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Tomorrow is the day I have kind of dreaded for the last three months. August 26th. The day Ezra shoulda woulda coulda be going back to public school to start 3rd grade. I expected this day to hit me hard with panic: like HOLY CRAP WHAT HAVE WE DONE?!?!
Instead, my heart is full of PEACE and EXCITEMENT and ALL THE HAPPY FEELS!
We are doing this. We are really doing this!!!
We started homeschooling 3rd grade on June 1st and schooling through the summer was one of the best decisions I EVER made.
The Benefits of Summer Homeschooling
It really helped me to see Ezra’s weak spots (writing, handwriting, possibly even math) and his strengths (language arts, spelling, insatiable love for science).
It helped me look over a few curriculum that I decided against and helped me find the curriculum that I now LOVE and am so excited to already be using.
It gave me a chance to organize, arrange, rearrange, and rearrange again our homeschool space. It gave me a chance to set up Pinterest boards for both of our kiddos for me to collect ideas. It gave me a chance to spend hours developing a massive database of living books for supplementing ALL subjects. It gave me a chance to get the supplies we needed to get started.
It gave me time to work out a good lesson plan format (after creating it then tweaking it five million times), a time-tracking system, and a record-keeping system that works for ME and my type-A brain.
The summer made me realize how great my kids are. It also made me realize how ill-suited Ezra’s conditions are for the public school environment. I honestly have no idea how he survived as long as he did and did as well as he did.
The summer gave me a chance to see how much my boys love being together and how good they are together. It also helped me see the existing problems, triggers, and struggles in their sibling relationship and how to best help them both.
It gave me time and space to really reconnect with both my boys, but Ezra especially, in ways I had been unable to for years.
That said, the last month has been super-duper incredibly hard.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
We have hit some big bumps in the road, once again related to meds. If you are new here, our Ezra has ADHD, SPD, anxiety, and a mood disorder. We utilize medication as one part of his treatment regimen, which has been successful until this calendar year. It seemed like nothing was working, and we have tried about 6 new medications this calendar year alone. We have finally settled on extended-release dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) for the morning. In June, we started using the short-release Focalin for the afternoon as well. What we are realizing now is that this is not working. The Focalin works WONDERS in the morning – better than anything else we have tried – but if we give it in the afternoon it causes meltdowns and sleep disturbances. TRUE all-nighters. Not-going-to-sleep-until-5-am all nighters. It’s been brutal. We are all exhausted. So now we are back to Focalin in the AM and lunch, but Ritalin in the afternoon and evening, and it’s all very complicated. Every night I put him to bed and just hold my breath hoping he will sleep. The meltdowns have also been so difficult for us to manage. It’s just been hard.
The Whacky Schedule That Is Our Life Right Now
I’ll be dead honest here: two days ago I lost my crap on EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY and ended up sobbing about how nothing is working and I can’t figure out a schedule that works for all of us and that I don’t know what to do or how to cope.
Then I got a shower, had a cup of tea, took my anxiety meds and a Benadryl, and trucked on.
August 26 marks a change in our potential scheduling because the YMCA “big kid” room that has childcare for Ezra’s age group shuts down when the kids go back to school – obviously. We can still attend the Y for Little Brother (and we will), but Ezra has to hang out with me during this time. We’ve done a few trial runs to see how that goes, with mostly positive results. But we will have to experiment with this some more.
Basically, Ezra’s ability to focus well and regulate his emotions is constantly in flux. So what he is capable of at 10AM he may be completely unable to do at 4PM. I guess it keeps life interesting.
These were completed 2 days apart at different times of day. This picture illustrates the variations in his capabilities:
We use the Zones of Regulation to codify where Ezra is at any point of the day:
Ezra’s day looks pretty much like this:
This means that we have three “windows” of optimal learning time. While we are still attempting to figure out 1) medication and 2) the best schedule for ALL of us, what has worked best is something like this:
7-9ish: Wakeup, Breakfast, & Chores
9ish – 10:30 AM: Morning Lessons
(Penmanship, Language Arts, & Math)
10:30 AM – 1PM: Out of the House & Lunch
(YMCA, nature Walks, trips to the library, walks around the neighborhood)
1PM – 3PM: Afternoon Lessons
(History & science living books, science & Bible lessons with LB, history & science screen time)
3PM – 6:30 PM: Free Time
Play Time with LB, Afternoon Chores, Exercise or Park with Daddy, Family Screen Time, Dinner, Shower
6:30 PM – 7:30 PM: “Bedtime School”
Bedtime Math, Life of Fred Math, history & science living books, social skills books, Indescribable Devotional
8:00 PM: Bedtime
Obviously, this is great in theory and rarely goes exactly like this, but it’s the overall structure that is working best for now.
