So many things changed about our lives in the past year that it’s actually unrecognizable from how it was before.
Like most parents, I was unhappy and frustrated with remote learning last spring when kids were sent home and we were all left to figure out how to teach kids online. Or just teach them in general, actually. Many days ended in tears and confusion as I tried to decipher what their teachers were trying to get them to learn and then teach them how to turn in their lessons online which was brand new to a Kindergartener and 2nd grader. Everly was just starting to read and Harper didn’t know anything about typing. I also worried about Lola who was often on an iPad while I helped Harper and Everly most of the day. I hated it. We all did I think.
Then school ended. Then came summer. Not seeing a clear end in sight to the pandemic, we bought our RV and planned to be away as much as we could just for a mental break and something to look forward to. When July rolled around, I was really wondering what we’d do for the next school year. We heard rumblings of the likely possibility of them being remote at some point in the year as well as some of the Covid protocols. The uncertainty of it all led me to spend a lot of time considering something we never had before: Homeschool.
Over the next several weeks, I poured hours upon hours well into the night researching something I had no idea about. I told Mike it was like planning a trip to the moon, not knowing where I’m going or how I’d get there. I looked up an outline of what the girls would learn over the course of a year on their school website, then got to work piecing together a secular (not religion-based) curriculum for each of them including Lola.
Although it would’ve been easier, I didn’t want to do virtual lessons where your child watches videos and completes work online. I was trying to avoid them learning from a screen, so I knew that I would be in charge of their lessons and planning for every subject except for Math. We’ve followed their school’s math curriculum and have an amazing tutor, who was a teacher at their school, give them a weekly lesson which will make it easier to dive right back in should we go back to their school.
Piece by piece, I figured out our learning targets and what I would teach them for each subject along with how to engage them all together and when I’d work with them separately. I’ve learned so much over these past months and am finally feeling like we’re all in a good rhythm.
As for how it’s going…
Lola is 5 and in Pre-K and I was nervous about her not getting enough playtime. In the beginning, I would set out ‘play centers’ like they have in school for her to play specific activities at specific times. Then after just a few weeks, her concentration for work grew and she wanted to be with her sisters. I knew what her learning targets were for kindergarten and worked slowly to hit them, but she blew through those and wanted more substantial work. I’m happy she’s growing and it’s fun to teach her and see her apply what she learns, but I really didn’t plan to teach her to read and write like she’s interested in doing. I’m now planning more for her to learn as well as letting her take play breaks (not organized ones like I used to do) whenever she needs. She is easy to teach and I’m not at all concerned about where she’ll be next year, wherever we end up.
Everly turned 7 in October and is in 1st grade. We’re really focusing on spelling, writing, and reading comprehension as she grows in her learning. We talk a lot about not comparing because in the early weeks she wouldn’t want to share her writing because she felt Harper did better work. This isn’t a problem any longer as her writing and confidence have grown. She’s eager to learn new things and likes being able to keep up with Harper. When there’s a concept I know she isn’t ready for, I just tell her that she doesn’t have to remember it, just move through the lesson with us and have fun. She asks all the time if we can continue to homeschool next year.
Harper is thriving. She’ll be 9 in May, is in 3rd, and she has really improved in every way especially in her focus. Last spring when everything shut down, she wasn’t happy doing her work online. It wasn’t appealing to her and I understand why. She a verbal learner and likes having a conversation about the work and really understanding it before digging in. She’s really proud of her work and likes to ‘present it’ at dinner to all of us. Tonight she was reading before bed and wouldn’t stop until she finished her chapter; she’s finally reading because she loves it. She is the one who misses seeing her friends daily the most which I understand especially at her age. She has had the same close group of friends since kindergarten who are really sweet girls so she treasures those friendships, I’m careful to make sure she’s able to continue to grow them.
But There are Drawbacks…
The most obvious one is the time I personally spend on homeschool. I think it’s maybe easier in a pandemic since there isn’t as much to do anyway, but it really is all I do. If I’m not teaching, I’m prepping or planning, or getting work filed in their notebooks, or coming up with new ideas or tech resources, and of course trying to keep the house clean. It’s every single day, for most of the day. Last weekend I spent 9 hours planning 2 weeks of their work. It’s something, at this age especially, that you just have to fully commit to, and I’m happy I’m able to do it. I feel like they’re all getting the benefit of some really targeted and solid learning, and that will benefit them for years to come.
When we ravel, it’s really hard to pull off school in an RV. Mike is typically outside working on a picnic table when it’s nice which leaves us inside to work. But when it isn’t warm out, Mike is on our bed, and we’re all squished around our table in the RV which isn’t huge by any stretch. It’s do-able and I think we have it down pretty well by now, but it’s a challenge for sure.
The days 100% depend on me. If I’m tired, or unorganized, or just off- so is our entire day. If I’m rested and wake up enthusiastic for the material and ready to teach, the day is amazing. I’m a natural night owl, I like to be up a little later and tend to be super productive from 10pm on. Recently though, I’ve been trying to get upstairs around 9:30 so I can get enough sleep for the following day. I’m sure if the girls were older and more independent with their work this wouldn’t matter as much, but for now since they’re so young, this is the case.
What Does a Day Look Like?
We start with Math over breakfast, around 8:30. Then do our calendar (for Lola!) for a check on the day and date, then we mediate. They all find a spot on the couch to lay while I play a 3-5 min Insight Timer kids meditation. They all love this part of the morning and I think it has made a huge difference in their focus and how calm the days typically are. Then we do a quick writing prompt while I work with Lola to write hers which is typically a few sentences with a picture. Next is writing. We just finished a few weeks of Opinion writing, next we’ll move to persuasive. Then we break for outside play and lunch. Then depending on the day we’ll do Social Studies (American Symbols this week), Science (weather for 2 more weeks), and a variety of art, handwriting, reading comprehension, and grammar. We always have a book that we read together with all 4 of us, then a lesson after from my favorite curriculum we use, Brave Writer. Mixed in there, I have things for Lola to do which includes Osmo once of twice a week (LOVE!) and other activities as well as her just playing Barbies and whatever else she wants to do. Our days end around 2:00 on average, then we play outside or take a brain break and watch something while I get the house cleaned up and prepare for the night.
99% of the time, the days are smooth. One would think that the days would get harder the longer we do this, but there’s a calmness about our days and we’re having fun not feeling so rushed about anything. I’m also feeling a calmness about knowing that they’re making strides. In the beginning I was more worried that I was failing at teaching so I tried to cram too much into a day and even into a session. If I can see they’re finished writing and their little minds are tired, we just move on and pick it back up the next time.
What Happens Next Year?
I like the freedom of getting to camp and to be together so much as a family. We have been gone almost 3 months since July and have more trips planned in the spring and summer. We have been missing planned trips because of Covid, we were supposed to leave for a 2 week California trip this weekend but with the closures and word from friends who live there, we decided it was best to cancel. It would be nice to plan trips for next fall and hope that we’re able to have some normalcy and be able to do the traveling we’re missing out on now. I would love to homeschool and travel for one more year; the girls are at such perfect ages for it. I do of course see the benefit that school brings, especially socially, but we’ll have to see how the summer goes and how we’re feeling about it all to make a final decision. We’re still undecided.
I never would’ve thought that we would be a homeschool family!