All over Facebook I’m seeing posts about everybody heading back to work and school after the holiday break and I thought it would be the perfect time for me to give y’all a little update on our homeschooling and show you the progress I’ve made in our multipurpose room. When I last shared the multipurpose room it looked quite different. After having moved last May and making the decision to homeschool it took us a few months not only to adjust to our new (smaller) home but to figure out the best way to make that bonus room area functional for our family. This room serves so many functions in the house-not only is it our homeschool classroom but also my office, a rec room, and my workout area. How to make all of those things work in one room was a big challenge (plus I wanted it to look decent as well!)
The last time I showed the room we had part of our old sectional crammed into the space but we’ve since moved that up to the living room and moved some other pieces down to the area. (You can see the living room with the sectional in my Christmas Home Tour.) I divided the room up with various workstations in order to keep my three boys from interfering with each other during our school time. My vintage midcentury map desk is the primary work station for my oldest son. Nestled in the corner next to his desk is a little reading nook with floor cushions and a reading chair. The chair and IKEA table next to it conceal my workout gear underneath so I can easily pull out my yoga mat or weights when I need them!
The loveseat here used to be in the upstairs family room (see it here) but when we moved the sectional upstairs the couch from the living room relocated there and this loveseat was the perfect fit to come downstairs. We do a lot of reading and one on one instruction on this little loveseat!
The other side of the room is still a work in progress-along with homeschooling comes lots of “stuff” and I’m still working on more attractive storage options in this tight space. An old dining table serves as another work area and also has our desktop computer and you can see our American flag for saying the pledge each day before we start our work. I also have this gorgeous sign from Barn Owl Primitives to remind the boys to work hard (very aptly above their handwriting reminder sheet-they are both working on handwriting remediation and it can be quite a challenge!)
The bookcase holding about twenty tons of supplies is the workhorse of the room-and it’s on my list for a makeover as soon as I can get motivated to get that sucker emptied and reorganized! Right now it holds our curriculum (more on that later) and my scrapbooking, office and craft supplies. Our big roll out map and my Silhouette vinyl are hanging out in that little basket-yet another thing I’d prefer different storage for but haven’t found a better option just yet.
My desk is opposite the boy’s computer table and serves as another work area if I need all three working at the same time. Please believe me when I tell you that it rarely ever looks like that-it usually has a variety of notebooks, craft projects, and my laptop on it…I cleared it off for you. You’re welcome.
Our old buffet turned media stand houses a TV that we use for Netflix (there are so many great learning shows on there!) and I use it for my workout videos. I usually have this white board out here for our reading and spelling lessons. Off beyond the TV in the hallway leading upstairs are two IKEA Expedit units stacked on each other that serve for more book storage and I keep some Montessori-inspired activities for my three year old displayed and rotated out for him to play with while I work with the older boys. We added some command hooks on the end as well for jackets (the garage door is just across the hall.) Our library bag finds it’s home here as well-we make weekly trips and all love going to the library-this bag earns it’s keep!
As for how the homeschooling is actually going, I won’t lie-it was a bit of a rough adjustment. I had always wanted to homeschool but we decided on a small charter school for our older two boys when they started school. When we moved to the Washington DC area this past May I intended to enroll them in public school but did not get a warm and fuzzy from the school. After a lot of conversation with my husband we agreed that I would homeschool the boys while we are at this duty station-probably two years. Because I’m not sure we will homeschool long term I spent a lot of time in the beginning researching what the boys needed to learn to stay at or above grade level. I also went through my share of bad curriculum choices and had the age old struggle with letting something that wasn’t working go due to the fact that I had paid for it. So here’s what we’ve settled on for this school year and it’s working wonderfully:
Handwriting Without Tears
Both of my boys had horrible handwriting and I knew I had to do something about it. I could actually look at my older son’s schoolwork from Kindergarten through Second grade and see it get progressively worse as more and more writing was expected at school. His old 2nd grade teacher (whom I loved to death) had recommended cursive for him last year so we started the Handwriting without Tears 3rd grade program over the summer and he absolutely loves it. The cursive allows him to write much faster and more legibly than print. Yay! For my 1st grader the curriculum has made a slower but still noticeable difference in his handwriting as well. I had used the preK workbooks with my boys when they were in preschool and I plan on using the program with my three year old next year as well. I highly recommend it!
Math was one area where I definitely chose the wrong curriculum at first. I first bought Math Mammoth because it was very affordable and you print the worksheets at home but my boys hated it. I ended up tossing it and going back to Singapore Math, which I again had used with my oldest when he was in preschool (he is gifted in math.) The Singapore Math books are colorful with lots of pictures and are just so darn logical in the way they explain things and encourage mental math that I can’t imagine using anything else at this point. My boys excelled as soon as we made the switch. For my oldest I actually decided to start him in the 2nd half of 2nd grade at his own pace due to some concepts Singapore covers in 2nd grade being different than things he had learned at his old school. It only took him about 6 weeks to breeze through it as a sort of review and we’re now trucking on through the 3rd grade level. My 1st grader is also loving math now whereas he used to hate it. I let the boys’ performance guide how fast or slow we take different topics-that is a huge benefit for me to homeschooling!
All About Spelling
At the beginning of our school year I tried to do spelling as my son had done in “regular” school-with a list of words to memorize each week and a test on Friday. Did. Not. Work. Finally, after a lot of research I found this amazing curriculum called All About Spelling that teaches the actual fundamental rules of spelling in the English lesson. I started both of my sons on level one (they don’t correlate directly to grade level) and had my older son move at a faster level so he’s actually working through level two now while my younger son is about halfway finished with level 1. I love that this curriculum is very easy for me-it’s scripted so I just open the manual and read the lesson. It also has a lot of hands on components (like the tiles on our white board in the pictures above.) I have even learned a lot from teaching it-there are a lot of spelling rules I didn’t know existed but make so much sense once I read them!
All About Reading
I was hesitant to order this curriculum because it was on the pricey side but I was having a hard time getting my younger son’s reading to progress and the curriculum I was using-Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading-was not working for us. Because of how well my son was doing with All About Spelling I went ahead and took the plunge on All About Reading and am very happy that I did. He’s progressing so well now and like the spelling program, it’s easy to use, totally scripted with fun activities and lots of hands on learning. He actually picks up books to read for pleasure now which is a HUGE step from where he was. Well worth the money!
Real Science 4 Kids
My background is in science and both of my boys love it so I was very picky about choosing a science curriculum. I had a copy of Real Science 4 Kids Biology from a second hand book store and love that it teaches actual scientific facts without dumbing it down. We did the biology book over the summer and have been doing the chemistry lessons this fall. This isn’t an every day or even every week item for our schoolwork but we do it when we have time and move through it pretty quickly. Both of my sons can use the same book so that’s a bonus as well!
I had purchased the Bookshark American History curriculum over the summer but I found it a little advanced and dry for my boys. Instead I’m using it as a rough guide and teaching history through living books and field trips. We’ve learned about the explorers and visited Jamestown to get hands on experiences the settlers might have had. We read about our first president then drove to Mount Vernon to see his home. After we studied the War of 1812 I took the boys to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to see the real Star Spangled Banner. I love history and so far my boys do too-and it serves us well to take full advantage of living in our nation’s capital by learning American history right now!
So that’s it for our formal curriculum. My two younger boys are in speech therapy so that is another thing we regularly work at and we also do a lot of nature study. My oldest son also does a very cool online course called Tynker that teaches the fundamentals of computer programming-he’s loving it and the platform is very fun for him. I love seeing his creations!
Well, I’ve officially beat my longest post ever record, I hope I didn’t bore you! I’ll be back tomorrow with a nice comfort food recipe for you-one of my favorites!