Homeschooling: Russian Unit Week 1

So this week was way more fun than I anticipated. Peter and the Wolf was a great way to kick off our Russian folklore and geography unit; Wyatt is such a music lover that he loved listening to the symphony (or symphonic folk tale as I have seen it referred to). And has kept listening to all week… lol.

We started the week by reading the book Peter and the Wolf by Ian Beck. There are multiple versions out there but after flipping through a few this was the one I thought would work the best for us. We then retold the story using little stick puppets that we made together. Wyatt loves doing our retellings with puppets or figures and props – I think there is a bit of a drama kid in my son. Then Tuesday we listened to and watched a cartoon version of the symphony narrated by the one and only David Bowie. We talked about the different instruments, and how each character had a specific instrument to represent them. We played with the versions of each family of instruments that we have in our house (we did not have any brass family, we will have to fix that!), then did a listening exercise. We listened to just the parts for each character, one at a time, discussing the tempo, and how the music made us feel. Interestingly, Wyatt did not like the music for the duck. He loved the bird and the Peter music though. Then we did another retelling worksheet. And called it a day for Peter and the Wolf.

Wednesday we didn’t do much with Russia, and focused mainly on our basics that we are also working on -reading and math, and started our map reading lessons. But Thursday and Friday we jumped back in, this time focusing on Kandinsky. I can’t recommend the book The Noisy Paint Box enough. I had no idea honestly who Kandinsky was before this week, and now I feel like I am going to do some reading for my own self. He was fascinating! Kandinsky started the abstract art movement, and also had something called synthesia. When he heard music, he saw color; when he saw color, he heard music. Fascinating! Art for the week was inspired Kandinsky of course. In the book we read how Kandinsky took art lessons and was told what to paint, houses and trees and landscapes, but it didn’t fulfill him. It was only after a trip to the symphony that he allowed himself the freedom to quit his day job as a lawyer and create art full time. So for Wyatt’s art lesson this week, we had a directed art project (the circles) and then I put on classical music and told Wyatt to paint how it made him feel. (I have to admit I loved how we talked about the instruments and the music and feelings twice this week, both with Peter and the Wolf and with Kandinsky. I love when that crossover happens)

He created two paintings – one with watercolor that he called the sun and moon, and another painting using tempera paints.

What do you see in his abstract?

This week has been a blast. We are obviously not delving into the history of the Soviet Union, Russia, or current events, but focusing on art and music, traditions and stories. It is perfect for these cold wintry days. I even saved a project for tomorrow, since we have been baking on Sundays. We are going to read The Bun by Marcia Brown and then try our hand at making Vatrushka buns!

Resource Round-Up!

Books We Read:

(this section contains Amazon Affiliate links)

Me on the Map || The Bun || Peter and the Wolf || The Noisy Paint Box

Printables and Videos:

The Masterpiece Studio – Adventures in Russia Week One (I am breaking this up and doing it over a few weeks)

Winter Math Activities – Place Value

Peter and the Wolf Cut and Tell Worksheet

Peter and the Wolf Listening Journal and Fact Sheets

I am looking forward to next week already!

Homeschooling: First Week Back After Break

Hello friends! It was our first week back after our two week holiday break, and while the first day left us both exhausted, we had a pretty good week.

This weeks focus was on winter, which was appropriate as winter came roaring in fiercely the past few days, with weather temps in the teens and lower. Our curriculum, Blossom and Root, gave us the choice of three different books for our language arts this week – I decided to use two of them, Grandmother Winter and The Story Blanket. I had not ever read either of them myself before this week, and wow, I loved them! Wyatt enjoyed Grandmother Winter more than The Story Blanket, but I adored them both. We love using our storytelling basket this year, which is a new addition. Wyatt loves listening to the books and then using manipulative and figures and scarves and such to act out the stories. We put tiny paper snowflakes in a scarf and then Wyatt shook it, causing it to snow, just like Grandmother Winter does in the book. It was cute. Then we also added snowflakes to our Family Tree mural wall – and I snuck in a bit of OT while we were at it.

Since our books were winter themed, we learned a bit more about winter itself, from snowflakes to hibernating animals to just random fun facts. We of course did all of the “basics” as well, reading and phonics and math, and I found a fun “Forest Friends Math” that we have used in addition to our normal lessons as well.

Art this week was creating a winter themed fiber arts scene out of wool roving. This ended up being a collaborative piece as Wyatt did not enjoy the feeling of the roving. So he directed me and I placed it where he wanted it. He seemed pretty happy with the result.

