I feel that tiny bit of fall crispness in the air. Have you noticed it? The stores are advertising their back to school sales.
And I’m feeling just a twinge of panic.
This homeschool year is going to be challenging, to be sure. I have a 10th grader, 7th grader, 5th grader, 2nd grader, alongside a very precocious 3 year old who keeps me on my toes constantly, and a baby who, seemingly overnight, has morphed into a full-fledged toddler, capable of mass destruction in her own right. (When did this happen!?)
This past week I’ve been thinking of ways to make the 2013/14 homeschool year a little smoother, I daresay a little easier (is that too much to ask?).
Yesterday at SimpleHomeschool, Anne Bogel talked about hiring help. Several years ago when I lived in a more rural area, homeschooled teen girls were legion. I had my pick of eager teens and tweens who just couldn’t wait to get away from their own siblings for a bit to help hold a baby or play with a little one. And they worked cheap, too. In fact, when I launched my podcast 8 years ago, it was only because I had a helper in the house playing with the kids while I recorded a show in the bedroom (usually with a nursing or sleeping newborn in my lap!).
But now? I’ve struggled with finding anyone who is available during the day. In fact there is only ONE girl I know within a 30 minute range who is homeschooled, and her parents won’t let her do any extracurricular activities right now. But this is really something I need to do, so I’m determined to make it happen somehow.
Yesterday I gathered up all our homeschool curricula to organize things. I cleaned out my homeschool binder. I went a little nuts buying curriculum at the end of last year’s school, so I have everything the kids need (I’ll share our curriculum choices in a later post). I ended up selling a few things that honestly I don’t need anymore.
For instance? We use Story of the World for elementary school history, but I’ve been using it for so long that I don’t need the Activity Guides. I can formulate my own questions, and honestly? We didn’t do ONE of the supplemental activities last year. Not one. (I don’t have a lot of “fluff” in my homeschool.)
The maps and coloring pages are great for young kids however (I’m sure my 2nd grader will love them), but I can order the .pdf file of the student pages from the Peace Hill Press website for less money and clutter, and print them out for up to 5 children.
Although? After doing some peeking into Life of Fred math, I’m thinking of switching to that for my 5th and 7th graders this year.
My 5th grader is an “I hate math, I’ll never be good at math” type of student. And the 7th grader is distracted (…squirrel!) and wants to know the practical application right away. I think they would both love Life of Fred.
An interesting thing I noticed about LoF? It discourages the child from asking the parent for help. It encourages them to struggle through it on their own. Yes, I love this.
Anyway, I held a family meeting with the kids to ask for their input. They had some requests:
- The kids want Friday to be library day
- Julien and Ilana want to do history on different days. This is actually better for me. In the past, I did history with them together. But since they’ll be doing it independently this year, this arrangement is fine. Instead of the activity guide, they’ll work through the Tests for Volume 3: Early Modern Times (again, using the .pdf download instead of books), so history will be one subject they can do completely on their own.
- Ilana wants “homework”. (She’s weird, I know.) I’ve told her repeatedly that all her schoolwork is homework but she keeps insisting. I believe her motive is this: she wants to bond with her stepsister. Zoe is in public school and has tons of homework. Don’t get me started on the public school system not being able to teach well in the 8 hours a day she’s gone, and on this homework that wears her out and interferes with family time. I realized that assigning Ilana “homework” that she does outside of school time could actually work to my advantage. I could give her assignments that are part of her regular curriculum.
Something else I’m going to do this year is assign one child per day to help with with dinner prep. I’ve always had kids helping in the kitchen but was rather informal about it. This year I’ll actually have a schedule for that.
I’ve been setting a tentative schedule down on paper that respects the flow of our needs: naptime, quiet time, chores, time for the kids to run around a bit inbetween subjects, meals, mom’s energy level (which takes a nosedive a couple of times a day) and the littles who need one-on-one attention. I’m sure this will be a work in progress for the first week or two as we try it on for size.
What are you doing to make your homeschool plans?