Phew… 2020, am I right? Who could have predicted that parents, students, and teachers would be facing such an ordeal going into a new school year? Alas, here we are. Across the country, schools are back in session, but the decisions school boards and parents are making vary greatly. After a lot of mental and emotional toil and conversation, my family had settled on virtual schooling for the first semester of second grade. In the end, our school district pulled the in-school and virtual options, in favor of Universal Remote Learning (URL). Here’s what “2nd grade at home” school is looking like for us this year, as well as our curricula, schedule, and resources for supplementing.
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Universal Remote Learning (URL) Schedule
Universal Remote Learning (URL) means that Benjamin and his classmates are being taught virtually, mostly in real time, by a teacher from their actual home school. The subjects are planned by block scheduling, and their school day consists of meeting with their teacher and classmates via Microsoft Teams for lessons and class discussion, with breaks in between for assignments and “recess”. Like in the spring, their assignments are given to them via the Seesaw app/website. In second grade, their school day starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends around 11:30 a.m, while remote learning. I love their schedule.
Curricula & Supplementation
I don’t love virtual learning. At least for early education. I feel so much for these teachers, parents, and students. My goodness, it’s hard. That being said, I feel confident in the education Benjamin will be receiving this year, through both his teacher and in our home. There is no question that I am blessed with the ability to even be here to help guide him through this challenging time. It has definitely helped to bolster my confidence in us, as I see so many of our friends in the same situation as well. In a way, it’s really encouraging that we all seem to be in this together.
Benjamin’s school day includes math, reading, literacy, social studies or science (depending on the unit), and specials. His “specials” schedule consists of P.E. on Mondays and Tuesdays, art on Wednesdays, and music on Thursdays. We are supplementing this schedule with our own curricula and activities, based on where he needs support and subjects that align with our goals and priorities as a family. I read this quote just today that talks about the gift of a second education as you learn alongside your child.
Was my first education so dreadfully lacking? Or do I just not remember how stunning the human brain is, how inexplicable men dragging rocks over hundreds of years to make a pyramid? Together you learn and relearn, delving into books about ancient Greece, tinkering with magnets, relishing great works of children’s literature you loved as a child or never had a chance to read.– Memory Making Mom by, Jessica Smartt
I am grateful for this hybrid schooling of sorts that we’re doing together, and am trying to focus on this time as an opportunity rather than a burden. Here is what we’re doing outside of his school schedule:
I’m planning to write a followup blog post about doing Bible studies with kids, but I want to mention it here too. My sister bought Benjamin a new devotional right before school started—NIrV Adventure Bible Book of Devotions for Early Readers, that includes “365 Days of Adventure”. We chose it because it accompanied the Bible he has (NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers) and had good reviews. It’s a dated devotional and includes a one-page short story, Bible verse, and Bible fact. This only takes us about 5 minutes to read right before school. Our plan is to use this on weekdays and then dive a bit deeper on Sundays. We’ve been using The Beginner’s Bible Book of Devotions: My Time with God for those longer devotionals. I’ll go further into detail on how we use this book, in that followup post! We’re also going to be using this Biblical Virtues & Values Character Development Journal from The Thinking Tree.
Black History & Social Justice
It probably goes without saying that what you and I learned in school, and what has been taught in American schools up until now, is severely lacking! Both American history and Black history school curricula needs a complete overhaul, but thankfully for us, the material is out there. There are so many wonderful resources for teaching Black history and supporting social justice for kids. In addition to the work and opportunities we’ll be participating in through Moms Who Lead With Love, we’ll be looking for ways to continue in our education and activism together.
This year, I am most excited about visiting the new Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books exhibit at the High Museum of Art. I had an opportunity to attend the virtual media preview and it looks incredibly moving and engaging. (In addition to the live exhibit, many of the pieces and a short documentary are available online. Great for those of you not in Atlanta!) We have a pretty extensive collection of children’s books already, so we’ll be reading those and having ongoing discussions.
Benjamin enjoys “playing math”, and I love that for him. I feel like the older he gets, the more I am trying to reshape my own feelings for the subject. I’ve never been particularly good at math, and I’ve also never really felt I was taught it well. By that I mean, I realize now how greatly I could have benefitted from focused help or tutoring; an opportunity to learn it in a way that resonates with me. I love that there are so many options for engaging math lessons.
