19 April 2016

8 Things We Did Right This School Year

We have roughly eight weeks left in this school year; by early June we’ll be closing the chapter on 4th grade {Agent E}, 2nd grade {Agent J}, and kindergarten {Agent A} and looking forward to a new adventure with 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades.

Although it’s my nature to want to fast forward to the fun planning part for next year, I need to take a moment to acknowledge some of the high points {things we liked, ideas that flourished, what turned out better than expected} for this current homeschool year.

Following is what I would consider general 2015-2016 homeschool “wins” and/or just random stuff that we figured out works and will carry through into future years. 


Developing a consistent, workable routine

Even though we tend to be pretty relaxed in both our schooling and our generally un-busy life, I like knowing our days have a flexible yet predictable flow. We have sufficient margin that we don’t feel too “scheduled” or stiff, yet the pattern is ingrained enough that we feel “off” if we stray too far. When we do change things up—adding another student to the mix or increasing our time outside during the summer months—it’s easy to fit our new activities into the already existing framework without reinventing the wheel.

Dividing our days into morning school and afternoon school

Monday through Friday mornings we do math, language arts, and Spanish. The Agents work “together” in the sense that they are doing the same subjects, but obviously at different levels. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons we cover geography, history, and science. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we cover health, world religions, art, and music. This allows us to get to every subject every week without feeling overwhelmed, and it breaks up the “school day” nicely. 

Using spine books to keep us on track

We don’t follow a “curriculum” or use traditional textbooks, but we have one primary text that we use as sort of a home base for each subject. We work through the books in order—supplementing with additional books, written work, and videos along the way—but allow ourselves plenty of freedom to follow rabbit holes and spend significantly more time on any one chapter or section if the interest is there. The book simply serves as a guide for what we study when, giving us much needed structure while not being totally confined to a specific do this, then do that curriculum.

Organizing our book lists with Goodreads

I cannot even believe how many books I wrote {typed} and organized into lists in past years. This is SO much easier! Just create shelves for each student, each subject, each topic, whatever, and bam! You can even use your phone to scan bar codes . . . easy peasy! Had I known going into the year that I would end up loving this system so much, I probably would have arranged my shelves a bit differently, but given that we’re at 1130 books total so far, I’ll take slight disorganization over having typed out that many titles/authors into a spreadsheet.

Studying a foreign language

We tried {and failed} to introduce a foreign language during each of the first four years of our homeschooling experience. Apparently year five was the magic year. We chose Spanish because I have some experience {albeit limited} and I think it will be a useful second language to know. We’re still beginners, but the spark is there and it will definitely be staying on the agenda.

Introducing world religions

I found an interesting looking book on religions around the world for kids at the library and on a whim decided to get it. Well, three renewals later we finally had to return it and ended up buying our own copy. I would not have predicted the Agents' intense fascination with faiths around the world. The girls tell me right now they both identify as agnostic, but enjoying learning what other children around the globe believe and practice. They process all the stories we read through a science-minded filter, and know that for the most part they are not literal, but educational nonetheless.

Reading mythology and folk tales

Truth: I don’t remember ever learning mythological stories in school. Either I blocked it out or it wasn’t a topic we discussed—which would not surprise me one bit. {I don’t recall studying evolution in any detail either—don’t even get me started.} However, the Agents are captivated by mythology, folk tales, creation stories, flood myths, etc. We've enjoyed it so much that we are planning a more in-depth study of Greek mythology for next year, possibly to be followed by both Egyptian and Norse mythology.

Exploring science and history with documentaries

Who knew so many fun and interesting shows could be found on Netflix?! Clearly everyone but me! The Agents {and Momma} have thoroughly enjoyed watching BBC Earth documentaries of animal life {and listening to David Attenborough’s voice, ha}. We’re on our second viewing of Cosmos, and have found so many other wonderful programs to supplement our studies of mammals, evolution, space, inventions, and much more.

2 comments:

  1. "knowing our days have a flexible yet predictable flow" I'm finding this works best for our son too! He likes consistency more now than he did a year ago. Our son also LOVES the Norse and Greek myths! I didn't expect that as I never really cared for them either. Thanks for sharing all of the things that are working for you and your kids!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Erin. I have found that my kids crave the consistency of routine more now than when I had three littles. We are still very relaxed in "what" we study and how much time we take, but we all like the predictability of knowing the "when" . . . if that makes sense, ha.

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