What Our Homeschool Day Looks Like (Sometimes)

There are a many things I am learning along the way as we grow in our homeschool journey. One of the biggest things I have learned is that our day does not always go as planned. And you know what? That is just fine.

I can say we are still trying to find our groove, but really I am learning that our groove might look different each day.

Some days we get Language Arts, History/Geography, Math, Bible and Read a Loud time done all in one chunk. (We are still struggling to find a way to work Science into our day.)

Then some days I find that we get through just a few subjects and the kids need a break.

Or I need a break. And further subjects are tabled until later in the day.

Or the evening….

As a matter of fact one day last week we saved our Read a Loud time until after dinner and baths.

They thought this was way too cool.

They thought it was a special treat to do school work while it was getting dark outside.

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They even bragged about it to our other homeschool friends a few days later.

Changing things up and doing what works best for us is one of the coolest things about homeschooling.

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And let me share something else that is really cool about homeschooling. Letting our kids be creative and express their artful ways.

While I was reading I asked them to work on their cutting skills. I gave each of them a sheet of construction paper and asked them to cut the sheet into many long strips. They did and I continued to read.

Once they had cut their paper into strips they decided to make something with their paper. They took their glue sticks out of their school boxes and made their creations. They LOVE to make things with paper and glue or paper and tape. I kept reading.

When they finished they were so excited to show me what they had made.

Nick took all of his strips of paper and created a person.

Luke had taken his blue paper and made raindrops.

Luke said to me, ‘Mommy, we’re artful!’

Artful they are indeed!

Looks like we’re all finding our groove.

Homeschool: A Peek Into Our Day Using Resources to Keep Hands Busy

I have shared with you that my boys need things to keep their hands busy while we homeschool.

Some Challenges We Face:

  • Nick is very thorough in his work. Luke is often waiting for him to finish so we can move on. This leads to whining and complaining.
  • During our read a loud times, they want something to do other than just listen.
  • Many times the baby (Matthew,3) comes to the table and wants to work with us which can sometimes be a distraction if he does not have something to do.
  • And sometimes Nick and Luke just want a break and want to do something completely different.

These might be some of the same issues you’re experiencing and let me show you some of the resources I have found.

If it works for me it might work for you. I also know some readers are interested in seeing what our day looks like.

Do a Dot Mazes

Each week we learn a new letter. When the twins went to Mother’s Day Out, they did these neat letter mazes and used BINGO type dabbers to mark the letter they were learning. Their teacher often found cool curriculum enrichment ideas from visiting homeschool blogs and browsing ideas on Pinterest, so I knew I could likely find somethings similar if I just searched online.

This method has a name. The BINGO dabbers are called Do a Dots and you can get them on Amazon and Ebay.

I found the Letter Mazes on a preschool blog as a free printables.   The author of the site has a maze for every letter of the alphabet and more. Score!

This is an awesome activity to add to our letter learning each week when the boys want to create something and keep their hands busy.

Laminated Place Mats

These laminated place mats from Ink Garden have come in very handy. The boys love to do their work on them and they protect my tablecloth. You can get them for free right now, you just pay for shipping.

They also give a nice writing surface when they are doing their school work and their own space, so to speak.

Used Educational Toys

When Garrett (13) was little I had tons of Discovery Toys. To say TONS is probably an understatement.

Along the way, pieces became broken and lost and over time I wanted to replace them, but being as affordable as possible.

Slowly I rebuilt our collection with used (and now vintage looking) Discovery Toys.

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You can find used educational toys on Ebay and Amazon all day long. You can also find some good deals over on Craigslist, Goodwill, thrift stores and at yard sales as well.

Toys like Bright Benders are perfect for fostering imagination and creativity. They are great for using in between curriculum activities.

Many of the Discovery Toys and other educational toys can be tied in with your curriculum as well. These are great to use when we do sorting and patterns, for example, which build math skills.

They are also great toys for the little ones who want to join in the homeschool fun.

Logic Games

I love games and activities that encourage logic, strategy and reasoning.

I was introduced to Tantrix a couple of years ago at our local Teacher Tools store. We have had a set for about three years and Garrett and Anthony used them and now Nick and Luke enjoy them.

You can also purchase them on Amazon.

