Today was the final day of 1st grade and someone is sooo sad (hint: not me! hahaha), which I find ironic considering the amount of cattle prodding I felt like it took to get us to the home school table some days. While it had it’s challenges, this year was actually easier than I expected. Here are some of the highs and lows:

What worked well…

Homeschooling with two kids:
Not as hard as I expected it to be thanks to a sunshine baby who actually naps. We did our “table time” during her naps and did fun-schooling (projects, science exploration, drawing, music etc.) while she was awake. Moving to a curriculum from a box rather than trying to create my own was also one of the best choices ever. I still ended up adapting and supplementing quite a bit for Caleb’s needs, but having the bones already there was such a relief.

Ember and Caleb at the beginning of first grade

Caleb and Ember at the end of first grade

Confidence:
I always hesitate to write about our exact methods because I know there are big feelings about the “best” way to school, both inside and outside the homeschool community. So rest assured if you read on that at the very least, we are adhering to all homeschool laws in our state and, at the best, feel we’re giving Caleb the ability to thrive academically despite some of his unique challenges, which I don’t currently talk much about on the blog or facebook for privacy reasons.

Seeing Caleb blossom academically this year gave me confidence to keep doing what we’re doing. As you might remember from my post about K last year, I’m pretty classical/charlotte mason by morning and unschooler by afternoon. My philosophy is that if I give him good bricks (fundamentals) to build with in the mornings, the afternoons take care of themselves and for the most part, that’s been true.  I knew there would be behavioral benefits to letting my super active guy have daily unstructured time, but I had no idea how much of that time he’d spend doing things that would help him grow academically, like drawing and labeling his own pokemon books (fine motor, handwriting, grammar, spelling), tons of independent reading, snap circuits, DIY science experiments, and of course, lots of lego inventing.

I feel confident that he is much further ahead in reading and writing than he would be if I had tried to get him to the same level at our table time. Just giving him space to read books of high interest to him (The Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse series are his favorites) and write about things that interest him has done so much more than I ever could have. That might not be the same recipe we use when Ember’s at the same age, but it sure is working well for Caleb right now and I’m thankful for that!

Dad Involvement: David started to teach Caleb coding this year using free a “hour of code” program called lightbot. It was hard, but Caleb persisted and eventually completed the program. Seeing David give him his certificate was priceless. I’m so thankful David took the initiative to do this with him ❤

Community:
This topic was in my “needs improvement” category last year, but I am happy to say, I think we’ve found our sweet spot. In addition to our once/month extracurricular co-op, we added a weekly co-op that meets every Monday. Caleb is really thriving in that environment and loves having recess and lunch there each week. We also signed up for soccer with his local school team this past fall. He loved it so much we’re back again for spring and going to soccer camp this summer. His coaches have been absolutely fantastic and he’s learning to be a team player- literally 🙂 And of course, he is learning to share and think about others in a whole new way now that Ember can move around 🙂

 

What I’d like to do better this year…

Fun and Life Skills are still on the list: Although we’re doing better with having fun around here day to day (I’ve made a commitment to play with each of the kids at least 15 minutes a day and we do it, most days!), I haven’t done the best job tapping into all the great resources in the area. With Ember getting older, I’d like to get back to library story time and with us doing American History this year and living in the very historic state of PA, I’d like to do more field trips and exploring. Life skills…Caleb’s chore chart hasn’t changed much since he was 4. I definitely need to get on training him for some new tasks around the house. He is a big helper with silverware, vacuuming the dining room and dealing with his clean laundry, but I know he can do more!

Space: The biggest thing not working for us right now is the set up of our home. With Ember spending more time awake and able to reach more things, keeping all our curriculum out on the homeschooling table is not working out. I need to clean out the book shelf this summer and be prepared to put it all back and the end of our time each day. I’ll be glad when the stage is passed, but thankful to be getting to experience it again!

Ember’s favorite…tiny slips of paper right at her level, ready to crumple!

Timing: We tried to school with the traditional calendar this year to give me a “maternity leave” over the summer with Ember. It does not work well for us! Technically we did not finish our curriculum for the year. Since Caleb is working past grade level I’m not concerned about this, but once he reaches the age we report to the state, I need to make sure we’re getting an official 180 days. So we’re taking the month of June off (both the kids have bdays, as well as 2 camps!) and then we’ll start back in July. This will allow us to still take plenty of time off during the year for family visits and still get our 180 days in 🙂

Thankfully, learning never really stops ❤

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