Homeschool in Review: April 2024

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Homeschool In Review

April was a turn-around month. We quickly wrapped up our winter term, took a fleeting week off from lessons, celebrated a birthday, and jumped right into our summer term. Here’s how the month went.

For reference, I have three boys and we are using AmblesideOnline. At the end of the month I now have: Age 10 in Year 5, Term 2, Age 9 in Year 4, Term 1, and Age 6 in Year 1, Term 3.

My main concern with the end of a term is to finish strong. While I’m happy to let some things go (mostly repetetive things like copywork and math facts practice) as the term winds down, I do my best to keep us on track with math and readings, even as we start to get tired. This was time well spent, though, because the end of the term saw my middle guy ahead of schedule and my other two on track with their work – no small feat given that I had scheduled the term over ten weeks rather than our usual twelve.

What’s Worked Well

A few highlights of what we’re loving in our homeschool:

  • Working ahead at a very slow pace. My middle guy had a lot of books that stretched out over a whole year and I typically scheduled about half a page to a page more each week than we needed to cover. The consequence was that we reached the end of his schoolbooks for Y3 about two weeks before the end of term. With that extra time I got him started on his main literature reading for his first term of Y4: Robinson Crusoe. It was really nice to let him get started on this really challenging book before all of the other challenging new things in Year 4 began.
  • The Term of the Audio Book. As I looked ahead at this term, I started to get a little nervous. Judging by the length of the audio books, Crusoe would take about fifteen minutes of reading aloud a day, three days a week. Plus, my year 5 had asked for more readings together. Oliver Twist, his main literature reading, would take about thirty minutes, three to four days a week. I decided to ask both of the boys if we could listen to the audio together instead of me reading aloud. They both agreed and it’s gone brilliantly. We put the audio on over a speaker and I set a sleep timer for the appropriate amount of time. I sit and listen with them (sometimes quietly making lunch in our open plan kitchen). The boys both follow along with the text. I’m finding this really enjoyable!
  • Back to Shakespeare: Shakespeare got the ax last term (deliberately) due to our short term, but we’re back to it with The Comedy of Errors, this time with my new Y4 taking parts as well! I’m very excited! I already had a copy of the play, and I had copies of the text printed and hole punched from Folgers for the children.

What’s Not Worked Well

It’s really, really, really easy to give an impression that everything in homeschooling is wonderful, and I think it’s important to make it plain that I don’t get everything done, and that things don’t always run smoothly.

  • A One Week Break. Ugh. One week is just not enough time to get ready for a new term, especially when someone turns nine right in the middle of it. This often happens with the Easter holiday because we want to get the summer term started, but I need to remember this next year: leave more time, Amy! You need it!
  • French. We’ve been making good progress using videos from Alice Ayel, but we’ve worked through the first two levels and the third is just a little…boring for the kids, so I’m back to encouraging my husband to lead French lessons and it’s now been over a week since we’ve really spent time on it. Oh consistency!

Family Reading

Since we follow Ambleside Online with relatively few changes, I won’t share what my children are reading for school. Instead, here are some books we’ve enjoyed as family read alouds. The affiliate links take you to find a second hand copy.

  • Love Among the Chickens by Wodehouse. My husband read this one out loud to me. It was funny and sweet, even if I did fall asleep during parts of it (sorry, honey!)
  • Leave It to Psmith by Wodehouse. I recommended this as a family read aloud because I thought the boys would like the physical and situational humor. The jury is out on whether it is too early or not for Wodehouse – they definitely catch some of the funny bits but are missing some of the plot points.

Personal Reading

Things I’ve read to myself over the past month. I’ve been on a nonfiction kick.

  • Rethinking Positive Thinking by Gabriele Oettingen: This book felt a little too-good-to-be-true life hacky, but it’s very clear that there is an abundance of evidence for the premise: we need to balance daydreaming about achieving our goals with imagining obstacles to those goals and making a plan for them. I’ve tried her ideas a bit and their effectiveness is to be determined!
  • Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. This was mentioned on the AO Forum and I picked up a copy. I appreciate the reminders to move and I’ve been challenging myself to find more opportunities to move, from stretching while we listen to audio books to doing homeschool lessons on the floor of the living room.
  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I’ve read this before, but I noticed it on my shelf and picked it up again. In some ways this book feels ever so slightly dated, but the principles are sound and I’m reflecting on changes I can make to my tech use.
  • Hinds’ Feet in High Places: One bit of fiction from this month, I found this in a used bookshop and picked it up knowing that a lot of people in CM circles recommend it. A sort of Pilgrim’s Progress spin-off/fan fiction almost. I enjoyed reading the allegory and thought it was pretty clever, but I found myself wondering a little bit about what point the author was driving at in certain sections.

Let the Mother Go Out to Play

Charlotte Mason recommends that mothers just…relax a little sometimes. Get out of the house and away from the kids and not be in charge of anyone for a few minutes. Here’s how I had a bit of fun this month:

  • Nordic Walking in the Fells: Turns out Nordic Walking isn’t only for older people with dodgy knees. This intro day took place in a village on Ullswater (location of Wordsworth’s daffodils). It was so fun to get some exercise in a beautiful location and I’m now looking for more opportunities to get out with poles.
  • Emergency Party Planning. We had plan a train journey and a hike for my son’s birthday party, but when the trains didn’t cooperate we had to scramble to come up with another plan. I ‘volunteered’ to scout another walk, so I had a lovely six mile solo journey along the Lune Valley with a particularly great view of the Yorkshire Dales.

Coming Up in May

Three and a half weeks of school and then a half-term break. A week is usually enough at half term since I plan a term at a time and I just need to do a quick review and print a few things out. As the kids get older, though, these breaks are usually at the same time as sports activities and other events, so it probably won’t be all that restful! All the more reason to plan a good pace for the term!

A letter from me to you, every week.

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