This is a great game to play to not only build the skills I already stated, but also to just take a break or ease into starting the school day.

How to Organize Your Home for Successful Homeschooling

I recently found this video online and wanted to share it with you guys.

It gives lots of excellent information about homeschooling from the perspective of three moms who have been doing this for 15+ years.

The video covers:

  • hot to get organized
  • how to be practical and set priorities
  • how to make a plan for household tasks including meal planning pointers and laundry suggestions
  • tips for creating a homeschool plan and equipping yourself with necessary tools
  • suggestions for cutting the stress when homeschooling your kids

I hope you find it helpful. I know I like seeing how other families make homeschooling work.

Homeschool Curriculum: What We Are Learning Week 4 (A Look at Kindergarten History and Geography)

Last week a reader (Karen Bailey) left a comment wondering about our History and Geography homeschool lessons as we were studying Egypt, Greece and The Roman Empire. On the surface, or at first glance, this does seem like a lot for a kindergartener.

Karen’s comment said:

One question I have for you is how do your boys handle all the different topics that are covered in week and how much depth does the curriculum go into?

I was wondering how your boys were coping with things like ancient Rome and Greece etc. They just seem very young to be covering such a lot of work. You also said that homeschooling is taking 3- 5 hours per day, yet I have read that under 7 year olds only need about 2 hours of individual learning.

The best way for me to answer this is to show you guys. And I bet if Karen is wondering, others are wondering because I am certain the word Geography was not part of my vocabulary when I was six and in Kindergarten.

Great question, Karen!

Our Geography and History Lesson

As I’ve shared before there is a lot of reading in this curriculum. You can choose to leave it at that, but as I’ve also mentioned before, my boys are more hands on and want something to do.

For the most part there are two main books we use during our History/Geography lessons. These books are:  The Usborne Book of Living Long Ago and The Usborne Internet-Linked Children’s Encyclopedia.

The way the curriculum is scheduled, it tells us what to read each day. Generally it is 1-2 pages from the books listed above. This could take 10-20 minutes based on the degree of questions the children have. The way these books are laid out, you will see how the questions can lead to lots of elaborating about the topics. My boys have lots of questions and like to relate things to their lives.

Here are some pages about Ancient Rome.

The pages are broken up into sections with pictures and explanations.

Here the encyclopedia shows us what a Roman home looked like.

My boys love to look at what a family looked like then, they are amazed people had pets like cats and dogs and they dig into the beautiful illustrations.

We talk about the foods they ate, how they gathered their food, what a feast looked like then, the clothes they wore and how everyone worked together in their towns and communities.

Then, we have a large laminated map on one of our walls in our homeschool area. This is a map that came with the curriculum.

I outline and label (sloppy, I know) the area we are talking about.

Then we always reference back to Texas and the United States to see how far away the areas we are learning about are to travel to from where we live now.

(We learned about the seven continents the first week of school. One day we drove past a large crop field on our way out of town to visit my in-laws. Luke says from his seat, Look Dad, there is Africa. Even though it clearly was not Africa, I was so happy he was retaining the new words, knowledge and ideas he was learning about.)

The curriculum does share internet links so we can print off color sheets and get other activities and ideas to do with our lesson if we choose. My boys need and want this.

Here is a color sheet I printed for free that went with our Roman lesson. Luke colored his. Nick colored his and carefully cut it out. He wanted to use it to pretend he was in a Roman battle later. I just let them lead and utilize these things the way they wish and use their imagination.

Then, another day we made mosaic art. We learned from the encyclopedia that in Ancient Roman homes there were mosaic floors.

Initially I tried to find some mosaic templates online, but then I found myself on a wild goose chase. So, I just drew two suns and cut them out. Then, I cut colored construction paper into small squares and they went to town gluing their own mosaic  suns.

Depending on the amount of questions,  if we add a craft or a color sheet to the lesson, we spend about 20-30 minutes on History/Geography at a time. Some days the boys may be done with school work after doing  Bible, Math, Handwriting and Read-a-louds, so we may lump two days of History together later in the week. I honestly find that to be easier. Remember, we are still getting into a routine that works for us.

Some days we spend 3-4.5 hours doing school work. Some days they are done after just two hours.

Some days we will do a couple of hours in the morning and then a couple of hours in the afternoon. The boys seem to really like that, but I hate dragging school out like the.

