As we approach the beginning of a new school year, I decided to evaluate last year and see what I learned... here are my thoughts:
The bottom line? I absolutely LOVE homeschooling! I am passionate about education and get ever so excited about not only what my girls are learning, but also what I am learning in the process! I love having my girls home all day with me and although we've had our share of unproductive or down-right bad days, I wouldn't change it for anything!
My absolute favorite part about homeschooling? Without a doubt it is spending hours of our week snuggling on the couch reading my all time favorite childhood books to my girls. That is definitely my favorite part of our day!
My downfall? Curriculum. I'm a nerd. I love books. I love it all. I want to do it all. I want to buy each book I see. I always plan waaaaay to much. You remember my "great plan" for the beginning of the year? Yeah, I pretty much only followed for a few days. It was too structured for a baby with a changing schedule (who didn't want to follow "my" schedule :). And it didn't leave enough time to take advantage of those "teachable moments" or to really dig in deep to our favorite read-alouds. I was also going to do a "Letter of the Week" theme for Karlie but soon found out that she had learned all of her letters and sounds already from Karis and was pointless. So I just did phonograms with both of them instead.
The best advice given to me? A sweet friend named Jessica who has 3 precious stair-step children (even closer in age than mine!) told me not to try to start it all at once. To start one thing, build it into a routine, and do it well for a week or two or even a month before adding something else. Then work on doing those two things til we were set in the habit and ready to add something else. Very simple, but priceless advice. It worked. My girls thrived on doing the one bit of schoolwork I had them do every morning and then got ever so excited each time I finally added another piece to our routine. We ended up with only 3 real schoolwork periods: a short 10 minute breakfast memory board, a longer reading time on the couch, and a half hour table work time in the afternoon. "Preschool" really doesn't take long. (If you want to see how our schedule ended up, you can click HERE to see a longer version of this post on my family blog.)
Favorite Curriculum/ Books we used:
For Teaching Karis to Read:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading -- the girls loved the initial alphabet rhymes but the reading part was not super exciting. Still, it has a great simple phonics and grammatical progression and is exactly what Karis needs. I am more than happy with it.
Alphaphonics -- I take turns with this and the above to give Karis some variety and to help with fluency. She likes that the letters are larger.
Bob books: She reads me one story each school day and they get progressively more difficult. It has been great to use them as we go through our phonogram cards because she sees how the phonograms help her figure out words. I just get these from the library.
The Writing Road to Reading and phonogram cards -- The book is great and I am certain I will utilize its techniques next year since Karis is actually writing more now. The phonogram cards are key -- there are only about 70 key phonograms in the English language and once a child can recognize them, she can figure out how to read almost any word. They have REALLY helped Karis take off with her reading. We memorize several a week and say them each morning as we do our "breakfast memory board."
Explode the Code Workbooks -- she absolutely LOVES her workbook and I am thrilled with the effortless way it teaches her to read and practice her handwriting as well. This is probably her favorite "reading resource"
Chapter "Read-Alouds": Our favorite part of the day is curling up on the couch with a good book! I absolutely LOVE Sonlight's reading list for preschool and kindergarten. We did not buy the curriculum, but instead I just got most of the books from the library. There are a few great collections that I purchased from Amazon, but most of them are at our library. I also requested books from the library from THIS classical book list.
For this year: We plan to do Classical Conversations for our science and history foundation and I will add read-a-louds and activites to supplement as I have time. (Probably not too many the 1st year as I get used to the program.) I plan to continue with our current phonics materials and Sonlight read-a-louds and add Saxon math to our schedule as well. And I think that should do it! I am very excited about the upcoming school year!