Thursday was a cozy day of learning. We finished our work in the morning and in the afternoon, we read together and created another collaborative art piece. I call it our “kinda quilt”. It was a good way to spend a freezing cold afternoon!

Now, the resource roundup!

Books Read:

(This section contains affiliate links)

Rabbit’s Snow Dance || Winter Walk || Poe and Lars || The Snowflake || Snowflake in My Pocket || Walking in a Winter Wonderland || Snow || Sneezy the Snowman || How to Catch a Snowman || Little Owl’s Snow || The Big Book of Snow and Ice (this one is fantastic!! I highly recommend it)

Next week is more animals less winter, then after that we are beginning a few week long unit about Russia! I am extremely excited!! I took Russian language classes in college, and so so many Russian history courses as well. It’s going to be a good few weeks!

Homeschool: Reindeer!

This week has been full but fun! We have really been enjoying our Jan Brett book focus for language arts this month, (We read Gingerbread Baby and First Dog the previous two weeks) but this one has been our favorite so far. I have a whole bunch waiting in our book basket for the next few days leading up to Christmas and I am super excited to read them to Wyatt.

This week I tried to turn what we had to do into more fun versions for the holidays. We played with word families, by adding the reindeer for each word family to the correct sleigh (ex. red went into the -ed sleigh) and Wyatt loved this! I am going to have to figure out more ways to do something similar throughout the rest of the year. We did journal and copywork for The Wild Christmas Reindeer, and imagined what it would be like to have a pet reindeer. Then we read a brand new to us book, Santa’s Story which we both really loved. I am pretty sure it has become Wyatt’s favorite Christmas book this year. We also retold the story using little stick puppets and then did some story mapping.

For math, we used some Forest Friends printables that I bought, which is adorable. It is a framework with little forest animals that you can use for adding and subtracting manipulatives, and since it is not Christmasy only wintry we can continue to use it alongside our regular math this winter. Science and nature was well, all about reindeer themselves. Diagramming a reindeer, experiments and lessons on how they communicate, what they eat, their life cycle, how they eat, how they see, etc, which ended with making a reindeer castanet to simulate the sound of reindeer’s hooves, and a mossy reindeer ornament after a reindeer’s diet. We also talked about herd migration, which was tricky since Wyatt is a Santa believer and in his magic reindeer. I told him that all other reindeer walk, unless they are one of Santa’s reindeer. Today we have a few painting projects left but I am waiting until later in the afternoon to do them, as Wyatt generally needs a bath after.

And now, we are on break! We try to follow the same schedule as my niece in public school, so today is our first day off for two weeks! Wyatt and I both definitely need one. We finished strong and with a bit of holiday magic to get us to the end, and now we can relax for a bit. Or at least, he can. I can relax once Christmas is over…

Books We Read:

Resources:

Curious Trails: Reindeer from Books and Willows (I bought this as part of a winter bundle but you can buy it separately)

Forest Friends Math from A Childhood Set Apart (also bought as part of a winter mega bundle)

If I had a pet reindeer printable (free!)

And Jan Brett’s website has a ton of free printables to use with her books!

And with that…I had better get ready to paint!

Homeschooling: Ice Age..

This week just sort of evolved organically. We are reading all Jan Brett this month for language arts, and when I remembered The First Dog, I thought about Sunset of the Sabertooth, and we just leapt from there. This was a very fun week!

Since our language arts revolves around Jan Brett this month, most of our reading/literature work centered around her book The First Dog. This is such a cute book! We discussed whether we thought Kip should have befriended Dog or not (yes of course), characters, setting, and vocabulary. We also learned about the different ice age animals that pop up throughout the story – sabertooth cats, woolly mammoths, cave bears – which were also present in the Magic Tree House book we were reading as well. Wyatt diagrammed each animal, we read books about them, and watched a few videos about them as well.

Wyatt’s favorite part of the week was the cave painting he did. It was very messy but sometimes being creative is messy. This kid loves to paint, no matter how. We found some Native American flute music to listen to while he painted; Sunset of the Sabertooth focused on a flute and that was as close as I could get. We both really enjoyed it. Wyatt’s second favorite thing is music.

