a new school year.

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Here in South Carolina, most schools don’t start back until after the solar eclipse on August 21, but we officially began the new school year yesterday. We’re traveling this month and next month, so I wanted to give us a little bit of a buffer to get in our full 180 days.

I take that back — I wanted to give us a huge buffer. We finished last year at the end of April, and I had every intention of starting us back at the beginning of July. Or earlier. I just adore those school-year-round, the-world-is-our-education homeschoolers. I want to be them. But I’m not.

Wait, this sounds familiar. Haven’t I told you this before?

Yep. Okay, please remind me of this in the future: we’re just a traditional school-year kind of family. We like to have a real summer and hang out with our friends who are off school. Also our swim practices change from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and it throws off a school routine.

All of that to say, here we are!

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If you’re still in planning mode, a word to the wise: please give yourself a good chunk of time alone to plan out your year (or semester), either in a quiet house, or at the library. David offered me that, but I was disorganized and ended up squeezing all my planning into the cracks. It was so stressful.

The above photo is what happened when I spread out my books and planner at the table this weekend: Amie, Gabe, and Noah instantly had their own “planning” to do. Amie want to make her own calendar and needed lots of input. The boys want to try out the new glue and markers and create ninjas and bad guys, and give me a play-by-play of their battle scene.

I love my kids. They really are the best. They’re creative and motivated and funny.

But trying to make a plan for our year in the midst of this happy cacophony made me want to pull my hair out.

So I file that away for next year.

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In the state of South Carolina, I need to document what we do for school each week, so this year I bought the Debra Bell homeschool planner (left) for 20 bucks. I’ll let you know what I think. The main perk in my eyes is that it allows space for multiple children’s study schedules and curriculum. Right now, that makes it a winner.

I mentioned this before, but I just don’t prefer to do any homeschool planning in my bullet journal, although some people love it.

In celebration of the new year, I also bought myself A Gracious Space, by Julie Bogart, which is full of very brief daily readings for the homeschool parent. There’s a volume for each season, and it’s so inspiring.

And finally, I’m attempting to follow Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours for personal prayer. She use and consolidates The Book of Common Prayer into brief daily readings (also in four volumes). It’s mostly Scripture, and I realized that when my head’s swirling with tasks and school and people to care for, I need a guide for prayer. It’s a comfort, and I plan to use it as a reset throughout my day.

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Can you believe this is my fifth year of homeschooling? I just don’t feel that old. I have an almost-ten-year-old!

The biggest change for us this year was deciding not to be apart of Classical Conversations anymore.

That was a huge decision for me, kind of a roller coaster, and my apologies to David for all the obsessing and reading aloud of pros/cons lists. CC served us well for four years, and then suddenly, it stopped serving us. This past year it felt like it was a burden, instead of a help. Isn’t it funny how seasons of life change and things you once loved suddenly cease to be the right fit?

Frankly, I became bored with the curriculum, but it took so much time that I couldn’t pursue the things I really wanted to do with my kids.

I am such a by-the-book, Type-A person, that I was truly terrified to quit CC. It was my security blanket; it ensured my kids were getting an education. I didn’t realize how much fear and insecurity would surface inside me giving it up.

I’m homeschooling on my own now. What if I fail?

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Well, I’ll never know until I try, will I?

And deep in my heart, I really, really want to try.

We’re using mostly Sonlight curriculum this year: I purchased one core (D: American History, Part 1) for Judah’s grade: it covers our History/Bible/Geography/Literature and Poetry. I also bought the Science core.

I plan to modify it for all the kids, and use past Sonlight books I’ve purchased for the younger boys.

I just can’t speak highly enough of their curriculum. I’ve used the read-alouds for years and they’re almost always guaranteed winners.

I’d like to say here that the four years of Classical Conversations memory work we did are already serving us well, just a week into our school year. The kids know when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas, they know the animal kingdoms and classifications. So I do love the CC program and am thankful for how it’s helped us. Now it’s time to dive a bit deeper.

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This year will be a challenge because I’m teaching three legitimate grades (I’m very laid back with kindergarten): fourth grade, third grade, and first grade. We have a diagnosed learning disorder this year (Dysgraphia). A friend from church is working with us to make some modifications for that.

But.

There are so many things I’m excited about. Here are a few:

1. We’re kind of easing back into our subjects over the next two weeks, but thus far every curriculum change I’ve made has felt right. After studying U.S. History one morning, Judah said, “This is going to be my favorite school year ever!” I’ll give more specific reviews later about the different books we’ve chosen, but it just feels so good to have my kids excited about school.

Does that mean they love every subject? No. But I want to have enough inspiring material in there to keep them engaged with learning.

2. David’s dad, Steve, will be doing weekly Science experiments with the three oldest kids that correspond to our Biology curriculum. This week they planted radish seeds and are returning to check on them and make drawings of the progress. Has their own father planted radishes in our garden and shown them? Yes. But everything’s cooler when Grandpa is the teacher.

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3. I’ve been studying Charlotte Mason’s educational methods this summer through podcasts and Wild + Free, and asking my CM friends lots of questions. We’ll begin doing narration and artist study as part of our school week. My parents are in the process of moving, but once they get settled, we’ll resume nature watercolor with my mom.

4. The kids were terribly disappointed back in April when I told them we wouldn’t be continuing with Classical Conversations. Mostly, it’s because they love the social aspect, and I get that. Also, it was familiar. But the field trip and book club group we were also apart of last year is expanding into a twice-monthly homeschool co-op (and includes some of their CC friends). I’m really excited to have more time to be involved in it and I know the kids are going to enjoy it.

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5. Finally, it just feels really good to be back in our routine.

I had so many grand plans for our summer. I accomplished very few of them. I don’t use my time well without structure. Also: I was tired. It’s funny, I’ll probably get way more accomplished with the healthy pressure of a school year than with all the free time I had during the break.

Homeschooling is definitely a challenge, but gathering around the table this week, laughing about our new Latin vocabulary songs, drawing pictures of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, reading about Llamas in the Andes Mountains, reminds me why I do this: at the end of the day, we just really enjoy learning together.

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