The best things we did our first year homeschooling

Our first year of homeschooling has drawn to a close. How did we do? The short answer: We had a fabulous year!

While it was not _always_ smooth sailing at the Boyd house, we definitely enjoyed it at least 80% of the time, and probably more. I learned a lot as the girls’ teacher, and I think Lucy and Rosie even picked up a thing or two along the way. :) %{color:gray}Click photo to enlarge.%

Here are a few of the best things we did this year as homeschooling newbies:

h2. Keeping it loose

I intentionally didn’t buy a curriculum to follow this year. Every time I started looking at curriculum packages, I could feel a sense of growing anxiety: _What if we pick the wrong one? Will we have time to cover everything? Will we be able to keep up with kids in traditional schools?_

I could tell that my urge to purchase a curriculum was based out of fear than out of freedom and joy. So I decided that this year would be a time for us to explore our homeschooling options, experiment with different groups and books, and see what works for us.

I did occasionally refer to the list of kindergarten proficiencies outlined in “_Home Learning Year By Year_”: — and we ended up covering a lot of it — but it didn’t really drive us.

If pressed, I’d probably say that I had two main goals: 1) to work some on learning to read and write and 2) to enjoy being together. And we sure did that!

h2. Visits with Grammie and Grandpa

I was inspired by “one of my favorite homeschooling books”: to consider ways that we could involve our families in our daughters’ education. Since there are teaching backgrounds on both sides, this seemed like a very good idea.

Our thinking developed into weekly “Grammie-time” visits with Jon’s mom (a reading specialist and generally terrific grandma) and Jon’s dad, too. The girls have really enjoyed their weekly visits, I enjoyed having an hour or two to myself while Grammie and Grandpa were with them, and the grandparents clearly cherished this regular time with Lucy and Rosie. Three cheers all around!

h2. Reading at lunchtime

When I was exploring local Chicago homeschooling groups, I remember having a chat with a seasoned homeschooling mother. At that point, I was just trying to gather good ideas and information, so I asked something along the lines of “what were your favorite things to do when you were homeschooling young children?”

This woman, Chris (now a friend), recounted her fond memories of reading novels aloud at lunchtime with her children. “Of course, you have to stop to take a bite sometimes, but it’s a great way to fit story-reading into your busy days.”

The idea interested me. I had been reading at lunchtime with the girls when we had special outings to a museum or the “aquarium”:/news/2010/fun-at-the-shedd/. But this was mainly a tactic to prevent Mama (a fast eater) from nibbling on the girls’ lunches while they were finishing up. So, I gave up my habit of washing dishes while the girls ate their lunch at home and took up reading novels. This practice also had the added benefit of cutting down on silly behavior and “potty jokes”:/news/2011/potty-jokes/ at lunchtime and helping the girls actually focus on eating their food!

p{color:gray}. Photo: It’s not just at lunchtime that we read together. Here we are awaiting the start of a concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music. (Click photo to enlarge.)

This year, our lunchtime reading has included “_Mr. Popper’s Penguins_”:, “_The Story of Dr. Doolittle_”:, “_The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe_”:, “_The Boxcar Children_”:, “_Little House in the Big Woods_”:, and a few others. I think several of these have been a little beyond Rosie’s four-year-old listening level, but having something else to do (eating) while listening seemed to help her to concentrate on the story.

h2. Finding a homeschooling group

One of my hopes this year was to find a homeschooling group to connect with. Lucy and Rosie love spending time with friends, and I could tell that they would really benefit from meeting some other homeschooled kids their own age.

We were delighted to find “CUBS”:, a group of homeschoolers from the North Side of Chicago. We enjoyed participating in their ten-week cooperatively-taught “enrichment program” in early 2012, made lots of good friends, and benefited from having some more traditional classroom experience.

It’s been a gift for me to meet other homeschooling families and discuss curriculum options, educational philosophies, and creative ideas for school. I’m so glad we found this group!

h2. Year-by-year

Lots of people ask us, “How long do you plan to homeschool?” Right now, our answer is, “As long as it is enjoyable and beneficial for our family.” We’ll take things year-by-year.

Right now we’re all looking forward to another year of schooling together!

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