Everyone else got their “back to school!” posts done back in August or September…and I’ve been telling myself that it would be great if I could get ours up before we hit November 🙂 We’ve had a lot going on, but still, I’ve wanted to share about the start of our school year. This year is Miranda’s pre-k year and Madeleine CaiQun’s pre-school year.
We actually started our school year – in a very laid back fashion – at the beginning of July. We decided to start then for a couple reasons. First, I was starting to feel better as we got well into the second trimester of this pregnancy, and I was ready to do something more structured with the girls. Second, we knew that this winter and spring would be somewhat crazy with Atticus’s arrival and all the unknowns that will come with that, and we figured that if we could get ahead on school stuff before then to allow us more flexibility after he arrived, that would be great. We also like to take random days off during the year. For instance, my dad was just here visiting for a long weekend, and we took that whole time off from doing school and just enjoyed the time to hang out with him. Other days we just have a lot of errands or appointments, but it’s still nice to feel like we have the space not to have to feel pressured to get school material in every single day. And the last reason we started school in the middle of the summer is that the girls really love doing school. They were disappointed on the days this spring that I just didn’t have the energy to do full school days with them, and they were thrilled to get back into it as soon as I was ready. We did take a very relaxed approach to starting school, though. There were a number of days we didn’t do school but instead spent time at the park or at a sprayground or doing some other summer fun activity.
The upshot is that we have been doing school since the beginning of July but are just finishing up week 9 of our curriculum. In terms of curriculum, we’re using Sonlight for the core of our curriculum again this year – specifically, the pre-kindergarten package (with a few modifications). We all love the literature-based focus, and I like that it seems academically rigorous and includes everything we need but can also be customized as desired. Miranda is ready for more than what the workbooks in that package offer, but CaiQun is doing those workbooks, and Miranda is instead using the Language Arts kindergarten package, along with the Handwriting Without Tears kindergarten package, and the Singapore Math kindergarten package. In general, I absolutely agree with Sonlight’s philosophy that it’s not necessary to push kids into reading or math or anything else at super early ages – but Miranda is already reading and doing simple math in her head. One of the things I love about home-schooling is that it’s possible to work with each of my kids where they’re at, so we’re supplementing the pre-k materials with some kindergarten stuff, since that’s what she needs to be learning and growing right now.
CaiQun is also working through the Sonlight workbooks much faster than their schedule specifies, mostly because she does a bit of Miranda’s language arts curriculum with us but mostly likes to keep working on her workbooks for the whole time that Miranda does the rest of her language arts and math work. Once she completes those workbooks, I’ll have her do the same Rod and Staff workbooks that I used with Miranda last year and perhaps add in the Handwriting Without Tears pre-k materials.
Overall, we are liking the curriculum and the school time this year. Things seem to be going well with our language arts and handwriting and math studies. Math is by far Miranda’s favorite subject right now, so we save it until after handwriting (not her favorite!) is done.
Honestly, I was surprised that there wasn’t more literature reading expected each day from our Sonlight curriculum. The pre-school package we used last year is much less structured, so we’d just choose the books we wanted to read each day and then spend 30 or sometimes 45 minutes reading. This year, if we stick to the assigned reading for each day, we regularly finish in under 20 minutes, and the girls are usually itching to do more. I’ve dealt with that in part by starting to condense some of the schedule – now every 4 days we usually do 5 days’ worth of assignments. I’ve also tried to, at times, let the girls just choose stories from their school books for us to read, regardless of when they’re technically assigned, and I probably need to do more of that.
We sometimes do the fun activities suggested in our curriculum materials but also sometimes skip them entirely or substitute our own.
And of course we do a lot of other fun, educational stuff that we don’t technically count as part of our school days. Both girls consider the globe that my brother Danny sent for CaiQun’s birthday one of their favorite toys, and we often end up sitting around it on the living room floor and discussing world geography. Matt and the girls have also found all sorts of educational videos to watch online, often about various animals.
We’re finding that in addition to academics, school time is a prime opportunity to address character issues. By and large, I think the girls and I all really enjoy our school time and learning together, but we do have difficult days. In those moments I try to remind myself that even though it’s hard, I’m ultimately thankful that I get to be the one who is here with the girls, helping them to learn about what it looks like to behave appropriately and how we all fall short of that, but we can look to Christ in those moments and pray for ourselves and for each other.
Overall, I think we’ve gotten off to a good start for this school year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds!