Posts tagged ‘schedule’

September 16, 2014

Our 2nd Grade Homeschool Schedule and Curriculum (with Pre-K too!)

I love new school years! It’s an accomplishment to close out the previous year and plan a new one, and in the beginning of the year, everything feels so tidy and structured. I like structure, but I try to remain flexible about our schedule as the year goes on. It’s inevitable that new priorities will pop up, and some of what we do will fall to the wayside. But I think that is what is awesome about homeschooling – you get to be flexible. You get to follow your instincts about what is best for your kids on any given day. Just do that, and you’ll do great.

The five-year-old joins us.

My boys just turned eight and five! I am considering them in 2nd grade and Pre-K. This is the first time I’ve attempted to do any formal work with my five-year-old, and that’s because I can tell he’s ready for it. Earlier last year he would play while my older son did his lessons, but later in the year I noticed he would hang out at the table and watch/listen as his brother would practice reading. So earlier this summer I offered him a little ABC workbook, and he gleefully cheered “yes! yes!” After that he demanded what he termed his “reading lesson” everyday, even when I wasn’t planning to do it. Now he’s happy to take a day off, but he still likes doing his reading lessons alongside his brother.

What has changed since last year.

I have a popular post from last year about our first grade schedule and curriculum, and I always worry when a post becomes popular because we remain in flux, and while I try to write the truth of any given moment, the next month we might change what we’re doing! But I’m relieved that as I look back over last year’s schedule, not too much changed. But a little did:

  • I nixed the stretching fairly quickly. My boys just hated it. It felt useless to keep trying even though I still think they could use it.
  • When I wrote that post, we had a Friday morning bi-weekly class, and I thought we might have the occasional play date then too. Well, the class didn’t go, and neither did the play date, but later we enrolled my son in his pottery class, which was on Friday mornings for eight weeks, so the schedule didn’t really change after all.
  • Other than this, we kept that schedule fairly well, although we definitely had days when we didn’t do our lessons because other things took priority. I used it as a compass to get back into a routine when I felt we needed it. (Mostly I need it to stay sane. The boys would be fine with just playing everyday.)

So below is our weekly plan this year. It’s not too different from last year.

2nd grade MOL Weekly HS Schedule  copy

What this doesn’t reflect: It doesn’t reflect all the little things that pop up like play dates that I don’t have a regular date for on my calendar and all the outings we do as a family, which could be considered field trips. We like to go hiking and to museums and other places of interest whenever we get the chance. Some days we may just go shopping. It also does not reflect my son’s project time.

Project Time

Last year our lessons were shorter, so we had an hour or more for projects in the mornings before lunch. This year, our lessons are taking us right up until lunch, so here is what I’m going to experiment with this year:

Since I want my son’s projects to have priority, every Monday morning I get our project notebook and go over what he’s told me he wants to do. He gets a lot of ideas that he doesn’t follow through with, and that’s okay. He’s in charge of his education. He knows that if he wants to build something or learn about something, we will make time for it. I’ve told him I’m willing to skip our lessons completely, if needed. So far this year, however, he hasn’t been doing anything that he needs me for, or either he seems to make small inquires at other times of the day. He does have one thing he wants to make that we don’t have the materials for yet, so when we get everything, we’ll do that. I’m also wondering how I can spur him on to dig deeper into his latest interest – Star Wars. I’ll write about how all this goes in the future.

Curriculum

Our curriculum is very eclectic. I choose our curriculum based on 1) what I think my kids will actually like and 2) what we have on hand or can find conveniently and/or cheap. I get a lot of resources from teacher-friends, though I don’t use a lot of that stuff. I have bought little workbooks and things on sale over the years and saved them. I have bought some things full price because I thought they were perfect for my boys. Buying a full curriculum that would cover everything has never seemed prudent when each subject requires its own strategy for my boys’ particular needs.

The weekly plan.

I have told my eight-year-old that he has to learn reading, writing, math, etc. The law requires them, and he understands that. But I also tell him we’ll go slow, at his pace, and we’ll try to use books and resources that he likes. This is not always easy, and I’m always wondering when I should nudge or pull back. This is just an ongoing part of homeschooling, I think, and I try to use my good instincts, though they fail me at times.

I am still not completely comfortable with unschooling my eight-year-old or using project-based homeschooling as our sole means of education, though a big part of me wants to do just that. I have opted instead to require him to do just one page in a workbook (to help build his handwriting and reading skills) and read just one or two pages in a book. If it gets hard for him, I usually make him finish at least part of what we’re working on, and then I take a break from it the next day or use a different resource. As I said before, I am willing to take long breaks from our lessons and work on his projects too. But I feel a slow progression in the fundamentals is important, and he is progressing, and I’m happy with that.

This is my order of things that happens between breakfast and lunch unless we have an appointment outside the house or a project to work on. Sometimes we don’t finish before lunch, but we usually do.

Read aloud – This is new. I have sorely missed book time, which is what I did when my son was little. Now we don’t have time in the a.m. for everyone to pick one or more books of their choice, so I’ve decided this is the time I get to pick one book of my choice. I can cover a lot of different subjects this way. (In the evenings before bed, my husband and I read to the boys, and they get to pick the books they want.)

