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Over the past several months I’ve received several questions about how our first year of homeschool is going. I’m delighted to report that we are loving every second. I do, however, want to go into more detail about what I’ve decided to do for my 4-year-old and her preschool and sort of Kindergarten-ish year (as we are calling it). So if you are at all interested in hearing more about home education and seeing how it looks every day for us, then read on! I also included a 25 minute video at the end of this if you prefer that medium!
Our Homeschool Year in Review (2019-2020)
I suppose I should share my approach to education as a whole before I dive into what we are doing this year. My plan (after several months of extensive research) is to guide my children through their education using both Charlotte Mason’s methods and Classical methods. I wrote all about my homeschool research resources here, so you can read about that, but basically Charlotte Mason methods require a lot of reading living books together and a lot of time spent in nature, and a lot of playing. Classical methods are more traditional memorization of specific subjects and/or phrases as they relate to the material studied. You’d think that they’re complete opposites, but it is my experience, after our year thus far, that they can go hand-in-hand.
Therefore, the majority of our homeschool year is reading novels, picture books, and poetry! We’ve also done some Bible passage reading and memory work, but it’s very minimal and very bite-sized. Lastly, we’ve engaged in lots of project-based learning and time outside with friends (crucial when you homeschool). I broke down a little explanation of each program or resource we’re using. Overall, I’m keeping our year very relaxed, and PLAY-BASED! (This last part is very important to me!)
Morning Time (The Bulk of our Learning)
Our morning time is my favorite part of our day! But for us, morning time looks different each year. I wrote about what we did for early childhood morning time last year here, when my eldest child was three. Now it looks a little different! Click here to see what our current morning time looks like!
We are using Gentle + Classical Preschool (Level 2) for our main morning time resource. It honestly serves as a wonderful morning time companion because everything is pre-selected. GCP Level 2 is where we got the memory statement cards you see on the board below. They’re just little reminders on display of what we are doing for the week. We call the board our “memory statement board” (which I believe is a very classical-esque term).
Here is a brief overview of morning time below, but I talk more in depth about Gentle + Classical Preschool and our preschool morning time in this post. You definitely will want to READ THAT FIRST BEFORE READING THE REST OF THIS POST to see how Gentle + Classical Preschool really is the bulk of our homeschool day!
Did you read about our morning time? Good! Then you have an idea of what we do every morning. This only takes about an hour, and it’s honestly the bulk of what we do. If you’re wondering about our other resources, though, read on!
The easiest way to outline what we do is to share our weekly schedule. Here it is!
Monday: morning time, beauty loop – peaceful preschool project, go over new materials (poem, letter, sight words, etc.) for the week
Tuesday: morning time, beauty loop – picture study (art)/composer study (music) alternating weeks
Wednesday: morning time, beauty loop – nature study (science)
Thursday: morning time, beauty loop – poetry tea time (see photo below)
Friday: nature group with friends (we don’t do morning time on Friday’s)
Everything else is fluid. Meaning the time we do literacy and handwriting simply aren’t written in. I know it seems crazy, but since my daughter is not even five yet, I let her take the lead, and so far it’s been extremely successful. She will bring her Dash Into Reading book (they’re small early readers similar to BOB books) and ask me to read with her. She’s basically learned how to pre-read in 3-4 sessions and now we are working on fluency and comprehension. I’m amazed at how naturally she’s learning things because I let her decide at her own pace. Same goes for handwriting. I planned on waiting another year or two to start Handwriting Without Tears (you can see more about it below) in a year or two but she will have days where she wants to practice 4-5 letters (which means 4-5 lessons at once. Then we won’t pick it up for a week. Then she will grab it again, and say “I want to do some writing.” I leave these resources out in our homeschool room, and she really does show me when she’s ready to learn them.
I can’t say that this will always be how we do things. But for Preschool this year, and maybe Kindergarten next year, it’s worked so well for our family.
01. Our Main Curriculum:
Gentle + Classical Preschool Level TWO was my top choice for a core curriculum. It doesn’t have a comprehensive math/language arts component, but it’s WONDERFUL for a gentle, Charlotte Mason-inspired, morning time heavy program! I HIGHLY recommend it! I talk more about it in this video.
Art-Picture Study/Music-Composer Study (Tuesdays, during morning time beauty loop)
So Gentle + Classical Preschool Level 2 comes with a stellar art/music pack. It truly is a gem. Composer study has been one of our favorite aspects of morning time, and the same goes for picture study! For music we are generally using the Story of the Orchestra text (which tells all about different composers and musical instruments) so we will read about the composer, listen to the chosen song, and learn about our new instrument. G + C Preschool 2 also has these wonderful Montessori learning cards that we love. We studied three composers, and three artists this year (per the Charlotte Mason recommendation!)
For picture study, we follow the Charlotte Mason method. I show my daughter the picture and without saying anything, I let her talk about it freely. She talks about what she sees, what time of day it is, what colors are in it. Then we turn it over and she discusses what she remembers from the picture. After, we take out the Montessori cards we have for those, and she sorts them and we talk about how our new painting is different/alike compared to the other paintings by that artist.
For music I just play the song for that week by our composer for that term (the Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach, for example) so that my girls recognize it and are exposed to it! That’s it! It’s simple and fun, and allows them to share in the beauty of art and music. It’s been so wonderful to watch G enjoy fine art and classical music at such a young age. She thoroughly enjoys it!
02. Our Secondary Curriculums:
-The Peaceful Preschool Project-Based Learning
We are using The Peaceful Press’s The Peaceful Preschool as a supplementation to the Gentle Classical Preschool program. I really like that The Peaceful Preschool is project-based, Montessori-inspired, and gentle for young toddlers. The program as a whole is also easy to follow with minimal prep. I follow it loosely but find the book recommendations and projects to be very relevant. My girls both love the stories every week. I also really like that they offer both gross and fine motor activities and there are life-skills written into the curriculum. It’s a great curriculum for younger kids too. N (1.5) honestly relates more to the content that G (4). I’m glad I bought it though because I can use it with both girls, and we love doing the projects together. Their book recommendations are also amazing!
So, we actually aren’t doing a literacy program this year. We’ve dipped our toes into the Dash Into Reading phonics program, but I’m not really interested in starting formal reading lessons until G is 5 or 6. I’m going to let her take the reins and decide when she shows a major interest in learning how to read. We did however learn all of her letter names and letter sounds through two main games we play. The first is just a flashcard game we played at morning time, consistently. The second is a song I made up for learning letter sounds. Through these two very informal avenues, she’s learned all of her letter names and sounds. This is good enough for me for both preschool and kindergarten!
I feel the same way about formal math that I do formal literacy lessons. I think both subjects are essential as a child gets older, but in the early years, I focus more on play. We have, however, covered several different math concepts from the kindergarten math standards for our state simply by talking to each other. She counts to 100. She knows all of her 2D and 3D shapes, and she’s mastered 1:1 correspondence. She can also subitize numbers. Honestly, we’ve loved learning all of these concepts in very natural ways.
Note: I purchased the book, Preschool Math at Home, in the beginning of this year, as a guide to help me in my natural integration of math concepts but quickly found out that my 4.5 year old already learned the concepts just by being home with me. I was pleasantly surprised, and do plan to keep it and use it in a couple of years with my 20 month old. It does have some wonderful games for teaching necessary math skills to young kids!
Handwriting Without Tears came highly recommended by a few friends and I’m so glad we decided to get it. We are using the Kindergarten Level “Letters and Numbers For Me” book, and Gracie loves it. I wish I’d purchased a second workbook for her to practice in. The language they use to help children learn letter formation is incredible. It’s very easy to understand and remember. I also love the wooden pieces that you can purchase to help reinforce the letter formations. My 4.5 year old knows her letters but some of them she would write from the bottom up, etc, so I wanted to do a good program with her to help her practice forming them. This was an excellent choice, and as I mentioned above, we do this completely self-paced, so I don’t have it worked into our week. I leave the workbook out and she brings it over and asks to do it. When she asks, we work until she asks to stop. It’s been really good!
03. Nature Study
I am actually really loving our Nature study so much. We have one topic we focus on per week. For example, bumble bees or birds. We will usually try to read a living book about that topic and I occasionally read to her from our Nature Anatomy encyclopedia about whatever we are studying. Children find nature naturally fascinating, so we talk about it together a lot. After reading together, we go outside and go for a nature walk with that particular thing as our focus. I know this isn’t attainable for everyone. Sometimes we spend several hours outside with friends, and other days we barely make it to an hour (since it’s January, this is the norm, but we still make it out every day!) Either way, find a way to make nature study work! I promise it’s worth it! We then come inside and journal what we saw. The picture below is something my 4-year-old painted after we watched bees pollinating on a lavender bush in our neighborhood! The one below that is a simple sketch of a bird we saw on our nature walk!
Note: I wanted to use Gentle + Classical Nature exclusively, but we ended up not getting everything ready in time and I wanted to start simple. We use the memory statement cards and nature French cards from the Gentle + Classical Nature pack!
04. Piano Lessons
We are using the Keyndergarten Montessori Piano Lessons program! I highly recommend this for kiddos ages 3-4 and up! We love the engaging, hands-on Montessori-inspired lessons! G (4) has already learned so many key components of piano, and knows how to read the notes on the Treble clef! We will take this curriculum with us into our next year! Check them out if you’re interested in having your kiddo learn piano at home!
For anyone interested, this was the inexpensive keyboard that the creator of Keyndergarten recommended to us! I play piano, and don’t mind the semi-weighted keys 😉 It’s a great affordable option for a beginner!
05. Final Thoughts After Our First Year
Overall, I have to admit, I’ve fallen hard for homeschooling. I expected I would love the slow mornings, the read-alouds, and the spending every waking moment with my children. (Yes, I craved that.) But I what I didn’t expect was to grow so much as an individual. I’m soaking up so much as I learn alongside them, and it’s a total bonus to relearn what I never learned in public school or learn new and interesting things for the first time! I am also reading way more than I ever have, and it is so enjoyable! I also didn’t expect to see my daughter blossom the way she has simply by letting her be a child. She’s so much more comfortable outdoors than she was a year ago. We didn’t spend a lot of time outside before this past year, and it’s completely changed our family dynamic! She’s also in love with reading books and listening to us read. It’s helped expand her vocabulary in ways unimaginable. All we’ve done this year is simply lay out the feast for our two children to devour, and goodness they are delivering. It’s quite romantic to watch it all unfold!
Charlotte Mason says, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life…” and I truly feel we are able to carry that out in our home school. I’m ever so grateful.
WATCH THE VIDEO WHERE I EXPLAIN ALL THESE RESOURCES HERE:
LINKS I MENTIONED: (affiliate links)
Gentle Classical Preschool Level 2: https://shopgentleclassical.com/?ref=yooojfm87z_
Gentle Classical Nature: https://shopgentleclassical.com/?ref=yooojfm87z_
Meaningful Menu: https://shopmeaningfulmenus.com/
The Peaceful Preschool: https://www.thepeacefulpreschool.com/the-peaceful-preschool
Preschool Math at Home: https://amzn.to/2ZUzK0y
Handwriting Without Tears: https://amzn.to/3gBlUGn
Dash into Reading: https://dashintolearning.com/
Keyndergarten Montessori Piano Lessons: https://keyndergarten.com/
BOOKS: (affiliate links)
A Charlotte Mason Companion: https://amzn.to/3doOr00
For the Children’s Sake: https://amzn.to/3gBzE3S
Read Aloud Book of Bible Stories: https://amzn.to/2XKfXhJ
The Ology: https://amzn.to/3dumYcY
Nursery Rhymes Book: https://amzn.to/2Mbe74b
Poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson:
Classic Storybook Fables: https://amzn.to/2BczEqJ
Story of the Orchestra: https://amzn.to/2TUD5c7
The Artful Parent: https://amzn.to/2XO9tP3
Julia Rothman Nature Encyclopedias: https://amzn.to/2zKOswv
I hope this book about our homeschool preschool year was helpful to you! Thank you so much for reading!
Interested in homeschool? Read more about homeschool research resources in this post here.
Read about our simple morning time routine for young children here.