Really, I let them lead but with my direction, if that makes sense. I can tell when it is time to wrap things up and just finish tomorrow.

While it seems a little fancy that we learned about Egypt, Greece and  The Roman Empire, it was brought down to their level and was not over saturated.

Homeschooling Week 4:

Memory Work: Matthew 7:12

Bible: The Patriarchs (Joseph and Job)

History: More on Ancient Rome (We will make Roman Bread Pudding using a recipe found in the Living Long Ago book. We might even have a Roman feast and eat with our hands.)

Geography: Italy; The Roman Empire; Israel; India

Letter of the Week: T t

Creative Expression: Recollection and Story Elaboration

Science: Because Science is the last subject on our list each day, the boys are done by the time we get to Science. And if it is not a hands on experiment they are not interested. Crazy, because they love Science.

While there are experiments that go with this curriculum, there is not an experiment each day, but there is reading each day.

I am considering 4 weeks of school work and then take a week off and only do Science. Still up in the air here. Maybe this will just work itself out?

Math: count pennies/choose larger and smaller/more left, right and middle/count 1-15/days of the week/1-9 tracing/ordinals first-seventh/complete patterns and sequence/ tell time 1:00 o’clock/ colors: orange, red, blue /shapes: rectangle, triangle

Homeschool Curriculum: What We Are Learning Week 3 (and Solutions for Hands-on Learners)

I am a checklist person- especially with our homeschool curriculum.

Each day we do not get each item done on the list for that day. I am learning to be ok with carry over.

My boys are still adjusting to all of the reading that is involved in the curriculum and in turn I have been on the hunt for some solutions that will keep their busy little hands moving. The Sonlight forums have been a lifesaver for asking questions and obtaining some ideas and solutions from moms who have experience under their belts.

Our day always starts with Bible. As you can see here, this is what a week of Bible reading looks like.

We read 2-4 pages each day from the Story Bible. There are pictures so that helps a bit.

I am reading this aloud to them, but still they want something to do with their hands.

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As I shared last week, there is a website that Sonlight references in a cd that came with my curriculum. The cd shares pointers and suggestions for each week and references websites for obtaining additional information.

I go to the easy to navigate website and find color sheets (with or without verbiage) that go with our Bible lesson. They enjoy the color sheets and the process helps them comprehend the content even more.

Here is Nick’s color page about Lot and Abraham.

With that said, they do want some other activities to do.

I have heard more than once, we have to color again?

For that reason, I am in the process of putting together a box of hands on activities that Nick and Luke can use during Bible, History and Geography, Science and other read aloud times. I am trying to use items we already have at home or things that I can inexpensively grab at Target or the dollar store.   One of the items in our box is Playdoh.

One way I have used the Playdoh during our Bible reading time is to have them create something that represents what I am reading or something we have recently read about from the Bible.

Nick made a cave to represent where Sarah, Isaac’s mom, was buried when she passed away at the age of 127.

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Luke created the Earth and the sun with his Playdoh. Our Bible readings give lots of detail about the moon and sun and day and night as the people travel by foot or camel.

(I ask them to use a paper plate when creating so we can keep the tablecloth clean. They don’t always keep it on the plate but for the most part they do. We reuse the plates over and over to cut down on waste.)

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Another thing we are struggling with is each child getting their work done at a different pace.

Nick is very neat and orderly about his work. He takes his time because he wants it done right.

Luke is fast and wants to be done first. He is eager for the next set of directions and seems to always be waiting. And waiting. And complaining that he is waiting and that the homeschool fireworks are not exploding in the air eagerly waiting to entertain him. In turn, his work is not always neat.

One solution we have come up with to encourage neat work, keep them motivated, and keep waiting hands busy is giving a stamp for good work.

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I have grape smelly ink that I bought a long time ago and a set of You Did It, Great Job, Neat Work, etc., stamps. I let them stamp their own work as we complete a page or a section and we have checked it to ensure it is correct.

In this case, I had to ask Luke to erase his sloppy work, as you can see. He doodles too, but I am ok with that. His father is the same way- a doodler. He does get tired of the repeated busy work like tracing the same numbers over and over again. Nick does too. So I use my judgement and when I see they obviously know how to write the number four, we stop tracing and writing over and over again. Because honestly, there is more tracing and writing tomorrow. They will get the chance to write the number four again and again.

