October now, and we’re really finding a comfortable homeschooling groove. Katie and I are both adjusting to our new morning routine, and we’re finding more and more ways to include Eric (age 2) with preschool work. Eric’s spoken vocabulary has begun to skyrocket, and I feel as though I am starting to observe deep learning in both of them this year.

It helps that Katie loves to learn and loves her schoolbooks. Our amazingly fantastic ES Mrs. G recently ordered Katie two new ELA/phonics-based texts that are more appropriate for Katie’s reading level. We’re now using the Explode the Code series, which we ADORE. Highly modern and also methodical, these particular texts are much more suited to the state standards, the “I Can” goals for Kindergarten, and Katie’s personal readiness. We’re huge fans of Explode the Code. In fact, Katie is so thrilled about her two new books (which we got last week) that she pulls them out for fun, even on the weekend, without my prompting. In the first book, she has worked on her own to page 45 (out of 96 pages). These books are meant to last all year, but I can see that we’ll be moving on fairly soon. Although she came into Kindergarten reading several sight words and short words, her reading is really beginning to roll now. She picked up a chapter book of ours the other day and was flipping through it while I changed her bedding. “Mama, what does ‘informed’ mean?” She also loves to read her explorers book on her own, and I was stunned this week to hear her pronounce “newfound” among other words. She is now at the point where she is reading words that I really have no reason to believe she could read…except I know how many thousands of hours we read from birth onward and how hard she has worked at her phonics even prior to this year.

In math, Katie is on Chapter 8 out of twelve. We began the year on Chapter 5, since everything that came before is material we’ve been covering for years. My plan is to take our time through Chapter 8 this next month and to solidify and challenge her number sense. She is able to use her problem solving ability to work quickly through tasks, but her father and I want some of that to become more innate for her. We spent some time talking about the number line up to 20 in Chapter 7, and how to estimate whether a number is closer to 10 or 20. She can always figure that out, but we want her to become more automatic at feeling this. Once we make it through the math text, we’ll spend the rest of the year bolstering her addition and time-telling skills (broached in Chapter 12 though we began work on these tasks last year) using supplemental material we already own.

The great part about her (largely) self-directed (now) pacing is that I am not ever worried that we’re behind. At the start of the year, it felt like we would always be playing catch-up, but once the diagnostics showed where she is really at, I calmed way down. I have faith in us, as well as evidence that all of our teaching/learning last year has paid off. We can keep doing what we’ve always been doing, and it actually works. Whereas I doubted myself at the start of our year and wondered if my preschool teaching would hold up, I can see now that our hard work in her early years has paid off. Sigh of relief. I guess I can teach, after all. Bill and my parents are always reminding me not ever to doubt myself, but I would hardly be myself if I didn’t question my skill set at every conceivable turn 😉  Last Friday, she loved previewing her science work so much that she finished everything (except one page) that we were supposed to do this week. That gives us time to play around with my ideas for lessons, and to incorporate seasonal activities, projects, and learning. We now have time for my fun leaf unit (Eric can join us, too) and my pumpkin unit.

We rave to no end about our Five in a Row core for Language Arts. We study one book for two weeks, and do  several interdisciplinary activities (on top of the other curricula for each discipline) for every book. This week we are reading A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno, illustrated by Kazue Mizumura. Of the seventeen books in our FIAR collection, we happen to have already owned and read (many times) several of them….and Red Clogs happens to be one of those. So we’re extremely familiar with it. That means that we can start going deep with it quickly. This week we’ve been studying all about Japan, learned some Japanese words, and we’ve had discussions about how the artist’s use of color unifies themes in the book. We discovered that the use of color also emphasizes the story’s structure as a reminiscence. Katie also learned about skeletal armature this week, found examples, discussed how the illustrator used them, and made some of her own. She wrote a short composition and illustrated it. This, among many other choices and tasks. The FIAR program is exactly how I tend to think and plan as a teacher, and I find it as fun as Katie does.

For a fun field trip we went to have lunch this afternoon at Shogun, a Japanese restaurant in Temecula. We chose the teppanyaki experience there, and the kiddos were enthralled.


At Shogun. We talked about the use of red in the decor, and Katie connected that to what she knows about the Japanese flag.



Umbrellas in the drinks! Yes! I used to LOOOOOOVE those to no end when I was a kid.



Guess who likes clear onion and tofu soup? This boy!



My mom came along with us, and we loved having her there to share in the experience. Great part about homeschooling? Family all the time…and being able to make memories with them as we’re learning. Love makes learning stick.



Trying out chopsticks (albeit with little connectors to keep them in place)!



In awe as the chef cooks tableside.






Earlier this week: Katie gave her brother an impromptu lesson on the globe. Eric added “Japan” and “China” to his spoken vocab. Katie was overheard saying, “This is India. Repeat after me.” Another reason I love homeschooling? The opportunity for my kiddos to learn from one another during the school day.



On October 1st we decorated the house for Halloween and paid no attention to the triple digit weather outdoors. It’s autumn, and we’re going forward. We also baked our first loaf of pumpkin bread for the season this week. Another homeschooling benefit? We bake pumpkin bread at school. 🙂




After Eric woke up, we took a break from Katie’s higher level work and made a fun autumn-themed scarecrow craft from construction paper and yarn (for the straw). Eric loves doing projects with Katie because he feels like a big boy; Katie loves doing projects with Eric because it gives her a happy nostalgia for all the crafts we used to do when she was younger. Plus, crafts are just fun!



Katie used the paper leaves we had made for Amie’s birthday tablescape to make a garland for the fireplace mantle. (Here, she is doing a little sewing—she loves anything to do with sewing).



A better picture of her garland, which she did herself. All I did was help to spread the leaves out a bit on the thread, but she did the actual sewing of the paper. So pretty.

I tell my children almost every day how thankful I am to get to have this time with them, how grateful I am to be able to share in their learning, and how much I love that they get to stay together on this journey. We’ve had some up-bumps and down-bumps, and nothing is always smooth sailing…but we are definitely passionate and grateful homeschoolers. Our year is rolling along now. Much like in the public school classroom, it took a few weeks to get into the groove and work out the kinks. Next week we have our first big event with the other River Springs families. Can’t wait to meet some of them!