Monday, June 18, 2018

5 Things I'm Doing Differently This Year in Our Homeschool

I think that summertime is always going to be a time for me to reflect on the previous school year, get organized, plan for the next one, buy supplies/curriculum, reset our room, etc. I love having the opportunity to think about what things I can improve in the year(s) to come. This past year was our first official year homeschooling and over all it went very well. We accomplished beyond what I had hoped, and we learned a lot about each other. I am looking forward to implementing these new ideas and tactics into our homeschool this coming school year. 

1. Not skipping over the hands on/fun activities
I noticed last year that it was very easy and even tempting for me to skip over certain activities, projects, etc. during our school days. Sometimes it was because they were a ton of prep, sometimes they didn't seem beneficial, sometimes we were short on time, and a lot of times I just didn't want to deal with them. I have realized that my girls like things to be mixed up. I think it's good for us to have a schedule and routine, but if we do the same thing day after day they get really bored. I do, too. So, this coming year I am going to try to go out of my way to give them creative projects, experiments, and hands on learning experiences. I know I'll have to plan them out ahead of time to make sure I have the supplies and preparation done, but I also know it will be worth it. I also think that adding in a few more subjects at home (science and social studies) will help with this as I have several fun things already planned for those subjects. I am also going to try to implement some art projects. My girls will get art at the homeschool classes they attend, so last year I didn't really do any art, but I know they really enjoy it and I think once every week or two, it would be fun to throw in an art project to break up a long week. I am also planning on being better about not skipping the activities within our curriculum. I know these will benefit the girls, even when they are more prep for me, so I am hoping to be better about actually using them and letting my girls learn from them. 

2. Taking more breaks during the school day
Last year I learned that when we try to go through each subject bam, bam, bam, it can be a little stressful trying to get it all done. Of course when my kids need to use the bathroom or get a drink they are free to get up whenever, but we pretty much moved right from one activity to the next. I would start to see one of my daughters getting really weary and grumpy a little ways into our school day so I hope that taking a break or two here and there throughout our day to go outside for a little while, or grab a snack or just stop to play for a little bit will help to refresh them (and me!) and allow them to come back to the room ready to work.

 I am also going to encourage them to take a break when the going gets tough. I did start doing this in the second half of the year when things got hard and turned to tears, but one of my daughters interpreted this as a punishment, when really what I wanted them to do was just go chill out for a few minutes and come back when they were ready. I'd like to do a better job explaining to them that sometimes our brains just need a break when something is hard or frustrating and that is totally OK! Take a break, go get a drink, rest your mind for a few minutes, think about something else and come back when you've calmed down. I also need to remember to do this myself when I am stumped on how to explain something to them in a different way if they aren't getting it. 
3. Teaching my girls different things/going at a different pace
Last year, we did everything together. I taught language arts as I would have to a whole group of kids (because that's kind of how the curriculum was laid out, and a lot of it was activities they did together like Bingo, Go Fish, etc.) and for Bible, math and our ocean unit, we just did it all together. I think for the most part we will do things together this year (especially for Bible, math, science and social studies) because the curriculums I have purchased or created are laid out that way, but for language arts I am going to try letting them go at their own pace and teaching them separately. 

I need to look through the curriculum and come up with an official game plan, but I think that I am going to start one on one work with one girl while the other one does their reading, handwriting, and whatever else they can do on their own. That way, while working through their lessons, if one of them is ready to move ahead, we can, and the other one doesn't have to feel bad about it because they won't even know. This will also be beneficial as my girls work on spelling lists and sight words, as they may not master those at the same time, so this way, they can go through it on their own and move onto the next list when they're ready. 
4. Doing more observational evaluation on how things are going throughout the year
What I mean by this is that I want to be more intentional about noticing how things are going for the girls, and for myself. Are they struggling with a certain subject? Is it that skill, the subject in general or the curriculum? What changes could I make now to make it easier and bring some joy back to that part of our school day, for all of us? I didn't do a good job of that with Kindergarten and it took me way too long to notice that our math curriculum really wasn't working the way I had hoped. 
5. Giving my preschoolers more structure.
First of all, I don't think I've ever called them preschoolers. I still refer to them as babies, or at the very least toddlers! Doesn't seem possible for them to be preschool aged, but I suppose being 3 1/2-4 1/2 years old this school year would qualify them as preschoolers! Anyway, last year they were home during 2 school days a week and during those times it was kind of a free for all. They were still pretty young and didn't really "play" with toys yet, so they spent a lot of that time dumping things out, making messes, wanting me to hold them, and fighting with each other over toys. Toward the end of the year, I tried something new with them. I had them sit in different parts of the family room (which is right next to our school room so I can see them the whole time), and gave them each a specific activity/toy (trains, blocks, tinker toys, etc.) that they could DO something with (not just dump out or destroy). Then, when we would switch subjects, I would switch what they did. For Bible, I would bring them in the school room and give them color wonder to do because the girls were coloring for Bible. It worked out very well and they fought a lot less and I had a lot less interruptions. (Not that I consider them interruptions, but you know...) I would like to try something similar this year, and possibly give them a little "work" to do. A lot of our science and social studies is literature, so if they are interested in those stories they can join us. Our science has a ton of hands on/life experience things like doing things in nature and journaling about it outside, finding specific types of nature items and observing them, going to a pet store and drawing sketches of the animals you see there, etc. so that will be easy for them to join us for.

 Art projects and science experiments I can easily include them in. Hopefully it will work well. As they are getting older they are getting more capable of playing independently so I think that will make it a little easier this year, as well. 

I am really looking forward to the 2018-2019 school year! We have a lot of fun things in store and I think with these changes, we will have a really great year!
If you are a parent, what changes are you planning to implement into your child's upcoming school year, whether for public, private or homeschool? 
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