Se7en + 1 Things I Learnt While HomeSchooling This Year…

A couple of you have asked for an end of school year review post… We aren’t quite finished our school year yet, two weeks away and I have that “Are we ever going to get there” feeling!!! So this is a bit of a nitty gritty post… school as it really is rather than writing from the depths of the rosy glasses of our summer vacation. And as we get closer to the end of the school year I start to think of all the things we haven’t quite finished, the fact that amidst the glorious days of school there were many days where our school performance was way less than promising!!! It is the time of year when I start to page through the kids school books and I think – Oh my word but how did this hand writing get so bad, or how did this child rush through so many pages of math… and as for school essays assigned – we have very relatively few to demonstrate a clear understanding of the literary process or actually any process!!!


But then I started to write this post and it was uplifting to say the least… we are homeschoolers and and a lot of our learning is less than conventional… my kids don’t write tests and they don’t ever give me anything that I actually mark… our school days are meandering rather than rigid. So at the end of the school year I cannot assess their school year in a conventional way either. I was feeling slightly disheartened at the lack of work we have to show for our efforts until I realized that we have all learnt so much this year that trying to contain it in a report would actually be slightly ludicrous!!!


So Here You go: Se7en +1 Lessons I Learnt in Homeschool this Year:

  1. We Need Rest: This year was the first year that I wasn’t pregnant or caring for a newborn in our homeschool!!! I thought everything would be so much easier and we would have so much time for “more” stuff – you know the eternal homeschool myth: “We must do more”… turns out when you know you are pregnant you plan extra rest time and you schedule things like reading on the couch a whole lot more – you have to!!! I quickly learnt that pregnant or not, we need a down time everyday and we need to take it, if we have finished our morning school or not!!! We need and hour or so after lunch when everyone just lies around with a book and rests… and that doesn’t mean me catching up on any reading aloud we haven’t done yet, it rather means me, of all people, taking a break!!!
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  3. A Little Bit Everyday is Really the Most Effective Way to Get Things Done: This year we conquered things we have never finished before. Mapping, arting, classical music and poetry have always lasted the first enthusiastic weeks of school and then fizzled… then we pick them up again and they fizzle, well fizzle no more we have discovered the secret of getting things done. It is better to just tackle a little bit everyday than follow a schedule that does things every two or three days – if it isn’t everyday we lose momentum and give up. For the first time ever we made it right through a lot of the books that previously we have only gotten half way through and then despaired. The secret really is: A little bit of art, a little bit of writing, a little bit of map work, a little bit of poetry – everyday!!! For the first time ever we conquered all those extra bits and pieces consistently throughout the year.
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  5. Take a Little Longer: The whole point of homeschooling is that you can take time with things and yet how often we rush… A great discovery for me this year was that certain things you just want to linger longer over. My agenda is not my kids agenda – at all!!! I really want to finish school by lunchtime and have the afternoons free – they do too… but that doesn’t mean they have to rush through the morning. My kids I discover take all morning to do school because they like it: they like being read to, they like puzzling things out, they like creating things. Where I always used to say “Let’s finish up…” turns out and by saying: “Let’s take our time…” Our work becomes so much better and it doesn’t actually take any longer. By lunchtime we finish anyway. If a project extends over into the next day – it doesn’t matter!!!
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  7. School is Just Part of Our Life: We started our school year late and so we worked straight through the year, without a week or two off every couple of weeks. We learnt to live along side our school and it was good. Normally we put things off until the school breaks and then work on he projects through our weeks off and then back into school… Well this year we learnt to tackle projects, that we wanted to do, alongside school… Turns out you can get so much done if you aren’t always waiting for things to be perfect. You can start a project and take three afternoons, or weeks in fact!!! Turns out if you know there are no looming breaks then you have to stay on top of the school chaos… put things away as you finish with them – because there are no weeks off to get things back under control!!! Not a bad lesson for me to learn!!!
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  9. Outings Are Not Essential to a Successful HomeSchool: I always felt that school outings were a bit of a gap in our school and this was the year we were going to do outings for school, I was so thrilled to have a plan!!! Turns out plans are made to be broken!!! Our car broke down and I thought that we would flail around without the well-planned outings!!! How wrong I was!!! We found so much to do at home. So much more time to enjoy the space we’re in without having to dash off somewhere. After ten years of living in our house we finally got to know our own neighborhood really well!!! And the walks down to the beach that always seemed impossible when we had a car suddenly became the norm. I could think of worse privileges than living on the doorstep of a fabulous beach and getting to wander down for a play after school.
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  11. We Will Never Do As Much School As “The Homeschool Joneses”: Somehow it seems as if “everyone else” is doing fantastic projects with their kids and in your own home we are just plodding along. There is NO “everyone else.” More than once while my kids were roaring around on the beach, building forts and wave jumping… there would be some more serious homeschoolers with clip boards and notebooks working on some sort of seaside project… I had to let it go!!! Remember when you see other homeschoolers out in the world you are seeing the best of them, all of us save our less than best for home… well turns out the best for us is building castles before the tide comes in and learning about wave action while body surfing. My kids won’t have a notebook page to demonstrate their knowledge, but the knowledge is embedded in their minds!!!
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  13. Life-Skills Take Time: There is no reason why my kids couldn’t run our house – if they were inspired to!!! This was the year they learnt to tackle household chores, cooking and gardening on a grand scale. But I had to take a time to schedule it in: Thursday afternoon became gardening day – there is no point in saying: “You need to trim the hedge,” and then always being too busy. This was the year that I discovered that I have a workforce!!! In an afternoon beds can be weeded, hedges trimmed, paths swept and the harder they work the more fun it is!!! Turns out a half-hearted effort produces a grumpy afternoon but to throw yourself into your work and to get totally carried away is the answer to contentment. Our garden is far from perfect, but we aren’t leaving it for nine weeks at a time and then spending a whole week trying to find it!!!


    And the Se7en + 1th Thing:

  14. It’s Not All Magic Moments: There are times when homeschooling is anything but magical!!! This is a hard one for me, I am optimistic and idealistic and put these two together and I can really make the best out of almost any situation. Turns out, my whole family is not like that!!! There have been days when we started timeously and then interruption after interruption has meant we have spent almost a whole day “not doing school…” Frustrating for sure, teaching me patience – oh yes!!! As I am rounding our year up and I look at our journals… while they have moments of great glory and even pages worthy of exhibiting… a lot. of it is not of the best calibre, and some pages are just atrocious!!! My kids have done it and for them that is enough. I have to say their journals are a true reflection of their personalities – “the gotta be finished first guy,” “the can’t turn the page till it’s perfect chap.”


There is so much more to a student than journal pages and workbooks I have to evaluate more broadly and say: “Did we learn this year?” And while it was not the most productive year for “works to display” I can say so many new skills have been learnt: so many heart lessons have been taught; my kids have learnt to serve and not just in the home; we spent hours and hours reading and reading together; and even more hours and hours outdoors; we may not have done many outings but we traveled across the country on a fabulous adventure instead. One of my goals was for everyone to get comfortable with art materials, caring for them and using them… and I have to say we conquered that one and our Art journals are fabulous – clearly we have eight artists in the making!!! Yes we have learnt a lot, we discovered a lot and we had fun doing it.

I thought it might be useful for you to see how we managed to keep up with all those extra subjects this year. I thought I would start a weekly series on how we fitted a little bit of map work everyday, a little artwork everyday, a little creative writing everyday, a little bit of mental math or word games everyday, a little bit of the great outdoors everyday… So if there is a topic you want to ask about then go ahead and ask in the comments and I will work our way through the list.

