Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Our homeschool life ~ Term 1 2021

We've been homeschooling for a few years now, and a lot of our curriculum choices have stayed the same during that time. 

For maths we've stuck with Math-U-See, although I now supplement that with "Fun Maths" days where I play Right Start maths games with the kids, do logic puzzles and generally just try to make maths fun.

We've also continued to use Story of the World for our history curriculum and are still working through the second volume of that. I only do history once a week, so it takes a while to get through the books. I love how interesting the stories are, and how they've helped me and the kids to put the known history of our world into a logical order in our minds. 

Science has been our most changeable subject when it comes to curriculum. We've done some Apologia, some Mystery Science, some homeschool group science classes and we're currently doing The Good and the Beautiful Chemistry. As with history, I only get to science at home once a week at most, so it takes me a while to get through any topics. 

For Language Arts, we've stuck to The Good and the Beautiful the whole time and loved it. However, I've just changed up our writing curriculum this week, so I thought I'd explain why. 

I've really loved The Good and the Beautiful, especially for its focus on good and beautiful literature and art. I've also appreciated how simple it is to use - just open and go to cover a wide range of subjects including reading, writing, spelling, geography and art. I'm a little sad to let it go, and will continue to use its stories for reading time with the kids where I can, because they are so wholesome and uplifting.

However, I've been feeling that the kids need more of a focus on writing. There is some writing in The Good and the Beautiful, but it's mixed in with all the other subjects, so the kids only come to it now and again. I really want to do some consistent writing with them so they can build their skills. 

Before the Christmas holidays, I did a free three-week trial of IEW's Structure and Style program, and found it really good so decided to purchase it. Andrew Pudewa has put together online videos that the kids can watch, where Andrew walks them through the process of writing. Each week there is a new story to read, which provides the material for that week's writing exercises. 

Andrew Pudewa is hilarious and engaging to watch, which has helped to draw the kids in, and yet he explains everything in such a clear and logical manner. I'm finding Structure and Style a good fit for all three kids. It's pretty challenging for Master J (7), who doesn't love writing yet, so I've paired him up with Miss L (11), and they work together to write their key word outlines, rough drafts and final drafts. That partnership is working well so far. 

Alongside Structure and Style, we're also doing IEW's grammar program - Fix it! Grammar - and have started with book one, The Nose Tree. It's very simple and doesn't take too much time, as the kids just have to edit one sentence from a story each day, and then write that day's sentence into their own copy of the story, before looking up one word from the sentence and copying the definition into their own page of definitions. The story grows by one sentence each day, which is pretty cool.

Now that I've described what we're doing for our set curriculum bookwork, I'll explain what other activities we're doing (or trying to do) this term. 

Last week I invested in a soccer ball and a couple of soccer goals, so the kids would have an incentive to run around the yard. They've been getting out there even more than I though they would, and coming back inside sweaty, which is great! 

Master J and Miss S are still using the Simply Piano app to learn piano. They practise every day, and are progressing well. Master J could probably benefit from the help of a teacher, but he is learning something and using the app is both affordable and enjoyable, so I'm going to stick with it for now. 

Miss L is still doing Suzuki violin lessons and it's wonderful to see how far she has come with those. The lessons have trained her ear so well, they're even helping to improve her singing.  Lessons are happening via Zoom at the moment, since Auckland is in a Level 3 lockdown. 

I also started teaching the children French last week. I've been wanting them to learn a language for a while, but it's hard fitting everything in. I studied French myself for several years as a girl, although I've forgotten most of it now. Still, it's useful to have that base there for helping the children. We're keeping it simple so that it will be doable for us, and are just watching a Learn French with Alexa video on YouTube most days and learning what she has to teach us. 

So far the children have learned some simple greetings, as well as how to count to twenty and the days of the week. 

We're also currently using YouTube to learn our national anthem. It's such a wonderful song! Every time we sing it, we're singing a blessing over New Zealand. I love it so much. 

My friend, Geraldine, lent us two beautiful Uncle Arthur Storytime books, so we've been reading a story from those most days. I highly recommend them if you can get your hands on them. The stories are so uplifting and help teach the children (and me) how to live with better character. 

We taught the kids how to play the card game 500 over the summer holidays, so we usually play a few rounds of that each day. Today was particularly rainy, so the kids played a lot of other board games too. 

I think that covers everything we're doing at home for homeschool.

It's hard to say with certainty how many of our outside-the-home activities we will get to do this term, as Auckland keeps going in and out of lockdowns. 

We're meant to be doing athletics with a local Christian homeschool group, but have only had a couple of sessions and now we're in lockdown again.

We had also signed up to do writing, art and science classes at another homeschool group, but we've only had one session and now those are on hold again thanks to Level 3. One of the classes might continue by Zoom, which will be nice for the kids. 

We did manage to go on our big homeschool group excursion this term to Tree Adventures, which was so much fun. That excursion had been cancelled in 2020 because of lockdown, and it looked like it might get cancelled again, but happily we squeaked through. The kids and I all took part, and it was terrifying and exhilarating and hard work. 

We loved it!

I was hoping to get Master J into soccer this term, but that's been put on hold because of Covid. The girls are supposed to have their first netball trial in a couple of weeks, but there's no telling whether that will go ahead now. 

Never mind. We're still loving our simple homeschool life, and days at home just mean more time together learning and enjoying each other's company. 

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