Hope some of these suggestions help you as well and give you a nice glimpse into our homeschool day.

With that said, here is an overview of what we are learning this week.

Homeschooling Week 3:

Memory Work: Colossians 3:20

Bible: The Patriarchs (Abraham, Issac, Esau, Jacob, Rebekah and Sarah)

History: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome

Geography: Egypt, Greece, The Roman Empire

Letter of the Week: M m

Creative Expression: Imagination

Science: Earth/day and night/seasons/tadpoles and frogs

My boys love Science, but I am still searching for ways to keep them entertained with more hands on experiments. Pinterest to the rescue!

Math: tally marks/match tally marks to numbers/right, left, first and last, top and bottom/read a bar graph/1-5 tracing/count objects 1-15/ recognize pennies (front and back)/ colors: red,blue, yellow/shapes: star, square, triangle

Homeschool Curriculum: What We Are Learning Week 2

We have completed our first week of homeschooling. We’re still trying hard to find our groove, but I know it will come with time. The first two days we completed all of the tasks for each day. The curriculum is literature-based so there is a lot of reading and my kids want to do more with their hands, so I am trying hard to find some solutions. This week we are going to try saving all of the reading (read-a-louds, History reading and Science reading) for the couch. We will spend ‘table time’ doing Bible, Handwriting, Language Arts, Math  and any crafts and experiments.

By day three, four and five of last week they were screaming that they wanted to cut something (their words) and make something with their hands. Here is the great thing about homeschooling, we can customize it however we want. It is just a matter of me figuring out how we need to customize.So I am on a search for some hands-on activities I can work into some of the lessons.

I’ve started a Pinterest board with homeschool resources if you’re interested in following it. Most of what I have pinned are ideas from other Sonlight Core A bloggers.   I am hoping to find some hands on projects and crafts that line up with what we are learning.

I have also discovered why they call one of the handwriting programs Handwriting Without Tears. Handwriting for boys is dreadful. Unless it is their idea and they are doing it at their leisure. I think they may have boycotted me if I asked them to write the letter Ff one more time last week.

how to homeschool

Homeschooling Week 2:

Memory Work: Acts 16:31

Bible: The Patriarchs (Abraham, Issac and Jacob)

I have found a site with awesome Bible color sheets they can do while I am reading the Bible to them. There is also a site for Bible crafts that we can do with our lessons if we choose.

History: Ancient Civilization (Ancient Egypt)

Geography: Egypt

Letter of the Week: B b

Creative Expression: Write an Invitation (communication)

Science: Earth/day and night/seasons/tadpoles and frogs

At this point we are not ready to move on to the next week of Science. We still have three days worth of Science stuff to finish. Last week the other tasks from the other subjects just drained them. This week we will do some hands-on Science activities as the Science worksheets included in the curriculum seem to be a bit over their head right now and they want to use their hands.

Math: identify first, same and different/ trace and write 1-4 / circle the correct answer/ X the correct answer/work more on left and right/ work more on top, middle and bottom/ color: green, blue, yellow/shape: square, circle, triangle

Most of the math curriculum and all of the alphabet  they are very familiar with thanks to Mothers Day Out. It is just a matter of consistently reviewing it. One of my twins is struggling a bit with left and right, but we have some activities we are going to work on casually to make it less frustrating for him.

 

What does your homeschool week look like?

Home Makeover: Sprucing Up Our Homeschool Area with #GELighting

As you know we’ve started homeschooling our twins recently. Initially I wanted a schoolroom set up in our house using one of our extra bedrooms (the playroom). Chalkboard, desks, cubby areas for the kids to put their stuff, the alphabet stapled to the wall… you get the idea.

Then I realized, I need to make this as stress free as possible. Limit the chaos and additional check lists of things to do before we can start homeschooling.

I also have friends that homeschool and I follow a few homeschool blogs, and many people conduct school at the kitchen table.

Simply.

Stress free.

Our kitchen table (with bench seating) really sounded perfect. Afterall, it is recessed into a little nook in the kitchen giving it a space all of it’s own. But, there were a few things I wanted to address. The wallpaper and the lighting.