Science this week actually sort of meshed well. We were learning about weathering, erosion, and metamorphic rocks. I had a bunch of experiments lined up for Wyatt that I thought for sure he would love, but he seemed sort of ambivalent about them. Lol. Our science curriculum gives a few different options – the book basket crew, outdoor crew, the tabletop demo crowd, and arts and crafts crowd. I switch it up all the time, but it seems Wyatt is definitely in the arts and crafts camp pretty solidly, so if I do switch it up, we will also do the arts and crafts project as well.

And for a fun finish, tonight we are going to watch Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas.

What We Read:

(this section contains Amazon affiliate links)

The First Dog by Jan Brett || Sunset of the Sabertooth || Woolly Mammoths || Sabertooth Cats

Resources:

Besides our Blossom and Root curriculum, we also used:

The First Dog by Jan Brett Book Companion and Ice Age Animal Diagramming from Curriculum Hound via Teachers Pay Teachers

The First Dog by Jan Brett Book Companion by Amy Labrasciano via Teachers Pay Teachers

Next week: Reindeer!

Homeschool: Fairy Tales, Wolves, and China

I debated posting about our homeschool week this week, since we it was primarily a week of reading and information collecting, and not a ton of creating and doing. So basically, we did a lot but not really much to show. I will just have to tell instead!

Wyatt’s curriculum this year is based on folk and fairy tales, which I think provides more than one might initially think. We can explore the same tale from other countries, different versions, go down those rabbit trails that the books spark interest in, whether it is place setting, a particular animal, a theme. So many opportunities for learning! This week we read Lon Po Po, which is a Little Red Riding Hood story from China. It is fantastic honestly, without any violence toward humans if that is something that will bother your child. The wolf dies but it is sort of understated and not violent. Then we were supposed to create a wolf peg doll. I helped Wyatt with his and I have to be honest, it scares me. Lol. It turned out super creepy, which was not really the intention, as part of our week this week was about Wolf Awareness! Lon Po Po has a dedication thanking wolves for taking one for the team all the time, and being the “bad guy” in the story more times than not. Wolves are predators, they hunt, that is how they live, feed their offspring. And humans and wolves do butt heads at times as humans spread farther across our planet and use the land. It’s hard to share. And it’s hard to remember that they are not evil or malicious – and certainly will not gobble you up whole as they do in the original Little Red Riding Hood story!

We followed Lon Po Po up with the James Marshall version – I just love his illustrations and storytelling. This one does stick to the traditional story, and both granny and little red get gobbled right up, and the hunter slits the throat of the wolf. I have to admit, I did not read that line to Wyatt! I substituted the hunter rescued granny and red without going into detail. As we had been reading these tales and also learning about wolves all week long, we made a comparison chart between real wolves and the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, which was a great way to talk about differences in fact and fiction.

China was also part of our lessons this week. As Lon Po Po is a Chinese folk tale, I thought I should probably introduce the country and culture to Wyatt. We skipped ahead in our Magic Tree House reading to Day of the Dragon King, to keep the theme similar. This week we sort of just talked about China, found it on the world map, watched Let’s Go Luna Beijing, and read our Magic Tree House book. Tonight Wyatt will be trying an assortment of Chinese foods, and then next week we will delve further into the topic.

This week worked out perfectly in sync with Wolf Awareness Week, which was totally unplanned. A happy accident. (I love Bob Ross..) We talked about how important wolves are to our ecosystem and planet, to the state of Michigan, and about wolves in general. The New York Wolf Conservation Center has educational resources online for older students but they are still neat to check out. I used them as a base for what we talked about. (A bucket list item for me is to visit the NY Wolf Conservation Center and camp there!) You can find their resources here.

So this week was more of an information gathering week! Next week we read about foxes, and continue to learn about China!

We use Blossom and Root First Grade for our curriculum, and math lessons for living education for math. I also don’t share the different phonics, math, etc we do generally.

Homeschool Update: Coyotes, Turtles, and a Failed Field Trip

This week was a doozy! I was super excited about it – we had so much material to cover that I absolutely loved and couldn’t wait to introduce to Wyatt. For the most part, it all worked out very nicely. Except for that field trip…

This week we took a mini-break from math to work on a special focus topic based on the book We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom. It was so comprehensive, including bits of social studies and geography and science and nature. We read the book first, then “dove” right in. Wyatt learned about the importance of water (back to that whole idea of how all things are nature and all things are connected) – how it is important to all living things, to our planet, to every part of our bodies. About how the amount of fresh water compared to salt water is vastly different, and how we need to protect these resources, to be good stewards of our world. We talked about different bodies of water, and of course created a few art projects as well. We did not manage to get to it all, but I hope to include the rest next week. I am actually in love with both paintings Wyatt worked on this week – he did a mixed media watercolor of a pond, and then later in the week we did a similar project with coyotes. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about warm colors and cool colors!