34 Replies to “Se7en + 1 Things I Learnt While HomeSchooling This Year…”

  1. hi!
    It sounds like you all did a lot of learning this year! I believe in a little bit of this and a little bit of that every day too.
    Two questions: on one picture I see one of your boys working on some kind of ‘Hyroglyphic’ art. Can you tell us more about that? It looks like something we would like to try.
    The next question: How do you incorporate Bible teaching into every day?
    Enjoy your weekend!
    Oh, another question: My grade 2 boy is an excellent reader. However, he only wants to read picture books. He will NOT pick up a book with more than 7 lines on a page. I ask him to start reading more chapter like books every now and then but he says: those are boring. How do I encourage him?

  2. Hi Wilemijn… The hieroglyphics that our son is working with are part of a kit, that all my kids have loved: “Fun with Hieroglyphs” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Catharine Roehrig)
    Of course I will add how we do Bible Study to our everyday school – that is a great idea, thank you…
    And lastly, be patient with your reader… he will move on eventually!!! I would give him lots of books with few words that get slightly harder – My one kid does not enjoy reading anything difficult but he pours over Dorling Kindersely Eyewitness books – you could give it a try… or leave him, he will get it!!! I have written a post on Se7en Sneaky Tactics to Help the Almost Reader. hopefully you will find some inspiration in it!!!
    Hope you have a fun weekend too!!!

  3. Aaah this was just the post I needed as I am trying to get school off the ground again after
    moving house and Christmas break. So easy to get stuck in the ‘I should be doing this and that’ and forget how much they are learning and what they ARE doing!
    Here is a question for you: How do you get all the Read-alouds done (lots are read by themselves, but some are too hard for them on their own)? At this stage I either get bookwork for everyone done or reading for everyone every day …. sigh.

  4. I would LOVE to hear about how you fit in all those extras… map work, art, music, outdoor time, etc. I’ve just finished up our first year of Sonlight, and although I loved a LOT of things about it, it’s a little out of our budget for this year. I read a lot of Charlotte Mason books in the past few months and I feel so inspired. She recommends many subjects and short lessons… sounds like what you’re kinda doing. With 4 home schoolers this year, I’ll be trying to figure out how to incorporate everything I’d like to be doing with them. Our own little 7+1 just arrived a week and a half ago (a little boy, Mathijs), so we are taking the rest of January as a little ‘holiday’ to enjoy his newness and get back into the swing of things again.
    ‘Love your blog. This was a great post.

  5. Hi Corli… You are missing a glorious day in Cape Town!!!! I discovered this year, really, that my kids will learn despite me!!! Read-a-loads… are dispersed through the day… nut really when you look at them it is a double page spread or a chapter each day in history, science and bible study… and then a chapter book… What I did for the chapter books: I used to read them throughout the day – one chapter at breakfast, another at lunch and so on… and we would progress through everyone’s literature books together. But this year I have found if I read a book until it is finished and I alternate through the kids we enjoy them better… so we read chunks of a book maybe four chapters a day… while we are doing stuff, after each meal… and finish a ten chapter book in two or three days… and then I go onto the grade 2 reader… a day or two later… the grade 4 reader and so on. I thought I had got quite behind and I would catch up in the Summer but I was going through the books we haven’t done yet this year and we have five to go – so easy enough to conquer in the next two weeks. Maybe I should write a post: A Week of Read-A-Louds!!! Lots of love to you – wishing for a playdate!!!

  6. Oh Christine – Welcome to the world of eight!!! So thrilled to hear of the safe arrival of your little guy – wonderful news!!! Enjoy every moment and take your time getting back into it, your kids are learning life lessons right now!!! Enjoy this special newborn time!!!

  7. Thanks Wendy, It was a indeed a great year and I think some of my kids are not that impressed that school is coming to an end!!! Hope you have a fun weekend!!!

  8. Just love the ‘realness’ of this post. This will be our first year of homeschooling and I’m excited but very nervous too. I would love for my guy to thrive and don’t want to stand in the way of his education. Do you belong to a homeschooling group where you go on outings etc? Would love to join and le my son meet other kids also homeschooled. I see there’s kayaking in muizenberg on tue? Sounds interesting.