1 Page Workbook – I have purchased simple workbooks (the kind you can get at Walmart or Target or teacher’s stores), and this year I’m having them each do one page each in a workbook. My eight-year-old hates the physical act of writing, so this is kind of an experiment, but also a slow way to build up his muscles and just get him used to writing a little bit. Below are listed the workbooks my boys have completed or are working on. (We started this during the summer, btw!)

The eight-year-old

–I started him out in an easy kindergarten workbook in which he only had to trace and write letters. This is because, as I said, he hates the physical act of writing, and I just wanted him to get used to having to write a little.

–I was not in the market to buy more workbooks, but we were in Barnes and Noble one day, and I happened to find Brainquest’s Star Wars workbooks. I picked them up because both my sons love Star Wars. I’m not so dumb as to think my eight-year-old will also love the workbooks, but if I can make doing what he dislikes a little more fun, I’ll try it. And the reading workbook happened to cover just the things I want him to work on. So we’re just now starting Star Wars 2nd Grade Reading. This is already proving to be difficult, and he’s in tears over it. It’s not that he’s not smart enough to complete the work, he just hates doing it. I may have him do only 1/2 a page at a time or pick and choose the pages. Part of me would like to nix it. Not sure what to do yet.

The five-year-old is my easy kid! He likes doing these workbooks! (I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that he loves drawing too.)

–Stick Kids Workbooks: Amazing Mazes

–A+ Alphabet Workbook

–A+ Numbers 1-12 (He’s almost finished with this.)

After this, I’m going to have him start:

Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks: Kindergarten Writing & ABCS

Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks: Preschool Number Fun

Reading Lesson – This is for the eight-year-old, but the five-year-old usually listens. I have him read 1-2 pages in a book. We have worked through most of the follow-up books recommended at the end of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We have two more to go on that list, and I’m hoping he’ll be willing to finish those books, but I’m not going to push him. I’ve had great success at letting him read books about the things he loves most, which are Legos’ characters and Superheros. We just finished Scholastic’s Super Heroes Save the Day! It makes a huge difference when he can read something like this versus any other book. I will probably alternate this will the workbook because doing both in one day proves to be too difficult.

Starfall – This is for both boys, although I didn’t tell my eight-year-old that. I asked him if he would sit with his younger brother and go over all the phonic reading lessons, games, books, and videos on Starfall.com.  They do about two rows every time they sit down to do this. I knew my five-year-old could benefit from it, but I wanted my eight-year-old to get the review as well as gain confidence in his reading ability. It’s working well, and my eight-year-old is shining as “teacher.” They don’t do this everyday, but they are almost finished with all fifteen rows on the website. I’m not sure if we’ll continue this, or go to other sections on that site.

Math – This is for the eight-year-old, but the five-year-old usually listens. We started right in on the next Life of Fred book this year! We are working on Life of Fred: Dogs, which is the fourth book in the series. I have considered changing our math curriculum in the past, but now I feel confident that the quirky story format of Life of Fred is perfect for my eight-year-old. (We are story lovers around here, after all.) I think Life of Fred does a great job teaching him what he needs to know, and when I feel it’s getting a little above his level, we just stop and practice math in other ways until I feel he’s ready to move on. Doing math twice a week still feels just right. If this book starts to get too hard, we’ll pause it awhile and practice math with other resources for awhile.

Science – This is new, although science has always been a huge part of our homeschool. I’ve never made time for it during our lesson time because my son’s projects, the homeschool science classes, the books he picks to read, and all the documentaries we watch daily have skyrocketed him well beyond 2nd grade science! Despite all this, I have a goal to study science in a more systematic way, especially when he gets older. And, this year, his pottery class conflicts with homeschool science, so we’ll have to miss out on those for the first time. (I’m really sad about that, although a little relieved to have a lighter class schedule.) Each year, I seem to be able to weave one more thing into our homeschool. Last year, it was art. This year, it’s science. (I hope by next year, I’ll find a way to take our Spanish lessons to a higher level.) We’re starting with something simple. I happened to have DK’s 101 Great Science Experiments, so we are working through this book and doing 1~2 science experiments a week. By the way, the first time I asked my son if he had a project he wanted to work on, he said, “Can’t we just do the experiments?” So, in a way, this is still his project.

Spanish – I wanted to find a better program to work on, but in some ways, I think watching Salsa is still the best bet for my boys so that they don’t lose interest in Spanish. I still write down the vocabulary, and I watch every episode with them – because I want to learn Spanish too!

Art – Last year at this time, I felt like we didn’t have enough art in our homeschool (despite all the craft and building projects that my son initiated on his own). I wanted to be able to teach a little bit about different artists and techniques. It’s also a part of project-based homeschooling to introduce children to new tools and techniques so that they’ll have a variety of mediums they can choose from when working on their own projects. I’m proud of myself for working in several art lessons last year and establishing a sketchbook habit with my younger son, who loves to draw. This year, we’re going to make Fridays our art days, and I’m using Amy Hood’s fun Art Together e-zines as my guide. Right now we’re learning about printmaking techniques and the artist Hokusai. When my son begins his pottery class, I’m planning to use that time for sketch booking with my five-year-old.