For our coyote study, we covered their anatomy, diet, habitat, and listened to a few videos online of their yips and howls. We finished up with his research notebook page, and the other mixed media-esque painting. (Note – I drew and cut out the coyote silhouette for him, but that painted background is all him. As is the placement of the coyote. Also note- I am not an artist. Lol)

I was also excited because we read three Indigenous/Native American based books this week. It actually just worked out this way which was a cool coincidence. In language arts we read When Turtle Grew Feathers, which is the Choctaw tale of Rabbit and the Hare. I let Wyatt inspect and handle my turtle shell that I found a few years ago, as part of the lesson. We also imagined different animals wearing the shell, as turkey did in our story.

Books We Read:

(Contains Amazon affiliate links)

Coyote Sings to the Moon by Thomas King || Blast Off Readers Turtle or Tortoise || Blast Off Readers Coyotes || When Turtle Grew Feathers by Tim Tingle || We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

So… lets talk about that failed field trip! On Wednesday the plan was to head to the nature center at a local metropark early in the day to work on science and nature. The nature center has turtles and tortoises, a stuffed coyote to view, a river out back, a display about the local indigenous peoples who once lived there – we were going to cover all the bases! My mom was going to come too, as she hasn’t really been out out in a while and I thought it would be fun. And it still was, just not what we had planned! We got there to find out that school year hours are different than summer and weekend hours, and it was closed! We decided we would just take a little walk on the overlook, check out the river, then head back to the car. Which we did, and it was a grogeous view, and all the leaves – it was such a perfect fall morning. Until the mosquitoes found us! My poor boyo was covered in welty mosquito bites, he has such a bad allergic reaction to them. I felt horrible! I hadn’t put on insect repellent as we were literally out there five minutes, and that was really all we were going to be out there, so I didn’t even think about it. Plus, it is October! So we left as fast we could. Somehow in all our hurry, my license slipped out of my back pocket onto the trail, unbeknownst to me. We were about fifteen minutes away when one of the interpreters whom we have known for years texted me that my license had been turned in. So, I turned back around to get it. I got it from her, and on the way home drove thru McDonald’s for some much needed coffee and french fries! So all is well that ends well!

Next week is all about wolves and skunks, Little Red Riding Hood, Ninjas, and subtraction! It should be an interesting week!

Homeschooling: Pirates, Raccoons, Magical Fish!

First, can we talk about how big this kid looks these days? What is happening? Where is my baby? Lol.

We have been so busy the past two weeks! We have established a pretty good routine – we start with Language Arts and phonics, then move on to math in the mornings. Then in the afternoons we rotate between history and science, along with whatever extra unit study I have thrown in the mix. It seems to be working well!

This week in Language Arts we were supposed to read Magic Fish but being me, I remembered we had a similar book, The 1000 Star Hotel. Wyatt absolutely loves this story, written by the Okee Dokee Brothers, whom he also loves. And even better, there is an accompanying audio for it! We were able to read it together, and then listen to it (for the 1000th time maybe but he loves it so it was perfect), before getting to work on our copywork/journal/narration pages and projects. The “fun” project was decorating a magic fish, which was supposed to be made from a sock, but I didn’t have an extra so I sewed these little felt fish instead for him to decorate. They turned out pretty cute! We skipped the rabbit trail suggestion of studying a specific fish, Wyatt just wasn’t that thrilled with any fish suggestions and I figured we had enough to learn about so we moved on.

For our extra study unit, that I will probably refer to as our nature study, we started a month long unit about nocturnal animals. Our animal for this week was the raccoon. It was a cute little study – we read a few books about nocturnal animals and raccoons, played a matching game, and then matched shadow pictures to the animal. Wyatt also completed his journal page about raccoons which I am going to put together in a book at the end of the month. I also felt quite clever in finding this craft. We are talking about simple fractions in math, and I talked about halves and equal sides and all that while I was showing him how to cut hearts out of construction paper. We have to do this sort of thing hand over hand, so I did a few as demo and then cut a few together before he assembled it all. I think it turned out super cute!

