May 18, 2015

Homeschooling with a Newborn {Our Experience with A Beka Streaming for Kindergarten}

If I were going to be completely honest, homeschooling with a newborn was a lot harder than I anticipated. I had prepared to only take one month off of homeschooling after Ezra was born, but we wound up taking two months off. I tried to get back into the swing of things after one month, but Ezra was still very fussy, and I was still very fatigued and battling through postpartum anxiety. At first I felt guilty for taking such a long break, but then I remembered that one of the many reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility that it offers to us as a family. And in hindsight I am so thankful that we gave ourselves the break we needed to transition into life as a family of five. I am also thankful that Silas was home with us during that time and not heading off to school everyday. Having Silas home was a huge help to me and a great learning experience for him. I won't say that we didn't have our challenges, but overall, the good definitely outweighed the bad.

So when we were deciding on curriculum for the 2014-2015 school year, I knew that we needed something very structured that didn't require a lot of work on my part. We had been involved in Classical Conversations during Silas' pre-k4 year, and we really enjoyed it, but I knew it would be too challenging of a commitment for me with a new baby. I also knew that Kindergarten was not a grade that allowed for a lot of independent study. New concepts would be introduced in reading, math, and writing that required a lot of teacher/mommy involvement. Not knowing how much involvement I would be able to handle with a newborn baby, we began looking into curriculum that provided video or online teaching options.

I vividly recall taking this picture of  Silas watching his video school while bouncing and swaying newborn baby Ezra who was screaming and wailing, as was his typical newborn behavior before we figured out his allergy situation. Meanwhile, Liam took it upon himself to fold my laundry- woohoo!

I did a little research, but quickly decided on A Beka Academy's Video Streaming program. I am very familiar with the curriculum, having used it as a homeschool student from 4th-12th grade. In fact, my siblings and I are all graduates of A Beka Academy, so I am quite acquainted with the quality of teaching and ease of use. With the A Beka Video program the parent is required to simply oversee the student's work-- the video teacher does all of the teaching.

One of our favorite places to do school work-- outside!
The funny thing about this this blog post is that had I written during the first half of our school year {pre-Ezra & the 2-month break}, I would have been much more critical in my review of the streaming program. See, we plowed through our first couple of weeks with the video streaming program and quickly decided that both Silas and I preferred when I did the teaching. We really enjoyed the curriculum {specifically the phonics, math, & writing}, but we were both used to a more relaxed type of schooling around the kitchen table where I did the teaching. So, I ordered the parent-led teacher's manual, and we stopped using the videos only two weeks in. I was still able to use all of the materials that came with the boxed curriculum, so it really wasn't that big of a deal financially. We were also able to double up lessons very easily with me teaching, which got us ahead in preparation for the postpartum break.

Legos always make math more fun!

The beginning of the year rolled around, Ezra's delivery finally came, and our one-month break turned into two. During that time Silas took much more of an interest in reading, so while our "formal schooling" was put on the back burner, we still enjoyed reading books and going over some of the phonics rules he had learned during the beginning half of the year.

We all enjoy storytime with Silas!
So around mid-March when we were finally ready to jump back into formal schooling, we started back with the parent-led curriculum. I had finally figured out a system to keep my materials organized for the week so that I didn't have to waste time pulling worksheets everyday. Things went ok, but there were still constant interruptions by Ezra who was still fussy, wasn't on any type of schedule, and only slept for 30 minutes at a time on a good day. I was becoming frustrated and so was Silas. One day in the middle of the chaos Silas asked to watch Mrs. Reese {his video teacher}. I was a bit surprised, but gladly accommodated.

This time around Silas adjusted very quickly to the video program and there has been much less complaining about it being boring. Silas only watches the phonics, math, and writing videos, and we do our own Bible time {at night with Kevin}, skills development, and extracurricular activities {art, field trips, etc.} at our leisure. Doing this has shortened the actual video time Silas watches while still providing the teaching time he needs.

As time has gone on, I have also warmed up to the video program by tweaking it and structuring it to meet our needs. In fact, I've warmed up so much to it that we've recently made the decision to use it again for first grade. We will likely do some parent-led schooling as well for history and science and  for times when we want to move forward at a quicker pace. But I love having both the video and parent-led options available and having the flexibility to use different teaching methods during different seasons of life.

Having Silas using the video program has not only helped us to stay on a more consistent schedule, but it has also freed me up to spend some more intentional time schooling Liam. Liam began to show more of an interest in learning at the beginning of the year, so I knew I needed to take advantage of his enthusiasm. I've been using Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool with Liam, which is a free online homeschooling curriculum that uses videos, free printable pages, and simple hands-on activities. So far we've had a great experience with it. It has been just enough to keep Liam engaged without leading to frustration. I still haven't made a final decision about what we will do formally for pre-k4 with Liam in the Fall, but I'm leaning toward using A Beka for him as well. 

Liam showing Silas his school work on the computer.
We plan to take a little bit of a summer break, but for the most part we will stick to our regular schooling schedule throughout the summer months. Our schooling time only lasts 1-2 hours each day at most, so it rarely interferes with any activities we have planned during the week.

Play dough is a great way to learn about the letter "B"

One thing I know from talking with other homeschool moms is that every family is different, and what works for one family may not work for another. I'm slowing figuring out what works for us, and a lot of that has been me letting go of some of my idealistic views of homeschooling and replacing them with a more realistic view of what truly meets our needs during this season.


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