Home-School Pre-School Year in Review (2013-2014)

We finished up our first year of home-schooling earlier this month, and I can say with 100% certainty that all of us loved it!

For this year, we had 2 major components to our home-schooling curriculum, affectionately known as “reading school,” and “workbook school.” I started out only having Miranda do workbooks, because I didn’t think CaiQun was ready to learn much from them, but she so wanted to have some workbooks of her own that I ended up ordering some cheap ones from Amazon and going through them with her, too. I didn’t particularly care whether she learned anything in particular from them – my biggest goals were to include her in our school experience and to teach her how to hold her pencil correctly – but she enjoyed going through them, and I think we accomplished our goals. Oddly enough, even though they loved almost every story we read for our reading school time, when given the choice, both girls would almost always elect to do workbook school before reading school!

Throughout the course of the year, I think we read virtually every book in our Sonlight P3/4 curriculum multiple times. There were some stories that were favorites at the beginning of the year and others that became favorites toward the end (Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs; Miss Nelson is Missing; and the Virginia Lee Burton stories). There were only a few that were not well received; Sylvester and the Magic Pebble comes to mind. I know it’s considered a classic children’s book, but it contains drawn out explanations of Sylvester’s parents’ search for him and their sadness when they are unable to find him and discusses how Sylvester realizes that it is terribly unlikely anyone will ever find him and, in his deep grief, he begins to sleep more and more. I thought we were going to be reading a light-hearted, entertaining story about a magic pebble, and instead it was a primer on depression for pre-schoolers – not quite what I was expecting! But in general, all three of us absolutely loved the Sonlight books. If I had had the stamina to keep going for that long, I suspect both my girls would have been willing to read for hours on some days. I’ve kept all of the books out on our school book shelf, and I expect we’ll continue to revisit many of them this year.

Miranda worked on her Leapfrog book and then her Rod & Staff workbooks consistently throughout the year, and I think they were really beneficial for her. They were a good introduction to following directions, cutting and gluing different shapes, (occasionally) attempting to color within the lines, and writing letters and numbers. She just has a few pages left in the “E” book, and while I had originally planned to have her go through the whole series, as I’ve looked at our curriculum options for this year (more on that soon!), it has become clear to me that continuing on in this series is not going to be the best choice for her for this year. We’ll probably finish up that “E” book and then just save the rest in case they would work well for another child down the line.

I think some things that worked well for us this year were:

  • having all-in-one curriculum – I am so glad I was not trying to piecemeal a curriculum for us from a bunch of different sources.
  • having a plan but being flexible with scheduling – the default plan was to do all school in the morning, but sometimes it didn’t happen, and that was fine.
  • giving the girls a lot of choice in what we read each day – they loved having that sense of ownership, and they got to enjoy many of their favorite books over and over again.
  • letting both girls learn at their own pace, which varied from day to day – some days we did 4 workbook pages, and other days we did 1.

The thing that worked least well was: my being pregnant for the last couple months of the school year. My energy level was so low that we went from doing school an average of 3-4 days per week to doing school an average of 1-2 days per week and doing less on any given day. There were honestly days when the energy expenditure for me to sit up and read a Bible story and a few books required that I lie down and take a nap immediately thereafter. The end of our school year was less of a triumphant sprint across the finish line and more of a slow crawl. We got out of our routine, and the girls (Miranda in particular) got out of practice with things like writing letters and numbers, and that was really frustrating for her.

I’m hoping to be more strategic this next year in planning for what to do around holidays and the baby’s arrival. We’ll obviously take some breaks, but I don’t want to have them be such long and complete breaks that the girls lose the skills they’ve been working to develop and get frustrated. But we’ll see where we are and cross that bridge when we come to it 🙂

For now, I’ll leave you with some photos. Here is day 1 of homeschooling.

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And…because I got lame here at the end, I don’t have a photo from our 141st and final day of home-school pre-school for the 2013-2014 school year, but here’s a cute one from a recent day toward the end.

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Note how we all became a bit more relaxed 🙂 Day 1: matching outfits, hair up, posed photo. Day 141-ish: dress-up clothes, blocks, impossible to tell if anyone’s hair has even been brushed yet, and there’s an inflatable cow sitting at the table behind us. Ah, well, as Pete the Cat would say, “It’s all good!”

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