This is probably the longest post I’ve ever written, and it may seem like a lot on the page, but it only encompasses about 1~2 hours of our day. If you have been following my blog, you know that we do a lot of other things, and we have certain priorities for our boys that haven’t change. In brief:

  • We want them to have time to move, play and explore the things they love. In the afternoons and early evenings, they have lots of time to do the things they love the best, including playing with Legos and a variety of other toys, playing games on their tablets, and watching T.V. Sometimes we go to play dates, sometimes we cook together, and sometimes we play games together. But this is also the time I have to work and get my chores done. I feel grateful for homeschooling because I feel it is creating a strong bond between my boys, and they are learning to be independent doers!
  • We want them to love nature, and they do. But we make a point of getting out into nature a lot by visiting parks and going hiking. My son will slowly be working toward earning the third junior ranger badge this year too.
  • We also keep a garden, and in the evenings after dinner, you might find the boys and me outside watering it and picking ripe tomatoes. I find that by late August and September, the boys are less interested in this though. But I don’t mind having a few minutes alone outside!
December 19, 2013

Sweet Spot

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on December 18, 2013. 

There is something about having a four-year-old and seven-year-old that makes me feel like we’re in a sweet spot of time. My eldest has not acquired that “attitude” that older kids are prone to get. My youngest has emerged from the terrible threes and is beginning to become a little more independent. He still needs his mama, but he’s not glued to my hip anymore.

We’ve had a very good year so far. There’s a rhythm to our days, and it feels good to me. I created a homeschool schedule at the beginning of the year, and though we don’t always stick to it, I use it like a compass to get us back on track whenever I find myself wondering what we should do next.

But wondering what to do doesn’t happen for my boys, who are full of ideas for playing and making, so I don’t have to wonder much. My eldest son always has some kind of project he’s working on. Just when I think one project is winding down, he’ll come up with something else.

For example, he’s working on a model kit of the U.S.S. Constitution with his father. My husband is not thrilled that I bought such a difficult model kit, but I thought it would give them something to do together, and it has.  My son has been able to do a lot of the work with support from his dad, especially since they aren’t trying to make it “perfect.” He’s also started asking questions about the ship, otherwise known as “Old Ironsides.”

At Thanksgiving, my son heard the story about the pilgrims again, and he decided to make a Mayflower ship out of clay, and he did a good job. Then he came up with the idea to make a model of the Mayflower out of cardboard after he finishes the U.S.S. Constitution. Again, he started asking questions about the Mayflower too, so we looked up pictures online, and we took a trip to the library.

We came home with a big bag of books, and two of them were about the U.S.S. Constitution and the Mayflower. We’ve begun reading the one about the Constitution. Did you know it was one of America’s first Navy ships, and it’s still owned and operated by the Navy?

These projects are just part of our days. Both my husband and I spend time with our son on reading lessons. I also do math and Spanish lessons with him, but that’s not so interesting to write about.

My four-year-old is watching and listening during his older brother’s lessons, and he’s fortunate in that he’s never had to sit down and do a formal lesson himself. But he’s teaching himself many things, and recently he taught himself how to count to 12. He counts everything. He’s completely different than his older brother was at that age, and sometimes I forget how smart he is because he shows it in different ways.

He loves books, especially books about dinosaurs. I won’t lie. I’m sick of books about dinosaurs, but I read them anyway.

We’ve been going to classes and play dates, watching wonderful documentaries on Netflix, and when the weather is nice, we get outside for hikes at Fort Yargo or the Botanical Garden.  We have been cooking together more, and the boys have been gracing me with lots of quiet time as they play more and more by themselves.  That more than anything, is why I’m calling this era of their childhood “the Sweet Spot.”  And it’s also why I’m grateful we can homeschool – they have time to play and foster those imaginations.

I know someday I’ll look back at this time and think of it as a happy time, despite the normal ups and downs daily life can bring. We’re blessed to be together, doing meaningful work and play.

###

FYI – I have lots of things I’d like to share with you. For example, we’re doing something a little different with reading lessons. And I want to tell you what we’re doing this year for math. In addition to this, there are projects, art and all kinds of other little stuff that I just can’t seem to find the time to write about. Eventually, I hope I will. Unfortunately, you may see less of me in the coming weeks, though I will be posting my columns each week. Due to the holidays, I’m trying to relax more. Due to a deadline, I’m trying to get another project done. But you never know. Sometimes I get my best writing done when I’m procrastinating on something else! ;) Please e-mail me to chat, if you like. I’d love that.

October 8, 2013

Our 1st Grade Homeschool Schedule and Curriculum

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.

MOL Weekly HS Schedule

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…

Curriculum

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.

ReadingTeach 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 televisionAs 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! 

