A Peek Inside Our Homeschool Day – 2017 Version

Last year, I wrote a post about a day in our homeschooling life. I just went back and reread it, and it was fun to look back on where we were a year ago. Things are a little different this year. Different curriculum, different daily system, a new baby, etc. So here’s the 2017 version of our homeschool day-in-the-life, containing what we did on a pretty typical Tuesday earlier this week.

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5:30 – My alarm goes off. I press snooze twice. One of my Lenten commitments is to begin getting up early again. I used to be a faithful 5:30-am-riser, until I got pregnant with Bubba, and I haven’t done well with this since. But Lent is a good time to begin or renew fruitful practices, so I’m back to getting up early.

6-ish – I’m downstairs getting coffee and I hear Bubba starting to stir. He’s just chattering a bit, so I let him stay in his crib, and I start my prayers.

6:15 – Bubba is getting loud and fussy, so I go up to get him. I finish my prayers while nursing him and then put him in his playpen so I can pray the rosary and do my Lenten journal.

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7:00 – By this time, Lass and Sis are up. I chat with them and play with Bubba for a bit.

7:45 – My husband has left for work and Miss is up now. I put Bubba in his high chair with some Cheerios and have the girls start to get themselves some cereal while I make strawberry smoothies for them and myself (from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook). We all sit down to eat (drink) and I read Jan Brett’s “The Turnip” over breakfast. We are going on a field trip on Friday to a Jan Brett exhibit at a local museum, so I’m reading lots of her stuff this week.

8:20 – Breakfast is done. I start to clean up and get a phone call from a friend. We chat for a bit while the girls go upstairs to get ready for the day. Their morning routine is still the same as last year – get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair (or have me help them do hair), make bed, clean room.

8:45 – I’m off the phone and putting a French braid in Sis’s hair at her request.

9:00 – This is our goal start time for school. I put on our “get-thyself-to-the-schoolroom-pronto” song for the morning, which today is “I Wanna Dance in the Dark” (by Rhianna, I think??). We all dance around for the duration of the song, and land in the schoolroom by its end. Bubba goes into his jumper and we start with the beginning of our morning time routine which consists of singing the Doxology, selecting an old Christmas card from a big box of them we have received over the past several years, saying prayers, including an intention for the family or person the Christmas card is from, finishing with the Anima Christi (I love this prayer!), and then doing the Pledge of Allegiance. We do a super quick calendar time in which one of the girls comes to our calendar, says the date in full, leads her sisters in saying the date all together, and then another girl observes the weather for the day. Then we move to our memory work, which right now is John 3:16-18. This is a pretty standard start to our morning time every day.

9:10-ish – We move into the next part of our morning time, which can vary. Right now we’re using the Lenten Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill, with a few added items that we like to use as well. A brand new addition to morning time is Bedtime Math. I read an entry in the book and each of the girls answers a question (there are three levels of question which are pretty well matched to the levels of the girls’ learning). We quickly review the latin we are learning this week. I put on our Song School Latin CD (another new addition to the routine) and we sing and dance to help us memorize how to say “What is your name?” and “My name is…” in latin. We do our map work relating to the history chapter we listened to in the car on Monday.

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9:20 – Bubba is getting fussy and tired, so I have the girls go to their desks to begin their individual work while I take him upstairs to put him down for a nap. Interrupting morning time to put him down for a nap is pretty common, so they’re used to this.

9:30 – We are back at the table to continue with morning time. We read Proverbs 31 and talk about the virtue of orderliness, we listen to and try to sing along with the current hymn we’re working on “Lord, Who Through These Forty Days,” we read a fairy tale (The Princess and the Pea), and we do music appreciation. On Monday we read the poem “The Donkey” by G.K. Chesterton, and we’re studying Entry Into Jerusalem by Fra Angelico for picture study, so we also read some picture books with a donkey theme (“The Donkey of Gallipoli” and “Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday,” which is actually about a camel, but kind of fits with the theme anyway) and then read a chapter from our current read-aloud “Girl in a Cage.” The girls do narration for the chapter and then morning time is over for the day.

10:25 – The girls are back to their desks doing their individual work. Instead of the workbox system we used last year, I’m now using notebooks to indicate to them what they need to complete each day. Their work is still in the rolling carts with drawers labeled by subject, but they can do their assignments in whichever order they choose, and they just check them off as they go.

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In her notebook that day, Miss had a spelling test, a math test, and the conclusion of a report on Madagascar. She has been working through the beatitudes for her copywork, but Tuesday she was excited because I let her also choose a page out of a Draw Write Now book for drawing and additional copywork. She had to read through and talk with me about the sections in two of her religion books about the last supper and the institution of the Eucharist and the part of Mass when the consecration occurs (She knows all these things, but we are spending some time talking about it more in depth in preparation for her First Holy Communion in April). She also had piano practice, a lesson from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (FLL), and a chapter to read in her current assigned book (which she usually reads  at bedtime).

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Lass had a few pages of math in her Star Wars workbook, some work on her spelling list and a couple of handwriting exercises. She had piano practice, a lesson from FLL, and a reading lesson, which consisted of reading and discussing a story with me.

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Sis had two pages of math from a new Miquon math book, a page of handwriting and some practice on her handwriting slate, a few phonics pages, and some ABC practice in a new sticker book I got for her.

11:35 – Bubba wakes up while I’m doing Miss’s math test with her (Shiller math tests are administered by the teacher). I try to keep going to get through the test before getting him.

11:45 – We’re still working on the test, but the baby is getting mad, so I go get him and bring him down to nurse while I finish the math test with Miss.

11:55 – We’re finished with the math test. All the girls’ schoolwork is done except for Miss’s religion. We go and begin to make turnip pancakes for lunch (to go with our book from breakfast), and Miss and I read and discuss her religion pages while we grate turnips together.

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1:00 – We finally sit down to eat lunch.

