And just like that, we’re back to school. It’s still hot and humid outside, but the first trees are turning and we’re getting the occasional cool crisp morning warning that fall is on its way. We wrapped up the break the same way we started it with surprise ice cream for lunch.
We milked summer for all it was worth despite a full calendar of work and medical appointments. Water play, hikes, popsicles, day trips, ice cream, fresh garden vegetables, berry picking, bonfires, picnics, parks, porch living, friends, bike rides, boats, walks, parades, festivals, vacation, birthdays, and more filled our days to the brim. On many days the kids spent every moment outside from breakfast to bedtime with a midday break for naps.
Annie started kindergarten last week in a public school special ed classroom just a few minutes from home. We’re missing her wonderful special ed preschool classroom but we’re cautiously optimistic about her new teachers and class and appreciate that it’s so close! Although it’s a full day program we required only half day in her IEP and the district has been very accommodating with special transportation and therapy services scheduled for mornings. She stays for lunch and recess to get a little unstructured play with classmates, then comes home in time for reading, nap, and an afternoon of open play and family time.
We started homeschool kindergarten for Jack in a low-key way last week and officially kicked things off in a big way on Monday with our now-traditional hot air balloon day. He benefited from the summer lull. His reading came together for new levels of fluency and independence and he’s now working on a 100 books challenge while continuing phonics lessons from Alphaphonics (using the same battered book my mother used to teach me!). We’re implementing more math this year with Right Start as the best fit for his needs and personality. We’re kicking off breakfast each morning with The Same Page podcast as an easy way to start our homeschool and public school days off on…well…the same page with Shakespeare, scripture, and poetry. I like that we’re all listening to beautiful language even when I’m running around braiding hair and packing thermoses. We often listen to a chapter book at breakfast as well, and I’ll sit down to read poetry, picture books, a devotional, or play music at the piano (in the same room as our dining table) if we have time. We’re keeping things very informal and low-key academically. Jack’s fine motor has really come together in the last month. He likes to practice letters and writing so I supply opportunities but don’t push. We read a lot of good picture and chapter books from a wide variety of subjects. We memorize poems, folk songs, and hymns in a casual way, and spend most of each day with unstructured play as well as more structured play and art opportunities from A Year of Playing Skillfully. We used many of their ideas last year and can’t speak highly enough of the program. He’ll probably do a once a week sport or swimming as well. It sounds like a long list but I probably spend 20 minutes a day in “formal” academics with Jack. The rest just fits in as play and stories, which I think is perfect for a kindergartner.
Next week Jack and the little two will start at a one day a week Charlotte Mason cottage school. The little two will be in their very low-key preschool program that focuses on play in nature, good read-alouds, and art. Jack will be in the 6-11 year olds group. It’s scaled by age with much lower expectations for the younger kids. I think he’ll benefit from the older kids’ example as he’s used to being king of the hill with his siblings. He quickly made friends with half a dozen other kids at the open house and can’t wait to start. They’re all three very social kids so it will give them a good low-pressure opportunity to learn in a group. Bonus, it will give me one morning a week child-free!
We don’t worry about preschool academics but Jenny and Josie will be more-or-less preschoolers at home with lots of free play and books and some supplements and art prompts from A Year of Playing Skillfully. They join in most of our morning time and read alouds but I don’t worry if they leave to play.
As with any other area of life “the best laid plans of mice and men…” saying applies. I watched my parents homeschool for 12 years and no year, or even month, looked the same. For now we know our general direction, with plenty of flexibility and freedom to change built in as the year progresses.