Our Homeschool – Year 2
We got the first year (kindergarten) down and now what? Should we keep going? I feel more comfortable with Hazel spending the hours away and finding SOME independence (all day still feels way too long). I know she would listen to a third party teacher better than her dear old mom and dad… but then Covid happened.
Do you know how much easier choosing to homeschool our kids is now that it’s basically been mandated (in some form or fashion) by a world pandemic? A lot! We’re not going against the grain anymore, we’re comfortably in the middle. All those things I fretted about, the ‘what if I mess them up’, ‘what if I’m not good enough at this’, none of that matters anymore. We’re all in for an interesting year now (Mwa-ha-ha)! Being honest: even without the pandemic, it is a super easy choice to choose home education again. It’s been perfect for us!
I am grateful we made the choice to take this path before the pandemic, we had some time to prepare (mentally and physically). I know my kids are young so my voice doesn’t matter as much as a well weathered homeschooler. I’ll share my two cents anyway. I think the most important part is your mindset going in. That bit is forced right now for a lot of families who didn’t actively choose this path. Here you are though, you can choose your response: embrace change as a little life experience, get angry or even play a victim. Choose wisely, little eyes and ears are paying attention.
Here is what we’ve done and what we’ll be doing this year, it should be fairly applicable to all ages (or I’ll look back on this post later and cringe… who really knows!).
Go easy on yourself
I know it’s stressful. Take comfort in knowing literally every person on the planet is stressing with you. Education is going to be ok. Literally, if you do nothing, your kid’s education will still happen, it’s a part of them. Humans have a natural want to learn, big time. I would also say that parents have a natural want to teach. Try to slow down your world enough to listen to those tells. Frankly, boredom is a tool we lean into a lot. When they are bored they have to think up something to occupy themselves. No matter the age of your kid, I believe they will blow you away with their ideas, eventually. If they have learned to be entertained, give it some time before they start curing their own boredom without a case of the whines. Nourish those ideas. If you can find a way to fold in math, reading, writing, all the better but do not put too much pressure on yourself. Giving them the space to figure it out is not a bad thing in my book.
It’s ridiculous for a parent of a 5 and 6 year old to give this sort of teaching advice. I know that it’s fully expected for our experience to change as the kids get older and the curriculum gets more complex. I believe easing up and going with the flow (also said ‘follow their lead’) is going to be the most important bit of advice along the way. Nurture strengths and eek by on the minimums.
Ask more questions than you answer
Learning happens when they try to think of the answers. That plants seeds which will sprout the next time information is presented. They are not merely a sponge to soak up information, that process happens with your help or not. They are critically thinking machines with unique ideas and thought processes. What they can can contribute to the world is probably beyond your imagination. The trick is unlocking the passion and providing them confidence to be unconventional. Asking them to think is far more powerful than telling them information.
You can kick off this year by having THEM explain what they understand. About anything. Asking them to teach others (you) is one of the best ways to make information stick. It also informs you of where they may need a little help so you can tailor that plan for them. I make teaching a regular part of our routine. Each kid is responsible for taking the lead on their own strengths, sometimes.
Treat them like a person and they will behave like a person
The little ones are interested in weird things – so are the big ones! Showing interest in those weird things seems to be important. At least showing interest in why they are interested in those weird things. If what they like is Minecraft, there is A LOT to work with there. If what they like is Youtube, have them start a channel. Have them learn all about the history, the culture, the value and the drawbacks. It probably takes some learning on your part, too. Have THEM teach you. You get what you put into this whole experience.
All of that said, rest easy knowing that your kids will learn with or without you. This year has the potential to be their most formative year because it isn’t just about math, science and reading. It’s about family units, emotional regulation, persistence and self-motivation. And remember, there are as many lessons in the bad days as there are in the good ones.
Homeschooling can be a grueling process when you DO choose it. It’s probably going to be tougher if you didn’t. Your mindset is going to be a strong indicator of how successful this year is. Don’t take your stresses out on your kids. If you do, apologize to them. That’s an important part of life lessons, too! Being human means taking accountability. Being a parent means setting an example. Strive to be the person you want your kid to become, they have a lot of time to watch you this year.
Our Homeschool Life
Our routines haven’t changed too dramatically since my first post. We still use Blossom & Root as our basic armature of curriculum. We don’t follow it to a tee but we love it because it’s open ended while also seamlessly weaving together the basics of the grade level. It’s also very affordable and aims to make use of items you already have around the house.