We are using The Waldock Way’s Passport to Adventure for our history unit this year, although I am doing a rather poor job of connecting the historical parts to it in our lessons. It is turning into more of additional language arts right now – although, one of the GLCE goals for first grade is about maps, and we made a treasure map, so I guess I hit one goal. This curriculum is based on the Magic Tree House series and this week we were reading Pirates Past Noon. These books are super fast reads and pretty cute! We completed notebooking pages and journal pages based on the reading, talked about pirate treasure, what Wyatt would choose to put in a buried treasure (fruit snacks, a Mickey Mouse toy, and a book), made a map, crafted a cute pirate puppet, and painted a treasure chest, which I filled with “treasure”. This was Wyatt’s favorite thing we did. I find him going through this treasure chest all the time, and putting on all of the jewelry. I think today we are going to watch Peter Pan, eat Pirate Booty, and hide the treasure somewhere and make a map for Billy to find when he gets home. We also have to make time for our art project today as well.

We did other things as well, like sight words (which we call cake words) and word family activities, learning about the layers of the earth, make a felt model of the layers, fractions, telling time, and all the other things you learn in first grade.

I will post about our nocturnal animals study in a future post, with links and activities for anyone who is interested! I am going to combine that post into multiple weeks as well, so I will probably post that information next Friday.

Next week is all about coyotes, mountains, turtles, and the Choctaw Nation! And with that, I better get moving! I have a lot to get together before Monday!

Field Trip: Fossil Park, OH

One perk to homeschooling – being in charge of your own field trips. So if we felt like packing up early and driving to Ohio to check out a fossil park on a Monday morning, no big deal. Bonus – going at that time pretty much assured we would have the place to ourselves. Which we did.

I had been looking for some places to take Wyatt to introduce him to the idea of fossils and rocks- we are about to begin a whole rocks and minerals unit in science and when I can get him outside or hands on, I do. I found one north of us, about four hours away, and then my brother sent me the link to another, this one only an hour drive south. This is where we ended up going – Fossil Park, Ohio.

I will admit at first look it is a bit underwhelming. Like a place teens would go to have fires and beers or like a crumbling parking lot somewhere. I was like, well, regardless of how this turns out, Wyatt will have gotten out to play in an environment that is unlike any other he has been to before. There wasn’t too much to see, just gravelly ground, a large container of water, and a few little tables and benches. Pretty simple set up.

We were optimistic, as we generally are. I had read the website and printed out a few materials before we left, including an information sheet that had illustrations and descriptions of the types of fossils we could hope to find, which we had reviewed in the car on the drive. Fossil Park is the remains of a shallow sea bed from the Devonian Era, 375 million years ago. No dinosaurs. We had our milk jug with the top part cut off, also suggested per the website, to use to keep our treasures in. After a brief glance around, we plopped onto the ground and started searching.

I found a piece of a trilobite right away, and I felt very victorious. Giddy almost. Billy was systematically combing through the dirt, I was sort of attacking things a bit more energetically and also trying to teach Wyatt, who was busy stuffing his overalls full of rocks and fossils, neglecting the milk jug in his excitement. He was pretty proud of his collection.

Let me stop a second and talk to you about these overalls. This is not an ad or affiliate or anything, I just really love them. I bought them for him in the spring – as Wyatt scoots a lot right now while we work on walking, he literally goes through pants like crazy. Anything harder than grass just tears the seat right up – and eventually, him, if I don’t watch. These Key Apparel overalls are like the toughest purchase I have ever bought him. They have withheld an entire spring of playing outside, and now, a rock quarry. They are a little worn but still intact. I can’t stress enough how durable these overalls are! They are from a farm supply outfitter, so they are made for hard work, but if you have an active kid that goes through clothes like crazy, I highly recommend these overalls. I only wish he could wear them in the summer – but the very thing that makes them so durable would also make them too hot for the summer. So we will count our blessings and be happy that he can wear them at least in the spring and fall.

Back to the fossil hunt. We were busy at work, Wyatt and I near the top of the quarry, Billy near the bottom, sifting and examining. I was explaining different things to Wyatt, showing him different pieces. We were alone in the quarry for quite a while before a man came walking in, and after a few minutes he came up to us. It turned out that he was the Parks Project Manager and super nice! He told us about what we could find, and even dug with us for twenty minutes, giving us his finds and telling us what they were. It was really cool and like having a personalized guide. He was telling us as well, that they have big plans for the quarry and next year it will be built up more.

We stayed quite a bit longer than I anticipated, almost two hours. Wyatt had fun, and so did Billy and I. I felt sort of like a kid again, sitting in the dirt, just exploring and looking for neat things. I think Billy did too.