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The turnip pancakes turned out great, except that they are far too salty. The girls and Bubba still eat some, so I’m feeling good about them having turnips for lunch. After they eat, I suggest to the girls that we should check the recipe again and see if we made a mistake of adding 2 Tbsp of salt instead of 2 tsp. I explain why this would be an easy mistake to make, but when we check, we find that we did read the recipe correctly, and it just called for too much salt. I discuss with them how it is possible to change a recipe if we make it and decide we don’t like something about it. Miss says next time we make these we should only add 1 Tbsp of salt.

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1:25 – The girls go outside to play. It is crazy windy here, and I’m fairly certain they are freezing, because they insisted on wearing their light jackets when I suggested their winter coats, but they seem to be having fun anyway. I start cleaning up the kitchen.

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2:05 – The kitchen is nearly clean, I have chicken in the oven for dinner, and I put Bubba down for his afternoon nap.

2:15 – The girls come inside. I send them to the basement to clean up their toys.

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I spend the next half hour or so kind of wandering about from task to task, getting distracted and having a hard time actually finishing anything. I’m cleaning the kitchen a bit more, getting distracted by our seeds on the counter and deciding to spray some water on them, cleaning a bit more, remembering that my vacuum isn’t working right and looking for the manual so I can figure out how to clean the filter, etc.

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I got a box with a few new books in it and I really, really want to sit down and start reading one of them, but I don’t.

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2:45 – This kitchen is finally clean. Bubba wakes up after taking a really crummy (short) nap. I bring him down and nurse him, which gives me a few minutes to read one of my books.

3:15- I go downstairs to exercise. My husband and I are working our way through the P90X3 workouts. I was never interested in going P90X because I do not care to spend an hour plus working out every day, but these workouts are only 30 minutes, and they’re mostly pretty fun so we’re enjoying them. The workout for Tuesday was my least favorite though (Agility X), so I have to really talk myself into doing it.

4:00 – My workout is done, the girls have had a snack, and I realize that I forgot to put tinfoil over the chicken that is slowly cooking in my oven. I figure it’s probably too late, but put some on it anyway. I take the girls downstairs for some gym time. We practice basketball skills (which is kind of comical if you know how much basketball “skill” I possess), and then we play dodgeball/pickle and line tag.

5:00 – We go back upstairs so I can finish making dinner.

5:30 – Dinner (the chicken turned out okay, in spite of my failure to cover it)

7:00-ish – Everyone has had a shower or bath, I’m getting Bubba ready for bed, we say family prayers.

7:45 – I’ve gotten the baby to bed and come down to have the girls head upstairs and get in bed. They have made lots of paper dolls and are melting down because Lass “lost” Jessie, who apparently is Miss’s favorite paper doll. There are many tears. I tell them I will find Jessie while they go upstair and finish getting ready for bed. I find the paper doll (of course) and take it upstairs to relieved/happy girls.

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8:10 – The girls are all tucked in and I come down to make myself a cup of coffee.

8:15 – I sit down with my coffee and one of the girls comes out and asks me to come up and snuggle with her.

8:25 – I again sit down with my coffee and my husband on the couch. We spend some time discussing and making a few purchases we have been putting off.

9:45 – Ben and I are done. He goes to bed. I get myself a snack and then go to bed too. I didn’t get my school prep done for the next day, but decide to finish it in the morning, and I’m pretty happy that I’ve managed to get myself into bed by a little after 10, which will make it a lot easier to get up at 5:30 the next day.

The End

Jamie of Simple Homeschool is doing a link up again this year, so if you’d like to see more “Day in the Life” posts from homeschoolers, go check it our here.

 

Our Homeschool Plan – Halfway Through the Year

We are a little more than halfway through our homeschool year. In August, I wrote this post about my plans and excitement for the year. Here’s an update of how it’s going, what we’re still doing and what has changed:

Our day starts with morning time, usually. I have had to learn to be flexible about this, since Bubba doesn’t always go down for a nap at the same time every morning. If he’s awake and happy when we start school, he’ll play in his playpen area or in his jumper while we get started. But sometimes I have to tell the girls to go straight to their desk work while I put him down for a nap. And sometimes we start morning time, and then I send them to their desks halfway through so I can put him down… it all depends on him, and the girls do a great job of just rolling with it.

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Other than that, morning time does look pretty similar to what I planned it to be at the start of the year. We begin by singing a song together. We started the year working on the Gloria and some of the other songs we sing in Mass each week, just to make sure my girls have those down. Now we sing the Doxology. After our song we pray. A new thing we have started is to choose a Christmas card from a big box of them that I have saved for the past three or four years, and whomever the card belongs to, we pray for them during our morning prayer. The girls love this and it’s a great way to pray for lots of our family and friends by name, whom we might not think to pray for on a regular basis. Then we do the Pledge of Allegiance and a quick calendar time and our memory work, which has been highly varied this year but right now is a fairly lengthy Shakespeare passage and a Psalm. Then we move into our read alouds.

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^ The girls asked to be allowed to illustrate their Shakespeare passage (“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…”) while we listened to A Midsummer Night’s Dream ^

As I mentioned in the other post, I switched from Sonlight to Build Your Library for our main science/history/literature curriculum this year. I like BYL much better. I do all of the scheduled reading in the BYL plans with the girls during morning time each day. This usually consists of history (Story of the World or Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, or a fun book that focuses on something we’re reading about, like Knight: A Noble Guide for Young Squires or The Adventures of Marco Polo), science, which right now consists of the First Earth Encyclopedia and The Geography Book, and our literature read aloud, which is Girl in a Cage at the moment. At least once a week we read some poetry, and usually there is one day of the week when we include a fairy tale or a medieval legend. I also read aloud our chapter from Jesus Our Life and any other religious studies we are doing for the week during morning time.

One thing that I wasn’t sticking to very consistently is including nature study, Bedtime Math, art projects, and music appreciation each week. I have kept up poetry tea time every couple of weeks, but the other things have generally been forgotten or just bypassed for lack of time. For this reason, I added in the Winter Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill to help me stick to these things a bit more. This has been great, because now I have a lesson plan page in my binder prompting me to do a hymn/music appreciation and a picture study each week. We have art projects each week (though I’ve skipped one or two of them and one was a total flop) and nature study, too. Some of the nature study projects have been a bit tough because, even though they are winter nature study activities, they seem a little more like early winter activities than late winter, at least for our super cold climate. But we have gotten outside, in the snow, to do nature study, so that’s pretty awesome.

