As June passed unbeknownst to me and July is quickly approaching its half way point, it is time for me to start gearing up for our next school year. For the past two years, we have begun the first of August instead of the first of September because it allows us to ease into our new routines with Tim still home for the summer. This is a luxury that not every family has, but for us it means taking one transition at a time which goes better for everyone.
Preparations really began as last year was winding down, but it is time for the rubber to meet the road and finish up those final details. This year I went into my planning with a different mindset. I posted towards the end of our last about letting go of those all consuming grade levels in addressing the curriculum and needs of my boys. Tim and I spoke at length about the direction we wanted our little home school to take. We've always known that we will fall short in trying to provide a fully authentic Montessori experience at home, but we have also been hesitant to let go of that ideal while continually incorporating older learners into the mix.
At the core we believe that for the preschool ages, a modified-for-home Montessori scope and sequence is best for our family. We feel Caleb (who has had this) is proof that this method works. In the same ways, as we have incorporated more infant and toddler activities with Kylee and Logan we are convinced that this is about more than an education, but a philosophy of home and family that naturally moves from the practical life experiences of toddlerhood into the sensorial experiences of early preschool and then into the academic subject areas of four and five. It's a process we respect and wish to maintain.
We also believe that in terms of mathematical learning, Montessori cannot be beat all the way up through the elementary years. I am so blessed to have a partner-in-homeschooling who is trained and passionate about this approach. He has worked with so many students from the mathematically gifted to the slower to catch on that he remains un-phased by the hiccups that come. His math teacher bag of tricks has far from been exhausted. Not having a set pencil-paper curriculum for such a core subject area makes me nervous at times, but at this point I can't see any other drawbacks so we will forge on!
Montessori also has it's drawbacks, however, and over the past year we have been experimenting with where we wish to go next. While the hands-on approach is unbeatable in the early years and still valuable in the older years, many of the elementary materials fail to be reasonable in terms of space, storage, use, and practicality. We dabbled in Charlotte Mason last year and were happy with the rhythms of that approach and how it blended in with our daily routines. Our love of books made turning to living books for our education very natural. We were also quite happy with our history and timeline.
This year, when planning for our other subjects, I decided to learn from the "Think Global, Act Local" movement. I thought about what my big goals were for the year and started narrowing down our curriculum from there. In some things that was simple. Both boys need work on their writing for example. Caleb is a proficient reader but hasn't done much handwriting at all. Aidan is a proficient reader and has passable handwriting, but struggles with putting his thoughts on paper. I started looking at writing curriculums and decided that we would start Handwriting without Tears for Caleb as it worked so well with Aidan and that Aidan will start the first level of Writing With Ease.
For science it seemed silly to repeat another year with the 3-6 science materials, but instead we decided to do two longer units on specific topics. With a little creativity, we will be fully integrating art and science this year. In fact, I'm even planning on a fun Science-Along adventure with our unit studies here on the blog. Look for more information the first of August. We've also added Faith and Life from Catholic Heritage Curicula and will be taking a new unit based approach to our geography studies. I am undecided about music this year and I still miss our phenomenal gym co-op in Minnesota. I can't replace that alone, although at least the boys are each in sports at least 2 days per week.
Last year I nervously laid out an ambitious plan and had little idea if it could actually work. Could we cover so many subjects? In only a few hours each day? Is once a week really enough for almost all of the subjects? At the end of the year there were places to improve, subjects that had fallen by the wayside as the year went on and other things left unfinished. As I gear up for this year, I am anxious in a new way. The challenge of having two readers and a new preschooler. The challenge of having an active one year old instead of a napping new baby.
I have read many things about the first few years of homeschooling- the honeymoon phase, the readjustment of expectations, the maybe they would be better in school panic modes. Moving into our fourth year (really- 4th!) I have met each of these challenges and have a newfound confidence and assurance that this is the right path for our family. I know this year will bring its own challenges and trials but I do not fear them- rather I welcome them. This year I know that exactly that moment when I think I can't take it any more, is the moment that something will come together in an exciting and unfathomable way. I know that our challenges in homeschool will only serve to further mold us into the family that God desires for us to be.
I'm gearing up, are you?!