What is it about this time of year? I hear this from so many homeschooling families. October or February hits and we all get tired, irritated with our curriculum, and ready for a change.
The end of September and all of October have just been plain hard. Part of it is the normal we-really-need-a-fall-break blues, and part of it is that our schedule has been absolutely insane. This is the time of year that all of my kids’ annual appointments seem to fall. On top of that, they both started with new specialists (multiple appointments each) and my oldest got his braces (also multiple appointments). We live 30-45 minutes away from all of these locations, and we’ve been commuting in for appointments 3-4 days a week. We. are. tired.
All of our well oiled routines are out the window. All those good habits are gone. Everyone is grumpy and short tempered. We’ve been cramming schoolwork into waiting rooms and odd hours and we all desperately miss our routine!
I share all of that to say that this review of our last two MFW units is definitely tainted by the season of life we are in, so you have to keep that in mind while reading it.
Brazil was an easy, fun unit. We loved learning about rainforests for our ecosystem study, and we read some great books. However, we definitely started diverging from the curriculum. It started when I was shopping in preparation for the unit, gathering the supplies for our Global Art projects. I realized I didn’t WANT to spend money for the kids to make their own Carnival themed t shirt dresses or sculptures that would end up in the trash in a few days. So we skipped them. . . and the currency exchange. . . and the flight. . . and the recipes. . . and the assigned missionary read aloud. You know, most of the MFW stuff. 😉 We still managed to have a lot of fun!
My oldest is loving our Draw Write Now books, which I highly recommend. For art, we did the DWN drawings of spider monkeys and toucans. It was educational and he enjoyed it a lot. Draw Write Now is resonating with him a lot more than our drawing instruction from last year. He is finally feeling successful and enjoying the process!
We really enjoyed our Brazil book basket. Our library had so many great books about the Amazon rainforest and Brazil! We checked out dozens of them and enjoyed every one. We also watched great youtube videos about the rainforest and various rainforest animals. We watched documentary videos about Machu Picchu and Easter Island, which was fascinating. We watched tons of Wild Kratts episodes!
We also enjoyed the MFW projects and activities this unit. We made a terrarium (or more accurately, I made a terrarium. The boys lost interest when they realized it wasn’t a real rainforest and wouldn’t contain actual rainforest wildlife). We did a rainforest experiment where we planted seeds in open pots and in pots wrapped in plastic to simulate the heat/humidity of the rainforest. We made paper feathers and coated half of them in oil, to demonstrate how the oil in the feathers helps keep birds dry. It was a very fun unit, one of our favorites!
I feel slightly disappointed in our Norway unit, and it is my fault. I was so looking forward to Norway! But I tried to do it during our absolute busiest appointment weeks. I thought if I gave myself 3 weeks instead of the scheduled 2, it would all work out. But it was just difficult to really do everything I wanted when we were doing things in such small, odd chunks of time instead of dedicated school hours.
I also may have purchased too many books to read aloud for this unit, because even in three weeks we couldn’t finish them! I purchased Snow Treasure and every D’Aulaires book I could find (Leif the Lucky, Norse Mythology, Book of Trolls, Children of the Northlights, and Book of Norwegian Folk Tales). We loved the books, but weren’t able to completely finish Snow Treasure, Norse Mythology or the Folk Tales. We certainly gave it a good try though (and my voice nearly gave out more than once!) but in the end decided that we were just ready to move on to another unit. We’ll keep Snow Treasure for bedtime reading until we finish it. The other books will still be on our bookshelf, and I know we will revisit them many times! Book of Norwegian Folk Tales became our most beloved bedtime reading, and I’m so happy we purchased it.
There are amazing travel videos of Norway on youtube, which was our primary way of exploring the country visually. Norway is so beautiful! We also watched Rosemaling videos on Youtube, since we skipped that art project.
Due to lack of time and my overly ambitious read-aloud schedule, we again ended up skipping a ton of MFW activities. We skipped Kingdom Tales and Global Art. For art, we ended up focusing primarily on nature journaling and then made pictures from Viking Stencils. Again, it was all really wonderful! It just wasn’t what MFW scheduled.
Each week, I find myself leaving off more and more of the MFW items in exchange for my own. For example, I don’t even attempt the math drills anymore. My oldest is doing two math curriculums this year (Singapore + Life of Fred) on top of extra practice sheets. The last thing either of us wants is additional math drills. We also totally stopped the weekly letter writing, because we add in Handwriting Without Tears and keyboarding. We read the vocabulary words each week, but no longer copy them down for the same reason.
Which brings me to now. . .
I’m planning our next unit, which is France. As I look over the MFW grid, I find myself really wanting to skip half of it! For example, we’re supposed to do a daily read aloud about the founder of the Mennonites. But, I just honestly don’t feel super motivated to read about the founder of the Mennonites right now. I would rather read this children’s book I bought about Joan of Arc, who was of course from France! The boys picked out Knight costumes for Halloween, and I think they would love doing a mini study on knights in conjunction with reading Joan of Arc.
I feel guilty when I skip parts of a curriculum that I purchased, especially if I know I won’t really get around to them later. But I have to remind myself that I am not a slave to the curriculum. If I know that learning about knights and Joan of Arc will be more engaging for my boys than reading Hero Tales (which even I don’t enjoy), then I need to do what is best for us and just not worry about it. Still, the guilt.
I love MFW. I love their scope and sequence. I love their approach. I love their activities, and how they encourage me to be more hands on. But I also hate paying for books that I end up ditching for ones I like better. I’m really regretting buying the deluxe kit this year since we aren’t making use of much of it. It makes me consider simply buying a teacher’s manual next year, so that I can follow their rough scope and sequence but use whatever books and resources I prefer.
But again, I know this is partly due to those yearly October curriculum blues! After we get through France, we’re going to put the books away completely for at least two weeks for Thanksgiving break, knowing that we’ll be excited again by December. Until February rolls around anyway. 😉