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^ When we were outside, we found these perfect snow flakes in a rotten hollow in a piece of wood ^

Even though some things haven’t worked out the way I wanted them to, the girls seem to be enjoying these fun additions to our morning time (and I am too).

After we finish with the winter plans, I’m going to do a few weeks of nursery rhymes and fairy/folk tales. I have a huge stack of picture books and lots of fun activities ready to go to add this to our morning time next. After a few weeks of these, when spring has actually arrived, we’ll be using the new Spring Morning Time plans that I just purchased (which are on sale until Friday, if you’re interested).

As for our desk work, this has stayed pretty much the same as what I thought it would too. For Math, we do Shiller or IXL or work in the Star Wars math workbooks, or Life of Fred for Miss. I like Shiller, but find it to be lacking in some skills practice, so we supplement with the other things. I have recently added some math games from Math Geek Mama, which are a nice change of pace and fun for the girls. We have also started playing board games like Sum Swamp and Money Bags during school time as well.

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^ A little break to learn about tessellation with magnet blocks ^

For phonics/reading we still use All About Reading. I just love this reading curriculum. Miss is cruising through Level 3 and Lass is moving right along in Level 2. I recently started Sis on Level 1, and she is so excited and proud of herself that she is starting to read real words and whole stories. Miss has additional books assigned to her for daily reading. I assigned “Understood Betsy” as her first book, and she hated it (how is this true of my child??), so I let her pick her books now from a stack I have approved for “school reading” (she has tons more books she can, and does, read on her own in addition to these). Lass is starting to read chapter books, too.

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^ Sis’s first whole book she read ^

Language Arts is exactly what I thought it would be – First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for Miss and Lass, and an occasional page from Language of God for Little Folks for Miss. First Language Lessons has short lessons that I go through with them, and the Language of God book is a workbook that Miss can do to reinforce some of the FLL concepts we talk about.

The girls are doing their CHC spelling workbooks, but I haven’t added in any All About Spelling as I had intended to. I think All About Spelling is probably actually a better method, so I’m considering switching to it soon.

I changed up handwriting a bit. Miss is now using the Writing Our Catholic Faith Grade 2 cursive book, while still working on her printing with copy work. She is so excited to be doing cursive writing. Lass is still using the same Catholic Heritage Curriculum book, and Sis is mostly using the preschool version of Writing Our Catholic Faith.

We are still using the Faith and Life books for religion, and Miss has started working through the Little Catechism on the Eucharist and The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism to prepare for her First Holy Communion in April.

We made a few changes with extracurriculars this semester too. The girls are still doing piano and ice skating, but we have added gymnastics in again and dropped their homeschool gym class at the YMCA. This class was starting to feel like such a time suck, since the girls had it twice a week at an awkward time of the day for us. Now we are trying to do various gym time activities at home more, and I don’t think we’ll miss it.

Happily, since I chose curricula that I’m enjoying this year and have added in a few things to liven it up, I’m not feeling the February homeschool mom burnout right now that I hear lots of people talking about. I’m still enjoying (most of) our school days and love learning so much stuff with the girls every day (the more I homeschool, the more I realize how limited my own education was!).

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^ A recent field trip ^

A big change that I’m already starting to plan for for next year is that we will be joining our local Classical Conversations group. I have been intrigued by this for years, and have looked into it briefly a few times, but never too seriously. Recently, I spoke with a friend whose daughter is in the group, and she shared with me how much they enjoy it and benefit from it, and then I got an invitation to attend an open house. We went on Tuesday and it was so wonderful. The girls loved it and begged to go back. After looking into it a bit more and discussing it with my husband, I decided to go for it, and we will be adding this to our curriculum for next year, most Tuesday mornings. We are all pretty excited about this one.

You know there will be a full, overly-detailed post some time in the future about all the plans for next year, when I get to that point.

For now, we’re enjoying this year. For me, each day presents challenges that I’m trying to use as a way to grow in virtue as I push myself to do better for my kids, and I try to help them to think of it this way too. We are working on growing in faith and love in the small moments of each day, and we’re doing it together. That’s pretty cool.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and the fun things we have coming up.

 

In the Books

We started school this week. Three days in, and I’m going to say I’m thrilled with the changes I made and the direction we’re heading (you can check out our curriculum here if you’re inclined).

A few highlights:

Our first day of school special breakfast was chocolate waffles.

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The girls usually are still in pjs for breakfast, but they were excited and got dressed early for their first day.

I told them that at the beginning of each school day, I’ll put on a song for them, and they need to be at the school table ready to go by the time the song is over. They danced and hammed it up to the song I picked for the first morning, which was “Uptown Funk” (I couldn’t find “Happy” on my phone, which was what I wanted, but we managed to play that one Wednesday morning).

We started by singing the Gloria, praying, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then I asked them if they wanted to have a new name for our school this year (why not?) and had them come up with one. They chose “St. Therese Homeschool” (last year we were “Holy Family Academy”). They helped me make a list of our classroom rules, and we discussed the things they especially want to learn this year (archery was high on the list), and then we started into our morning time read alouds from our Build Your Library curriculum.

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The girls liked the new method we’re using with our workboxes. Instead of having them go through all of their drawers in order, I labeled the drawers and wrote in their new notebooks what they had to do for the day. Then they could do their assignments in whatever order they chose. We’re still working out some issues with this, as Sis and Lass have needed some help to decipher my pictures and words and abbreviations that tell them what to do. I think it’s going to work though, and cut down on my prep time each evening, too.

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The two biggest improvements so far have been letting them color quietly during read alouds and our math curriculum.

I always thought that the girls needed to just sit relatively quietly while I was reading aloud to them in order for them to be paying attention. It turns out, they actually pay better attention if I put a box of markers on the table and some mandala coloring books and let them color while they listen! Our new curriculum also sometimes has some related pages that they can color while they listen to history and science readings as well. We are all so much happier during read alouds suddenly!

