A New School Year Has Begun


Everyone is gearing up for the return to school. Back-to-school sales grab our attention at the stores. The calendar tells us that summer is coming to an end and fall is just around the corner. 

We choose to homeschool year-round. For us, that means that we start a new school year in early summer - May or June. We usually end around April or May the next year, taking 11-12 months to get through the material instead of schooling for 9 months and taking a 3-month break. We take breaks as we need them and generally school 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5. It's just what works best for us. 

So, we're already underway with homeschool, about 30 days in. My daughter is in 4th grade this year. We are using Sonlight  again this year. In fact, it's the second half of their American History curriculum, so we're picking up where we left off with 3rd grade - the Civil War era. Already we've enjoyed excellent literature and are trying to see the issues of slavery and state's rights from all sides. It's a fascinating study. 

In addition to the great history element, she's doing a CD-ROM math program called Teaching Textbooks. She did this last year and it was a great success. I also discovered a website called Xtra Math that is FREE for anyone to use, to focus on drilling basic math facts. In my opinion, Teaching Textbooks is a little lax in the area of drilling those math facts that simply must be memorized (basic addition, multiplication facts 1-10). Xtra Math gives you a few placement tests at the beginning to test your skills, then gives you games and drills to do daily (or a few times a week) to keep drilling those facts into your mind. 

We've added Rosetta Stone Spanish this year, which is also a computerized program. She's enjoying that so far. We are entertaining the idea of going on a mission trip to Costa Rica in 2 years, which led us to want to introduce Spanish at this point in her education.

Sonlight provides the Science curriculum, which focuses on Electricity and Magnetism for 4th grade. There have already been a few experiments with batteries and light bulbs. 

We use Sequential Spelling for spelling. We found another website - Spelling City - which allows me to enter the entire spelling list and then it gives the spelling test to my daughter. It also does word games with that list of words, if she needs more practice. I've found Spelling City helpful for 2 reasons. First, my daughter likes using the computer for school, so anything that can be done on the computer is automatically more enjoyable for her. Second, she learned basic typing skills last year as part of 3rd grade. Now when she uses Spelling City for spelling, it's like two subjects in one - spelling AND typing. She's learning to spell the words but also getting typing practice. The only down side is that we have 1 computer at home for all of us to share, so as she is using it more and more for school, it's available less and less for any of the rest of us to use. Note to self: look into getting a second computer or laptop.

There's also handwriting and language arts, which seem to be my daughter's least favorite subjects. She remains excited about piano lessons and continues with those. She's getting to the point of being able to play simplified versions of many familiar songs (Yankee Doodle, Jesus Loves Me, Camptown Races, etc), which is great motivation for her to continue on. 

The biggest change in our homeschooling this year is that we've joined a homeschool co-op. This is a group of 50 other homeschooling families in our area who get together each Wednesday morning at a local church to provide supplemental class opportunities for our kids. All the moms help teach/lead/assist different classes. The kids have choices amongst 2-6 different class offering, so they can pick what they will like best. There are 4 class hours, so they will take 4 classes that last for the fall. Then new classes will be offered in the spring. I'm teaching a US Geography class for the elementary students (including my daughter who choose to take the class). She's also taking Ballet, American Girl book study and Space Camp. All the kids are required to take Gym, Ballet or Martial Arts - since sports opportunities are quite limited for homeschooled kids. All children from babies up through high school can attend, so my son will be in a PreSchool class. We're excited about the co-op, which starts in September. We know a few other families/kids in the co-op but anticipate making a lot of new friends through the group, as well as learning new things that otherwise wouldn't be a part of our homeschool.

As far as my son goes, we will continue to work on basic preschool concepts - shapes, patterns, counting above 10, letter recognition and sounds. School for him is much less formal, involving a lot of playing and reading books and works around my daughter's 4th grade schedule. 

Next year will be the biggest adjustment yet - juggling a 5th grader and a Kindergartener. But that's not my concern right now. For now we're enjoying 4th grade and preschool... and love learning together at home. 


Luke said...

Glad to hear you are still enjoying Sonlight! May this second half of your study of American History be even more enjoyable and enlightening than the first [smile].


Darci J. Harland said...

I would love to hear more about your approach to the school year. I have a feeling 3-4 days a week, with a week off here and there and then schooling year round is what will work for us. Are you systematic about it at all (ie planning how much you'll get through each week/month/quarter)? or do you allow your daughter's needs dictate the speed and how far into the Sonlight curriculum you move? I'm from the public education sector, and still feel as if my child should stay somewhat even with "grades" but I know its silly.

Thanks so much,

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