In just two weeks we will be starting our second year of homeschooling. I can hardly believe it. We started as emergency homeschoolers with COVID, but to be honest, I always wanted to homeschool. The pandemic just gave me a good excuse to do it.
It was definitely a year of learning, for both of us. I had made the decision early on that I was going to homeschool – probably in April of 2020 I decided I needed to make a decision for fall, since I wanted to be ready if I was going to choose to go it alone. Except, I had no idea at all about where to begin. I talked to a few people online, attended a few online conferences, and read a few books. I had belonged to a couple of different groups on Facebook as well, so I felt like I was pulling information from all over. I had also worked as a para in the public schools for like 15 years and while that did not prepare me to be a teacher, I was at least somewhat familiar with what was being taught.
So I made my choices for our curriculum, got it all ready, and it was go time. I had to acquire supplies and manipulatives, books, games, you name it, I felt like I needed to buy it. And most of the time, it was a gamble. I didn’t know what would work best for Wyatt, what would click most for my kiddo. The fact that he has additional challenges caused me to stress a little more as well; I didn’t want to fail him. However, I began to feel more confident in my choices the longer we homeschooled. I learned how he learned; I saw him making progress in areas I had always been made to feel he may never achieve. I feel like Wyatt really benefited from the one on one teaching; unlike a classroom, my attention was all on him. We worked at his pace, and if something wasn’t working we changed it or moved on, in the case of place value. He just wasn’t ready for that last year, so we will try again this year.
I’m not going to kid anyone, it was a lot of work. For him and me both. It was not just read a little bit in the morning do an art project and then call it quits. Although that would be fun, and some days we actually did do just that. But most of the time we had our plans and while I did not have a set schedule or routine, we had a rhythm to our days and our weeks.
So what worked and what didn’t for us?
I’ll start with what did work. Books for one. Wyatt responded really well to learning through books and stories. However, he really remembered lessons best where he could use his hands or his body, like incorporating little body movements like we did when we learned the life cycle of a butterfly, or when we use all his math manipulatives. Songs work really well for Wyatt too – especially Jack Hartman videos on YouTube. I put Jack on while I am making lunch and it is a good transition from “school” to lunch.
What didn’t work is a bit more hard to express. I had a lot of trial and error on teaching certain topics. As I mentioned before place value was tough for him and for me. I bought a million different things to teach this, and I think that he just wasn’t ready for this concept yet. Going into this year, I also am realizing I don’t need to buy all the things. Last year I felt like I had to purchase everything. This was partially due to our library being sort of inaccessible for a lot of the year, and also because I didn’t have a clear idea of what was going to work. I already have the books checked out from the library that we need for the first few weeks of school for reading/history/science that are not part of the “spine” we are working from. For instance we are going to use Julia Rothman’s Nature Anatomy book all year long, so I bought it, but books we are reading once or twice I am utilizing the library. Which I love to do anyway so it works.
While I bought a bunch of unnecessary stuff last year, there were a few purchases that worked really well for us! (the following do contain affiliate links. I never share anything here that i don’t love and believe in though!)
This math board was a hit with Wyatt. I found it very helpful in teaching him addition and subtraction, and being able to have something tangible resonated with him during the process. I think math can seem so abstract at times unless kids can see it and this really aids in allowing kids to “see” math. Wyatt likes this so much, that he will take it out of his math basket and make equations just whenever. We were on a zoom with my mom last night, and he pulled it out and was making math problems and showing her. I found a board for reading and spelling and I plan on buying it before the beginning of the year since this math board worked so well.
I had also struggled with finding the right set up for our morning time, going over the calendar, time, etc and I struck gold with this one. It is cute and nature themed so a perfect fit for our family, it doesn’t have a bunch of pieces I have to worry about losing, and it is easy to use. Another thing that Wyatt likes to get out and play with, and it totally helped teach him how to read the days of the week.
This ABC picture board from Melissa and Doug was also handy when we were learning letters! Wyatt loves anything hands on like this, and this made learning to recognize the letters a bit more fun for him.
I think one thing that has helped Wyatt a lot as well are flash cards. I know that seems odd, everyone seems to think ugh flash cards, but Wyatt at least loves to get them out of the basket and go through them himself. I don’t hold them up and have him tell me, he likes to get them out, and go through the stack naming everything. I think this was also very beneficial for his speech this year! I also am thinking about getting him something similar for sentence building. With Wyatt’s challenges in speech and fine motor skills, having words he can read and move around or point to help us both out. I can assess whether he knows something and he can communicate it to me in a way that is not frustrating. We work on saying the words and writing them, but being able to manipulate objects as well makes learning for Wyatt a bit easier at times. Two things on my “wish list” for this year are this sight words flash cards set that includes hand motions as part of the lesson, and this sentence building kit.
I have had to get creative at times. I have had to learn to be flexible. I have learned that sometimes it is ok to take a break and come back to something at a different time. I have learned that you run out of colored construction paper unevenly and that food coloring is hard to get at different times of the year. I have also learned that Dawn dish soap removes kinetic sand from a child’s hair and that there is such a thing as an electric hole punch. I have learned so much this year homeschooling Wyatt and I am really looking forward to our new school year – with my big time first grader!
What are some educational games, products, books that you have loved?