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And our math curriculum this year is so much better. Last year’s math curricula for Miss and Lass were very strongly workbook-based. Miss hated doing her math each day and as soon as she pulled out her workbook would begin complaining about it. I knew I needed to get something different this year in order to avoid raising a bunch of math-haters. I researched a LOT of different math curricula, and I decided on Shiller Math, which is very hands-on. I have never been really into doing Montessori-method teaching, but this math curriculum is Montessori based, and we all love it so far.

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We finished up our first morning with sandwiches and malts for lunch, and then had an archery lesson before dinner.

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The rest of our short week (M-W, because we’re going out of town for The Labor Day Party) went well also. We had more archery and even did a little science experiment on Wednesday.

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With week one in the books, I’m feeling encouraged that our year is going to be even better than last year. In the past three days, during family prayers at bedtime, my kids have all said things about being thankful for school, and for archery, and for our science experiment.

Miss even said she was thankful for math.

That makes me one happy homeschooling mama.

A Summer Reading Adventure

Last week we finished our Read the World Summer Book Club. It was based on the book “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time” by Jamie Martin. We used a chapter a week to go through different areas of the world, selecting books to read and activities to do as we went.

Some weeks we were more into it than others. Some books were better than others and sparked more conversation and exploration. All of it was an exercise in learning about the wider world. Geography, language, customs, history. We talked about all of it through the stories told in the books we chose, all of which were recommended in Jamie’s book.

We began with gusto with Multicultural week, focusing on exploring lots of different cultures all over the world. We picked several books with this emphasis, and started out coloring each country that we read about on the map that was provided in one of Jamie’s first posts about the book club.

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After doing this for a few days, the girls lost interest in the maps, which we dropped, but not the stories.

We rolled right into the second week focused on Africa with books and movies from the library about Kenya and Mali and Madagascar. We read about cassava plants and how tapioca is made from the starch of these plants, so I got tapioca pudding for them to try. They didn’t like it (neither do I), but they found it “interesting,” for sure.

After Africa, we moved to the chapter on Europe. There were lots of books in the Europe section of Jamie’s book (and the Asia section) that we have read already, but there were still plenty to choose from that were new to us. One that my girls and I especially enjoyed was “Boxes for Katje.” I had grand plans to make something European for dinner one night that week, maybe from one of my French or Spanish cookbooks, but I flopped on that one.

Next up was North America. Jamie suggested lots of good books, but our favorite that we read was “Jingle Dancer,” about the Native American traditional dance performed in a dress with metal “jingles” on it. We ended up going down a YouTube rabbit hole after this book, watching video after video of jingle dancing and various other types of traditional Native American dance. It was absolutely fascinating, and the girls just kept begging for more.

Our zeal for the book club hit its low point during the Middle East week, when we only read one book from those I checked out of the library. We quickly rebounded with Asia week though. I don’t know what it is about reading books set in Asia, but we have always loved reading about this region of the world. From our old books, “The Story about Ping” and “A Pair of Red Clogs” to the many new ones we read during this week of the book club, we just really enjoy the richness of Asian culture as we experience it through picture books.

One of our favorites during this week was “Bee-bim Bop!” which included a recipe  that we promptly made together, and which led to the girls’ first experience with Korean food (including kimchee!!).

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The other favorite of the week was this:

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The original name of this book was Little Black Sambo, and my grandma used to read it to me when I was little. I didn’t realize this was the same story when I reserved it from the library, but inside the jacket it explained the original title. The memory of my Gram reading it came rushing back, and I was so excited. I can vividly remember the distinct voices she used for Little Black Sambo and the tigers. I tried to replicate them in my reading of the story, but I didn’t do it justice. My girls enjoyed it anyway, of course, and so did I.

The next week was Latin America week, during which I picked a couple of books set in Brazil and made a lame attempt at an Olympic connection, but because we don’t have TV and weren’t really able to watch much of the Olympics, it didn’t really resonate.

And finally, Australia, Oceania, Polar Regions, which we wrapped up last week. I found these two reading “Diary of a Wombat” in our swing set tower the other day.

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As I walked away after taking this photo, I heard them bust out in giggles over the silliness of the story. I love sharing special moments over books with my girls, and even more seeing them sharing the love of books with each other.

My Big Fat Curriculum Post

It’s that time of year again. Back to school is coming. At our house it will be upon us in about two weeks. Miss will be in second grade, Lass in first, and Sis in PreK4.

I’m simultaneously very excited and sort of scared to death. I’m not sure how it’s going to work to homeschool with a newborn in the mix. I’m banking on the possibility that he may nap every morning between 9 and noon. If that doesn’t happen, I’m screwed.

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BUT, either way, I have my curriculum all lined up on my brand new pretty shelves and I’m so flipping excited about it I have to share.

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I’ll start by telling you why we changed our curriculum from what we had last year, which was Sonlight. I picked Sonlight, hoping for a literature-based curriculum. Unfortunately, it turned out to not actually be what I consider literature-based. Usborn books about space and history don’t really qualify, in my opinion. A lot of the books were more textbook-y, and they seemed to bore my kids. I ended up ditching a lot of their selections in order to add in Five in a Row and The Story of the World. We didn’t like the math or the handwriting programs that came with it either. Plus, though I knew that their curriculum was not Catholic and that I would need to add in some religious studies to make it more in line with our faith, I wasn’t expecting to be so uncomfortable with the religious elements they did have. I ended up not using any of their religion choices and completely replacing them with Catholic Heritage Curricula’s study and lots of our own books.

By the end of the year, I was hardly using any of the sources that came in our Sonlight box.

So. That’s what we are not doing again this year.

Instead, I switched to Build Your Library as our main curriculum, and then added a bunch of stuff on to that. BYL is a secular curriculum that comes with literature, science, history, copy work, narration, and art study. You can check out BYL’s second grade package, which is the one we’re using, here.

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I’ll do the science, history, art study, and literature read alouds with all of the girls together before they split to do their individual skill work.

Which includes:

Math – Miss hated doing math in a workbook. So this year I’m switching to Shiller Math, which uses a lot more brief lessons and hands on activities. I’ll also use Life of Fred from time to time and the IXL app for a fun change of pace.

