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 ✓
- For reading lessons, we first used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and I should note that when we used this book, I did it every day. We did not do math then. But since we stopped doing that, I’ve been trying a variety of other techniques to teach reading.
- For Math, I am using Life of Fred, which my five-year-old loves. However, we’re on the second book now, and it’s too hard for him. I have pulled back, and I’m taking a different approach to math for the time being, and I’m also searching other avenues for future reference. (See updated review on Life of Fred here.)
- For our current project my son and I are creating a snake book. After my son gets over the hurdle of basic reading and math, and my younger son is a little older, I hope our project-based homeschooling will really kick off.
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.
Do you have a blog post about how you manage your daily homeschooling? Feel free to link to it in the comments section.