Before this next school year gets up and running, I want to record what our year of homeschool looked like last year. Our girls were able to transfer to a different public school this year and it is already worlds better than their last experience. They are thriving and happy, and so am I. But our year at home was rich and delightful and I want to keep a record of everything we did. Having the opportunity to homeschool my kids was truly a blessing and I'm so grateful for my weird homeschooling obsession over the years. I was able to jump right in when it came time to pull our girls out of the system for a while. The learning curve was steep, but the memories we made and everything we learned will be with us forever. We had a beautiful, beautiful time. Here are some notes on what worked well for us.
Independent table work (math, spelling)
Outing / outdoor time
Home for lunch and free time
Owen naps (ideally)
Daily subject lesson
Copywork or notebook page
*Hard stop at 4:00 pm, no matter what we had or hadn't done yet
Baths and read-aloud with Dad
I used The Peaceful Press Planner to keep written records and plan our weeks. I chose to buy the digital bundle so I could edit the schedule charts and print only what I needed. I used the daily schedule (below) and meal plan pages every week as well as the attendance, field trip record, and book list sheets for ongoing records. These were all in a binder that I had open every day. When in doubt, I opened to that daily schedule page and started in with the first box for that day.
In addition to a daily rhythm, we also stuck to a weekly rhythm. We left the house every day at some point. Mondays were library day, Wednesdays were park day with friends, and Fridays were nature adventure day.
This was a great way to transition into schoolwork. Most days we would sit together and read a poem, a scripture story, and something about a life skill or value. Our favorite poems came from our nature study, Elsa Beskow's Around the Year, and various Shel Silverstein books. We read about taking care of our bodies in The Care and Keeping of You and talked about manners using Connoisseur Kids.
We did about half Charlotte Mason Arithmetic and half various workbook pages. Both were good for different reasons. CM Arithmetic lessons were one-on-one with me, vocally working through problems using manipulatives (coins, buttons, etc.) and saying complete answers. Emma thrived with this; Addie was never challenged enough and eventually switched completely to flashcards and worksheets to help her learn her times tables. She loved getting to quickly finish her math page and move on.
For the first part of the year, I kept an ongoing list of good words from our reading or that the girls asked how to spell. Then I discovered the Scripps National Spelling Bee lists. These were both challenging and doable. Each day of the week had a different spelling assignment: write out your new words, write your words three times, write complete sentences that include your words, and write your words with creative letters or using letter tiles. The girls loved spelling, especially using the words in funny sentences and then illustrating them.
I can safely say that we went outside for at least 30 minutes every single day. Often we just went out the back door to the yard and back field, and other days we drove to a park or other nature spot. We all got warm layers for Christmas so we could continue heading outside in the dead of winter. This absolutely saved my sanity and became a beautiful exhale in our days. Anytime weather permitted, we also did a lot of our schoolwork outside with clipboards.
We focused on history two days a week. We read a picture book together and then the girls each made a notebook page or timeline card about the topic for that day (see Copywork below). These are some of the most treasured records of last year! A few months into the year, I started choosing a general theme for each six-week term. We started with US history before Columbus and followed with themes like pioneers, Native Americans, and the American Revolution. Before each term, I made a list of picture books to fit that term's theme. On days we studied history, I opened the booklist and read whatever came next. Many of these books came from the Playful Pioneers curriculum, but I kept the schedule much looser. If we didn't finish a book in one afternoon, we would finish it on the next history day.
We continued with Exploring Nature with Children most weeks, especially using the book recommendations and poems. We usually read one science picture book and went on one nature walk every week, and then the girls would make an entry in their nature journals.The girls each filled more than one nature journal. Afternoons drawing and painting in our nature journals together at the table are some of my happiest memories from last year. Journal entries included favorite nature poems written out, drawings of favorite nature spots or creatures, etc. I wanted to keep this personal to them, so they always had a say in what they would write and draw. The only requirement was to write a stanza or two of a poem and then illustrate it in color. We also googled questions as they came up and had many organic lessons about geography because of our history study.
We read three books from the Little House series, usually a chapter a day. My love of Laura Ingalls and Co has successfully been passed on to my girls. We also read The Children of Noisy Village, Harry Potter 4 and 5, The Hobbit, and The Secret Garden. I would read to them during the day outside on the quilt while they jumped on the trampoline or inside at the table while they did their notebook pages. My husband read to them before bed each night.
COPYWORK AND NOTEBOOK PAGES
These were our main forms of writing and were one of the gems of our homeschool. The girls' artistic abilities exploded this year and these notebook pages were a big reason why. They did at least two every week, sometimes more. To start them off, we'd choose a favorite excerpt from our reading that day (three sentences for 2nd grade, one full paragraph for 3rd grade). Each girl would copy the words out of the book and then illustrate in their own way. Illustrations didn't need to be super detailed (but they often were); I just required the words be neatly written, spelled and punctuated correctly, and include a colored illustration.
We made time to read freely every afternoon (me too). I kept suggested books in a special place on our school shelf, but the book choices were ultimately up to them. Favorites for the girls this year were the Owl Diaries series, Roald Dahl books, Harry Potter 1 and 2, Babysitters Club graphic novels, the Dog Man series, Cat Kid Comic Club, the My Happy Life series, and lots of picture books.
Every Friday we took a break from lessons and did a quiz and spelling test. We did spelling tests in the classic way (see Spelling above) and I wrote quizzes for each girl every week. They were always two pages stapled together: the first page had a question for each subject we studied that week (about 5-6) written in various formats (multiple choice, true or false, short answer). The second page had math problems from their week. Quizzes were fun and helped us have more relaxed Fridays while still accomplishing some school things.