Reading – We’re sticking with All About Reading. We all like it and it works. Miss is a pretty fluent reader, so mostly she just needs practice reading and reminders to sound out the words she doesn’t know. But I’ll finish up the AAR Level 3 with her and continue Level 2 with Lass. Later in the year I may start Level 1 with Sis, since she’s already finished the Pre-reading program, but I’m not in any hurry (she’ll mostly be doing typical preschool ABC, counting, sorting, coloring, cutting, pasting activities).

Language Arts – We’ll be doing lots of reading, narration, copy work, poetry memorization, etc. as part of our BYL curriculum. I’m also using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 2 for Miss and Level 1 for Lass, as well as possibly including some of CHC’s Language of God for Little Folks. We’re using All About Spelling and My Catholic Speller Level A for Miss and My Very First Catholic Speller for Lass from CHC for spelling.

Religion – We use the Faith and Life Series from CHC for Miss and Lass. I added some books for Miss since she will be receiving her First Holy Communion this year.

If you click the images above it will take you to an Amazon page where you can read more and/or purchase the books (They aren’t affiliate links, I’m just trying to make your life easier).

Handwriting – Most of Miss’s handwriting practice will be copy work, either from BYL or from the Catholic Heritage Handwriting Series Level 2. She has expressed an interest in learning to write in cursive, so I’ll start having her do that a little later in the year as well. Lass has CHHS Level 1 for handwriting, and Sis has an old Seton handwriting book that I never ended up having Miss do.

Morning Time – Our morning time will start with singing a hymn, prayer, the Pledge, calendar, and then read alouds (like science, art study, and literature; we’ll mostly listen to Story of the World in the car). This year I’m also going to include nature study, SQUILT music appreciation, some easy art projects, the Bedtime Math app, and the occasional poetry tea time. I’ll alternate these activities throughout the week. I got awesome ideas from the podcast Your Morning Basket for making morning time more rich and more fun for all of us.

There are a few more odds and ends here and there, things I hold onto to add in and change things up a bit from time to time, but that’s the gist of it.

I love this time of year. We have new notebooks and pens and binders. I’ve stocked up on lots of new art supplies. I’ve reread Teaching From Rest. I even got some brand new PlayDoh. We’re basking in the last few weeks of summer, and I’m looking forward to the excitement of our new year.

A Homeschool Day in the Life

A few bloggers I enjoy reading (like Ana and Micaela) have recently participated in the Homeschool Day in the Life link up at Jamie’s Simple Homeschool blog. I love reading these kinds of posts, and they’re kind of fun to write too, so here’s my contribution with how our day ran yesterday, a pretty typical Monday:

6:45 – I wake up and get (decaffeinated) coffee. Proceed to office. Pray the rosary and do my Lenten reading : Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly and the little black book for Lent from our parish (usually I read the Mass readings and daily devotions from Blessed is She, but this morning I got distracted before making it to these).

8:00 – Go upstairs to wake up all three of my kids. Usually at least one of them is up already, but not today (this is why I like springing forward better than falling back).

8:10-ish – Breakfast is on the table.

8:40-ish – The girls have finished eating and they go upstairs to get ready for the day. This consists of getting dressed, making their beds, cleaning their rooms, and brushing their teeth and hair.

8:50 – I have put away the cereal and I go up to hustle the girls into finishing and getting down to the school room. At this point Sis still doesn’t have a shirt on, but the older girls are done with everything except brushing teeth. I grab a shirt for Sis, and put pony tails in hers and Lass’s hair (Miss brushes her own). Lass helps Sis to make her bed, and I think we just might get the day started “on time” as I change my clothes, brush my own hair, and brush my teeth.

9:04 – Everyone is in the school room and ready to go around our old dining room table. We try to start at 9:00 every day, so I’m calling this close enough. We do our morning prayers, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and talk about the date and the weather a bit.

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9:10-ish – We start our work together at the table. I don’t really have a name for this part of our day, though the girls usually call it our “reading,” and it might be like what some people call “circle time.” We do all of our read-alouds from our curriculum (Sonlight plus some Catholic add-ons, plus a late addition of Five in a Row). This usually contains some elements of religion, history/social studies, poetry, and science, with our FIAR book and activities added at the end. This week’s new FIAR book is They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson, and I love it!

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10:00 – At this point I’d usually send the girls downstairs for some running and “recess,” but we don’t do this on Mondays because we have to be done more quickly to get lunch in before piano lessons. So I go ahead and send the girls to their desks for their independent work.

Each girl has a desk and a rolling cart with drawers. I think some people call this a “workbox” setup. Each drawer for each girl has an assignment in it that needs to be completed that day. As each element is finished, the girls return their completed work to the drawer it came from and move down to the next.

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They have a mixture of things they can do on their own and things they need my help with. I try to stagger the items in their drawers so they don’t all need my help at the same time. This sometimes works, and sometimes fails miserably with me saying repeatedly, “I’ll be with you in a minute,” or “Please be patient,” or “Go on to the next thing in your drawer until I can help you.”

Mondays are a little light, and Miss, in first grade, has science questions, a math workbook, spelling words to copy, a handwriting/copywork exercise, a word list and some stories to do in her reader, a piano theory test, and piano practice in her drawers today (I always include their piano practice in our school day, or it will never get done). Lass in kindergarten has a Star Wars math workbook, handwriting, exercises from Learning Success, some addition and subtraction, some worksheets with word family/spelling practice on them, and piano practice. Lass has her pre reading curriculum, which includes some cutting and pasting, some prewriting tracing, and coloring.

