I can’t believe the end of 2021 is just a couple of weeks away! Time flies when you’re having fun, but it goes even faster when you’re both intrigued and challenged.
That’s what I find homeschooling to be like – a series of sprints and deep dives into whatever material my kids are currently interested in. Relaxing into our homeschool and helping my kids find their flow has really benefited all of us, and time really does seem to move quickly when we’re captivated with what we’re learning.
So, I thought about writing a “2021 Year in Review” post with some advice or lessons learned, but instead, I’m going to share some highlights from our year. These are things that I am grateful for and moments that I will remember (and hopefully my kids will too) long after this year has passed. If you’re considering homeschooling, or are just in the beginning stages of your journey, maybe these will encourage you!
We got to travel and go on quite a few field trips! One of our goals this year was to see more and do more, especially after the year that we had in 2020. We traveled to various parts of the state, including the Eastern Sierras, Big Bear Lake, and San Diego. We visited museums, went on hikes, and explored quaint towns with family and friends. Travel is one of the best ways to learn and explore and it’s something we hope to do more of in the years to come.
It’s taken 6 years, but my youngest son can finally float on his back! He has always loved swimming, but could never get comfortable enough to relax and float on his back. This year he finally agreed to swim lessons, and the instructors were great and made him feel really comfortable in the water. About halfway through the year, he started floating on his back by himself and it was a huge accomplishment!
We read a ton of books this year! I don’t have an exact number, but we easily averaged 10-15 books per week. My kids are ages 10, 6, and 3, so that’s a lot of reading. We read for different reasons and in different ways. We read books on our own, we read books that we picked out together, we listened to audiobooks in the car, and we had family read-aloud time. We weren’t always consistent or on a set schedule. Some weeks we read way more than the average, and other weeks we took a complete break from reading.
We did science! LOL, I know you’re probably shaking your head, but for me doing all the prep work and clean up for science experiments is sometimes way too much for me to handle. But this year we finished up the science kits we’ve been hoarding, built things with Legos and K’ Nex, played a lot of games that involved math and strategy, and my eldest took a physics class that he loved. This was something that I wasn’t expecting as my strengths are in history and literature, but was really happy about it.
We joined a local Wild + Free group! This one was a bit unexpected, too, (introvert alert!) but it’s been really nice getting to know other families who are also homeschooling. Our core group from the past few years has shifted with one family moving and another helping extended family with childcare, so I felt it was time we joined a group and make new friends. However, the group does have a requirement to attend at least 2 meetings a month, and if you know me and my kids, you’ll know we’re not good at keeping to other people’s schedules. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes!
And my kids are doing well in school…despite taking the unschoolish path! This one is for the skeptics (ahem, my mom) out there who think that kids who are homeschooled can’t compete with kids who go to public school or even private school. But, as someone who has seen both sides of the coin, I can say with certainty that this is not the case. My kids are doing well in school and are actually ahead of their public school counterparts in some subjects.
These are just a few of the things that I’m grateful for this year, but I know that every family has its own unique set of highlights. I hope that whatever your homeschooling journey looks like, you will find moments of joy, accomplishment, and satisfaction in it as well.
What we’ve been studying
This month we’ve been studying the Spanish and Mexican era of California, focusing on our local historical sites – San Buenaventura Mission, The Olivas Adobe, Old Mission Santa Barbara, El Presidio de Santa Barbara, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles (lots of new videos to come!)
Resources we used:
- California Out of the Box – I came across this interdisciplinary, literature-based history curriculum a couple years ago when I was researching California history curriculum. I wanted something that made learning history more meaningful by weaving in multiple subject matters, taking a variety of viewpoints into consideration, and where we’re able to look at all the parts that make up the whole picture. If this type of learning excites you as much as it does for me, Christine also offers a variety of online classes. For some of us, it can be overwhelming to have to teach your kids everything, especially if you have more than one child at home, so I’m a big proponent of farming out the work. There are so many awesome and budget concsious classes out there nowadays, many which are online, so why not take advantage of it and give yourself a little mental space while you’re at it.
