Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the great homeschool panic of 2015

It's already getting to be that time again.  Can you tell?

I notice it most in the mornings.  Where I've grown accustomed to waking, even early in the morning, to bright sunshine, these days when my alarm rings I'm finding my eyes opening to light that's increasingly tinged with the pink hues of early dawn.  The air is cool and sweet in the mornings, verging on chilly despite the heat the day brings.  

We've passed the mark, that great centerpiece of summer when we can still pretend those long, lazy days will last forever.  And I know that to my core I'll always be a teacher, because the beginning of the school year looks so much more imminent on this side of July 4th.

Here's the thing: I was promised a husband on regular occasions through the end of the year.  That was the deal.  We pricked our fingers and spit in our hands and shook on it.  No more leaving in September and coming home in February.  A little regularity and predictability were more the speed.  But that isn't how things are shaking out.  Instead, I'm faced with six straight weeks without him, which ends just a few days before we'll start our school year.

Now, the changing of the tides isn't the problem here.  Although I don't love going back to the single parenting life, it was in our best interests and it will be worth it in the long run.  


The problem is that the stores are filled with brightly colored notebooks and boxes of freshly sharpened crayons.  The promise of a fresh start hangs in the air.  

And I am totally, completely, hopelessly not ready for it.

It is so difficult to find time to really sit down and plan without my husband home.  It takes quite a good chunk of time, energy, and - most of all - attention, all of which is difficult to muster when we're on our own.  

So before he left, I had a good, old-fashioned panic attack.  Full-blown, adult tantrum where I melted sloppier than ice cream in... well, July.

And when that was over, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and sat down to rebuild the fragile pieces of my crazy.

The first step was getting my stuff together.  I'll use that old flight attendant analogy about putting the oxygen mask on myself before assisting littles - there wasn't much I could do for anybody else until I'd figured out what the year looks like for me.

Can I just tell you how very, very glad I was when I found this planner?  I was literally in the process of (poorly) making my own - this is so much better!!

I have never been one to keep a digital calendar.  Not when I worked, and certainly not now that I'm home.  I am what you might call "old fashioned."  I like paper.  I like pens.  I like making lists so that I can cross things off.  Gel pens.  3 ring binders.  Highlighters.  Divider tabs.

Seriously, stop me, I could just go on.

The good news is, should disaster or zombie apocalypse strike and the world be left without basic necessities of power or iPad, my schedule will still run, all color-coordinated and precise and untroubled by the fact that all the agenda keeping is entirely unnecessary, what with the ruin of civilization.  

I may or may not have control issues.  Sometimes I get crazy and schedule things in pencil.  Shhhh... I won't tell if you won't.  

I printed the files out at home, Casey helped me add the personalization, and then I simply had it bound at our local office supply store.  Just to top off my planner-nerd fabulousness, I added these wonderful tabs.  Oh yes.  That's organization level: expert.

The pretty planner high gave me enough momentum to tackle that actual issue at hand: school.  That thing my master's degree was supposed to help prepare me for.

I already knew that we would continue in Classical Conversations.  Last year, we used very little outside of the curriculum.  We did lots of reading on subjects related to American history.  We practiced handwriting using history sentences, and did science notebooking.  We skip counted for math and we read some more.  Although we practiced sight words and did math as the mood struck us, there was no additional formal curriculum. 

I knew that I wanted to change that this year.  We needed a math curriculum, and reading.  We needed more scheduled and regular science, art and music.  We needed something to help introduce Logan to the wonderful world of school.

Here's where we landed:

I had already purchased All About Reading, which is a phonics program that I absolutely adore.  Probably largely because when I taught remedial phonics at 8th grade, we used a program that was nearly identically.  I know the brain science behind it is as good as it gets, and as an added bonus, it just feels familiar.

Math.  Not surprisingly for an English teacher, I struggled with a math curriculum.  I think I've probably been holding her back on the math front.  We should have invested in an actual curriculum (rather than the piecemeal practice I had been doing).  At the time, I didn't want to overwhelm her, but in hindsight I think she was probably ready for it.  I looked heavily into Right Start Math, and I really like the idea of it.  The whole premise is a bit different than my own understanding, though, and I wasn't sure I could commit to teaching that way.  Just out of curiosity, I purchased the Horizons kindergarten math book back in April, and Leah has done wonderfully with it.  In fact - as if I needed this to add to my mommy guilt - she didn't even do the second book.  She already knows the material, so we're jumping right into the first grade books next year.

I found some really cool art activity books that I think will keep us going for the year.  They're "in the style of" activities where we can draw inspiration from the masters.

The little ones are from this series, which tells the story of a few great artists while detailing their famous works.  I'm really excited to break into these!

We're keeping science and music on the simple side.  She'll get both once a week at our community day, so we'll do an additional 30 minutes each once per week.  I'm not feeling pressured to delve into "formal" science or music curricula with my five year old, so I'm simply relying on Pinterest to give me something somewhat-related to our science memory work.  Between the internet and Pinterest, I have a pretty good start compiling simple 30 minute music lessons as well.  She's also going back for another year of ballet and tap, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that this will be the year we can begin piano lessons. (Step 1: get a piano.)  Yeah, that oughta be enough...

My approach with Logan is definitely more simplistic.  He will just be three when we start the school year, so we are combining a Montessori approach with this amazing curriculum which Leah and I did two years ago.

I'm not entirely sure where he falls on the "readiness" scale for actual preschool - which is completely fine - but he does like to sit with us at the table while we do school.  The goal is to spend the first hour or so of the day reading, singing, playing and doing activities and just see what sticks.  I know he'll get there in his own time, and I'm excited to see which activities pique his interest.

The other thing I've created for him is a series of Busy Boxes to help give him something to do so that I can work more directly with Sister.

Each one has several activities: a puzzle, games, figurines, something sensory-related, fine-motor skill practice, counting activities, building toys, books and more.

 He is big enough to pull out one of these boxes, take it apart, play with it independently for about 30 minutes, and put it all back.

I love them.  The best part is that the vast majority of these activities came from the dollar store.  And also: Target.  $1 section = pure ah-ma-zing.

Classical Conversations will round out the rest.  Leah will get history, science, English grammar, Latin, math (facts and vocabulary) and geography.  We will continue to do writing and copy work that is focused on one or two of each week's memory work to kill two birds with one stone.

The last piece was pulling it all together - physically speaking.  It is amazing how much STUFF a person needs to homeschool.  I've kept it pretty simple - AND I've only had one child until now!

We recently bought this awesome dresser from IKEA, and I'm slightly embarrassed to tell you that I've filled at least half of it.

We don't currently have a homeschool room; all of our work is done at the kitchen table.  I suppose it's not ideal, but at least for the time being, it really works for us. The hope is - at some point in the future when circumstance necessitates - we will eventually turn the nursery into a school room.

But, you know... probably not for a while.  I rather have my heart set on using it for a few more years.

So there we are!  Phew!  Even getting it all down in one place makes my heart begin to flutter.  Mostly in a good way.  My teacher senses start tingling, and I have to look for a phone booth to transform from regular old mom into SUPERMOM: TEACHER EXTRAORDINAIRE!!!

And... also there is heart fluttering because - whew.  Mama's got her work cut out for her.  Mama's gonna need a really big cup of coffee.

We are definitely going to enjoy the next month or so, and then... oh it's go time!

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing! I wish we were neighbors so I could send my kids to school with you! haha :) This was so inspiring to read, good work! And my heart applauds you for doing the single mom thing with your husband gone so much :( Again, you are amazing and your family will surely be blessed for the sacrifices!


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