Before I had Avery, I was a first grade teacher. After she was born, I spent 5 years teaching Junior Kindergarten in a Preschool. Since I have some experience as a teacher in a typical school setting, I thought that choosing curriculum would be fun and easy. Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on how you look at it) there are a million online resources out there for home education. While I enjoyed researching my options, I found myself quickly falling down the curriculum rabbit hole. It was totally overwhelming… and way less fun than the Pinterest Rabbit Hole, or the Facebook Rabbit Hole, or the Candy Crush Black Hole.
Maybe it’s just me, but the very first moment that I looked at my perfect newborn baby, I had the frightening realization that there are at least 8 million ways that I could screw that kid up. I find myself constantly worried about feeding my kids the wrong things, letting them watch the wrong things, making sure they eat their vitamins, whether they are really brushing their teeth correctly… the list is seriously endless. Screwing my kid up educationally was NOT something I wanted to add to that list. People will look the other way if your kid has a cavity or two, but if you mess your kid up educationally, I think it’s safe to say that you are generally considered a truly terrible person. As a first year homeschool mom, I needed easy. I needed less choices. And I needed to be absolutely positive that I wasn’t going to mess my kid up.
Thankfully, I found a few highly rated, all-inclusive options. I realize that the word “all-inclusive” probably isn’t “academically correct”, but that’s what I’m going with. It was like having an “easy” button for homeschool. I clicked the mouse, whipped out my debit card, and all my lesson plans were written and all major subject areas were covered. Everything was included. Even math maniuplatives and science equipment. Easy peasy.
The two options that fit our needs the best were My Father’s World and Sonlight. In the end, I chose Sonlight because it seemed to be the best option for my little girl. It fit her interests and her personality best. She’s a deep thinker, loves to listen to chapter books, and thrives on structure and routine. Once I made my decision about which distributor to go with, I had to choose the curriculum path that I would take. I decided to choose Sonlight Core B curriculum because I thought it was really cool that it teaches kids all about the history, cultures, and people of the world. Global Outreach and Missions are two things that really speak to David and I and the thought of intentionally instilling a love for the people of God’s world was exciting to me. This year, we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. The little girl we chose to sponsor has the same birthday as Avery. Because our curriculum addresses different cultures and places, talking about our new friend in Peru will be much more natural and fun for Avery and Charlie. We can even write to her as part of our writing lessons.
In addition to Math, Reading, Spelling, and Phonics, I teach Social Studies, History, and Science every day. When I was teaching in a typical school setting, I was lucky if I had time to cover Science and Social Studies twice a week. When our big boxes of curriculum arrived, I was so excited to discover all of the beautiful chapter books that were included in the lesson plans. So much variety! The reading nerd in me is just giddy when I look at this picture:
While I like Sonlight Core B curriculum for our basic subjects, I was kind of bummed to see that there really isn’t a lot of opportunity for creative journaling or fun art projects. Evidently, Sonlight has some supplemental curriculum that you can add for Art and other electives, but I think I can manage to find cute art projects on my own. I added a daily “Calendar Time” to our lesson plans since it’s such an easy way to incorporate math and life skills and I plan on adding daily journal writing activities in September. While it sounds like I may be adding a lot to our curriculum, none of the activities I mentioned take more than a few minutes to do when you are only teaching one child. In fact, our entire school day is finished in 3 hours or so. It’s amazing how quickly we can get through all of our subjects.
We have our “school” set up in our downstairs playroom. I know that there are lots of theories out there about how and where you should do school. Most of them seem to argue against having a “structured” area in the home for schoolwork, since it can be a little too rigid. The beauty of Homeschooling is that I get to decide how and where I want to educate my kids. I made the decision to have a more structured space for my kids this year because I think that they really need it at this point in their life. Early learners are so literal and thrive on routine and structure. Having a “school” space for my kids seems to help them transition from “hanging out/relaxed time” to “listening and learning time”. We may end up changing that one day, but it’s working really well for now.
One of our first activities in the morning is to have “Calendar Time” together. This is our playroom/classroom wall.
Our white board is actually a large piece of shower board that I bought at Lowe’s. David and I measured the wall space and the good people at Lowe’s cut the board according to the dimensions we needed. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting that gigantic board home. I’m not going to lie, we may or may not have had an incident on a major road with some flying shower board. If we hadn’t lost our first board tragically, I think we would have only spent $30 for the entire thing. Did you know that a giant white board normally costs hundreds of dollars? It’s shocking, really. Shower board is definitely worth a trip (or two) to Lowe’s. Once we got our it home, we bolted it to our wall with regular screws and it works beautifully.
While shower board is an awesome dry-erase surface, it’s not magnetic. I had to use painter’s tape or sticky clips to attach items to our board. I also added some pocket charts from my teacher days for our sight word cards, etc.
I bought my calendar pieces, alphabet display cards, sight word cards, number line, touch point number cards, and our vocabulary cards for Charlotte’s Web from Teachers Pay Teachers for just a few dollars. Whenever possible, I prefer to purchase school items from teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers. It makes me happy that I am buying a product from a real person…especially an under-paid teacher. I’m kind of obsessed with that site.
We bought our desks this summer at Ikea. Since I needed two desks, I needed something inexpensive and the Micke desks seemed like a good option. The only problem is that the desks and chairs are grown-up sized, so Charlie and Avery’s feet don’t rest on the floor when they sit in them. As a result, we end up doing most of our work on the floor of the playroom. I plan on making some giant floor pillows soon.
I wanted to keep the other side of our playroom a “play” space. Play is a really important part of early childhood development and should not be separated from the learning process. For that reason, I intentionally kept our play space in the same room as our learning space. I use the backs of the kids toy storage bins as a space for my pocket charts and our map.
I have two of these giant organizational tower thingys for our school supplies. They are amazing. And yes…I’m just a little type A. Just a little.
What is fun about homeschooling a preschooler and a first grader is that while Avery is learning, Charlie is too. This year, Charlie will be learning one letter and one number a week, but there are so many things that he is learning that I’m not “intentionally” teaching him. He may be coloring a picture while we read chapter books, he may be playing with his cars while we count aloud…but he is learning. He is learning about Nocturnal animals, he is learning to count to 100, he is hearing how letters merge together to make words, and how words work together to create books…
David has his day off on Friday since he works on Sunday. This Friday, he spent the school day with us. Avery was so excited to show off everything she had been learning that week. David read the Social Studies lesson to the kids that day. As luck would have it, the lesson was about different tribal cultures and the materials that they used to build their homes. When the subject of “poop bricks” came up, there were plenty of immature jokes and giggles. Mostly by David. The kids loved it.
The first week of school has come and gone. We are still alive. Stuff happened. Kids got educated. I didn’t go insane. It was a good week. It turns out that this Homeschool thing may not be so scary after all.