I guess it’s time to officially recap our first year of homeschooling. It’s actually kind of hard to think back to the beginning of the school year. Maybe that’s because I’ve already ordered our curriculum for next year and have almost finished lesson plans. It’s a never-ending cycle!
Kindergarten went well for us. Caedmon is a smart boy. He has interests far beyond his 6 years, but at the same time, he has no interest in some of the basic things…like handwriting. That’s just part of being in kindergarten. And a boy. And 6.
Caedmon attended a weekly homeschool enrichment class this year, and we both loved it. His teacher was/is fabulous (he’ll have her again next year) and a huge blessing to our family. Caedmon got to go to “school” and learn along with friends. He was challenged by working with a group and independently within a class. He learned some things we didn’t touch on until the end of the year, and a few times I heard, “Mrs. J already taught me that.” That, my friends, was a good thing. After school pick-up, he told me more about lunch and recess than the other 4+ hours of the day. And, each week, he informed me that he ate the Oreos in his Lunchable first…just because he could. Free range lunch is big stuff, y’all.
(And yes, go ahead and judge that I send a Lunchable with my kid every week. I make breakfast, lunch, and dinner every other day of the week. He can enjoy some processed food in a pack once a week.)
At home, we focused on four subjects – I kept things simple on purpose. I didn’t want to push him too much, and I wanted him to have plenty of time to learn to learn. So while we supplemented with field trips, extra learning opportunities, and self-guided study, our four main subjects were: Reading, Writing, Math, and Bible.
Reading: We used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. My Mom used this book to teach my siblings to read, so I knew it was time-tested and effective. It also took zero prep from me. It has scripts for the parent to follow, so you don’t have to “know” anything. It starts very basic, and by the end of the book, the student is reading short stories. It uses a parts to whole method (basically phonics), and only teaches sight words one or two at a time, not as a big list. It has 3-4 lessons that teach a new concept, then a review lesson. It also has a writing aspect, and teaches the child how to write one or two letters at a time.
When we started the year, we were actually picking up from our “K4” year. We got through about 50 lessons last year, so we went through all the review lessons up to lesson 50 when we started this year. Then, we picked up where we left off. The book recommends doing a lesson every day. But we didn’t. (I’m such a rebel.) Caedmon’s favorite thing was not reading, and I didn’t want it to be a chore. At the same time, he needed to learn to read, and was quite capable. So we did 2-3 lessons a week, and on the off days, we either went to the library or I read aloud to him/we read together.
Each week, we chose a library book for a “book report.” He could choose any book we brought home from the library. It wasn’t always my favorite book, but I wanted to make sure it was something he was excited about. I read the book aloud to him, and then he did a book report. I made a template that we used for these, and I’m so thankful I did. It made life so much easier. We’d write the author and illustrator, if applicable. Then, I’d ask him for a sentence about the book - what he learned, what he liked, etc. I’d write down his sentence, then he’d draw a picture about the book. Then he’d write his name and the date on the report.
Reading finally “clicked” for Caedmon about a month before we finished kindergarten. He realized that he could actually read things outside of his reading book. (I was right! Gasp!) Now he reads all kinds of things in all sorts of places. Signs, license plates…it amazes me where he sees all the words now. He can read things like The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham without help. He’s started trying to spell things on his own, and it sometimes ends up quite comical. I love it. He’s still a bit timid – mainly because he doesn’t want to be wrong. But we’ll continue reading over the summer, and I’m confident that he’ll follow in the footsteps of a long line of great readers from both sides of the family.
Writing: For the first semester, we used the writing part of 100 Easy Lessons. I’d write sample letters on his writing paper, and he’d trace, then write his own letters. I also had him write his name, family members’ names, and numbers. Toward the end of the semester, he wrote well enough that I’d give him an extra line at the bottom to write “something for fun.” He really enjoyed having a line to just write something he came up with.
