Sunday, January 27, 2013

Halfway There!

In most, if not all, states, 180 days of school are required of public schools. Homeschool laws vary pretty widely, but in Pennsylvania, homeschoolers are also required to hold 180 days of school. On Wednesday of this past week, we hit 90 days. Halfway there!

When we decided to embark on this crazy experiment, we decided that, even if it wasn't going great, we should stick with it for at least half a year to see if we could work out any wrinkles. I am really excited to have made it halfway and to have only felt like throwing in the towel a few times. Let's face it. I have four young children. I am with them pretty much all the time. I think the unexpected scenario would be if I hadn't ever wanted to send them away for other people to deal with. I always want to keep my mind and options open, but I can say this: at this point in time, we have decided to complete this school year at home and continue next year with both Alexander and Jack as official homeschoolers.

These days Alexander is working on the zero through five times tables, reading for comprehension, writing paragraphs, some history of Pennsylvania, American symbols, landmarks, and important documents. We do critical thinking exercises each day. He has started an animal fact journal and learns about one new animal each week. For spelling we use Sequential Spelling. He also practices typing and playing his recorder, and has reading time each day. He recently picked up the first in the Hardy Boys series and is loving it. I love the opportunities it presents for vocabulary expansion! We do at least one art project per week. He is taking gymnastics and a social skills class at the YMCA and participates in Lego Club at the library. Justin is starting to participate with teaching by starting up lessons in stop-motion animation.

Jack is still working on his phonics and reading readiness, but is starting to be able to sound out simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words. In math, he can add and subtract numbers up to about 12. He actually enjoys filling out worksheets, so he does one or two each day, but due to his age I try to focus more on games and listening to stories. He also does critical thinking exercises several times per week. Jack takes a sports sampler class at the YMCA and recently impressed coaches and parents alike with his total focus and patience in an egg and spoon race.

On Monday I will start incorporating a new program called Five In A Row with both of them. The idea is that on each of the five days in a school week, we will read the same picture book, then do an activity relating to the book. The guide book offers several activities to choose from in the subjects of social studies, language arts, science, art, and math. I can tweak each activity to suit the level of the child. This will be a nice way for them to be able to do things together for part of the day instead of only taking turns having one-on-one time with Mommy. This week we will be reading "Owl Moon."

I am starting to research more complete curricula for next year and am leaning towards one called Moving Beyond The Page. I have enjoyed creating the boys' curricula from scratch this year, but it is time consuming and I worry that next year with them both being official homeschoolers (this year Jack is just a pre-K), it may take even more time. I think that with the right attitude, we can use a packaged curriculum and still maintain flexibility. The curriculum that I am considering includes language arts, science, and social studies, but I would still have to add in a math curriculum and plan for things like art, music, and critical thinking. I will likely still design Jack's curriculum on my own for his kindergarten year. Next year I also plan to incorporate more structured PE activities at home.

And that, my friends, is the state of the homeschool.

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