Shelli reviews a beginner’s Chinese curriculum that’s working well for her 6th and 3rd grader.
OK, I’m a little late with my winter homeschool update, but that is actually metaphorically sound. This winter has been a challenging homeschool season. I’ve been spoiled for most of our homeschool life by having a super-flexible work schedule and a partner whose schedule allows him to work from home most of the time, too. Now that Jason’s running an actual school, there are days when I have to get up and get dressed and get everyone out of the house before my second cup of coffee kicks in, and it has been an adjustment. These are the seasons when I am glad we homeschool year-round—otherwise, I’d be stressing about whether we were actually doing enough work.
Other than scheduling, this has actually been a lovely season of homeschooling. I was nervous about our first year of homeschooling high school (I might have mentioned it a few times), but now that we’re well into it, I think it’s one of the most satisfying years of homeschooling we’ve had so far. With earlier grades, we’re interested in “what does this mean?” and “why does it matter?” — totally valid, interesting questions. But I love that high school pushes us to also ask “what does that tell us about the world we live in?” and “how does that connect to what else we know?” The hardest part has been Japanese, which my daughter was passionate about studying but which no one in our family has any real knowledge of. I’ll talk more about it in my end-of-the-year wrap-up, but we ended up hiring a tutor and using a combination of GENKI I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese and Japanese from Zero for texts. This was good for me: I can’t do it all, and I couldn’t do this. But I don’t have to do it all. It’s a useful reminder. (And our tutor is awesome.)
Having two kids is great because it keeps me from getting overconfident—whatever works with one of them is almost absolutely guaranteed NOT to work with the other one. This year, it’s language arts. Suzanne and I were talking about it on the podcast, but my daughter would write just because she loved writing — she used to play school and write essays for each of the different students, grade them, and have the students revise them. (Gunther, I recall, did only the most slapdash revisions.) My son, on the other hand, would happily embrace any reason not to write. (Recent reasons have included: “This pencil is itchy” and “The lines on the paper distract me.”) We’ve fallen into an uneasy but tentatively effective program, combining Patricia’s brilliant dictation method (I could not homeschool without it) and comic book pages (which he seems to have more patience with), and I’m trying to just take it one day at a time.
This is maybe a superfluous thing, but it’s been so great I want to mention it: For Hanukkah this year, my mom bought the kids bungee chairs. They are awkwardly shaped and look a little silly, but holy cow, these chairs are little miracle workers. My bouncy, can’t-sit-still son can read in one for long stretches of time and my daughter likes bobbing up and down while she’s doing math. Who knew chairs could make such a difference?
What about you? What was your winter homeschool like?
AMY SHARONY is the founder and editor-in-chief of home | school | life magazine. She's a pretty nice person until someone starts pluralizing things with apostrophes, but then all bets are off.