For the second semester, I used the Zaner Bloser Handwriting Grade K workbook. It goes over each letter individually, followed by numbers and some copywork. We got most of the way through it, and will finish the last few pages over the summer. I didn’t have the teacher’s book, so I just went with one letter (one page front and back) per lesson.
Caedmon has always had good fine motor skills, and his writing is pretty decent – when he wants it to be. We do kind of butt heads over the proper way to make some letters, though. He tends to want to write them in the most complicated way possible. He doesn’t understand that even though there may be seven ways to write the letter, only one is considered correct as far as his school work is concerned. I made a deal with him that he could write them however he wants when he draws/writes anything on his own, but he has to write them the proper way for his school work. He didn’t like that until I explained that it’s important to write letters properly so he can more easily learn to write cursive. He’s dying to write in cursive. I’m not dying to teach cursive.
Math: We used Saxon Math K with the manipulatives kit. (The manipulatives kit is used K-3rd grade.) I’d heard that some just started with Math 1, and was tempted to do so, but I’m actually glad we started with K. It was very simple at first – way more simple than he (or I) thought it should be. There were lots of concepts he already knew and understood well. But I knew that he didn’t know the things toward the end of the book. He loved using the manipulatives – counting bears, tangrams, shape pieces, geo board, etc. We spent a lot of time learning patterns, and honestly, I was kind of worn out on patterns by the end of the year. I was even more tired of making pictographs. The only worksheets with Math K are optional and begin in the last half of the lessons. They are geared toward writing numbers and coloring in a certain number of shapes, not working problems.
It did require prep on my part – not a ton, but some. I actually made a lot of the things on my computer and saved them so I can just print them again when Honor uses this in about three years. It was a pain to open up the lesson and see that I was supposed to cut out a bunch of construction paper shapes for that lesson, so I spent some time going through the entire book and made a list of what prep was needed when. I will say, however, that this is a great math program and we did enjoy it overall. Caedmon learned a lot, and absolutely loved doing math lessons.
There are 112 lessons in Math K, and it was designed for three lessons/week, and one day for review. We did math three days/week, sometimes doing just three lessons, sometimes up to five, especially during the beginning of the year. We skipped the review day – we just didn’t find it necessary.
We did finish the book a couple of weeks early, so we moved on to a Grade 1 math workbook I picked up in the Target $1 Spot. We got about half way thru it by the time we officially finished school, and we’ll complete the book over the summer.
Bible: We used The Gospel Project for Kids. It’s published by LifeWay and is written as a Sunday School curriculum, meant to go through the entire Bible in three years. This was our second year to use it. I simplified a lot this year. (Last year, I ordered the teacher’s books and activity pages. Caedmon wasn’t interested in the activity pages, and I found that with the app, I didn’t need the book.) We downloaded the iPad and/or iPhone app each quarter. The app has lesson videos, discussion starter videos, parent guides, memory verses, songs, and games. I found it super easy to use and it worked well for us. We also added The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook this spring. The stories correspond with the lessons, and it gave us another way to experience the lesson.
We did 1-2 lessons a week. My goal right now is to familiarize him with the Bible and follow the thread of God’s plan throughout the Scripture, not necessarily go deep on each lesson. That time will come. If you know anything about my boy, you know he loves battle. So he adored all the fighting and general mayhem in the Old Testament. Kings and wars…right up his alley.
Generally, we would watch the lesson video on the first day. The next day, we’d read the story either from the Bible or the Bible Storybook. The third day, we’d watch the lesson video again and do a journal page. I made a journal page for each lesson – the lesson title, scripture reference, the “Big Picture” question and answer, and the unit memory verse. His task was to draw a picture about the lesson. (Since we were in the Old Testament much of this year, there were lots of stick men holding swords and shields. Just the way he likes it.)
We did lots of other things in between, but that’s the biggest part of what we did this year. Reading, writing, and math…the rest will follow!