Today we have finished our first formal year of homeschooling. Hooray!
We have some special things lined up for the Christmas season (stay tuned!) so that’s still sort of homeschool-y but, as of this week, we have completed our first full year of a deliberate and planned homeschool with our 4 year old. In our state (NSW), this year was equivalent to “Prep” at school. The year before the first year of school. We set out this year to homeschool our 4yo for “Prep.” I have been keeping track of the books we have read and the resources we have used here and it is certainly encouraging to look back and see just how far we have come. As the year draws to a close, I have been reflecting on the year and dreaming and scheming for next year.
Reasons I’m glad we Homeschooled “Prep”
So excited for his first day of homeschool!
We were together – Firstly, and oh so importantly, I am so glad that we homeschooled this year because it has given me more time with my boys. I feel like every year, every day, I have at home with them is an investment into our family. We have had so much fun together this year. We’ve made mess and memories and we’ve done it together every single day. I feel like I should qualify this with a disclaimer, but honestly, I really love that I get to spend all day, every day with my boys.
Our rhythm is established – If you ask Mr 4 what he does for homeschool he will tell you: Poetry Teatime, Adventures, Morning Time and Tablework. These have been the mainstays of our weekly rhythm. On paper it sounds like we’ve been very formal this year but the reality has been a strong rhythm with a lot of flexibility to do what suits us at the time. We played lots of games, read lots of books and went on adventures. We played with trains, read poetry and went to the park. We watched movies, played with friends and visited grandparents. The rhythm carried us along. A massive benefit of this has been that when we have lazy days, when the tv stays on and the washing piles up, I know that the important and meaningful things will carry on.
He knows where he belongs – Mr 4 regularly gets asked if he will be going to “big school” next year. He proudly responds, “I go to homeschool.” I am so glad that he is happy and content. He has met other children who are homeschooled at our local meets and, for him, it is perfectly normal. He doesn’t feel jealous or left out because he knows when he belongs. When we start our 2018 homeschool year, we will again begin with a bang!
He is learning at his level – Homeschooling has made it easier for us to decide (or rather not decide) when to start his “formal” schooling. Being a March birthday, in the NSW school system, we could have chosen to begin his schooling earlier, when he was 4.5. He is very bright (most likely considered gifted) and yet so very young and innocent. By homeschooling we don’t have to choose between his academic abilities and his social readiness. He stays home and plays, and yet works on year one maths and reads his chapter books. It is all at his level. Just the way it should be.
We have confidence to continue – Having this year under our belts has given us the confidence to continue down this path. It wasn’t a perfect year, and we definitely had our bad moments, but it was pretty awesome. Awesome indeed! I often comment to friends and family that Mr 4 has thrived, both as himself and academically, but I feel as though I have thrived as well. I truly feel like God has abundantly blessed me by allowing me the privilege to raise my children in this way. What a joy. What an honour.
Lessons that I Learnt
Follow your gut – In many ways I went against the grain to begin homeschooling at (almost) 4 and, even still, I sometimes find myself defending my choices in homeschool circles. The general consensus, especially amongst Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, is not to introduce any formal lessons before the age of 6. Yet I knew, I just knew, that my son would thrive on the structure and the challenge. I’ve said before that our homeschool looks more formal on paper than it does in real life and, while this is true, it is also true that I have taught him to read, and we have worked through a maths workbook. Do you know what? He has thrived! He absolutely loves the structure and the challenge, just like I thought he would. I kind of have an unofficial mantra with regard to lessons – offer but don’t insist. Honestly though, I have never had to insist. He just laps it up. (He was sad today when I told him we wouldn’t be doing Tablework because we were on holidays).
Easy doesn’t mean fun – This year, we wanted to keep the learning light and fun, and focus more on establishing some academic habits and our daily and weekly rhythm. One of the habits I wanted Mr 4 to get into was doing Maths bookwork each (most) days during Tablework. We began with a preschool maths workbook. Something easy and colourful. The thing I learnt was, if things are too easy, they can be boring. Bookwork that is easy becomes busy work and a waste of time and energy. I purchased a year 1 book and a number puzzle book and we used those instead. Things drastically improved. Mr 4 was excited to be learning new things and stretching his brain. He now enjoys doing his maths book each day during Tablework. I have a feeling that this is a lesson I will need to relearn many times.
Don’t overschedule – I like to get out a lot during the week and often we just jump in the car and drive somewhere. I learnt this year though, that just because I like to go out a lot, doesn’t mean I should schedule a lot of outings. If I schedule too many outings and regular events, then during the week I start to feel a little lost and a little trapped. I feel like my rhythm is slipping away and I feel like I lose control of the important and necessary things. My diary and to do list seem to contradict each other. On the other hand, when our schedule is light I actually feel freer to go out.
Don’t make planning and recording too complex – At the start of the year, I took a lot of inspiration from Sarah Mackenzie’s planning methods. I created a similar template for our term plans, simply listing the book/resource and a row of checkboxes for the entire term. I also tried to implement her spiral notebook method, filling out the next day’s work and readings each night. This didn’t work for me. Or rather, it wasn’t necessary. Mr 4 isn’t working independently yet so I was directing his day anyway, and I only had one child’s work to keep track of. I simply was making more work for myself. Perhaps we will come back to it if, and only if, the need arises. For now, a simple term plan works well. You can see an example here. Of course, next year things will likely change again as we begin to implement the Ambleside Online Curriculum, but hopefully I will remember to keep it simple.
Looking to Next Year
Next year, our son will be school-aged and I am excited that our decision to homeschool will start to feel more real. For the first time he will not be doing something that is generally expected. For the first time, homeschooling will mean not doing school.
I am very excited to be beginning Ambleside Online Year 1 next year. We have loved following Charlotte Mason’s methods this year for Year 0.5 (Kindergarten level) and both Mr 4 and myself are excited about the books we have been collecting for next year. We are beginning AO1 a year earlier than recommended for a number of reasons, but I will alter it to suit him as necessary.
Next year I am also looking forward to helping my 2yo develop more of his own learning interests. In the last month he has started enjoying puzzles which is so much fun to watch. I really love this age, when the world begins to open up to little ones and they can begin to really focus.
Most of all, next year I am looking forward to reading more good books, going on more adventures, celebrating more poetry teatimes, playing more games, spending more time together with friends and family, and making more wonderful memories together.