Friday, January 16, 2015

Homeschooling, Mixing It Up, and Montessori Enrichment

A Little of This, A Little of That.....

The Tree of Life work from Waseca is pretty to look at and is a good way for "Peel" to visualize the plant, animal and fungus kingdoms.
With my older kids in school and just one fifth grader and one Pre-K child home three days per week I feel like I'm finally getting into a good rhythm this school year.  Both homeschooled kids are out of the house two mornings per week, and I'm using a mixture of "canned" curriculum and Montessori for both.  It finally feels right, and I wanted to share our mixture in the hopes that it could help others out there struggling.

Whether you are struggling to balance your children's school work with their social life, or balance the time you wear your "teacher hat" with the time you wear all of your other hats, the perfect combination isn't easy to find.

I love it when siblings can share an activity!

Mixed Ages

Montessori classrooms are always comprised of children of mixed ages.  This works well for families who homeschool children of various ages, and it's very convenient when you must chauffeur your kids to outside activities.  For us, Tae Kwan Do and piano are "one stop shopping" for both girls, and many Montessori works we do at home can be done together.

5th Grade--"Peel"

Canned Curriculum:  Kolbe
Montessori Enrichment:  Animal and Plant Kingdom works, some Level 2 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd works, Math review and Grammar review
Co-op:  Math and English are done twice per week in the mornings
Music:  Weekly Suzuki violin and weekly piano
Physical Education:  Tae Kwan Do three times per week
Art:  Online, live art class for homeschoolers
Religion:  Weekly CCD class at our parish
Extracurriculars:  Weekly Jr. Legion of Mary group with children from local Catholic school and with homeschoolers
Other:  When our computer is working, a little Spanish (which is review for her) on CDs.  We dropped some Saturday classes for gifted students.  Though several were very good, our last was a total dud.

"Peel" can work very hard on her own, but after a few hours wants to do something different, whether it be go to the creek, play cards with kids her age, or do Mad Libs with a friend.  Staying home all day every day is not an option for her!  She also gets "blah" and sleepy if she's not moving.  In addition, she benefits from learning things in different ways, like through videos, songs or board games.

The co-op has a great teacher, nice kids and animals!

Mixing It Up

I recently bought some episodes of Horrible Histories on iTunes and spent $5 for all 40 episodes of Liberty's Kids on DVD, since they pertain to the history she's been studying this year (we already have the awesome Horrible Histories book set and my kids love it!).  This seems to improve the mood around here.  I also am trying the Kindle Free Time app on the new Kindle that Santa brought me.  While I hadn't ever heard of this child-friendly app, I'm so glad I decided to try it!  It's dramatically increased the amount of good, outside reading that Peel does.  I set her daily goal to 75 minutes of reading, and she's hit that goal almost every day since.  And these are not just junky books--these are good books, mostly classics, that I have wanted her to read.  For some reason the classics don't seem as boring and hum drum when they are on the Kindle!  Here's an article about that app.

Don't worry--the nerdy charts are only on the refrigerator temporarily.  We're not THAT nerdy!

In addition to these small changes, I've also ordered some expensive Montessori materials I've been wanting for a long time.  Waseca makes the yummiest products, and since Peel has had an enduring interest in animals, plants, fungi and dinosaurs/geology, I splurged on the Tree of Life, Plant Kingdom chart, and the Fungus Kingdom chart.  We've used them already and I hope to go back to them from time to time.

Finally, my husband has dusted off some of his board games that correspond to the subjects Peel is studying.  For instance, her study of the Civil War is coming up, so they've been playing Battle Cry.  There are 15 different battle scenarios that the players can work through.

As far as hobbies go, Peel got a book about sewing felt animals for her birthday, and she's doing that in her spare time.   She is also cooking dinner once per week or so, and has recently discovered a TV show called "Master Chef Jr." that has her even more excited about learning to cook.

As far as life skills go, Peel and her older sister are learning the fine art of cleaning the bathroom every Saturday morning.  Hurray for bushy-tailed New Year's Resolutions!


Canned Curriculum:  Pre-K two days per week at a Catholic parochial school
Montessori Enrichment:  Two to three days per week of Primary work and Level 1 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Music:  Weekly piano lessons and one music class per week in the Pre-K program
Physical Education:  Weekly Tae Kwan Do
Art:  Once per week in the Pre-K program
Religion:  Weekly afterschool Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program at a local Catholic school
Extracurriculars:  Weekly Jr. Legion of Mary group

Even though I run a small mother-child Atrium in my home each Friday, it's nice to get out and join another Atrium with school kids at an after school program once per week.  I learn a lot, too!
Alleluia's life is more streamlined and simple, with plenty of sleeping in and playing and just hanging out.  While there doesn't seem to be as much "mixing it up" with her schooling, she is still adjusting to being away from Mom two days per week and ever-so-slowly becoming more independent.

Alleluia still does 2-3 days of Montessori basics at home with me.
It's taken me a year and a half of homeschooling these two--with a lot of trial and error!--to find a good balance.  I hope some of you will find helpful ideas here.  Do you have any additional thoughts?  Things that have helped you find a good homeschooling balance?  Please share!


  1. Wow, I want to be in Peel's class! Love that beautiful tree of life and all the fun things to study.

  2. I wrote an article a while back on "Melting Montessori into the Mix." ...and there I recommended at least three years to get a good balance for working into Montessori education. In reality though it seems that each year of homeschooling brings it's own need for balance - with changing ages and interests of the kids, family circumstances, and whatever else life throws our way. I just found a great quote at Goodreads and I think you have inspired me for a new blog post ;) "A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski." Sounds like the perfect meme for homeschooling moms!

    1. Yes--that would make a great bumper sticker :) Thanks for sharing your thoughtful post on easing into Montessori. I could have benefited from reading that a while back! Ah well, I keep saying (based on all of the trial-and-error) I hope to make a very wise grandma some day! :)