It’s that time of year again, when my Facebook feed blows up with kids going back to their first day of school, sometimes their first day in general, other times their first day in a new grade. This time last year I was getting ready to send my own kids back to school, which wouldn’t last out the year for Sander and Beekee. Now I’m only gearing up to send one back to school, Corde, and she’s not even sure she wants to last out the year.
For Corde, this year is basically a big experiment. She’s going to do the career exploratory at the local tech school, and if she likes it, she may stay on long-term. We may also look into working out a deal where she can homeschool for her academics and go to school for the technical training. We’re still not sure what we want to do for that, but it at least gives her an idea of what she can do for a career, so it’s worth it. She’s going to get a chance to try some things and hopefully narrow down what she wants to do with her life, and as a result, where she wants to go to college and what she studies when she gets there.
For the other three, this is a time of getting back into it. We’ve been doing phonics and math through the summer, but for the fall we’re adding some workbooks that the kids actually enjoyed doing, now that we won’t have the distraction of Corde at home. There are this series of workbooks that are listed as Daily (Subject). The kids really like these books because it’s a short (10 minute or less) delve into a topic. Last year Sander and Beekee did Daily Geography and Daily Science. Beekee also did Daily Reading Comprehension, which I think Sander is going to do this year as well. Since the kids like it, I don’t see why we wouldn’t keep doing them, for now at least. If they enjoy it, why not? Even if it really is curriculum, it’s still unschooling if it’s fun, right?
I’m sticking with the math and phonics. These are really just core subjects that the school can use as measurable goals to make sure the kids are on track. Their reading and math levels really matter when it comes to the school system, so I’m trying to keep them “on track.” Sander needs to be reading and reading independently, which is an important milestone for the schools. Once he’s doing that we can slack off a bit there. Besides, some of the work is kind of fun, so that’s something. Sander gets to color and enjoys reading all the new books with Primary Phonics, and some of the exercises in Explode the Code seem to be kind of fun. It’s not the most “unschooler” approach to things, but I want to make sure we’re at least toeing the line on this one. And the math? The kids seem to enjoy doing the math with the blocks (even if some of it is more playing than doing their problems), and they’re doing pretty good with the exercises. If I can get them through to the point of being “ahead” in math they can definitely slack off in that department. Again, it’s just enough to keep the school system happy, and they’re making good progress (and having fun with it) so why not?
But history we’re definitely taking a more “unschooling” approach. The kids liked Story of the World, so we’re going to start on Story of the World Vol 2 in the first few weeks of the school year. I’m going to be ordering it early into the year. We’re also going to be reading a lot of fairy tales, just for the fun of it. You can learn a lot about a culture from their fairy tales. We’re hopefully going to end the year with a trip to the Renaissance Faire in the spring, though that all depends on us getting a car. We’re probably also going to talk about swords, archery, and other cool stuff like that. You can’t start the middle ages without talking about that cool stuff. And, just for the fun of it, we’re going to add playing Skyrim to the curriculum. It’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of history in any means, but it does introduce concepts like armor, weapons, and castles. We can find some cool videos online about siege weapons and there are more than a few on armor. This is a period of history I absolutely love learning about, so we’re going to have some fun with it. We may even throw in learning to make chainmail (or any of the numerous spellings), just for the fun of it. Why not? Oz knows how to make it. It may be a bit too hard for Luca, but Sander and Beekee are definitely old enough to put together a simple piece of jewelry. Best part is it gives Oz and I reasons to get back into some stuff we really love, which is never a bad thing.
And what about science, you may ask? I had planned on ordering a science “curriculum” with lots of experiments for the boys to do, but I think I may just order a book of experiments to do at home. I think we’re going to make sure we do everything scientifically, from forming a hypothesis to developing a conclusion. Thankfully this is my home, so a conclusion of “That was really awesome!” counts as far as I’m concerned. Well, that and a few details about what happened. I’m expecting to record these answers for them and keep the “lab reports” in a big binder so the kids can all review what we’ve done later. Maybe we’ll pick up some science kits at some point in the year, but for now we’re planning on keeping it simple. We may also look into getting one of those snap circuit kits so the kids can learn about circuitry and that kind of thing, but I think sticking with stuff we can do with household goods, even if it’s not stuff we have readily on hand and have to purchase, sounds like the best place to start.
And, finally, on the essential skill of writing, I’m hoping we can get a letter writing thing going on. Luca and Sander have a half brother they haven’t yet met, but lives almost clear across the country from them. I’m hoping Oz can convince his mom to let them start writing letters. I’m also going to be talking to my aunt (their great aunt) about maybe doing a letter exchange/penpal thing. It’s a great way to get good at writing, but it’s also always fun to get stuff in the mail. That’s going to do the boys a lot of good, even if they only send out one letter every other week or so. It’s skill building, and something they’ve all expressed interest in doing.
Not only will they be doing letter writing, but Sander and Beekee both have asked about doing more writing projects. Beekee wants to learn to write well so he can go to college some day. Sander wants to learn to write stories. Both of them have agreed to work on a paragraph a week, then maybe illustrating their paragraph, just for fun. We’ve decided (while the kids have interest at least) we’re going to pick a topic every week (or more often if they choose to) and all three will get to write about it. Sander and Beekee will work on doing a paragraph (maybe more for Beekee) and Luca will get to write a sentence. They’re all really excited about this. I plan to put this in each of their portfolios so they have a collection of work for the end of the year to look back on. This will allow us to have dated samples of their work, should we be asked for it in the future, but also it’s a really cool way for them to look back at their writing skills. Hopefully this will help Sander build into a creative writer, and teach Beekee the skills he’s going to need to write college papers, even if he’s still a ways away from having to do that yet.
I’m pretty excited about this year. We’ve got some cool stuff we want to do in history and science. We’ve got some daily lessons to keep the kids busy. We’re making progress in math, which we’re blowing through the lessons faster than I expected. Phonics is coming along pretty well, which means Sander will be reading independently before long and Luca will be reading in no time. We’ll have plenty of pieces of work to put together in a portfolio, and tons of new experiences on the way. I have a feeling Corde’s going to be sad she’s being left out, but she’s got half the year to decide what she wants to do. Who knows? Maybe all the fun the kids are having will inspire her to come home and join the fun too? Or maybe school will be really awesome for her. Either way, it’s going to be a wild year!