was still really interested. We played with the LeapFrog Letter Factory magnets, read lots of good books, and she even asked me to teach her to write letters to label things.
Finally, I saw a used copy of Logic of English Foundations A and B with all of the accompanying materials. I bit the bullet and purchased it. I have zero regrets. We started last July and have finished all of Foundation A and are well into Foundations B. AW is 5.5
Here's what I like:
I just feel like it's a really solid program that leaves no room for gaps. I've seen one or two complaints that it moves too slowly, but you could easily leave off activities that your kid didn't need for practice. I think it's highly adaptable and yet open and go at the same time.
One of the biggest questions I see:
"Should I buy all of the materials?"
At a minimum, you will need the teacher's manual and student workbook. For Foundations A, you need the book "Doodling Dragons." (It's the best alphabet book ever when it comes to actual phonetic examples). I'm very glad I have the phonogram game cards because we use them weekly. We don't use the phonogram tiles very much, so I could do without them. You could make the flash cards yourself, but the tactile handwriting cards are quite nice and it would be a LOT of work to make all the phonogram flash cards with all the information on them. The reference sheets have been really useful but not indispensable.
The other big question:
"Cursive or manuscript?"
I'm teaching manuscript because that's what I was able to purchase used. From a developmental standpoint, there are strong arguments for teaching cursive and it was my first choice. It helps with letter reversals and formation. And this curriculum does a solid job of teaching cursive writing and manuscript reading.
Yes, it's expensive. And I will have to buy new workbooks for each kids. But the rest is reusable. And it's very solid and fun. I feel like it's been worth every penny. I really can't recommend it enough!
In my post about Reading and Relationships, I talked about taking a break from moving forward in our reading lessons. I think it was the right choice. She voluntarily and confidently read me four BOB books in a row the other day. She's going through an emotionally intense time, and I think we need to work through some big feelings before we move ahead with this challenge.
I love being able to change an adapt as we need to for homeschool. I asked her about her favorite way to learn math, and she told me that she liked workbooks and math games, but not doing math on the computer. I ended up switching us to using Primary Mathematics, also known as Singapore Math. The Homeschool Educators' Guide that is made to accompany the workbook and textbook is a fantastic resource for games, and the colorful books are really engaging. It was interesting because the first lessons were pretty easy review but the material moves quickly. I'm interested to see how that works for her. We're also doing Brainquest workbooks for fun...I can't believe how much my kids like workbooks.
We've also gotten into doing History Unboxed. We wrapped our study of Mali and moved onto the Powhatans. She really liked using the bead loom. I also used Pin It Maps to show her where some Native American tribes lived at the time the English arrived. I can't wait for our next box! It's so much fun to get to enjoy my hard work.
I think we are coming to the end of our love affair with Ivy Box. It's been a lot of fun, but I think she needs to go a different direction for art time, and she is going to surpass many of the literacy and math materials pretty soon. I've cancelled our subscription. That leaves more money for our new obsession: games! This month, we've played several card games: Uno and Sleeping Queens, which both have special decks, as well as Go Fish, Crazy 8s, and WAR with regular playing cards (although we have "special" decks for the first two of those). They also like Sequence for Kids and Spot It, Jr.
We had a couple of nice outings with the Traveling Acorns Group, splashing in streams and visiting farm animals.
December should be a nice month. We do a lot of special activities and the formal school takes a back seat. Literacy activities include reading books and writing letters and Christmas cards. Math comes into play with cooking. We will still be schooling, but much more on the unschooling side. Formal lessons can wait until January when we are all fresh and ready to go.