A Few Things That Have Made This a GREAT Winter!

I’ve seen a lot online about February Blahs and Homeschooling Burnout, but I have to say, that February was a great month for us!  Like most of us, I did grow tired of the snow, cold and short days; but the homeschooling itself has been the smoothest it has ever been! Now this may be in part due to the fact that we are not currently selling a home, buying a home, planning to move, unpacking a move, pregnant or caring for a new baby. Which does, in fact, describe much of our previous homeschooling journey up until this point!

While we are enjoying the continuation of some of our previous selections (Story of the World!), we have also begun some new things that are working out really well.

Nature's Workshop Plus! Science Kit for Exploring Creation Through Astronomy - www.learningmama.com
Nature’s Workshop Plus! Science Kit for Exploring Creation Through Astronomy

New for us this winter is studying science with Apologia’s Young Explorer Series, and All About Spelling.  I’ve already posted about how wonderfully AAS is working for us. Astronomy is going well also, and I am so glad I decided to opt for a less writing intensive approach for Big Sister and more hands on work than last year. Our previous science selection involved notebooking which she found very tiring and produced quite a bit of resistance. We also did very few of the suggested experiments. Since then we have been doing lapbooks which seem to be more enjoyable for her at this stage of her development, and I have purchased a prepared science kit that covers all the experiments in our astronomy book. No excuses! Absolutely everything is included except for a few perishable items that can’t be shipped in a box (like whipping cream). Last week we made our own eclipse and it even included the flashlight (and the battery) that was required.

popsicle stick bird feeders
Popsicle stick bird feeders!

Fun Fridays! are still going strong and Big Sister just revealed to me today that Friday is now in competition with Sunday for her favorite day of the week. We have been playing Math Bingo, dice games, and more instead of our formal math curriculum. We’ve also made popsicle stick birdhouses, crafts, art and co-ordinated our science experiments to fall on Fridays. We wrap Fridays up with pizza and movie.

A very welcome improvement in our daily schedule has been the introduction of a formal read aloud time after lunch.  While I am a firm believer in the importance of books, reading, and reading aloud, this one had really slipped since the arrival of Baby Sister. From very early on Baby Sister was a book grabber and a poor napper, so reading aloud got the short end of the stick and was relegated to an only at bedtime activity. But for the last few weeks we have had success with curling up on the couch with a few good books for 15-30 minutes after lunchtime clean-up. Baby Sister crawls around on the floor contentedly and we snuggle and read. It seems like a great calm, quiet, segue-way to our daily afternoon Quiet Time.  The podcasts from The Read Aloud Revival have been a great encouragement to me, and really got me re-committed to this practice.

Homeschool organization in a simple spiral notebook - www.learningmama.comAnother thing that has been working really well for us is a simple organizational tool – a spiral notebook.  When I first heard of this method, I was very skeptical that it would contribute anything worthwhile to our days. The basis of the system is to set up a daily checklist for each child in a simple spiral notebook. The child completes the items on the list and checks them off. Very simple. I didn’t think it would work for us because almost everything we do is teacher dependent.  We don’t do a lot of workbook or busywork type activities in our day. BUT I have found that my daughter really enjoys seeing the day’s activities (even housework!) laid out for her. For the first two weeks, she was really into checking each activity off the list but the novelty seems to have worn off.  It does however provide her with the ability to be independent about some things such as her math corrections and beginning the required reading for science. It is also helping me to be organized the night before and to make sure I’m ready for each day’s activities. I am also writing short, fun notes to my daughter and she is illustrating her day with stick figures of her doing each subject. Additionally, I’ve added three independent activities to the checklist that I can’t believe I didn’t require sooner: 15 minutes each for independent reading (from our book basket), reading to Little Sister (her own selection), and piano practice. The payoff here is that Little Sister is getting even more read aloud time, Big Sister is getting through all the awesome supplementary reading suggestions from SOTW’s corresponding history and literature selections and daily piano practice is actually happening. Don’t you just love it when something so simple works so well?

Crayon etching for art class www.learningmama.comWe’Watercolour pencils www.learningmama.comve also added a time for “art class” to our weekly activities. So far we have done a crayon etching and pencil water colours thanks to some Youtube inspiration. A few years ago I purchased Drawing with Young Children and I’m planning on starting the lessons from that next week.

Do you know what else is working really well for this mama lately too? The positive numbers on the thermometer, the longer days and the beautiful sunshine! I’m sure we will be adding nature study, and lots of outside play very soon!

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