We came home with a nice collection in our milk jug! We found a bit of trilobite (top of the big rock), brachiopods (the shell looking piece), and then lots of crinoids, which are bits of sea lilies. I am holding a bit of stem (the long cylinder) and then bits of the stem, the flat washer looking cheerio thing.

If you plan to visit: Expect to get dusty! We were cracking up at how much dust we had on us. Also, when Wyatt’s overalls came off at home tons of small pebbles fell all over the floor, so expect that too. You can only take your collection jug/carton, and water on hot days, no eating or drinking is allowed in the quarry. You can take a brush to dust your specimens. As for being ADA accessible, I would say it is pretty accessible honestly. There is a wheelchair ramp leading down to the quarry, and while it would be a rocky ride inside it can be done. It would be trickier if using a walker or crutches, unless the person scooted like Wyatt. Alternatively, you can sit at the tables and benches and collect from the pile behind the tables as well. Also check the website – it is really informational, and has great printables available, including how to use your visit in your lesson plans.

Overall, we had a really good time! We would definitely go again.

Homeschooling: Our Curriculum

Here we are again, homeschooling! First grade this year! Last year we had so much fun learning together, that I am really excited to be homeschooling again. We are still working on our routine and rhythm, but I feel confident at least about our curriculum. It was an easy decision, as I went with the same curriculum we used last year for the most part. I like the basic scope of the curriculum, and its focus. It is also budget friendly compared to other curriculum out there.

If you are new here, Wyatt has been homeschooled since Kindergarten. He has cerebral palsy which creates the need for some creativity and accommodations with the lessons, which I feel is really well suited to homeschooling. I can keep working on things that we need to spend more time on and move on when we are comfortable, and go quickly through lessons that he picks up easily. I can tailor to his strengths at home, rather than try to make him fit into a system that may not work for him right now. I also found a Blossom and Root First Grade Cohort Group on Facebook! This group will move up together each year. It has been so helpful already!

For Language Arts, Science, Nature, and Integrated Art and Math, we are using Blossom and Root. Blossom and Root is all about wonder, discovery, creativity, books.. all things I value very highly and want for Wyatt in his learning. This year I had a choice of two different language arts programs through Blossom and Root, and it was a tough decision! The first choice was based on more nature based stories that were a little more old fashioned, and then more modern picture books as the second option. I went back and forth a few times before finally deciding on the more modern version. The scope is based on values and morals, like appreciating what you have, working together, and other character building traits for the first half of the year, while the second half focuses in on fairy tales and folk tales from different countries, introducing new cultures and geography into the lessons.

The Science curriculum covers so much about Earth and Earth science this year! I am super excited to dive into it. There are also extra “Book Seeds” that cover different topical events as well, such as climate change. The past two weeks we have spent discussing the rotation of the Earth, and how it effects seasons and daytime and nighttime, and we are moving on soon to layers of the Earth. The Nature part of the curriculum is more about observing and interacting with our natural world. Things like building insect sanctuaries, painting the weather, making nature necklaces, etc and then keeping a nature journal.

The Integrated Math and and Art … is more art I guess than math, so we supplement math with a more traditional curriculum but still do the lessons from Blossom and Root, more as art with some math involved. We are learning about Kandinsky right now, which is a lesson for me too, since I never learned about Kandinsky in school.

For history, we are using Passport to Adventures from Waldock Way this year. I didn’t see the need for a super intense history program this year, and I felt like this would introduce history in a fun way to Wyatt, which was important to me. I feel like kids get off on the wrong foot with history sometimes, thinking it is boring and I wanted to try to cultivate a sense of excitement about it. This curriculum is completely based on the Magic Tree House books, and we have started off slowly, doing only a few of the activities a week to start. So far so good!

For math, we are using Math Lessons for a Living Education. I feel like this is well paced for Wyatt, and he enjoys the stories and hands on activities that are a part of these math lessons. I also like that this keeps up to pace with the public school as well, just in case we decide sending him back to school would be more beneficial, although that is not where we are right now. For now, everything is going well with homeschooling.

I have to be honest though. These first two weeks felt a little off to me. Like we had lost our zest and magic. And I realized I was trying too hard to be “school” and leaving out what made us, us. I plan to shake things up next week, and add in those extras that made our school special.

Stay tuned to see where our year takes us!

Homeschooling: A Look Back As We Move Forward

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?