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10:05 – Sis gets my attention first with her All About Reading Pre-Reading curriculum work. She is nearly finished with this entire program (only Y and Z in the last section are left). As I’m sitting down with her to do Letter X, Lass starts complaining that she doesn’t know how to do her math workbook. I tell her what to do (counting sets of Star Wars characters from 11-20 and drawing a line from each set to the correct number). She starts wailing that she doesn’t remember those numbers. I tell her that’s why she’s doing the exercise, for practice, and help her demonstrate that she does in fact know these numbers better than she thinks. She wails some more, and then I snap at her to quit complaining and get to work. After a few minutes, she begins complaining loudly again, so I keep my cool a little better this time and send her to sit on the bottom step outside the school room until she can get herself in a better frame of mind and do her work without disrupting everyone. I manage to do this without freaking out, and she complies in kind, which feels like a small victory. I proceed with Sis and Lass sits out for about 2-3 minutes before returning to do her work without further complaint.

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10:15 – After I finish with Sis, there is a period where no one needs my help, so I go to our book stack and my curriculum binder and get the books ready that we will need for tomorrow. I give direction as needed for the next 45 minutes or so.

10:30 – In between periods of helping the girls, I go to start lunch. We eat early on Mondays, so I’m getting some crescent-roll-wrapped hot dogs ready to put in the oven.

10:45 – Lunch is in the oven.

10:55 – Sis and Miss are done with their drawers. Lass is complaining that she is the last one done. I remind her that her negative attitude at the beginning of the morning and her messing around with her little sister at other times is the reason that she is not done. I let her know that we will be having lunch when the baking timer goes off and that whatever she hasn’t finished will need to be done when we get home from our afternoon classes.

11:00-ish – The timer goes off. The girls start lunch while I read our book study book to them. This month our homeschool group is doing Redwall.

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11:20 – I start telling the girls to hustle up so we can leave for piano. I hate this about Mondays, that I have to rush their lunch a bit.

11:30 – I’m rushing everyone into socks, shoes, and jackets, filling up water bottles, and gathering piano binders so we can go.

11:39 – We’re pulling out of the driveway on our way to piano, with just barely enough time to get there on time.

12:00 – Piano lessons start. Lass goes in with the teacher first, while I let Sis and Miss play on iPads and I read my book The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, by Fr. Michael Gaitley. I also take the time to read my BIS email with the day’s Mass readings and commentary.

12:30-ish – Lass comes out and Miss goes in for her lesson. I get lots of instructions from the piano teacher about Miss’s “audition” this weekend for the Wisconsin Music Teacher’s Association. She’s not actually auditioning for anything, but will be playing some pieces in front of a judge and taking a written music test to accumulate points. Her teacher makes sure I know where to go and what to do because this is Miss’s first time participating.

1:15 – Miss comes out of her lesson and her teacher gives more instructions about what she needs to practice for the week to be ready for her audition. We leave piano and head to the YMCA for the girls’ homeschool gym class.

1:25 – I drop off the two older girls for gym and take Sis to Target for a few things.

2:00 – Still happily wandering around Target.

2:25 – I’m back at the Y to pick up the older girls, and we head home.

2:45 – I set Miss and Sis free to go play, while Lass goes to the school room to finish the work she didn’t complete for the morning. It only takes her a few minutes, and then she’s off to play with her sisters. I avoid doing anything productive, and instead spend about an hour and a half messing around on the computer and starting to type this post.

4:30-ish – My husband comes home and goes downstairs to play with the girls. He likes to do more gym class with them in the afternoons before dinner.

5:30 – We sit down to dinner. The girls animatedly tell my husband about the book we’re reading, Redwall.

6:00 – Our babysitter comes so my husband and I can go to our RCIA meeting (we are both sponsors this year).

8:15 – I come home (my husband got called to work). My babysitter tells me that the girls requested early/extra reading time before bed, and they read three more chapters of Redwall. I pay her, clean the kitchen from dinner, and go into the school room to get the girls’ drawers set up for the next day.

9:00 – My husband comes home and we talk and talk about some new things that happened at RCIA.

11:00 – I go to bed.

So there you go. That’s a pretty typical Monday around here. Our other days are pretty similar except we do a little more work. I usually will have All About Reading for the older girls (Miss is in Level 3 and Lass is in Level 2), and they have more recess time to break up the morning. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I sometimes add in an art lesson or a craft. Fridays we usually do less work in the school room and more other stuff, like chores or field trips. That’s it!

Head over to the link up if you want to read others’ “Day in the Life” posts.

Praying for Our Nation, 14 Years Later

Today during school, I taught my girls about 9/11 for the first time.

Our lesson started quite naturally after we said the Pledge of Allegiance. Lass asked if the Pledge is a prayer.

“No,” I said. “It’s something we say in the USA to show that we love and are loyal to our country. We say it to show that we believe our country is the best place to live and that we will take care of it.”

That provided a fairly natural segue into our discussion of the events of September 11, 14 years ago.

I told them about the twin towers and how incredibly tall they were. I showed them pictures. We talked about the airplanes and the men who made them hit the buildings. I told them about the Pentagon and the people who fought back on the fourth plane to keep it from hitting another building.

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I was pretty nervous about having this conversation with them. I didn’t want to scare them. But I thought they were old enough for a basic description of the events of 9/11. I wanted them to begin to understand patriotism. I wanted them to see that people sometimes do evil things, but that good and God are still more powerful.

I’m glad I talked about it with them. They didn’t seem scared. They were very curious about the men who had taken over the planes. They wanted to know why they did it. We talked about how some people can do very terrible things if they let hate take over their hearts, and that that’s what those men did. They hated our country, and so they did something horrifying. We talked about how we should pray for them and for people like them.

As we were having this conversation, I was dismayed to find that my conviction faltered a little bit on some of my patriotic comments. I felt a little false even. My love for our great nation is still deep and strong and true, but right now I really don’t like Her very much sometimes. I hate to type this, but I feel like my own patriotism has waned of late.

I’m shocked and saddened and angered by so many things I see going on in our country. Things like how people don’t seem to care one bit about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts and that our president hasn’t even watched the videos showing evidence of it. Things like people being sued and losing their businesses and even being jailed for following their beliefs.

I get this sense of impotent rage, alternating with helplessness, because I feel like so many things are wrong here in our country, but I don’t feel like I can do anything about it.

