We began our school year in July 2020 with our curriculum picks for third and first grade. Three months later I gave a detailed update on what we was working for us (The Good and The Beautiful for example) and what wasn’t (Singapore science for example).
Now we’re nearing the end of January 2021 and, per usual, are feeling the need to mix things up a little bit. We took some time off in December and started back the three weeks ago, but parts of the curriculum started to feel dry and predictable, which means none of us were enjoying school all that much. So, we’ve switched a few things up–
Mix up language arts – I appreciate how easy and direct The Good and the Beautiful curriculum (read my full review here) is to follow. However, five days in a row of it was not exciting Hailey, so while we are sticking with it, every other day I’m switching things up. I pulled out my First Language Lessons Level 2 Book from last year and opened it to the middle section, deciding we’d do a few days of language arts together. The lessons are short and interactive, and very easy to follow.
Playing school – The number one piece of advice most homeschoolers will give you in the beginning is to not try and recreate school at home. But what if your kids love playing school? Shoot, I don’t know, but I got a little silly with the language arts lesson the other day and the girls ATE IT UP. The decided to give my silly self the moniker Mrs. Jingles, and the begged to keep learning about the parts of speech. While I can’t commit to this character for the long haul for the sake of my sanity, Mrs. Jingles is making an appearance every so often and it’s bringing a lot of laughter (and yet, focus to the subject matter too?!) into our days.
More free write – On the days we opt for the First Language Lessons book, I also have them do a little bit more free writing. We use their gratitude journals for this or their primary composition notebooks, and have them journal about something they are looking forward to, a funny dream they had, etc, or a poem. Obviously they are two different writing levels, but it gives Kaitlyn (6) great practice with the basics and gives Hailey (9) a chance to expound upon her answers with creative details.
Bonus riddles – While not a daily occurrence, it’s been a fun addition to our days. David and I were pondering ways to have the girls practice more problem solving situations. David got the idea to put an optional riddle challenge up on the fridge. If they work together and solve it, they earn a bonus screen time token. If they can’t, no problem, we’ll go over how to find the answer at dinner. It’s been fun to watch them get fired up about a brainteaser together.
More games and more read aloud – Gameschooling is legit. We love games as a family and a little addition war card game or Money Bags is always a welcome switch up. I need to look into spelling games, as I’ve heard good things about Zingo. See also: The Best Math Games for Grades 1 & 2
If there is just a day that feels like a struggle, two things are always guaranteed to turn it around- a little fresh air, followed by popcorn and read aloud on the couch. Games and reading are a January’s best friend!
Outside activities – With soccer still on holiday break and other activities on pause (art and music), our days have been wide open. While on one hand I love that freedom, on the other, we’ve been going a bit stir crazy. I’ve been looking for ways for us to get safely out and about. This week they went to a tennis lesson and it was a big hit. I also signed them both up for two STEM homeschool science classes held at a local animal welfare farm. I’m super excited about these!
Five Homeschool Truths that Nobody Talks About is a popular post of mine for good reason- as a homeschool newbie there are things you just assume everyone else is doing well and you are struggling with. Until you start talking to some homeschool veterans about these things, it might feel discouraging to feel like the curriculum you chose is getting stale or your kids are acting completely disengaged.
So let be the first to assure you, it’s not you, it’s ALL of US. And it’s totally normal to feel the need shake things up, to not finish a book, to switch between home education philosophies or to use multiple curricula.
Personally our educational goal for the kids is to keep the spark of learning alive and well. And while we certainly feel the need to learn the basics (like yes, you must memorize your multiplication tables), mixing up our methods and homeschooling in rhythm of the seasons (both annual seasons and life seasons) helps us to keep that curiosity fire burning.
Fellow homeschoolers, do you find yourself mixing things up a bit mid year? Or as the seasons change? What switch ups are the biggest hits in your home?