I’ve had lots of people ask me lately how homeschooling is going. The short answer is that it’s going really well.
Faith is soaking up things like a little sponge so far. I didn’t realize how much she knew already, to be honest. It’s been a joy to be her teacher.
I really like the curriculum I chose for this year: Get Set for School. I bought the teacher’s guides for Numbers & Math, Language & Literacy, and Readiness & Writing. I also purchased the Wet-Dry-Try slate, the Sing Along CD, and the Mat Man set of wooden pieces that can be used for a variety of teaching activities that go along with the curriculum. There are only a couple of workbook pages per concept in the My First School Book workbook, and Faith kept asking for more because she enjoys workbook pages, so I’ve added in fun activity pages from some PreK workbooks from Sam’s and Target. The curriculum is very helpful in explaining how children this age are doing developmentally, and what to look for to know when they’re ready for a particular new concept.
I am also using 26 Letters to Heaven as a resource this year. I use 26 Letters to Heaven to choose a weekly saint, virtue and Scripture memory verse to cover, and I also usually choose a craft, science project, and/or fun recipe from the book each week. I am not crafty, by the way. (I wish I could have a pinky finger of the ambition/patience/know-how of the sweet girl over at Catholic Icing!)
I plan one simple craft per week, and so far that’s been fine with both of us. For example, this week, I found an idea in 26 Letters to teach the children the difference between a cross and a crucifix for Letter C week (a crucifix has a corpus–Jesus’ body–on it). We walked around the house pointing out all of the crosses and crucifixes we could find, and then I cut out two crosses and a little body out of construction paper, and let Faith glue it on another piece of paper. She was thrilled to bits to show off her project later, and she dragged my parents and Michael around the house telling them which crosses were really crucifixes.
So far, I plan our lessons just a week at a time, usually on Sunday afternoons. My friend Julia gave me the idea of using a spiral notebook to write out goals and specific teaching activities to spread out over the course of the week. I had started thing off with a fancy weekly planner that was a little too complicated (and ink-needy) for my liking. To plan each week, I go through the teachers guides for ideas of what to work on next. I stick a page marker onto the pages where the concept or activity is in the book so that I can open right up to those pages during the week. When we cover the material on that page, I write a the date at the bottom of the page.
It helps that in PreK, doing a letter and number of the week is an easy place to start. I also decided to start with the letters in Faith’s name so that I could teach her how to write her name early on. I make a page in the notebook dedicated to each day we homeschool. I write out beforehand a list of activities to do that day, but I use that as a flexible guide. I like that the notebook format lets me keep notes of what worked, what didn’t, and what we actually covered each day. There are usually a couple of activities we don’t get to each week.
On the logistics side of things, homeschooling has definitely been a game-changer as far as planning out activities and errands for the week. I try to get in three solid mornings of school per week, maybe 45 minutes per day, and timing-wise, I have to be careful about what I schedule alongside of homeschooling in a given morning. Impromptu playdates and long mornings at the park with friends are less frequent this fall (so sad!). I can’t leave homeschooling for the afternoon, because the couple of hours after lunch are my main time of day to do basic housework, and then the rest of the afternoon is taken up by carpool and making dinner.
We are planning to homeschool both older children next year, and I’m looking forward to having more flexibility in our day-to-day schedule to get things done. I have to be extremely diligent and self-disciplined right now to stay on top of things, and I definitely fail at this or that multiple times per week. As in, “Oh Michael…well…good news! I’m making breakfast-for-dinner again!”
So goes it, though. I try not to be too hard on myself when I forget things or mess up. My daily to-do list on the fridge is a huge help, but I’m just not Superwoman. My ministry work admittedly plays into that strong need for diligence with my time. If I didn’t have a weekly podcasting night, radio show recording sessions, and writing deadlines, maybe I wouldn’t have to be quite so strict with my time.:)
I have said to myself many times this year: I’m so glad that we kept Faith home. For one thing, it has been a real joy to see my two girls grow in friendship. They play well together (most of the time), and I enjoy spending more time with Faith. I think she’s cute, funny, and smart. I love listening to her make up songs, play-act with her toys, or teach Gianna how to walk like a princess. And the dynamic between the girls and me is different (usually in a good way) while Gabe is at school during the day. It’s been a special little season for us.
Next school year for us will be quite the trial year of homeschooling, since we’ll have Gabe home too. I really believe, however, that where God guides, He provides. I’ve struggled for sure with moments of doubt that we discerned God’s will correctly this year. Faith seems to be thriving, though. Her happy little self is a daily affirmation that our discernment for her this year was right on. I’ve tried to remind myself that just because I believe she would have also done beautifully in a traditional school setting doesn’t mean that traditional school was the better choice for her.
Can we live and teach from a state of rest? My prayer is that we will. But we must approach the Holy Spirit every single day, asking Him to lead us and to quiet our anxious souls so that we can really bless our children- not with shiny curriculum or perfect lesson plans, but rather with purposeful, restful spirits.” -Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace