Today was our first day of our new homeschool year!  It has been long-awaited, and greatly anticipated.  I was surprised, though, to discover how nervous I was over the weekend, as it dawned on me how this would be my most challenging year yet. 

JR is entering 1st grade, so he has a much fuller load than in the past.  This year, his subjects include arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling, language and grammar, poetry, history, science, music, and Bible–though not necessarily all in the same day.  With the exception of a few first-readers I like, his text curriculum is strictly Abeka.  We do Suzuki-method violin and Bible on our own.  

M is starting an abbreviated K-4, which will be a relatively short and easy school day for her, but it will be my first time schooling 2 kids.  She is using a basic skills workbook from Abeka, supplemented with some other little items I have collected over the last couple years.  Our main focus with her is working through “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.”  She is also officially taking violin now as well, and she joins us in our Bible, history and science classes.

In addition, I have the 2 toddlers to entertain during school hours.  Their day is divided into 15-30 minute increments to give them a change of scenery, change of play-mates, and change in toys, in the hopes of keeping them happy.  At times when I need to focus on JR, M is assigned to play with the babies.  At times when I focus on M, either JR plays with them, or they have “rug time”–a time where they are allowed to play quietly with any toy on a designated rug, but they cannot leave that rug.  When I am working with both JR and M, the toddlers sit at the table with us and play with some type of montessori activity or color.  At other times, they either play together in a safe area, or play alone to allow them to learn to be more independent. 

So, yeah, I was nervous.  Said quite a few extra prayers this weekend, and made sure to get up early and start my day with some good Bible reading and alone time with God!  Then, I straightened my room, cooked a favorite breakfast for the kids, and woke the kids to start their scheduled school day.

Despite the fact that I have re-done my daily schedule 3 times in preparation for this day, I learned there will definitely be a few more tweaks needed.  All in all, though, we had a good morning.  The only way to accomplish most of what we need to, is to stick to a good schedule as much as possible.  I have also found dividing the chores up and requiring the kids to help makes the day go smoother (whether it is a school day or not!).  I did a post recently on our home “operation center.” You can read more about it here.  I can’t seem to make a day run smoothly without it anymore! 

Organization is my next assistant.  For this house, I put a large bookshelf right in the dining room, so all our books and supplies are within easy reach of the table, where we do most of the work.

In addition to school text books, curriculums, writing and art supplies, and folders, this shelf also contains all our montessori-style activities.  At the same time they think they are playing, they are actually learning and improving fine motor skills. 

I keep frequently needed charts for our school day handy by hanging them on clips hooked to a ribbon on the wall.

Finally, as of this morning, I also moved our little desk into the dining room.  We use this for the seatwork, as the size is more appropriate for JR and M, allowing them to have better posture.  We previously tried the table, using boosters, sitting on books, pillows, knees, whatever, and they never seemed to sit properly.  This $15 yard sale find has proven very useful at solving those posture problems.  On the desk is a paper produced by our Abeka curriculum called a “slant guide.”  Another issue we encountered last year was in trying to teach JR to properly tilt his paper for writing.  He was always getting confused or forgetting to slant it, resulting in difficulties writing properly.  This year, we received the guide in his workbook, and it makes the tilting MUCH easier for him to understand and figure out.  Essentially, he just lays his paper over the top of the guide, and tilts it to match the line at the most comfortable height.  It worked beautifully this morning!

So I guess we are off and running with our 2010/2011 homeschool year!  I was so thankful that our curriculum starts off pretty easy, with minimal work in the first week, which will allow us to ease into it and work out the kinks as we go.  There will be a lot of review from last year for JR.  I also found myself glancing at the schedule every 15-30 minutes to keep me on track.  I only got off track once, when we decided our physical activity of the day was to bike to the park to play.  We got to having fun and time got away from us.  No biggie, though, as I also leave a bit of flexible free time in the schedule should something like that happen! 

At one point, while I was preparing lunch, the house actually got fairly quiet.   When I investigated, I found JR reading a book to M and A on the floor, and couldn’t resist capturing that moment on film!   Notice in the picture, JR is holding the book such that M and A can see the pictures, and he is reading it upside down.  I honestly don’t know how much he read, and how much he had memorized from our reading it in the past, but whatever the case, I hope to catch them in lots more of these moments!