Wednesday, November 4, 2020

How we're homeschooling in term 4 of 2020

It's been said before, but 2020 has been a weird year. 

Homeschooling has definitely had its benefits for our family during this year of lockdowns, in all the obvious ways you can probably imagine. And, since the first lockdown, Paul has been permanently working from home, so that's been a bonus for our family. 

However, our family has missed out on a lot of the fun activities we normally do, like going to homeschool groups, swimming lessons, netball games, church activities and in-person piano lessons. Those are the things that add a little spice to our week, so it has been a disappointing year in that regard. I'm grateful that some of those things started back up again once we returned to level one, although not all of them did.

All things considered, this homeschool journey is a blessed one. I'm grateful for all the "extra" time it gives me with my children, especially after coming face-to-face with my own mortality this year and realising that there are no guarantees I'll always be here with my family. 

I thought it would be interesting to share how we are homeschooling this term, since we've changed a lot of things around from our normal way of doing things.

No homeschool groups

The biggest change this term is that the kids aren't going to any homeschool groups. Back when we first started homeschooling, the kids went to two different homeschool groups each week. 

At the start of this year, I decided to cut that down to just one group, to save money and to give us a bit more time in the week for doing schoolwork at home. However, the group we chose to stick with didn't run at all in term two because of Covid, and only ran for two weeks last term before the second lockdown shut it back down. That same group has been postponed again this term because of issues around its venue. 

We are really hoping it starts up again next year, as we love our homeschool group and the precious friends we've made there. 

Nature journaling

To take the place of the homeschool group this term, we've organised to get together with another couple of families each week to do nature school. Basically, we go to somewhere in nature to play and do nature journaling, where we take the time to really study something from nature and draw it as accurately as we can. This was inspired by the writings of Charlotte Mason

Our nature journaling outings are always a gorgeous time. I get to catch up with the other mums and be inspired by their homeschool journeys, and the kids get to free play until we tell them to sit down and draw something beautiful from nature. 

With all the nature journaling we've done so far, I've been amazed by how long the children can focus for, and how much they notice and observe. 

Artist study

Also following along with the Charlotte Mason way of schooling, we started an artist study this week. I checked out a book of Colin McCahon artwork from the library, and we will spend a few minutes each week looking at one of his paintings and reading a little bit of the story behind the painting. We will do this for several months, before moving onto a different artist, so that my kids can really get a feel for Colin McCahon's style.

There's also a Colin McCahon house in French Bay, which I plan to take my children to on a field trip as part of our artist study. 

Poetry study

I'm trialling quite a few Charlotte Mason concepts this term, and another one is her poetry study. As with our artist study, we will focus on works all by the same poet for several months to get a thorough appreciation of that poet's style. We will simply be reading one poem each week by Robert Louis Stevenson, as I already own his book, A Child's Garden of Verses

I told the children a little about Robert Louis Stevenson's life when we started this poetry study.

Read aloud time

Another Charlotte Mason idea is to read living books - stories from history that bring it alive. For the past couple of weeks I've been reading to the children William Carey: Obliged to Go. This is the fascinating story of a man from England who became a missionary in India in the early 1800s. Reading his story, the kids and I have been struck by just how difficult life was for people living back then.  

For fun, we're also listening to the Wild Robot audiobooks whenever we drive somewhere in the car. These are completely fictional and set in the future, but still interesting and engaging. 

Trialling the Simply Piano app

Miss S's piano teacher moved out of Auckland during the first lockdown and we continued doing piano lessons with her via Skype for two terms, but over time it became apparent that this wasn't working as well as the in-person lessons had been. 

I made the tough decision to cancel our lessons at the end of last term. I was really sad about it as I loved our piano teacher, but it's a big financial outlay each term and I could no longer justify the expense, since the Skype lessons were putting Miss S off wanting to learn the piano. 

Instead, this term we bought a year-long subscription to the Simply Piano app and are trialling how that works for our family. We're only a few weeks into it, but so far it's going really well. Miss S enjoys her piano lessons again and maintains her focus for a surprisingly long time with them. She seems to be particularly motivated by the awards she receives at the end of a piece, if she plays it perfectly. 

Another benefit to the app is that it has three accounts, so Master J and Miss L are also able to use it to learn the piano. Miss L already does formal violin lessons with a teacher, so learning the piano is an added bonus for her, but I hadn't put Master J into any formal music lessons yet and was wondering what to do for him. He seems to be enjoying the Simply Piano app, so I think this could be a good introduction to music lessons for him. 

I imagine that at some point we will need to find a formal piano teacher again for Miss S, and for Master J if he wants to continue with learning piano, but this is meeting our needs for the moment. 

At the very least, it's getting Miss S re-engaged in playing the piano, and it's getting Master J to try something he wouldn't have otherwise tried. Financially, it's a much more affordable option for us too, which is always helpful. I have a feeling Miss L is going to be able to play all the instruments by the time she's a grown lady. 

One-day school

One thing that has continued on from last term is that the kids are still going to their one-day school each week. It works out well for our family at the moment, as I'm able to get my immunotherapy and physiotherapy treatments while they are there. 

As with all schools, there are some good things and some bad things, but on the whole I'm pleased that my children are able to attend. They get to spend time with really lovely friends, and they have been memorising poems and songs each week, which is something I always mean to do with them but never seem to get around to. 

I think that going to the one-day school also makes them appreciate their time at home with me more, as things are a lot more relaxed at home. 

Book work

When they're at home with me, the children work in their individual Math-U-See and Good and the Beautiful Language Arts books each day. They also do their music practise, do chores, read their Bible and do some form of exercise. 


We do science together as a group.

We are currently working through The Good and the Beautiful Beginning Chemistry unit study. This week we got out all our various scales, rulers and measuring cups and had a play with them so we could learn about the importance of accurate measuring in science. It was a fun lesson, with water splashing about and everybody weighing themselves and our cat.


For history, we have been working through The Story of the World Volume 2: The Middle Ages all year. We usually just do one lesson a week on this, so it will take us a while to get through the whole book, but it's always fascinating. 

Story of the World 2 lap-book.

We started out the year making lap-book components during each history lesson, but this was actually quite distracting, so I've now assembled all those lap-book components and stuck them in the kids' lap-books for them to look at, and my children instead simply glue in their timeline pictures and colour in an official Story of the World colouring page about the story we're reading. It's much simpler and helps the kids focus on what I'm reading to them. 

Bible study

Every day the kids read their Bible to themselves for a few minutes, but we also have a group Bible lesson from time to time. In this group lesson, I read a chapter from Scripture and the children draw whatever picture they're inspired to draw from that chapter. They also copy out a Bible verse from the chapter. 

We're currently working through Genesis. I find that the kids ask a lot of great questions during this Bible time, and we have some great discussions. 


One of the great things about being a homeschool family is getting to go on excursions during the week. If it's a rainy day and I feel like the kids need to burn off some energy, I take them to Jump, the trampoline park. If it's a lovely day outside, we might visit a beach or go for a bush-walk. I really appreciate being able to do these things during school-time, when the places we visit are not too busy. 

Last week we went to Muriwai Beach, because Miss S had been gifted a voucher to go horse-riding there. We made an afternoon of it, and spent several hours playing at the playground and exploring the beach and tunnel next to the gannet colony. It was a truly magical day and really reminded me why I love this homeschool life. 

I think I've covered off everything about our homeschool in this post, but, as always, feel free to ask any questions you might have.

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