My #1 Lesson From This School Year

This was a great year of learning me, not just for my children, but for me.  The most important thing I learned?  Don’t be afraid of changing the way you do things.  In particular for me, don’t be afraid of using computer-based lessons if that’s what’s working.

I’ve never had a problem with letting them play a few educational computer games on occasion, but I had this ideal picture in my mind that involved math lessons with lots of manipulatives and rich read-aloud times with lots of hands-on projects for all our other core subjects.  That’s what our preschool years looked like, and I thought that was the best way to continue.

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So What Happened?

This year was the first year I’ve really tried to consider what things will be like when I’m trying to teach more than just Ian.  Elijah was still preschool-age, so I didn’t require anything from him, but he often expressed a desire to do some school work, so there were times I was trying to work through lessons with both of them, especially in math.  It got a bit overwhelming at times, trying to get through two complete math lessons as well as all our other subjects.

The ideal 1st grade year I had in mind for Ian morphed a LOT as the months passed.  Most of those changes were made in anticipation of Elijah joining us for Kindergarten next year (and then Arianna, Nicholas, and our newest little guy).  Others were made because Ian seemed to learn better when I strayed from my plans.

Whatever the reasons, most of those changes led us toward using the computer for lessons.  We still did a lot of read-alouds, but Ian just thrived when we switched his math over to computer-based programs.  He hates doing worksheets (which I’ve tried to use minimally as it was), yet he loves doing the exact same type of activities on the computer.

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Moving Forward from Here

Switching to the computer eliminated most of our battles over schoolwork, and it freed me up to spend more time with the little ones.  As I prayed about our next year, I decided to make a major shift in the way we approach school.  I’ve always thought I’d focus on the older children and let the little ones pick up things as they tagged along.  My plan for next year, however, is to focus on my preschooler.

In the mornings, I want to do preschool with Arianna the way I did it with Ian, focusing on Bible stories (looking forward to breaking out the old flannel board set) and children’s literature (probably a mix of Before Five in a Row and Five in a Row).  The boys can join us, either as helpers or learning right alongside her.  I also want to do Spanish with all of them, but I’m not yet sure what I’m going to use.

When we’ve finished preschool, Ian and Elijah will continue their school time by doing lessons on the computer:

  • Teaching Textbooks 3 for Ian, and CTC Math for Elijah (although it won’t surprise me if he wants to do Ian’s lessons as well, even though he’ll only be officially in Kindergarten)
  • Reading Eggs for spelling lessons and the more advanced Reading Eggspress for reading comprehension (Arianna recently started going through the main 120 Reading Eggs lessons, so I renewed the boys’ subscriptions while I could get a sibling discount even though they’ve completed that part of the program.)
  • Veritas Press self-paced history course on Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation for Ian to keep up with our history cycle.  (Elijah will most likely watch and tag along, so I think he’ll pick up plenty.)

Most of those can be done independently, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of time for tending the little ones and squeezing in an afternoon nap (especially once our new baby arrives around the beginning of September).  I also want to do a few literature selections to go along with the Veritas Press history course, as well as some science from God’s Design for Heaven and Earth, but those are going to be an extra, and I’m not going put a lot of pressure on myself to get through them, especially with a newborn.

I have to confess, this coming year is going to look a LOT different from what my ideal plan would have been a year ago, but I really feel like this is where the Lord has led us, and I’m learning to let go of my own plans to embrace what He puts before me.