December 19, 2012

Our Mid-Year Homeschool Update

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember my Back to Homeschool post in early September and my Back to Homeschool Update in early October. I thought I would follow those up with a “mid-year review” of sorts.  I’m not going to repeat much of what I wrote in those posts, which had a lot to do with how we homeschool or at least how I “planned” our homeschool.  I’m just going to say that I think we’ve been off to a very good start!  This Fall season has gone very well, and I haven’t changed too many of my strategies, so I must have hit upon just the right amount of homeschooling for us.  (I want to emphasize that because I think every homeschool family’s schedule is going to be different to meet the needs of the unique individuals in that family!)

I have relaxed in a few ways, however:

  • I no longer wake up the boys in the mornings. I let them sleep as late as they want, which can be quite late sometimes (usually 8~9 am, but once in awhile 10!)  As I mentioned before, we tend to be night owls and late sleepers in this family.  I didn’t necessarily want to change that, but when we started our new homeschool routine in September, I felt I needed to get us up and started at least by nine.  The purpose was simply to make sure that we got the ball rolling on the homeschooling, and I didn’t want our afternoon free time to be cut short.  After I saw that my son very easily adapted to doing “school” in the mornings, and he has always been willing to do the lessons, I didn’t feel it mattered anymore if we started exactly at nine.  And we always seem to have plenty of time for afternoon appointments and play time. If we need to get up earlier, I don’t have problems with that either. (I know…I’m a spoiled mama!)
  • I mentioned before how I wasn’t sure how to work in book time, but that worry has now passed.   First of all, I don’t worry about reading books everyday. We’ve spent plenty of mornings reading through library books. I don’t need to schedule it because it just happens, especially when I can’t think of something else to work on!
  • I still have not been able to go back to my regular routine of a weekly cleaning day.  I had wanted to dedicate one day a week to cleaning like we did last year, but we have been busy (and having fun!), so that hasn’t happened. We do have cleaning days, but instead of a regular, weekly day, it’s whenever mama decides enough is enough and this pigsty has to be cleaned!

As a recap, I will list some of the posts I’ve written since September specifically related to how we’ve been homeschooling this fall season.  But please note that if you want more specifics, I have recently updated my comprehensive Table of Contents that you can find in the header. I have tried to break it down into categories that I think you may be most interested in. (Please let know if I can do anything to make my site more user friendly.)

As always, I have a lot I want to write about, and as I find the time, I’ll do so.  (UPDATE: Most of this is posted, so click away!)

Thank you for sticking with me and following my blog. I have TRULY enjoyed the e-mail conversations I have had with some of you. It’s such a pleasure to get to know other mamas who love their children as much as I love mine!  I hope you are having a wonderful winter break.

October 19, 2012

Using E-mail in Homeschool

View details     View details     View details     View details      View details

Math                            Reading                        Hiking                     Story                             Snake Project

Some of my favorite clip art that I found on Microsoft Office free images website that I use in e-mails to my six-year-old.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on October 17, 2012.

In my last column “Using Technology in Home Education,” I wrote about an interview I heard with Fraser Speirs, a mobile education technology consultant.  According to his website (fraserspeirs.com), “Fraser works with schools and technology companies to enhance their approach to 21st century skills, teaching and modern technology provision.”

The interview inspired me to try to incorporate more technology into our homeschool, but by that I don’t just mean I’m going to have my child take classes online.  I want to use technology for productivity much like what Speirs discussed.

At this young age, I want to introduce different programs to my son so that when he’s older he’ll be able to complete and showcase his projects on the computer or another device.  This doesn’t mean we won’t use other means to showcase his work.  The computer will be one of many tools.

Right now I’m starting with the basics, and I decided to create an e-mail address for him.  (I opened it under my name.)  My other motive in using e-mail was trying to think of ways that might inspire him to want to learn to read.  It has proven to be very helpful to me, and my son enjoys checking his e-mail each weekday morning before we do our lessons.

Every evening, I compose a message for him with the next day’s date and our agenda for the morning.  When it comes to getting my son to cooperate with me, I have to let him know ahead of time what our plans are.  Writing the e-mail is a great way of doing this, and it’s been helpful to me to plan the day ahead of time.

Our plan of action is usually quite simple.  I alternate math and reading lessons Monday-Thursday. Then we work on a project.  I plan most of them, but my son initiates some of them.  If we have time, we do book time, but usually it’s time for lunch.

After lunch, he’s free to play for the rest of the day, but if we have any plans for the afternoon, I’ll inform him in the e-mail.  If we’re attending a class, going on a play date, or running errands, I’ll let him know at this time too.

He cannot read well enough to understand the written messages, so I include a lot of clip art for him.  For every subject, I find an illustrated drawing using Microsoft Office’s free clip art  and drag the thumbnail into the message in front of the bullet point.  I try to use animated clip art when possible because that’s more fun for the six-year-old.  I also use the same words every day in my agenda’s list in the hopes that’ll he’ll start to recognize these words.

The most helpful part of using e-mail is being able to include any links that I want him to see.  I’m a big fan of YouTube, and when I’m trying to reinforce something from our reading or math lessons, I’ll search for short videos for him to watch.  It’s easy to include links to these in the e-mail, and they are right there ready to go in the morning.