  9. What a lovely post, and good things to remember. I keep telling myself, and anyone who will listen, ‘Long term view.’ It’ll all come together, but we may not see it right away.

    So did you do SL 5 this year? It’s the one year we’ve not managed to do, and I really regret it.

  10. Hi Carolyn, Hope you have a great year of homeschooling!!! We don’t actually belong to a homeschooling group, we already are a group!!! But I know there are quite a few active groups in the South Peninsula… there are some links towards the end of this post that should help you to find local a local group. Hope you have a fabulous day.

  11. Hi Mamalion, You are so right – often in the day to day we cannot see the Big Picture. My oldest daughter will be doing core 5 this year… and I am so looking forward to it – one of our absolute favorite cores!!! The history comes with an explorer log book to fill in and a project each week like: recipes or crafts… this is the core that my kids literally take off and no longer wait for me to be ready with school in the morning!!! Sorry you haven’t done it – the books are wonderful and it really is a worthwhile course!!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, hope you are having a great weekend!!!

  12. Oh, yea! You’ve started your school series! Thank you for this post. I will eagerly look forward to the next one. SL mapping is one thing I haven’t ever successfully done. I’d love to see a post including that little topic. One question… have you used either supplemental workbook for Winston Grammar Basic- Winston Word Works or Supplemental Practice or did you think there was enough practice in the regular workbook? I’m starting Winston with two dds on Monday. Thanks! Lillian

  13. Would love “a week of Read-Alouds post”!
    I wanted to say thanks for your response to my Read-Aloud question above. Just what I needed!

  14. Hi Lilian, I know you have been waiting for this!!! And you aren’t the first person to ask about mapping – it is top of the list!!! As for Winston Grammar, we haven’t used supplemental work… We work through these very slow and steadily. I decided that if they were doing the work books properly, rather than just rushing through them, that they really were quite enough sentences for mastering the art!!! ALl the best!!! Hope you have a great week!!!

  15. Thanks Jaqui, I guess when you are in there it is easy to forget what we are up to. Not to mention that the day to day very quickly adds up to weeks and then months of work!!! Thanks so much and I hope you have a great week!!!

  16. Corli, Consider it done, some time in the next few weeks I will cover read-a-louds with you!!! Hope you guys have a fabulous week!!!

  17. This post was just what I needed to read…this is our first year of Sonlight and though we are halfway through our “school” year, we are only up to week13 of our Core! I just finally decide to slow down and not worry about finishing”on time”. We are doing Core H and next plan to go back and do Core F (I think that used to be Core 5?). I am glad to hear there are so many projects and “goodies” to go with it!
    I would love to know how you do Art…where do you find your ideas and how much do you do every day? Art and music are two areas I would very much like to improve! Thanks!

  18. What a beautiful post… i’m going to come back and savor some of your quotes and wisdom!! Even though we don’t homeschool, I think your reflections and thoughts here apply to LIFE WITH KIDS. It’s not all magic… but there sure is a lot to cherish when we take the time to reflect! I love your SCHOOL IS JUST PART OF OUR LIFE… still applies to us—LEARNING is just part of our life! Thank you for sharing your learning, loving, faith and schooling here… the world is better place because of it! xoxoxoxoxo

  19. What a great post! Thank you for typing this up! I especially loved the part about doing bit by bit everyday; good advice.

    So you mentioned that not all moments are magical, so true. What do you do when attitudes or motivation (yours or theirs) seem to be down the drain so to speak?

    How do you press ahead in spite of yourselves?

    Thank you!