- California Missions Coloring Book – My kids love to color! I make copies for my little ones, while the oldest colors in the book.
- Stories from Where We Live: The California Coast – A collection of short stories, poems, and essays about the geographical and ecological history of California.
- Valley of the Moon – Set in Alta California during Mexican rule, this historical fiction delves into the life of an Indio girl working on a rancho in the Sonoma Valley. Maria, the main character, writes about her work, the people in her life, and actual historical events as they happen.
- Pedro the Angel of Olvera Street – An award winning book set in historic Los Angeles and explains the community’s Christmas tradition of Posada, the reenactment of Mary & Joseph’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem.
- A Gift for Abuelita – A bilingual book that explains the customs that surround Dia de los Muertos.
- Song of the Swallows – Another award winning book that tells the story of how the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano Mission every year.
What we’ve been reading
Goodnight Krampus – Bookshop.org | Amazon
A not-so-scary introduction to Krampus. This book characterizes him as a mischievous little monster that won’t go to bed.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Snowmen at Night – Bookshop.org | Amazon
What do snowmen do when we’re asleep? They play, of course!
Ten on the Sled – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Based on the song “Ten on the Bed,” but with animals you’d find in Alaska.
Biscuit’s Snowy Day – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Everyone’s favorite pup playing in the snow.
The Joy of a Peanuts Christmas – Amazon
A collection of holiday comics of Snoopy and the Peanuts gang.
Merry UnChristmas – Amazon
Imagine if Christmas was EVERY day! Would you be excited?
Mickey’s Christmas Carol – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Who doesn’t love this version of the Christmas Carol?
The Biggest Snowman Ever – Bookshop.org | Amazon
The mice of Mouseville compete to make the biggest snowman ever in this sequel to the Biggest Pumpkin Ever.
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Little Blue Truck spreads cheer as he delivers Christmas trees.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Another classic with delightful illustrations!
Biscuit’s Christmas – Bookshop.org | Amazon
More from everyone’s favorite little pup.
Jingle All the Way – Amazon
A loveable pup that yearns for a home.
The Biggest Snowball Ever! – Amazon
A little winter fun ends in mayhem!
Olive, the Other Reindeer – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Imagine mishearing a beloved Christmas song that ignites an impromptu adventure to the North Pole!
A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel – Bookshop.org | Amazon
An illustrated classic for the big kids.
The Polar Express – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Take a ride on the Polar Express in this classic children’s book.
The 12 Days of a Great White Christmas – Amazon
On sharky spoof on the classic song, The 12 Days of Christmas.
Snowmen at Christmas – Bookshop.org | Amazon
What do snowmen do on Christmas night? Make merry, of course!
Sneezy the Snowman – Amazon
Sneezy the Snowman is cold and attempts to warm himself up.
The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Mr. Fish searches for the perfect gifts for his friends.
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – Bookshop.org | Amazon
A rockin’ Pete the Cat version of The Night Before Christmas.
Home Alone – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Forget the remakes! It’s all about the originals, and now you can read it too!
What we’ve been listening to
- Wow in the World – A classic in our household!
- The Past & The Curious – A history podcast for the family.
- Bedtime History – Interesting enough to keep you listening but also relaxing enough to help you fall asleep.
- Anytime Now – A podcast by the creators of Honest History!
Are you looking for a fun and easy Christmas/Winter activity to do? Art History Kids is hosting a Nutcracker Art Experience until the end of December. Your kids will learn about the art of Edgar Degas, Yayoi Kusama, Vincent van Gogh, Romare Bearden, Salvador Dali, and more! Then, they’ll be invited to create some fun Nutcracker-themed projects inspired by these artists’ paintings and sculptures! We plan on taking part in the experience the week leading up to Christmas.