Ways we play math:
- Turn simple equations into games for speed and/or accuracy, celebrating correct answers with a lot of fanfare. I.e. – “Quick! What’s 4+15?” “What’s 152-2?” etc.
- Dice games. We’ve used worksheets and a chalkboard. It’s as simple as it sounds. Roll two dice (we love the big foam ones from the dollar store!) to create equations, then solve.
- Games, games, and more games. Brain games, card games, board games, online games — you name it! Another post is coming, because we love games!
- Did you watch “The Speed Cubers” on Netflix this summer? Because we did. And then we went and bought 4 cubes from Target. And then Benjamin spent a week pouring over YouTube until he solved it. Three times. Math!
Art Elements, Concepts, & History
I love art and am always looking for ways to foster creativity and imagination in Benjamin. He has both in spades, and uses his talents in Minecraft daily! 😉 He is always creating art, from flip books, to cardboard constructions. At the start of quarantine we gifted him a drafting table, light board, and marker set to encourage his efforts. (Also for getting through the end of school, in the middle of everything).
This year is a great time to introduce him to more sophisticated practices and art education. Currently, he’s enrolled in a “Concepts of Art” class through Outschool, and the really cool thing is he gets to take the weekly class with his cousin… who lives in California! They wouldn’t have this opportunity if they were physically in school so we’re counting this as a massive win, both in factoring fun and fostering their relationship! If all goes well this term, we’ve discussed a color theory class and drawing workshops later in the school year. We’re also going to be using the Picturing the Past – A Study of Art and History by The Thinking Tree (Fun-schooling books). Here’s a quick flip through video I found of the book.
Cursive & Typing
Benjamin really wants to learn cursive, and even if it’s a lost art, I want him to learn it too. Penmanship… taking care to do something well… these are important to me. We have a BrainQuest Grade 2 Workbook that includes cursive, so we may start with that. However, I am very interested in the Handwriting workbooks from The Good and The Beautiful. I love that they include “images, artwork, poetry, Bible verses, and quotes that support high character, faith, nature, and creativity.”
In addition, I’m going to do the Typing Courses (also The Good and The Beautiful) with Benjamin. Since he will be spending quite a lot of time online now, I think it’s important for him to learn proper placement and typing with ease.
I just really love nature, and typically when you’re excited about something as a parent, that love or passion extends to your child. I have always done my best to encourage Benjamin’s curiosity and love of nature. Even though he is learning science at school, I will continue to give him opportunities to explore, learn about, and celebrate God’s creation. His shorter schedule allowed me to rejoin our local Wild & Free meetup group, and I’m hoping this year we’ll be able to attend from time to time. I’m especially looking forward to another sunrise hike, which we participated in a couple of years ago. I’m not using any formal science curriculum for nature studies, but he’ll continue to use his Twig & Moth Nature Journal (see all the designs) to document our adventures, and we’ll be reading many books from my extensive collection. In general, any deep dives we do in science this year will be child-led.
Read next: Nature Day Ideas
Reading & Literacy
I am so proud of how far Benjamin has come in his reading over the last year. To support his efforts, we’ll be working with him on his sight words, using flash cards. I also purchased a Fun-schooling Reading Journal (ours is Minecraft-themed but there are many options!) As an incentive to practice reading and writing beyond his school work, we’ve offered Benjamin $100 to read through 100 books this year, and complete short book reports and activities for each book. I have filled a plastic tub with picture books that he can read aloud to us or on his own. We also have chapter books available for reading together (and us reading to him). One of our goals this year is to read Charlotte’s Web.
Here’s to a good school year for all of us… and our kids! 😉
“Let us not become weary learning alongside our kids, even when it is frustrating. It is the good, good work.– Memory Making Mom by, Jessica Smartt
School Supplies & Online Resources
FREE Homeschool or Supplemental Resources
- Fact Monster online math games – mainly flashcards. (They have other subjects as well.)
- Splash Learn online math games.
- Quarto Kids Downloadable Resources – resources for working through books, specifically the Little People, Big Dreams series.
- The Good and The Beautiful Language Arts PK-8 Curriculum Levels 1-5 is free as a PDF.
- Free Insect Nature Study (It’s beautiful! There are other nature studies available.)
- 100 Book Reading Challenge Bookmarks via Artsy Fartsy Mama.