This is the only area in the entire house with wallpaper. (Do people still use this stuff?) Why have I never addressed this wallpaper issue before? (Because I eat bon bons all day long, right?)

I headed to Walmart and took a look at the lighting area. Our fixture above the kitchen table is pretty new. All we really needed were some new bulbs.

#gelighting

GE offers an Energy Smart Efficient Light Bulb.

You can get it in different sizes and wattages.

What I like about this bulb is the annual savings it brings (which is indicated right on the package) and the fact that the spirally bulb is on the inside. Did I also mention these bulbs last for 6 years. Wow! (Some last longer.)

You can buy them in groups like these.

#gelighting

You can also buy them as singles.

To see many of the other lights offered in this line, check out all of the photos from my shopping trip over on Google+.

#gelighting

So, we came home and tore down the UGLY wallpaper.

I mudded the walls and the ceiling.

Spruced up our window treatment a bit as well.

(I still need to paint. The never ending projects.)

We’ve put up a simple, magnetic, dry erase board to make some of the learning easier for my boys who are visual.

(I will take it down to paint.)

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I changed out the lighting above the table with the #GELighting Energy Smart Bulbs.

#gelighting

Goodbye old spiral bulbs. (Really, I just moved them to one of the ceiling fans for now.)

#gelighting

Hello Energy Smart.

#gelighting

Awesomeness.

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Nice, right?

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And I used the third one for the new lamp in the living room.

Yes, the lamp shade matches my tablecloth.

Have I not told you yellow is my FAVORITE color. Ever.

#gelighting

Spruce it up baby!

And my estimated savings by changing out 3 lights:

#gelighting

Do you have some home makeover projects your tackling? Is lighting one of them?

You can learn more about the GE Energy Efficient Lighting by watching this video:

You can also find more #GELighting information here:

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Biasâ„¢ Social Fabric® Community. This shop is part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Biasâ„¢ and GE.   (#CBias #SocialFabric  #GELighting) The opinions and thoughts in this post are 100% my own.

Homeschool Curriculum: What We Are Learning Week 1

We are starting our first week of homeschool for Nick and Luke using Sonlight Core A curriculum which is the equivalent of Kindergarten.

The core focuses on World Culture overall. We’ve decided to start now because our kids want to start now. There are 36 weeks of curriculum leaving 16 weeks of vacation time to spread out as we see fit. We will take time off for vacations and to have a break as needed. I am interested in doing year round school essentially as long as it works well for our boys.

Here is what we will learn this week. I decided to share this information on my site for a couple of reason:

  • I really wanted to peek inside someone’s life as they homeschooled when I was on the fence trying to decide if this is something I can do. To see what a typical day would be like was something I needed to relate to.
  • A way for our family and friends to see what we are learning and how the boys are progressing.
  • Maybe you are thinking about Sonlight and wondering what is covered in their curriculum. If so, this will paint a clear picture.

Homeschooling Week 1:

Memory Work: Romans 3:23

Bible: The Patriarchs (God created the Earth, Adam and Eve, etc.)

History: Ancient Civilization (dinosaurs)

Letter of the Week: F f

Creative Expression: Picture Book Narration

Science: Earth/day and night/seasons/tadpoles and frogs

Math: counting to 10/ top and bottom/ first, middle, last/left and right/same and different/color: green/shape: square

We are expecting each day to take about three hours and I am eager to see how things go. It will be interesting to see if Nick and Luke are as excited about school in a month from now as they are today.

Homeschool: We’ve Chosen Our Curriculum

If you follow Crystal & Co., over on Facebook you know I have been on the fence for a while about homeschooling. My husband has been pretty adamant about our three youngest children being homeschooled. Remember, we are a blended family. Our two older boys (currently 5th and 7th grade) have always been in public school. While being very involved parents in their education there are many aspects of public school that we are not pleased with. Nonetheless, for our two oldest boys there are other parents’ opinions that need to be taken into consideration in order for homeschool to be an option for them and we respect that.

Friday was Box Day at our house. I am finding this to be the common term used on homeschool forums and threads. Box Day is fun and full of anticipation.

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If you had asked me ten years ago if homeschooling would ever been in my future the answer would have hands down been absolutely not.

By the time the twins were two years old my husband started vocalizing more and more his desire for our kids to be homeschooled. I thought he was crazy. The thought of being 100% responsible for the education of our children terrified me. Teach them to read? Teach them Algebra? Afterall, I do not have a teaching degree.

As the years have passed his desire for homeschool has steadily increased and while I agreed with all of his reasons that homeschooling would be a better choice for our kids, I was completely terrified to make the commitment.   This is a huge under taking. I asked for one more year of the twins attending Mother’s Day Out for me to research our options. Even though they were 5 years old, I knew an extra year would give them more time to mature a bit and give me some time to really sort this out. And the MDO program they attended was structured and very educational, they were not playing all day- they were learning.

After many discussions with my husband, prayer, talking to my friends who homeschool, reaching out to new friends who homeschool, looking into enrichment programs and co-op programs, attending fairs and such, the answers finally came together.

We attended a Homeschool Book Fair here in the DFW area and made our way through close to 100 booths. I could touch and read through all of my options. See it in person. I put my hands on a curriculum that I instantly felt comfortable with. It just felt right. I was confident. I can do this. I spent a good 15 minutes in the booth interviewing a family who actively uses the program.

I left with their catalog and spent all of last weekend online reading everything I could about the company, their curriculum, my options, etc. I was ready. This will work for our family!

The curriculum we chose is Sonlight. One of my very close friends, who I’ve known since we were 11 years old, used Sonlight at one point in her homeschool routine. I remember seeing it close to five years ago at her house, but at that time it  overwhelmed me.

One of my sweet blogging friends, Kelli from 3 Boys and a Dog, mentioned recently that she used Sonlight for her older boy when she homeschooled him. She felt it was very straight forward and they had a successful school year using it.

Why Sonlight is a Good Fit For my Family: 

The Sonlight curriculum  comes with a well-organized, 36 week lesson plan. There will be no extra planning for me at all (unless I want to). The plan prompts me with research information, questions to ask, suggestions for explaining each lesson, etc.

You can download samples to see for yourself if this is a program you want to learn more about.

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Bible studies are included in the curriculum. It is a core subject which was very important to me and something they do not get in public school.

The curriculum is literature-based. I want my children to have a love for reading and understand the importance of reading in everyday life. That does not mean I will be forcing my boys to read- I am not going to pressure them to be a championship reader; however, I will give them the resources needed as they find their love for reading on their own timetable. I am excited for the one on one read aloud time we will have with this program.

All of these books came with our curriculum.

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The program came with everything I need. Consumables, all the read a loud books, everything for experiments, manipulatives. etc. We can begin homeschooling this very moment and have everything we need.

For example, this is what the student workbook for Math looks like (Horizons):

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Here is the teacher version that outlines the objectives, activities to do, teaching tips and the answers to the questions on the worksheets.

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Here is the box of maniplutives we will use during the school year while teaching Kindergarten Math:

Horizons math

The handwriting is Handwriting Without Tears. While my twins have a great handwriting foundation already, thanks to Mother’s Day Out, I am still excited to use this program.

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And even handwriting is hands on. You use wooden pieces (that are provided) to create the letters with your hands. This is perfect for boys who love to build!

handwriting without tears

And there are worksheets, but not overload. This worksheet is covered over the week as you explore the letter.

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And the same goes for Science, which is a subject my boys LOVE! During the Mother’s Day Out school year we actually did an extra Science class on Monday’s so the boys could enjoy experiments which make them very happy.

With Sonlight, there are Science worksheets (one for the week).

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We will use the included encyclopedia to explore the subject further.

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Then there are experiments which my boys cannot wait to do! And everything we need is included.

The subjects covered with the core are: Bible, History/Geography, Language Arts, Reading, Math and Science. That is a full day! You can add electives like music and art but we are going to keep it very basic as we start off and get our feet wet.

We are getting our space ready and getting geared up to go. The curriculum has been spread out all over my kitchen table since Friday as I familiarize myself with all of the contents. I am trying to walk my way through what a typical day will look like so I can realistically identify a schedule and baseline understanding.

I am so exited to share this journey with you guys and would also love to know if you homeschool. Has it been the best choice for you and why? Are you searching for curriculum and completely stressed out? If so, I can relate.

 

Sonlight Curriculum