Have you heard of Talkbox.mom? It’s a foreign language course that you learn as a family. We’re learning Japanese and received our first box with language guides to hang on the kitchen wall, there’s an app that allows you to listen to native speakers pronounce the words you’re learning and a great support group on Facebook. We’re really loving it and are looking forward to getting our next box later this month. If you’re interested, you can get $15 off your subscription by using my referral coupon code: REFAP3XH6MQV4
Have you signed up for Character LAB’s weekly tips? It’s one of the few emails that I actually stop to read. Last week’s email was about finding your flow, where something is both challenging and interesting and time seems to pass by quickly. I feel like this is what homeschooling is all about, helping your kids find their flow and allowing them to pursue their own interests. Two more newsletters I enjoy receiving are Tea with Julie Bogart and Sunday Best from Camille – The Intuitive Homeschooler.
I can’t wait until we can travel internationally again! We’ve been watching a lot of vlogger Currently Hannah’s YouTube videos (note: she sometimes drops the s- and f-bomb! I say skip her talking videos if you’re watching with littles) and it has us all eager to visit Japan soon. We really enjoy watching her hikes and it’s amazing how uncrowded all the tourist sites are during the pandemic. My mother-in-law is a flight attendant and flies to Japan weekly, but she’s not allowed to leave the hotel that the flight crew stays at. I know people think the laws here in the U.S. are strict, but it’s really not compared to other countries!
I recently wrote a few Homeschooler Gift Guides if you need some ideas or want to give your loved one hints about what to get you and your family! I also interviewed author Amanda Trumpower, a second-generation homeschooler who’s just starting her journey as a homeschool parent. Be sure to check it out!
On my nightstand
The Call of the Wild + Free – Bookshop.org | Amazon
I’m rereading this one for my local Wild + Free group. It’s a good one and part of my top 10 must-reads for new homeschoolers.
Dumbing Us Down – Bookshop.org | Amazon
I originally read this classic when I was getting my teaching credential. Looking back, I feel like my professors were hoping that the new incoming teachers would be the change that the education system needs, but enacting fundamental changes within a bureaucratic system is a seemingly impossible task to accomplish. It’ll take a lot more than a few new teachers with big ideas. (Note – Gatto has strong opinions about television and technology, and grew up in a time period much different from today.)
Lies My Teacher Told Me – Bookshop.org | Amazon
Another classic that I’m rereading! I feel like you can really get to know a person based on the media they consume. So tell me, what do all the books I read and podcasts I listen to say about me?! 😀
The Hero’s Guidebook – Bookshop.org | Amazon
My boys are really getting into their video making and I thought I’d reintroduce the hero’s journey to help them with their storytelling. This is a quick read that explains each step of the journey so that kids can develop their own stories.
Crying in H-Mart – Bookshop.org | Amazon
OMG! This book is soooo good. I’m usually not a fan of memoirs but have been reading all the Asian American ones that have recently been coming out. I plan on adding this book to my permanent bookshelf.
The Book of Magic – Bookshop.org | Amazon
The last book from the Practical Magic series. I’m always sad when it’s an end of a series, and probably why I’m taking my time with this one. I feel like I’ve gone through more boxes of tissues these last couple of months than I have the last few years! Another tear-jerker, so be prepared!
What I’ve been listening to
- The Agent – A true story about Jack Barksy, a KGB infiltrator that lived in the U.S. for years during the Cold War. It’s like a nonfiction version of The Americans.
- Full Body Chills – Spooky short stories performed by Ashley Flowers.
- A Slight Change of Plans – A beautiful podcast about the science of human behavior and our ability to change.
- No Stupid Questions – A podcast answering questions we’ve all had at some point in our lives.
- Short History of… – A wonderful history podcast and the narrator’s voice is so soothing.
- Real Dictators – A deep dive into history’s dictators from childhood to death/present day.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah Sameach, Habari Gani, Jol Yule, and Happy New Year!
Xuan Klevecka is a Southern California-based homeschool mom, wife, and sometimes purveyor of vintage goods. She’s an Enneagram 5w4, a lover of good food, and a former middle school history teacher. You’ll either find her looking at road maps and daydreaming about her family’s next epic adventure or perusing recipes and cooking up a feast for the brood.