Everyone has been asking us how Kindergarten has been going this year aaaand…eh. It’s going. Double pickup/dropoff with four kiddos from two different schools will really bring the morale down quick. It’s also been a big change from our play-based preschool 3 mornings a week to a really structured (long!) day. BUT ANYWAY, I wanted to talk about our homeschool (last) year since I’ve had a couple (literally, two) people ask how it went.
Last year I enrolled Hudson in “kindergarten” through our local homeschool charter. Both Matt and I agreed that his summer birthday + all of the family stress, that it wasn’t best time to start in on formal schooling and strict schedules. I also think kids are being pushed into academics they aren’t ready for, have far too limited recess and free play and are exposed to too much technology in the classroom (I have some opinions, y’all).
Limiting the play time isn’t getting kids ahead, it’s hurting them. Here’s a few articles if you think I’m a crazy-mom (1/2/3) or have no idea what I’m talking about. I also really want to be clear and say that I LOVE teachers. So many of my friends are teachers and are so invested in their students and classrooms but are bound by school funding restrictions and federal regulations on what they have to teach and how. It leaves very little room for creative teaching or play in the classroom.
We knew Hudson was ready for some classroom work as he naturally inquisitive and loves learning new things. I didn’t want to have him just doing worksheets at home (that’s what we wanted to stay away from in traditional school) so we embraced a Charlotte Mason-esque year of school with heavy focus on nature journaling. If you’re unfamiliar with her style of teaching it is best described as: the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind.
Instead of using textbooks, students are read to from “living books”. Per the website, living books are usually written in narrative or story form by one author who has a passion for his topic. A living book makes the subject “come alive.” As a certifiable book-nerd, this style of teaching really spoke to me and I jumped in head-first. There are of course additional facets to Charlotte Mason which you can read more in depth here and here.
I decided on using a gentle, literature based curriculum the Playful Pioneers, through the Peaceful Press. It is centered around the Little House on the Prairie books (my favorite, favorite series). The activities are super easy and fun. Both Hudson and Harper loved listening to the books. We supplemented with Handwriting Without Tears (5/5-highly recommend) and Math-U-See for math.
So what did that look like every day? Hudson continued to attend the preschool coop three mornings a week and we worked through the curriculum at a snail’s pace and when it fit in for our family rhythm. It meant lots of outside time, child-led learning, and enjoying our time together.
It meant trips to the orchard for cherry-picking, growing a backyard garden, and learning about the NYC subway system and the Statue of Liberty before visiting it. It was honestly just another year to be at home and grow slow.
My favorite part of our homeschool year was our one-pagers. These were the culmination of a lesson or story that we had been working on. We worked out a simple sentence or two for him to copy from the chalkboard. He then illustrated the story and painted over it in watercolor. Mom-biasing here hard but they’re all really beautiful and it’s easy to see his progression in writing skills and illustration ideas through the year. I used the general guide from Jodi Mockabee.
Since our charter was through our public school system, we were provided educational funds to purchase our curriculum and additional resources which was extremely helpful. We were also assigned a teacher liaison who met with us about six times throughout the year to make sure we were on track and to help us with anything. She was a really wonderful resource. We were also encouraged to take the standardized test (which we did) because the charter is able to submit it to the state to keep their funding but we opted out of report cards (how do you even grade a kindergartener?).
So, long story short, would we homeschool again? YES! Although we sent Hudson to traditional school this year (I was worried it was too much to take on with a brand new baby) I’ve enrolled Harper in transitional kindergarten this year through the homeschool charter. We’re using the Peaceful Preschool again this year (just for the younger age group) and supplementing with a lot of read-a-loud books.
So, how do you know if homeschool is right for your child and family? You probably don’t. You just have to give it a shot if it’s something on your heart. It is more work than sending your child to traditional school and there is a lot of together time. It’s going to be important that you schedule regular breaks for you so you don’t lose your mind or yourself while teaching your kids all day long.
I also realize that the option to homeschool is a luxury that may not be an option for everyone. If the outside time, read a-louds, nature note booking, and unscheduled lifestyle seem like a fit for you but homeschooling is not, I’d encourage you to engage your kids with this type of learning outside of school. We still try to do a read-aloud and notebooking time every afternoon during snack time. Hudson still loves participating because it is so different from what he’s doing in school.
Below are a few moms and resources (or both!) that were extremely helpful to me as I decided on homeschooling and how to incorporate it into everyday life. I’ll do another, more detailed post on our favorite homeschool supplies soon.
A Humble Place (Charlotte Mason curriculum + aides)
Ashley at The Vanilla Tulip (she actually has a getting started homeschool course)