Occasionally my husband or I will come across an article on the Internet with photos – perhaps something about animals or scientific research – that we know our son would like to see.  I used to forget to show these golden nuggets to my son, but now I can just send him a link in an e-mail, and we’ll look at it in the morning before his lessons.  Sometimes these articles are starting-off points for further discussion and research, if it sparks his curiosity.  (I’ll talk more about this in my next post.)

I have also shared his e-mail address with a few close friends and relatives with instructions that short, simple messages and photographs are appreciated.  It’s always a treat to my son to receive something from someone besides my husband or me.

If there’s one thing for sure, technology is here to stay, and someday my sons will be competing for employment in a world that will have even more advanced technological capabilities.  As long as children are taught that it’s a tool and how to use it wisely and safely, it’ll give them an advantage to grow up using it.  Indeed, it would be a disadvantage to shield them from it.

October 1, 2012

Back to Homeschool Update

{Homeschool Schedule}  {A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool}  {Homeschooling Kindergarten / 1st grade with a three-year-old in the house}

playdates are a regular part of our homeschool schedule

At the beginning of September I wrote a column for the newspaper titled “Back to Homeschool” because we started our new school year and homeschool routine.  More notable, however, is that this is the first year that we are “official” homeschoolers. That is, we have filed our intent to homeschool with the Georgia Department of Education.

When I wrote that column I had a “plan of action” of how I’d proceed with our daily routine, but I wasn’t sure how it would look in reality. I’ve been a mom long enough to realize that things rarely go according to MY agenda, so having a flexible schedule is a must.

Now that we are a month into our new routine I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s going so well, though I have tweaked it as necessary.  This was my original plan:

  • We’re late sleepers, and though I don’t mind that, I also knew we’d make more use of our day if we got up a little earlier.  So I planned to wake up early and also wake the six-year-old by 8:30 so we could start our lesson by 9:00a.m.
  • I would e-mail my son a loose agenda for the morning the night before, and first thing in the morning we would check his e-mail and go over this agenda. (There’s more than one reason I’ve given him an e-mail address, and I wrote about this in Using E-mail in Homeschool.)  Telling him ahead of time what our plans are has always been essential to getting him to cooperate.
  • After checking e-mail and going over our agenda, I would start off with our main lesson. I planned to alternate a math and reading lesson Monday – Thursday.
  • On Fridays we would have a more relaxed day with just a project, and I also planned to move my cleaning day to Fridays and perhaps partly on Saturdays too.
  • After the lesson, we would do some kind of project either initiated by him or me, but it would be based on his interests or a lesson I want to teach him.
  • I thought by this time, it may be lunch time, so I planned to have lunch and then do “book time” after lunch.
  • After book time, he would be free for the rest of the day, although, of course, we still have other parts of our daily routine too.

As for the three-year-old, I was hoping I could keep him occupied at least during the math/reading lesson with a learning box I made for him.  I filled it with paper, crayons, and coloring pages, which he likes to do sometimes.

So how did that plan pan out?

Here’s what we have been doing:

  • I have been getting up a little earlier and waking the kiddo up a littler earlier too.  He can be very hard to wake up, though, so I’m not using an iron fist with this rule.  It’s my opinion that being able to sleep as much as we need to is one of the many benefits of homeschooling.  But after waking earlier for a few days, he’s starting to wake up on his own around 8:30 anyway.  It’s been good for me to have a few minutes to myself in the morning too.
  • Using the e-mail has been great, and my son enjoys checking it every morning.  An occasional message from a friend or relative is a treat too.  (See Using Technology in Home Education or Using E-mail in Homeschool.)
  • We’ve been alternating a math and reading lesson Monday – Thursday, and that’s been going great. My son has been showing his maturity by being able to complete the lessons, and mama has finally figured out how to stay at his level so that it’s not frustrating for either of us.  Keeping this lesson under 30 minutes and doing it first has also been a key to its success.
  • Having a relaxed day on Friday has been helpful too.  I’m struggling with keeping my house clean, but I think that has more to do with an illness I’ve had, and I’ll get back into a routine at some point.
  • Having a project planned has been working too, and so far, my son has liked everything we’ve done.  Though not completely “child-led,” the projects are inspired by what I know he’ll like.  In an upcoming post, I’ll list what we’ve been doing in more detail.
  • And as I suspected, it’s usually lunch time after we’ve completed our project, so I stop there.  The difficult part is fitting in “book time.”  Unless the project is short or I include a book within the project, we don’t have time for book time.  After lunch, the boys clearly need to be “let loose” to play, imagine and sometimes create, if they ask for the art supplies.  I’ve decided this is okay because unstructured play, movement and make-believe is still my highest priority for them right now.  We have found time to read books at other times, although not everyday.  Since my son seems to enjoy the spontaneous reading moments more than when I insist on reading to him, I think I’ll just leave it at that. (I should note that every night before bed, I still tell him a story that I make up, and I read a book to my three-year-old at that time too.)