We started with just Hazel on the Kindergarten program but about halfway through the year Miles got jealous that she got to do ‘school’ and he didn’t so we brought him in the fold and they have thrived together. We just bought our curriculum for 1st grade. (If you are interested in B&R use the code ‘sunflower30’ until September 15th and get 30% off!). Instead of making 1st grade a Hazel only thing I have printed 2 copies. I also printed 2 copies of the art and family history portions of the Kindergarten curriculum to re-do. Hazel wasn’t super interested the first time around but I think they will be more effective as a duo where conversations can more freely take place. Miles wouldn’t technically start Kindergarten until next year but he wants to have the same structure as Hazel and that makes things easy for me! School curriculum is very repetitive anyway. Each topic sort of spans 2-3 years as I am seeing it.
It’s easier for me to bring the two kids together to the same grade level even though they would technically be 2 years apart in public school. I think this works because – in the way that curriculum goes – Miles is pretty advanced. He learns a lot from watching his sister struggle through. Hazel is also slowed down a little with some dyslexia. They don’t suggest testing for a diagnosis until 7-9 years old but I have had my suspicions for a few years now (e do have a family history on both sides). Fortunately, that seems to make us well equip to work with her through that. At this point they are a pretty matched pair and they like doing school together! (lucky me!) Even at that, we limit the formal part of ‘sit down and learn’ to no more than 2 hours a day. We can get through a lot in that time and too much is too much.
- We’ve picked one overall curriculum (Blossom and Root) because it is affordable and secular (non-religious). Easy Peasy is another great FREE option. There are endless possibilities but do your research as to what the foundations of the teaching methods are. We wanted a nature based learning experience. This is our base. To that we add points of interest and areas they need extra help.
- We have made sure the kids are in extra-curricular classes for physical activity and also social structure. Miles doesn’t particularly like this but Hazel thrives with peers. Before this pandemic it was things like ballet or ninja classes. Whatever sounded fun to them. This year it looks a little different. Outschool.com has been a great replacer. They literally have everything on Outschool. You can take targeted classes for any grade-level/age-range, from professionals in every industry, on anything! I personally think Outschool will be a big part of education going forward and I am thinking of putting together some classes to teach for fun on there.
There is a lot to be said for in person learning but the next best thing is talking to well qualified professionals directly – via the internet. Right now the kids are taking a capoeira class and Hazel is starting a drawing class. She loves that she can do these with other kids who she can see on the screen. The teachers are adapted to an online teaching method and it’s been something they very much look forward to!
- Real life experience: nothing is a substitute for real life over theoretical words. If we’re building, they help. If we’re planning, they help. Not usually very long but they are a part of it. They are starting to learn more about our jobs and money management. We have the patience and we take the time to give them space to speak on the issues that happen in their life. For us this has lead to off-grid living, and they can probably tell you about our battery setup and water usage better than most adults. It probably makes them ‘weird’ which is what most people think about home schoolers, but they aren’t. They are just kids who have been exposed to real life more than classrooms (I suppose technically speaking that IS ‘weird’, but I don’t like the negative connotation thats usually presented with that).
- There are endless free resources and printables out there to get you through any grade. Math-aids.com is our go-to for math additives. Education.com has endless printables and worksheets, too. I use these sorts of things to start and supplement conversations, not as a time filler. Nobody likes paper pushing, especially kids. As they get older we will dive deeper into history, maths, science and writing (whatever we can’t teach we will outsource to people, probably on Outschool, who can).
- Usually we don’t actually stay ‘at home’ to home-school. We go to zoos, science centers, museums, libraries, etc. It’s generally a much richer experience to homeschool than what this year will likely look like. There is a lot of opportunity this year, though. A lot of those same museums, science centers and zoos are coordinating online efforts that give an in depth experience, even if not in person. Leaning into those local resources has a lot of opportunity to both teach your kids as well as keeping those resources around through the pandemic.
- Video games are not a bad thing. Screen time is not a bad thing. Do be selective about what is watched/played. There is a lot of junk out there but there are some great things, too! Technology is a well ingrained part of this generation, embrace it! ABCMouse has been a fun resource for Miles and Hazel but I think (after 2 years) they have started to outgrow it a little even though its suggested for 2-8 year olds. We recently started ReadingEggs which seems to take over well after ABCMouse.
I have well wishes for your schooling this year!
Our journey will not necessarily resemble yours. Home school is supposed to be adapted to suit your kids. It is a journey, not a destination. It is repetitive though, don’t worry about missing things here and there, they are covered in other curriculums in other years, too. It’s really just a series of conversations. Mostly kids learn from your enthusiasm. Having a passion and a purpose helps teach those things. Don’t be surprised if school at home takes a lot less time than you’re used to. It’s my belief that sitting at a desk listening to things for hours on end, day after day should not be what education looks like. It’s much more fun than that! Also, it can take some time to unwind those habits that SEEM normal. The transition probably isn’t cut and dry.
Give your kids kindness. Give yourself kindness. We’re all in the same boat now. Just do the best you can do if what you’re going to do is homeschool this year. That looks different for literally everyone. I support you!