  20. Yes, it took a few years but it is a great feeling to no longer have to keep up with others (or your own) expectations of the perfect homeschool 🙂 There are however 2 interesting situations that we still fumbling around. The first is when to “teach” an older child a concept they battling with, when there are a number of little people need your attention at that exact moment. At the moment we are quickly trying to do it before dad goes to work but any other ideas would be useful. Secondly how do you handle read aloud content that is not age appropriate for younger ears. My 9 yr old is still desperate for me to finish Voyage of the Dawn Treader but my 5 yr old insists on listening – which means the 4yr olds listen too. Evenings don’t work as 9yr old first asleep and if I read during afternoon rest I’ll fall asleep 😉

  21. Hi Lauren, Well done on your first year of Homeschooling!!! The nice thing about homeschooling is that there is “no on time” – we normally finish school in December, but this year we slid over into January and really who cares!!!I would rather take a little longer and use the material we have properly than dash through it and leave some assignments half done. Meanwhile… Art and music are definitely on my list of topics to cover… Simply because this year was the first year – ever – that we managed to get through them consistently!!! Happy homeschooling!!! Hope you have a great week!!!

  22. Oh KM, What a lovely comment!!! Thank you, You have no idea how thrilled I am that a non-homeschooler enjoys our posts as well. You are so right a life with youngsters is indeed a life of learning!!! Hope you have a fun week!!!

  23. Hi April O… Such a good question and I have to say… 95% of the time it is my attitude that isn’t right. If I start the day enthusiastic and ready to learn I can guarantee lots of keen learners, but is I am distracted and trying to do one more thing on my laptop… or just reading a few tweets on my phone… attitudes can go south really fast. I have written a post on how to rescue a day on the brink of failure before, but I have found if I change something really fast… get busy if we have been lazing; relax if we have been working hard; get outdoors if we have been indoors and so on… just making a change, little change goes a long way to getting things back on track. Sometimes you have to just call it a day and assume everyone is too tired and settle down for a good veg!!! It is always easier to catch up something you missed, really quickly, when you are more motivated the next day!!! Thanks for asking, clearly I have thought about it a lot!!! Hope you have a great week!!!

  24. Hi Joanne… I am going to try and tackle your questions right here: firstly my older kids know that they need to wait for a good opportunity to learn and sometimes it just can’t be done then and there… they may have to work on something else first. My kids store up any questions for their personal school time or for when I am more available later. I do spend time each day with each kid checking their work and seeing what they have done for school that day. And as for reading things that I just want my older kids to hear… we have the same trouble with bed-time – all our kids go to bed at the same time. But I will keep the relevant book along side me and as soon as the little guys get busy with a project, game or whatever, then I will settle in with the older ones and read there and then. I have no problem plonking some play-do out for the younger crew in a shady spot and then reading to my older kids. And sometimes I just tell my younger kids to go and build me the highest tower or whatever. My kids have to know that there is one on one time with each of them and that they don’t have to do everything everyone else does… What about suggesting to your five yr old that he can choose something just for him to listen too and then don’t let anyone else in and then return the favor to the other kids – he may just go for it!!! Hope this helps, I am sure that you will come up with a solution!!! Have a great day!!!

  25. Great post – entering our 3rd year of homeschooling and loving Sonlight too.
    Journaling – can you tell me more? I see it in the LA, but I have a very reluctant writer, and so I just chose to ignore it rather than fight about one more thing. But I really would love for my kids to start making some notes on their History particularly to help it all sink in.
    What type of journal/notebook do your children use, and when do you expect it to be done etc, etc

  26. Hi Brigitte, We have a couple of journals going at a time… Some years we do a fat journal with everything in it and other years we do history, science and writing journals. I think there are a lot of ways tat a child can document there learning without actually writing… My grade 1 and 2 boys are not big writers but they are happy to illustrate what they learnt and I write a sentence or two for them. I do expect one or two “penmanship” assignments a week… but nothing major… It helps to have older kids because you can see “the future” and know that they will get it and naturally learn to write their own notes – it takes time but school is over years they don’t have to get everything in the first couple of years!!! I have written about journals before, and I could probably write a whole lot more!!! I hope this helps!!! Have a good weekend!!!

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