As for the three-year-old, he’s not interested in the learning box, and this is what I’ve figured out:  whenever he wakes up, he needs a good dose of mama.  If I can give him my undivided attention for 20-30 minutes, he usually goes off to play by himself while I work with the six-year-old.  Sometimes he wants to be with us, and he might be content playing with puzzles on the table next to us.  Many times, I’ve been able to include him in our projects, especially those we do outside.  If he is in a particularly needy or difficult mood, I let go of my agenda and direct my six-year-old to work on starfall.com while I stay with the three-year-old.

Staying flexible and light-hearted about the whole process has served me well, and it’s made me realize that while we all operate better with a little bit of structure, I can also feel free to stay relaxed and yield to our whims on occasion too!

You may also be interested in:

  • In addition, I’m still keeping track of our homeschool with the method I described in this post.
  • To read about our homeschooling schedule last year when the boys were 5 and 2, click here. (We did everything after lunch!)
  • And, I’ve updated this post in Our Mid-year Homeschool Update….I have tweaked a few things since writing this!

How is your homeschool year going?

June 9, 2012

My Practice Homeschooling Year Is Over…

What Did I Learn?

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on June 6, 2012.

Last week I wrote about the changes in the Georgia homeschooling law, which will go into effect during the 2012/2013 school year. This news was pertinent for my household since we’ll be filing the Declaration of Intent to Homeschool for the first time at the end of August when my son turns six-years-old.

I considered this past year my “practice year,” and I tried to set up a schedule for learning and a system for recording what my son accomplishes each day.  I’m happy to say I achieved these goals, so I feel confident as we file our Intent form and begin our official homeschooling journey.

For me, the purpose of homeschooling is so that I can tailor my son’s education to meet his needs and to create an environment where he won’t lose his love of learning.  For these reasons, I call our homeschool “mostly child-led,” for lack of a better term. 

Earlier in the year, I sorted out what I felt were the priorities for my children at their current ages of five and two.  At this age, I feel that fostering their imaginations, letting them play, move and explore nature is most important. They also need to be steeped in literature and storytelling and taught how to find answers to their questions.

With these things in mind, I set up a schedule when we spent time reading, storytelling, especially through puppet shows, and we also spent time on the computer researching snakes because my five-year-old loves snakes.  Creating a snake book is an on-going project, and it also helped teach him about writing, phonics, and measurement.

I did formal reading and math lessons with my five-year-old, but since his attention span is short, they were short lessons during his younger brother’s naptime. I also considered time with friends important for their socialization, and my son took several science classes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens.

I kept tabs on what we did in a variety of ways, and by the end of the year, I have learned what works for me.*   The most helpful tool I created was a chart that listed subjects across the top.  I included the subjects required by Georgia law (reading, language arts, math, science and social studies) as well as some additional subjects that are important to me.

The left-hand column listed the date, and every day I checked off what my son worked on that day and notes for myself.  At the end of the week, I typed up a journal-like summary of the work. I consulted a typical course of study for a kindergartener to get ideas on what to teach, though our library books and my son’s interests lead us through much of that naturally.

At the end of May, I decided that I wanted to do an informal graduation* for my son for two reasons.  First, I wanted him to understand what his “homeschooling” consisted of and why, and I wanted him to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I hoped this would also encourage him when we begin our new year.  Second, my mother-in-law was visiting, and I hoped that showcasing his work might help ease any discomfort with the idea of homeschooling.

I put together a 15-minute slideshow of all the photos I took through the year of my son’s work, projects and field trips.  Though it was a lot of work, it made me feel happy and satisfied that we’re on the right track.  I had not realized how much he had actually done until I created the slideshow!

The Georgia law requires that we write an annual progress report, and though I didn’t have to do it this year, I decided I’d try for the sake of my son’s grandmother and the rest of our family.  By doing this I realized that I will never consult that long, weekly journal I keep.  Instead, I used the photographs and my blog’s table of contents….two items I had not realized would be so helpful.

Because my son’s birthday is so close to the cut-off date, he would be entering Kindergarten this coming fall.  Because of that, I’ll still consider him a Kindergartener at home, though he may be learning at a higher level.*  Like all children, I expect he’ll do better in some subjects than others. What I love about homeschooling is that we can teach to his own level, and as evident in this past year, I see he is moving ahead through his own love of learning.

**Stay tuned for follow-up posts with more details and a print-out for you to use!

April 14, 2012

What’s A Mama To Do Without Nap Time?

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal April 11, 2012.  For more information about how I’m dealing with the loss of nap time in our homeschooling routine, scroll to the bottom of this post.

For most mothers, nap time is our saving grace.  For those mothers with babies who don’t nap, I don’t know how they do it.  My five-year-old was a wonderful sleeper as a baby and toddler.  He gave me about 10 hours at night and a 2-3 hour nap time every afternoon. I’m sure I didn’t know how luxurious that was.

When my five-year-old was three, he began to resist nap time.  It became clear that he was transitioning out of them.  I still needed my nap, however, so I took my mother’s advice and created “quiet time.”  I told my son he would need to play quietly upstairs for a while by himself.

