Yesterday marked the end of our second quarter for this 2016-2017 homeschool year. Half-way done feels like a huge accomplishment, especially since this school year is proving to be a bit more challenging than last year. Fourth grade curriculum kicks it up a notch, it seems, and in a way it feels like we were finally hitting our stride. But that’s okay — I’ll gladly welcome a little break for the next couple weeks.
One thing L. (10) and I like to do when we celebrate these little homeschool milestones is to talk about what’s going well, and what we’re doing right.
It would be far too easy for me to list the things I don’t do well or wish I had done better. I could talk for a very long time about how I start strong in August but quickly slack off to reprehensible levels of laziness. I could tell you about the weeks where I completely forget to grade his History test. And I could tell you about the time I fell asleep while he was reading to me. Yeah, that stuff’s easy to come up with.
But I think it’s important — for both of us — to celebrate the things that we are loving about our homeschool year. It reinforces our reasons for homeschooling, reminds us of all the fun we’ve had, and motivates us for the rest of our year.
Here are some of this year’s biggest hits…so far:
A Month of Radishes
As part of our Science curriculum this year, we completed the TOPS Science Radishes project kit. In essence, we spent a month growing radish sprouts under a variety of conditions. L. charted, drew, documented, hypothesized, observed, concluded, tasted, watered, and…learned. Seriously, we know more about radish sprouts and plants now than we thought a person could know.
The month was not without its challenges… namely, Chester and Charlie. Yeah. Every time they thought we weren’t looking, they attempted to eat the experiments. There was one experiment we had to abandon altogether because too many of the tender little sprouts were eaten by very bad felines. But despite the cats, this kit provided a great experience. We learned so much, in a very hands-on way.
Beast Academy is our supplemental math curriculum this year. Whenever we have a break from our regular math, we turn to Beast Academy for a few weeks, and L. loves it. The curriculum is split into a “Guide” that teaches the lessons, and a “Practice Book” which holds all the work. And it just so happens that the Guide is in comic book form and uses comic book monsters to teach the math. Fun, right? But also…hard! The topics in Beast Academy go a little deeper and stretch kids a little further than any other curriculum I’ve seen. In my opinion, it’s the perfect combination — super-fun and yet really challenging.
City of Ember
Just today, we finished reading The City of Ember, and I admit I was a little sad to wrap it up. We’ve been using a “traditional reading curriculum” most of the year — you know, read some pages, answer some comprehension questions, etc. And that’s going well. L. likes it and it covers things that need to be covered. But we found ourselves a couple weeks ahead in that curriculum, so decided to take a break and read something purely for fun. Okay, we did some comprehension work here too, but mostly, it was about diving into a great novel together.
Day after day, we curled up on the sofa at around 9:00 for our next chapter, and read together. It was an excellent way to end our first half of the year.
One Hour+ of Reading
L. is a good reader, and he likes to read. But…like many 10-year-olds, he likes screens a little more. And is easily distracted by a myriad of other things. So one of our “rules” this year is that L. has to read at least one hour per day outside of our official school work. We finish around 12:30 most days, so he has plenty of time to fit this reading in. As a bonus, I reward him with Book-It certificates each month he completes this reading (which translates into a free Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza — totally worth it, if you ask me).
I was surprised when L. mentioned this required reading as one of his favorite things about this year so far. I was sure it was because of the monthly pizza, but…no. He told me that if we didn’t have this rule in place, he wouldn’t have read so far in his favorite series (the Warriors books), so he was glad I make him do “all that reading.”
It can be easy for me to get a little crazy about checking all the boxes and doing all the “right things” when it comes to homeschooling and curriculum. But it’s important for me to remember that the things we enjoy — and learn from — the most are often those little extras that we work into our weeks. Looking forward to seeing what the next half of the year holds for us!