Fall brought an exciting new dimension to our lives: homeschooling! We “officially” started Kindergarten with Harper at the beginning of September. I will admit that even though we had been talking about doing homeschool for years, as the actual start date approached I started to question our decision. I started feeling overwhelmed by the task set ahead and began thinking way too far out into the future about the sustainability of such a seemingly herculean task. Luckily, we were able to make a deal with ourselves that we would just take it one year at a time and not get swallowed up by the enormity of long-term homeschooling. That truly was a great decision because it I don’t think we would have even started otherwise. I am so glad we forged ahead because homeschooling is going amazing well!
We are using Oak Meadow’s Kindergarten curriculum, having graduated from the Oak Meadow’s Preschool learning guide (which we had been using for two years, along with following the concepts from Simplicity Parenting). I had started looking into Oak Meadow many years ago as it is a gentle, “Waldorf-influenced” curriculum with a special focus on nature and the arts. The Kindergarten curriculum focuses on language arts through lots of storytelling and reading, introduces all the letters of the alphabet; introduces numbers and basic number concepts; music/movement through songs and fingerplays; is filled with quality arts and crafts; and weaves nature and science into almost all lessons. There are no worksheets or copywork in the curriculum, although we do add in a few workbooks for math and language arts just because Harper finds them fun. Even though the curriculum is very gentle and doesn’t introduce reading yet in Kindergarten, Harper is easily picking up on reading so we just follow his lead. I have to say, it is absolutely thrilling to see him start to read!
Oak Meadow encourages a daily rhythm, which I have to say has been the biggest component for success in our homeschool life, as well as our regular non-schooling life. Even though some days are wild and unstructured, most days we do fall into a regular rhythm (I will post on that soon for families who are struggling to find their daily routine). Having the kids know and expect that every morning we will eat breakfast, get dressed, do chores, and then start school has made a huge impact on their behavior and makes our day run so much more smoothly.
Mathias (age 3) has been doing Harper’s Kindergarten curriculum right alongside him, to the best of his ability. He absolutely loves it! He and Harper are basically inseparable so there is no way we could ever leave him out. He is picking up on so much.
We start every school session with a “Morning Circle,” which includes songs and fingerplays, show and tell (the kids have added this at their request), and reviewing the concepts we’re working on. We then dig into whatever we’re doing for the day. We usually do language arts on M, W, F and Math on T, Th. Science, Crafts, and Music/Movement are interspersed throughout the week.
I do a weekly planning session the weekend before we’re going to start. Oak Meadow does not give a daily schedule but instead introduces the concepts and projects of the week. I usually go through the calendar of activities and combine that with the curriculum to create the daily learning objectives and activities. We do a lot of field trips and spend a ton of time outside in nature. Between hiking excursions with family, getting together with homeschooling friends, The Great Plains Zoo, the Outdoor Campus, Siouxland Libraries, and the Museum of Visual Materials, we manage to keep the calendar pretty full.
Because the curriculum is so gentle there is enough flexibility for improvisation and also for adding additional special projects. For instance, a couple weeks ago the Great Plains Zoo added a mongoose exhibit and Harper, the little scientist he is, became completely obsessed with learning everything he could about mongooses. So we researched mongoose facts at home, watched mongoose wildlife videos, and even read Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” Harper was absolutely thrilled!
To me, this is a perfect example of the beauty of homeschooling. One of our main objectives in homeschooling was to let the kids “geek out” on whatever interested them and to follow down any rabbit hole their interests led them. The are both extremely curious kids who truly do love to learn. They are making homeschooling very easy as they are so excited to learn new things, to hear new stories, to work on projects, and to propose new topics of interest.
We’ve had a wonderful fall filled a with ton of learning and fun. We are looking forward to starting our Winter Quarter next week. We took out some of our winter decorations today to make a seasonal corner in the house. We will update on our homeschooling adventures as we go!