This worked well, and I think it helped him learn how to entertain himself.  Sometimes I would find him upstairs asleep on the floor beside his toys, but at least I didn’t have to fight him to go to sleep.  Other days he didn’t need a nap, so he played for an hour and then came downstairs.

I was preparing myself to have an opposite experience with my second child, but I was blessed with another good sleeper.  (Thank you!)  The only difference is that his naps have been shorter, and he’s transitioned out of them much earlier than his brother.

I knew a few months ago that he probably didn’t need his naps because he would lay awake in his crib until late in the night “singing.”  Sometimes he’d call us in there a few times too.  I resisted not giving him a nap though.  Not only did I use that time to do one-on-one work with my five-year-old, I also used part of it as break time for myself.

As other mothers have also told me, it’s kind of a frightful moment to realize that daily nap times are almost over.  We wonder how will we ever live without it?

Even as I dreaded losing nap time, I knew that it was a silly thing to worry about.  Look at all the mothers with older children who don’t nap anymore…they have survived!

As it turned out, transitioning out of nap time was much harder for me than it was for my two-year-old.  Unlike his older brother, he never resisted going down for a nap, but once I let him not nap, he won’t go back.  We had a few days when he got pretty cranky in the afternoon without his nap, but sometimes he was like that anyway, so who knows?

So no more naps, and no more singing at night… He’s out like a light!  But how is mama holding up?  Actually, not bad.  It’s been very freeing to give up nap time.  Suddenly I have a huge space in the day when I can take the boys to the store or do an extra project with them.  There’s no rushing home for nap time or worrying how to get something done around it.

As far as my one-on-one time with my five-year-old, that has changed a bit. (See below for more information about that.) For now we’re sticking to things that his younger brother can join in too, but over the next few months I hope to figure out a new homeschool schedule.

Sometimes the five-year-old will grumble about his little brother interrupting his projects, but for the most part, we’ve been able to let him work alongside us.  When my son wants to make something with paper and scissors, the two-year-old gets busy cutting up bits of paper too.  (Can bits of paper scattered on the floor be considered a new fashion décor?)

Sometimes I’m the one who’s too hesitant to try something new with the two-year-old.  The other day my eldest son insisted that we try dissecting his human body model with his brother – something we always did while he was napping because I was afraid body parts would be flying all over the room.

To my surprise, the two-year-old was very careful with the pieces and curious about the whole process.  Only once I had to threaten a time out when he refused to give back the liver and stomach.  If you think about it, losing nap time isn’t half as bad as the day they’re gonna tell me they want to dissect a real frog or something like that!

Note: That was my column.  Below is some more information about how I’m dealing with the loss of nap time in our homeschooling routine.

Here’s a debrief of my thoughts about losing nap time:

  • Whaa!!
  • Okay, it’s nothing to cry about.  It actually gives us more freedom because I don’t have to work around the two-year-old’s naps.
  • At first, I didn’t worry about doing any formal lessons with my five-year-old.  I was already pretty laid back about this, and I wrote about how I conducted our homeschool in this post.
  • It’s springtime, and I feel pretty certain that every year during spring, we’re going to change our routine. It’s a priority of mine to let my boys spend a lot of time outside.  We still have book time, we create, we tell stories, and they play, play, play.  That’s all we need to do right now.
  • But recently I have been considering how to work in a small amount of time dedicated to the basics: reading and math.  Then I noticed that my two-year-old liked to sit quietly and watch his older brother play on the computer.  So I signed up for the paid portion of Starfall.com.  This is a wonderful site, and we’ve used it a lot in the past.  (There’s a lot on there that’s free, but they’ve added much more, including math, and they are only charging $35 a year for access to it.  Not a bad deal, if your child likes it.)  Twice I’ve sat down with my five-year-old, and we’ve read through two or three, short Starfall “books.”  My two-year-old has been in the room with us, and he likes to watch while at the same time playing with puzzles or other things in our activity room.  Don’t get me wrong – he is distracting.  But my five-year-old gets distracted no matter what when he has to sound out a word he doesn’t know.  This is why I don’t push more than two or three books at a time.
  • The site also has a lot of entertaining but educational math songs, nursery rhymes, etc.  So my thought is that we’ll spend a little time at the computer when we can, and I’ll make sure the five-year-old gets some practice reading.  Then we’ll have fun exploring the site.  It will be “school” for both of them.
  • My plan is to work this into our morning schedule between book time and our puppet shows.
  • Of course, this is all a work in progress.  I’ve just started doing this, and I don’t know what it will look like next month or next year.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
But Wait!?  You might be wondering: what about Mama’s Nap Time?  What about her Free time?  This is a subject for an upcoming blog post, but the short answer is that I let my boys watch T.V. in the afternoons (and evenings).  I hope you’ll stick with me because I’ll confess it all and explain why I don’t think T.V. hurts them…

How have you changed your routine as your children transition out of nap time?
March 5, 2012

Homeschooling a Kindergartener with a Toddler in the House

a follow-up to my series Homeschooling a Preschooler with a Baby in the House

Note:  * denotes that I’ll follow-up on that topic in a future post. If it’s underlined, click it – that means I’ve followed-up!