Today, when I talked with my girls about 9/11, I wrapped up our conversation with the story of St. Paul’s Chapel. I just learned about this church today. I told my girls about its rich history and the fact that it is right next to where the towers stood, and yet when they fell, not even one window of the chapel was broken. I told them about how it was used as a place for rescue and recovery workers to rest and find some comfort during the hours and days following the tragedy.

We talked about how God must have protected that Church, and how He is so much stronger than any bad things people do.

I ended by telling the girls that, even though those men attacked our country and did something that hurt us very much, we were not broken or ruined by it, and in fact we came together to help and serve each other even more after that happened.

During the course of the lesson with my girls, and in my reflections on it and my own feelings afterwards, I managed to realize that no matter what laws are made, no matter what trash is spewed all over Facebook and TV, no matter how things may seem to be wrong in this country, it is still the country that I love, and I would not want to live anywhere else.

On this date 14 years ago, our nation came together in such a remarkable way. The attack on our country only served to make us stronger and to reinforce within our hearts what our we stand for. The men who flew those planes that day hated us, and they hated the religious beliefs that the majority in our country hold. It seems this is not very different from some of the issues we are facing today, except now we are attacking each other.

I told my girls that we can pray for the men who hurt our nation fourteen years ago and others like them. We will also be praying for a return to American strength and unity, for an end to divisiveness and hatefulness and persecution of those who think or act or believe differently than we do.

Let us never forget 9/11.

The First Week – A Homeschool High

I promise I will go back to blogging about stuff other than homeschooling very soon, but this week, it has pretty much been all-homeschool-all-the-time in my brain, so I’m needing to tell everyone how we did. Ready?

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Ahem. We crushed it.

The week was fantastic.

The curriculum was very easy to follow and implement.

The girls loved the workbox system.

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They are crazy about the Star Wars workbooks that I work into their workboxes in between their “real” work.

(When proofreading, I realized how many times I used the word “work” in that ^^ sentence. I started to edit, but then decided I enjoy the fact that it is used four times in there, with four different meanings. I’m leaving it.)

We did a science experiment.

We did an art project.

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I let my kids use Sharpies, and we all made it out unscathed (including our clothes and furniture).

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We learned about Mother Teresa (her feast day is tomorrow).

Miss developed an intense interest in Japan.

We read and discussed the Gospel for this Sunday, as well as most of them from the Mass readings for the week.

We memorized a Bible verse (Psalm 1:1). They did much better at this than I did. Even Sis has it down.

It was so fun.

We even named our little school after our patron saints. I had the idea the night before our first day that I was going to ask the girls to choose a patron saint for our school for the year. I worried a bit that introducing this might be a big disaster. I suspected they would fight over which saint we should choose. To my surprise, they came to an agreement almost immediately. When I first asked whom we should choose, Sis said, “Saint Joseph.” Miss said, “That’s exactly what I was just going to say!” Lass said, “Mary.” I said, “How about the Holy Family?” They said, “Yeah!”

So we are now Holy Family Academy.

I’m kind of feeling like Super Homeschool Mom. I’m having an “I need a cape” moment (these are few and far between, so I’m making the most of it).

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Of course, it wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. There were a few tense moments. Even a few tears, because Lass has a hard time understanding that she isn’t supposed to do things perfectly when she is learning them, like cutting an oval shape. I repeated many times things like: “You don’t have to be perfect, you’re just learning,” and “It takes practice to get good at new skills,” and “In our school it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.” And so on and so on. She still had a meltdown over the fact that her ovals were a bit angular.

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I also need to streamline my process for prepping the next day’s work in the evenings and filling the girls’ workboxes. I think I spent at least an hour each night doing this, and that’s just not sustainable. I’m working on making it smoother, doing some of the prep work for the next day as the girls are finishing up their current day activities, and finding other ways to be more efficient. I’m hoping this will get faster as I get more familiar with the curriculum and once we are in a more user-friendly space after we move.

And speaking of user-friendly spaces, I learned that, although I really like having individual desks for the girls, I also like having the big table in the middle to use when we’re doing work together at the start of the day and when we do experiments and art projects. So we’ll probably be making room for the big table in our school room (we inherited a new dining room table from my in-laws).

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So much packed into the first week.

Do you want to know my favorite part about the whole thing? I could watch my girls growing closer to each other through our work together and their helping each other.

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I know that sounds crazy after just one week, but I swear they’re kinder to and closer to each other today than they were last Friday. They’re complimenting each other, they’re helping each other, they’re playing Star Wars together so nicely!

I’m feeling more connected with them too.

The house is a mess and my meal planning has gone to heck, but today it all feels so worth it.

First Day of School – Our Homeschool Plan

Today is the first day of school! I am really excited for this year, and so are my kids. Here’s what we have planned:

I am doing Sonlight first grade for Miss (Core B). I am always drawn to a literature-based rather than textbook/workbook-based curriculum, and that’s what I love about Sonlight. So far I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time organizing and figuring out my plan for exactly how to implement it, but I suspect that’s because I’ve added a bunch of stuff to it and decided to try to use workboxes for much of our school assignments.

Basically, I’ve come up with a plan in which we all do our religion, calendar, history, poetry, art appreciation, and reading for science together, first thing. Then the girls will go to their desks and start going through their workboxes. I have all of Miss’s math, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and worksheet questions in her workbox drawers, along with a few other fun activities (Hot Dots, Star Wars readers and workbooks, saints activity pages, etc.).

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The girls will be instructed to go through their boxes one drawer at a time, starting at the top. They can’t open drawers further down until they finish the one they’re on. When they finish each drawer, they move the magnet on the bar from the left to the right and go to the next one. I think (hope!) they will find this fun and make the school day more exciting and interesting for them.

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I think this will work really well for Miss, because she can read the instructions I write down for her in each drawer. I suspect it will be a little bit harder, especially at first, to get Lass and Sis going with this system, but I’ll give it a try anyway. At least at first, they have fewer drawers filled, so we’ll see how it goes.

After they get through their workboxes, I’ll read the day’s read aloud to them over lunch (our first one for the year is Charlotte’s Web). And that will be it, except they have extracurriculars some days in the afternoons (piano, gym, choir, art).

For Miss, the additions I chose to the Sonlight core (history, language arts, religion, science) are Horizons Math and Handwriting Without Tears. I’m already planning to switch her handwriting book though, to Writing Our Catholic Faith, which I just discovered yesterday and absolutely love! I’m also going to supplement her reading work by continuing with her All About Reading Level 2 (AAR) curriculum that we didn’t finish last year. The level of the readers that come with the first grade package from Sonlight is far too easy. I’m going to have her read them anyway, because they go along with her spelling words, but she can do the whole week of Sonlight readers in one day, and the rest of the week I’ll fill in with lessons from AAR.

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I have added a specifically Catholic Faith and Life series to supplement the religion portion of Sonlight, and we’ll be doing lots of reading about saints and feast days. I also got Miss a Good News planner so we can learn about the coming Sunday’s Mass readings and she can keep track of her activities each week. We’ll be using Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection for art appreciation and a DVD art course done by some nuns, which ties art with our Catholic faith and history (I can’t find the link for this anymore).

And that’s about it for Miss in 1st grade.

I’ve decided to start Lass in Kindergarten. She’ll do all the Sonlight curriculum with her sister (as will Sis) for the start of her day, and then her workboxes will have some math worksheets from Seton’s Math K for Young Catholics, some BOB books, her AAR Level 1 curriculum (which she will bring to me to do with her), Writing Our Catholic Faith for handwriting, and other fun activities similar to those in Miss’s boxes. She’ll also be using her sister’s first grade readers, which are more in line with her reading level than Miss’s.

Sis will be doing the pre-reading level of AAR (if I can ever find it in one of the boxes I packed away!) a few coloring pages, and various other fun activities.

I’ve got to go put some first-day-of-school cinnamon rolls in the oven and wake up my kids. Wish me luck!

Homeschool and Changes and Sacrifice

We are on the verge of beginning another school year at home, and this one feels like it is coming at me with many, many changes. I’m finding this both exciting and uncomfortable at the same time. I have hemmed and hawed about what day to pick to actually start school, and have finally decided on next Monday as the official first day, with a few small activities this week to get into the swing of things. We even took our first field trip today.

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It’s been a little tricky getting things ready to start, because one big change is that we will eventually be in a new school room, and for the time being we are in a state of transition. Our new home was supposed to be finished around now, but is now not going to be done until October. Our old school room got all packed and put away when we put our house on the market, so I’m pulling out a lot of things from storage, and I’m having a hard time finding stuff, because when I packed it away I thought I would just be getting everything out in our new house around now, and not needing to find specific things in poorly marked boxes.

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Since we’re going to be changing things around a lot when we move, I decided to go ahead and make a shift from an obviously preschool-like homeschool room to a room that will grow with us. This means individual desks for each of the girls (the little table we were using just wasn’t cutting it anymore), a bigger, free-standing white board, and workbox tray carts (which still haven’t been put together because the company sent me the wrong size). For right now, everything is being crammed into our former-school-room-turned-back-to-dining-room-and-now-partial-homeschool-room-again room.

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I’m excited about the new way our school will be set up, if not completely happy with it’s current configuration.

The other big change is that Miss isn’t going to be going part time to our local Catholic school anymore. I love that we tried the hybrid homeschool model (I think Michele, who is trying it this year, coined the term), but it just wasn’t going to work for us this year.

There were many things I liked about having Miss in a regular school last year, and some things I didn’t. The main reasons we aren’t doing it again this year are that 1) having Miss at another school part time was disrupting the flow of my homeschool schedule; 2) it’s going to be a bit too far to drive after we move; and 3) she really didn’t want to go again. She said that regular school “takes too long,” which makes sense since we can get all of our homeschool work done for the day in a couple of hours, versus her being at school all day.

And in the same way that having Miss at school for one full day a week was disrupting our homeschool schedule, so were a few other things that I have had to move around or cut out. We aren’t doing any out-of-the-home lessons in the morning anymore. Piano got moved to the afternoon, and we will be starting a homeschool gym class two days a week at the YMCA and have homeschool choir and art classes once per week with some local families as well, all in the afternoon. This is hard for me, because I’ve always counted on having some time in the afternoons to get things done while the girls were resting and/or napping. Sis is going to be missing her nap more often, and I will be missing it too.

But the hardest thing about this change is that I have had to give up my bi-weekly Monday morning Catholic Bible study with my friends. It has been such a great experience for learning and building community with some wonderful ladies, but it just doesn’t fit with our plans this year. I probably could have made it work, but I feel pretty strongly that I want to get the girls into a routine of Monday through Thursday school time in the mornings. Fridays will be for some school things and extra projects, for field trips, or for a make-up day if we take a field trip or have something else during the week. In order to be consistent with this schedule, the Bible study had to go.

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But while I’ve had to give up this one social activity, I’m trying to add in some others. Knowing that we won’t have any outside-the-home school this year, I’ve really been trying to establish relationships with other homeschooling families so that my girls can develop friendships with kids they will be able to see frequently. I am excited for their gym, choir, and art classes to start so they can begin forging new friendships and building on the ones we have already begun with some new families.

I know I need to do this, and it’s fun and exciting to meet new people (as uncomfortable as it can be for my introverted self to take the first step). But it’s hard to know that they won’t be able to see their old friends, who all go to school full time, quite as often. We can’t do weekly morning play dates with Super Friend’s kids anymore, for example. Her two oldest are in school every day now, and my family needs the school time in the mornings.

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I feel kind of sad and anxious about these kinds of changes. I remember reading a blog post once in which the author claimed that homeschool moms have to give up their friendships with their non-homeschooling mom friends, because that’s what you have to do to put your children’s home education first. I don’t agree with this. At all. And I have no intention of blowing off my friendships or those that my girls have with kids who go to school. We will find other times to get together. But it still feels a little lonely to know that the easy days of morning coffee play dates with friends are over (at least until next summer).

So that’s where I am right now – on the verge of diving into a new year, excited and fearful about all the changes this will bring for us, and hopeful that I will be able to balance all the things to teach my children well with consistency, help them to develop new friendships, and manage to keep our old friendships going strong.

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