Whenever I come up with a “schedule” and “curriculum,” I find it’s best to think to myself we’ll just see how this goes. While I love to have some plans and predictability, in this family I need to go with the flow. (That’s easier said than done sometimes.)
I consider my plans to be like a compass that can point me back to our main path if we get lost, but if we find a better way, we’ll continue our course. There are also times when it feels prudent to do something else with the boys, or maybe I just need to get some cleaning done. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is its flexibility. I never want to get too rigid with a schedule, or I may miss some valuable teaching moments!
First day of school.
With that said, I came up with a class schedule before we started our official 1st grade year on September 3rd. You can see it below. Surprisingly, this has held up well, though we missed one week due to illness. My main goal this year is to help my seven-year-old gain better reading skills, though I’m going at his pace. I have made a point of getting these lessons out of the way first thing in the morning because otherwise I don’t think they’d get done. The reading lesson + math or Spanish lesson usually takes only 60-75 minutes to complete.
You may think I’m unwise to teach academic lessons only four days a week, and math only two days a week. Drilling my son is not what I want for our homeschool. I have found he has progressed just fine on a schedule like this. This is because we take it at his pace, we go over a concept again and again until he gets it, and going slowly has prevented me from having to hear too many moans and groans from him. He doesn’t like the formal lessons, but he knows they are necessary. He also knows we have time to do what is important to him.
(He will complain that we don’t have enough time to do all his projects, though! It’s hard to explain to a seven-year-old why we can’t do all the DNA kit experiments in one day! It’s hard to explain why mama can’t keep going all day or why I can’t jump up at every request for my help. I’m working on teaching him time management and how we have all the time in the world if we spread his projects out over the course of days or weeks. And hey – I’d love to hear from some of you, if you have any advice in this area.)
You can click this image to view it larger, if you want. It’s a two-week schedule because most of our classes and play dates are bi-weekly.
One more note about the schedule before I move on to our curriculum. Even though it looks very manageable with lots of free time, it’s amazing how stuff creeps in. Add a day camp, going to grandpa’s house or the library, shopping, cooking, cleaning, or going on a family field trip, and we stay very busy! Living 30 minutes from town makes our lives more complicated because it’s too tiring to go one place in the morning and then go shopping later. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like we’re that free.
One of our current projects: DNA
Now for the nitty-gritty…
Stretch Time – This is new and experimental. For many reasons, I have started a short stretching, quasi-yoga time with the boys in the morning for about 15 minutes before lessons. I do simple stretches that I learned in grade school as well as some simple yoga poses, and we make up animal names for them. My four-year-old came up with the “sperm whale” pose! My aversion-to-any-physical-activity seven-year-old does not like this at all. So I’m thinking hard about how I can make it more appealing, or if I’ll ditch it altogether. If we continue this practice, I will be sure to write about it in the future. For a good beginners guide on yoga for adults, I have been enjoying eckhartyoga.com.
Reading – Teach a Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Yes, we have returned to this book, and we have started at Lesson 50. You can read our previous experience with it here.
I will write a follow-up when we’re finished. It’s going really well!! (UPDATES: You can read 1st Grade Homeschool Reading and Finished 100 Easy Lessons!)
Math – I have not returned to Life of Fred yet. I felt like we needed some more time on certain concepts, so I’ve been using workbooks that I picked up at Target and a teachers’s store. The boys are also enjoying the game Sum Swamp. I highly recommend it! (UPDATES: You can read 1st Homeschool Math and Teaching Children About Money as follow-ups. Later, we finished Life of Fred: Cats! You can see how this year panned out in Our First Grade End of Year Review and Progress Report.)
Spanish – My son has said several times he wants to learn Spanish, but I know I have to be careful about how I approach this, or he will change his mind. I feel very fortunate to have found the show Salsa, which is available online for free from Georgia Public Broadcasting. He loves it. We are keeping a Spanish journal and writing down the key words that each episode focuses on, and we read over all the words before we watch. (I do the writing here – at this point I want learning Spanish to be fun, and I don’t care if he doesn’t remember the words.) My son also requests for me to read the synopsis and a page or two of the English transcript of the show before we watch just to give him an idea of what’s happening. This has been a fun, slow-paced way to introduce him to the Spanish language, and now he knows a handful of Spanish words! I’m planning to make some Spanish labels of household items to put up around the house in order to remind me to use a little Spanish throughout the day.
Project time – THIS IS THE MAIN FOCUS OF OUR HOME EDUCATION, and if you don’t already know what this is, you need to read What is Project-based Homeschooling. This is the time I have set aside for my son’s projects, and unless we sleep very late in the morning, it usually works out to be about two hours before lunch. But this doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes work on his projects on the weekends or in the afternoons. Projects also weave their way into our book time and family outings. To see a list of my son’s projects, look at my page Project-based Homeschooling. I’ll be adding more soon. You’ll see his projects have covered most other requirements in a Typical Course of Study, particularly science. My son is a little biologist!
Art – My son does a lot of art on his own, so I thought he would benefit from and enjoy some formal lessons. I would love to do this everyday, but I don’t want to discourage him from making his own art and creations, so I put it on the schedule for Friday mornings when we are at home. (Most Fridays we are not. We have one bi-weekly class (which may or may not continue), a once-a-month class, and an occasional play date on Fridays.) However, I am not bound to this schedule. Last Saturday we did our first art activity! I may try to continue using the weekends, if the boys want something to do. (UPDATE: MARCH 2014 – I just posted Homeschooling: 1st Grade Art Explorations, which goes deeper into this subject.) Here are my resources:
The seven-year-old’s painting with homemade egg tempura paint.
But There’s Not Enough Time for Everything
Unfortunately, there’s not enough time for everything! There are so many things I want to do with the boys, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. However, I know we’ll fit in the following things whenever we can!
- Book time – There are still days when we sit on the sofa for a long book time, but I miss doing this everyday. Once the kids are solid in their reading skills, perhaps our reading lesson time can turn into a book time when everyone takes turns reading. However, we do read books every evening. It’s part of our evening routine. Currently, my husband is reading the Magic Tree House series to my seven-year-old. They are on book #25! (Good history lessons!) I look at storybooks with the four-year-old.
- Nature Exploration, Nature Journal and the Junior Ranger Program – These are on-going activities that get done when they get done. Fortunately, we’re a nature-loving family, so getting out into nature is part of our lifestyle, but sometimes I feel like we don’t do it enough.
- Diary – Last year I began a diary with my seven-year-old by letting him dictate to me what he wanted to write. I have been greatly inspired by Patricia Zaballos and her blog, Wonder Farm, for strategies on teaching kids how to write. The diary was a huge success, but unfortunately, it was too much of a success! I started by letting my son dictate to me in the evenings. Well, he wanted to dictate every. detail. of. his. day. Argh! There was no way I could write so much. We could have spent over an hour on it every night in addition to our other evening rituals! So unfortunately this came to a halt, and I haven’t found a good way to get started again. He is less willing to dictate now too! I think I ruined it by putting time restraints in it! :( Back to the drawing board on this one…
- Puppet Shows – If you have been reading my blog for a long time, you may remember how puppet shows were a integral part of our day during my son’s Pre-K year. Unfortunately, we don’t do them anymore, although the boys will play with the puppets sometimes. I have been wondering how I can get us back into this, even one day a week. Hmmm.
Don’t homeschool if you want a neat house.
What we do find time for…
- Watching lots of educational television – As I’ve written before, I don’t mind that my children watch a lot of television as long as it’s quality T.V. and as long as they’re balancing T.V. time with plenty of other activities. Before getting married, I wasn’t a T.V. watcher, but I’ve been sucked in, and I have to admit, I like the shows we watch together, and my sons watch mostly educational kids shows on their own. (And a few purely entertaining ones.) I have a pinterest board where I pin some of these shows, if you’re interested.
- Storytelling – I still tell my seven-year-old a story every night before bed. My husband tells the four-year-old stories.
- Down time – Down time usually means digital device or T.V. time for my boys. Fighting against this has done nothing but cause stress for me, so I’ve learned to just go with it, which I wrote about in my series about T.V. For me the ideal down time is sitting on my front porch enjoying some beautiful weather.
- Play time – Fortunately, my kids always seem to be in ‘play mode,’ but I want to make sure they have time to play by themselves. Sometimes they play with friends. Sometimes they play together. Sometimes they want to play with their dad or me. I hope they’ll remember a childhood full of playtime.
- Outside time – I used to have no problem getting my kids outside. Now we’ve gone through a spell where I’ve had to be more intentional about getting them outside, but we do like the outdoors as a family, so I know it’ll always be part of what we do.
- Cooking – And believe it or not, I’ve started cooking more and having the boys help me in the kitchen! You can read more about this in My Menu Planning Resolution.
Wow! When I write it all down, I wonder how we manage all that! But somehow we do…one step at a time.
If you have actually read all the way down to this, I want to thank you for reading this monster post! UPDATE: I’ll be posting some updates on our 1st grade experiences this January, so please stay tuned!
Feel free to link to your posts about your homeschool schedules and curriculums. Sharing ideas is what helps new and seasoned homeschoolers!