Our 3rd Grade Curriculum Picks
As I have spent the summer really assessing where Ezra is right now in all subjects, I have come across some gaps. He’s very smart and reading at probably a 5th grade level, but there have been enough things I’ve noticed that I haven’t felt comfortable pushing him into new territory yet. As I looked at MANY 3rd grade curriculum options, nothing really seemed right until I found Masterbooks – and even then, I felt like things below his grade level were more appropriate for him, especially given his handwriting skills.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this needs to be a “catch up” year, so we are doing a really intensive and comprehensive review of K, 1st, and 2nd grade where appropriate and easing into 3rd grade. I would LOVE to be AT grade level (4th) at the beginning of September next year (2020). I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. Plan be would be to get him almost caught up and then have to combine a bit of 3rd grade material with 4th grade and do that in one year, caught up by 5th grade (2021). I constantly have to remind myself that WE ARE LEARNING and the pace isn’t as important as mastery.
Below is everything I HOPE to get through between now and September of next year (2020):
(feel free to skip this section and click here to scroll to the conclusion)
We are using Confessions of a Homeschooler Road Trip USA as a VERY loose framework for United States history. Basically we are using the coloring sheets and the states order of her curriculum (which I got for free a few years ago) and using living books and documentaries to teach the historical concepts (landmarks and historical events). We are also using this as a supplement for science, using living books to teach about things like state plants and animals. This is the most work-intensive part of homeschooling for me so far as it involves researching each state ahead of time and mapping out what books we need to get from the library.
“My Story and the World Around Me is a lower elementary social studies course that introduces students to history, politics, sociology, economics, and geography, while providing an understanding of God’s world and the cultures of the countries. Level 1 begins with children in their homes, helping them think about their lives from their immediate families and beyond, as well as learning about local governments. Equivalent to a first grade level. Level 2 continues with a journey around the world, and lays a foundation for understanding state and federal governments, basic economic principles, and more. Equivalent to a second grade level.”
The Good and the Beautiful: Language Arts Course Set Level 2, which contains
- Phonics, Reading, & Spelling
- Literature & Writing
- Grammar & Punctuation
- Art Appreciation & Geography
“Bring language arts to life through our Charlotte Mason inspired Language Lessons for a Living Education 3! This curriculum incorporates picture study, memorization, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, observation, poems, psalms, letters, and practical application through creative writing – all working towards the mastery of reading and grammar, as well as the mechanics of communication and writing. Equivalent to a third grade level.”
A Reason for Spelling Levels A, B, and C (Grades 1-3):
“A Reason For Spelling® comprehensive 1st-6th grade curriculum combines the latest research on how children learn to spell, with all the strengths of traditional programs. Lessons teach high frequency base words, plus hundreds of other word forms. Weekly Scripture values-based stories set the theme and help make spelling FUN!”
“A Reason for Handwriting® complete K-6th Handwriting Curriculum: it’s a fact that when children enjoy their lessons, learning is greatly enhanced and retention greatly increased. A Reason For Handwriting® provides a fun, meaningful approach to developing handwriting skills.
Every weekly lesson in A Reason For Handwriting® is built around one carefully-selected Scripture verse. Verses are chosen not only for proper letter combinations, but also inspirational content. And when children spend the week working on a specific verse, that Scripture becomes locked in their memories for a lifetime!”
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 2 (Grade 2):
“Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 2 teaches math concepts through engaging, real-life stories and practical application because math is all around us in daily life! This story-based approach encourages your student to participate in the story, make mathematical connections, explore the world around them with Charlie & Charlotte, and learn how they can put math to work in their own lives!
In Level 2, your student joins Charlie and Charlotte for continuing adventures & learning opportunities! Together they’ll learn about numbers, place value, addition & subtraction, seasons, and geography while also developing important character traits as they expand their math skills to solve real-life problems!
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 3 (Grade 3):
In Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 3 students learn math concepts such as column addition & subtraction, multiplication, division, and Roman numerals through exciting, real-world stories. As your student explores the world around them with Charlie & Charlotte, they discover how math is related to everyday life in exciting—and sometimes unexpected ways!
The Verbal Math Lesson: Step-by-Step Math Without Pencil or Paper – we are about halfway done with Book 1, I’d also like to get through Book 2:
We are using this especially for times when Ezra cannot sit still and do math at a table. We often do a “problem for exercise” approach when doing verbal math where I let him answer a question and then give him something fun to do to get the wiggles out. This is definitely a YELLOW ZONE curriculum!