The first thing I’d like to clarify is that every family has to find what works best for them, and in fact, I’m in the process of trying to figure that out for myself.  As children grow, and with life’s ebb and flow, I think our schedule will naturally evolve to fit the needs of my family at any given time.  What I offer here is what I’ve been doing thus far.

However, to understand how I homeschool, you must take a look at my series on my mission / priorities.  Sorting out my priorities for my boys at this age (5 and 2) was invaluable for me, and as you’ll see much of what I do for my boys’ “homeschool” is simply life experience with a little bit of guidance and influence from me and my husband. 

Learning happens all the time, and I don’t feel like I need to “teach” much at all.  My boys absorb almost everything on their own.  At this age, I don’t believe there’s any need for a curriculum or a lot of planned, formal lessons.  Though I’m not there yet, I bet this will hold true for the future too.

However, I do some formal lessons with my five-year-old.  Why?

  • Because my five-year-old is ready and wants to do them.
  • Because I want to give him those first links in the long fence of learning.
  • Because it helps me find out what he’s interested in and what he’s ready for….If I don’t try something, I won’t know whether he’s ready for it or not.  If he doesn’t try something, he won’t know whether he likes it or not!
  • I consider this a time to experiment with different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t.  I am trying to ascertain what his learning style* and needs are.
  • I want to get him used to having some kind of schedule and goals to accomplish.  Just like cleaning the house, I feel that a little schedule and a little accountability now can set the stage for when he’s older and doing more on his own.
  • Honestly, I’m not completely comfortable with a pure “unschooling” approach at this time.  If I did that, I would probably come up against some strong opposition anyway, so I feel like by stating my priorities, keeping track of what they do on a daily basis, and by doing short lessons, I’m finding a balance and an approach I like.

As I said, learning happens all day, especially when the boys are playing by themselves, watching educational television, or playing a game like Simon Says with their parents just before bedtime.  Many of our days are spent running errands, going on play dates or playing outside if the weather is nice.  But for the purpose of this post, I’m writing about when we’re home and inside most of the day. On those days, our formal “homeschool” happens at two points during the day:

1. Between breakfast and lunch ~ This is when both boys are awake, so I do things they can both participate in.

  • We do a long book time. I call out, “It’s book time! Everyone get a book!”  The boys go the bookshelves and pick one or two books, and I do the same.  This gives me a chance to read something new or educational to them.  They often pick the same books over and over.
  • We do puppet shows. I don’t force the puppet shows, but if the boys don’t initiate some other activity, I say, “Let’s do puppet shows!”  We’ve accumulated a basket of puppets, and we each take turns getting behind the love seat and putting on a show. Puppet shows have all the educational benefits as storytelling, which you can read about by clicking here.
  • We may or may not do another activity.  My five-year-old is quick to initiate all kinds of projects.  He wants to build, make paper animals, or he wants to watch a video of something on the computer after we read about it.  I usually go with the flow here.  If the boys begin to play on their own, more power to them. (I do chores or take a break.)  If they want me to play with them, I do it.

For me, our morning rituals are about making learning fun, igniting their imaginations, and letting me spend concentrated, quality time with them.  This sets a good tone for the rest of day, and no matter what else happens, I feel good because I’ve accomplished my most important priority.

2. When the two-year-old is napping ~ This is when I do more formal lessons with my five-year-old. I only do one kind of lesson each day, and I keep it short.  There’s no way I could do it any other way.  He’s five.  He’s a boy.  This is not the time for longer lessons.

Note: As I write this, my two-year-old is transitioning out of naptime. (Yikes!)  This is what I’ve done for the last several months:

On our white board, I write our goals for the week and check off each time we finish a lesson.  It doesn’t always happen, but my goals are two reading lessons, two math lessons, and one day to work on our project.  This is what it might look like at the end of a good week:

2x Reading ✓✓

2x Math ✓

1x Project ✓

I should also note that I feel like we’ve hit a plateau with the reading and math.  While my son really moved quickly at the beginning of 100 Lessons, I haven’t seen a lot of progress lately.  However, that’s okay with me.  I have to consider these things:

  • He’s only five, and if I were putting him into school, he would be entering Kindergarten this coming fall.  He’s way ahead of the game already.
  • Children all learn at a different pace, and there’s a lot of evidence that boys (and some girls) learn to read slower. This has no bearing on their level of intelligence.
  • It’s not my priority to make him learn how to do anything right now.  I believe that the most important thing a teacher can do to teach any child how to read or do math is to read to them frequently and show them how math is used in an everyday context.
  • I believe that developing his imagination and showing him the wonders of this earth will lead him to want to learn how to do all these basic skills on his own time.

In addition to all this, my son gets a good dose of science, social studies and art through the classes we attend, books we read, crafts we do, television we watch and conversations that I have with him.

Please stay tuned for my follow-up posts on this and more!  And to find resources on how to start telling stories to your children, see my Storytelling Page.

Do you have a blog post about how you manage your daily homeschooling?  Feel free to link to it in the comments section.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 305 other followers

%d bloggers like this: