At Home with the Editors: January Rewind

I love winter homeschooling. Maybe crisp, chilly days just make us want to hunker down with books and ideas, maybe it’s just that everything seems to go down better with hot chocolate and cuddles, but I think we do our best homeschool work in January and February. Here’s some of what’s been happening with our everyday homeschool this winter.

My son has gotten hooked on living books. I don’t know if I would call my son a reluctant reader, but he’s a reader who’s reluctant to admit that he reads. I am firmly parked in the don’t-push-early-reading camp, so while reading aloud is a huge part of our homeschool, I never started any direct reading instruction with my now-8-year-old. So you can imagine my surprise, when last year, with no effort on my part at all, he just started reading actual books, with no fanfare. “Oh, I read that,” he’d say casually, and that was it. But getting him to actually make the leap from “I can read” to “I want to read” has been challenging—and tough for me, as a reading-obsessed person who lucked into an older child who shares my reading obsession. This winter, though, we discovered that historical fiction is his sweet spot, and we’ve been digging into a reading exploration of Native American history. We’ve read Sees Behind Trees, Children of the Longhouse, and The Birchbark House together.

We are practicing taking notes. My daughter starts high school next year, and though she plans to continue homeschooling (hooray), I feel like it’s smart to start working on some of the skills she’d need in a more traditional learning environment—specifically, taking notes. We’ve been practicing with her taking notes during our history and science lessons and also during documentaries. (I take notes, too, and we compare our notes to see how they differ from each other.) I suggested some ideas, like going back to reread her notes the next day to highlight important terms and add any updates or missing information, and she’s come up with some of her own strategies, like adding a column down the right hand side to note important dates. It’s pretty different from our usual homeschool methods, but it seems to be going well, and I think good note-taking is a skill worth developing.

Help me figure out science! Speaking of high school planning, I am completely stressing out over high school science. Where are the great, hands-on, lots-of-labs secular science curricula? We love Pandia Press’s science books and The Story of Science (and we have used Elemental Science, which had pros and cons but the layout drove me nuts, especially the fonts, which I know is a me-thing), but what do we use next? Is a good co-op our only option? I’d love to hear your ideas if you have them.

Some books we’ve enjoyed lately that haven’t shown up on the blog in other places: The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones, which I hadn’t read since my own childhood but which I sold my kids on as a great adventure story, which it is, but oh, the end is so sad—good sad, but sad; The Portable Dorothy Parker because my daughter has started writing reviews for our homeschool group’s lit mag and no one writes better reviews than Dorothy Parker—I dare you to read her review of The House at Pooh Corner (“It is that word ‘hummy,’ my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader Fwowed up.”) without cracking up, even if you, like me, love Pooh et al; and Eric Shanower’s just really wonderful graphic novel versions of the Oz books, which we seem to circle back to every few years.

So those are some big pieces of learning in our homeschool life class lately. What’s happening with you?