“Everyone thinks kids hate math. But the truth is, kids don’t hate math—they hate worksheets! Writing down equations takes fine motor skills that young children haven’t yet developed, making the process of learning math difficult and tedious. Math done mentally, or verbal math, makes math fun. Children see math problems as a game and a challenge. In the second edition of this pioneering educational bestseller, handwriting is removed from math problems to help children cement fundamental mathematical skills so that they may solve problems without having to do any writing at all. Developed as a supplement to traditional math education, the lesson is completely comprehensive, step-by-step, and leaves no area undone.
The first book of the series introduces children to the basic concept of adding and subtracting, and works its way up to math problems involving numbers with double digits. The first book is meant for children between the ages of 5 and 7. The second book of the series is meant for children between the ages of 7 and 8. The third book of the series is meant for children between the ages of 8 and 10. “
Life of Fred: I know that some people recommend this as a whole curriculum, but I just don’t see how anyone can justify this series taking the place of a typical curriculum. We breezed through Apples in less than a month. We are using this a fun-math during bedtime school, along with the Bedtime Math series – we are almost finished with one book out of the three.
Science is what made me fall in love with Masterbooks in the first place. Even last night, I shifted things around (again) and bought yet another book, but I feel this is a good approach:
“Young learners discover Creation with 13 integrated, fun-filled lessons! Each 10-page set of instructions include math, English, science, art, spelling, and physical activities.
Designed for first to fourth graders, bonus activities are also included for older and younger students so families can learn together. Web site links enhance and expand the scope of each Creation day lesson, while key Bible verses link creation-themed concepts to the imaginative and fun activities.”
We are using this in tandem with a companion curriculum for LB, called God Made the World in Me: Thirteen 6-in-1 Comprehensive Curriculum Lessons:
“It’s never too early to start building an appreciation and understanding of our Creator, the Bible, and basic learning skills. Developed by a professional with 30 years’ experience in early childhood education, this creation preschool curriculum is a wonderful opportunity to start building a solid faith foundation while children learn about the world around them with lessons children will enthusiastically enjoy. Thirteen comprehensive curriculum lessons combine science, art, physical activities, Bible memorization, and songs, as well as activity suggestions for younger and older students!”
“Captivate your preschool student with the most amazing events in the Bible as they learn foundational skills in this activity-based preschool program! Biblical Beginnings for Preschoolers teaches 3 – 5 year olds the alphabet, colors, numbers, shapes, opposites, Biblical history, and science through exciting storybooks, coloring pages, crafts, and activities!”
Also in tandem with the above, Ezra will be working through Adventures in Creation: Level 1, which also goes through a comprehensive teaching of science using the days of Creation:
“This science series, designed for students in grades K-3, will bring the Bible to life and instill a love for science through exploration, investigations, and Biblically inspired stories. Students will discover that science is a wonderful tool God has given us to study His creation and learn more about His nature as they ask questions and experience God’s world through science.”
After we are done with the creation-themed approach to science (and possibly ALSO in tandem, I haven’t quite decided), we are using God’s Design for Life: For Beginners.
Finally, we try to end a few nights per week with Indescribable: 100 Devotions for Kids About God and Science.
Obviously this is a LOT of curriculum for one year, which has been a steep initial investment; but I believe it will pay off in the long run. But, Ezra is NOT sitting at a desk for hours at a time. Because of the way that we structure our days, we are doing approximately 2.5 hours of “school” per day (not including “free reading” time which does include some of our history and science living books), 7 days a week. He gets a LOT of breaks!
Have I mentioned how much we LOVE Masterbooks?
Masterbooks has copywork, a Charlotte-Mason inspired approach, and a Scriptural basis throughout every book they produce. Most lessons take 15-30 minutes. Rarely longer than that. I feel like this was exactly what I had in mind for us when we made the decision to homeschool.
There will be a TON of overlap in our books this first year.
But this is our goal: making absolutely sure that Ezra has a good handle on the basics:
- Correct letter formation and handwriting skills
- Traditional math and critical thinking skills
- Oral narration skills
- The foundations of faith in God, Creation, and the Bible.
Other mamas in my town – many of whom are my dear friends – are sending their babies back to school tomorrow. I am thrilled for them. But I am thrilled for me too. I feel relief knowing that we have made the right decision. I feel determination and purpose now that I have spent the last 2.5 months ironing out of a lot of kinks and finding out what will work and what won’t.
If you think of us, especially over the next few months, please pray for me to have strength and patience. It is NOT easy and I’m so exhausted from the work we have already put into this endeavor. I’m also working 5 hours a week (which may possibly increase soon), and I’m taking the last 6 credits of my associates degree this fall. I have too much on my plate, I know! But I’m taking it one day – one hour – at a time!