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?

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!

Our Homeschool Mission

Several years ago I read the mission of another homeschool family that I admire, and I liked the idea of creating a mission.  I don’t think it’s necessary if that’s not your thing, but for me, it helps me focus on what I want my children to learn.  This is especially important since I’m not depending on a curriculum.

Our mission is fluid.  Since I’m just starting out on this homeschooling journey, I’m not going to say this is what we’ll always do.  I’m sure my sons’ interests will take us on many varied paths.  But right now I need a compass to put me in the starting position.

So, almost two years ago, I began brainstorming about what was important to me to teach my children, and I came up with these lists.  The first list is “the basics” and the second list is what I want to teach or emphasize.  Many of these categories overlap, but I wrote them out as a reminder to myself.

Then I wrote the mission statement.  Yes, it’s a bit wordy and lofty, but like I said, I wanted a compass to guide me as I began to facilitate my children’s education.  Why not have a high ideal?  

Now that my eldest son is five-years-old, I am finally referring to this list and statement as I plan our activities.  I think it’ll help me focus my time and my blog, and maybe it’ll help some of you starting out too.

I begin with the categories of learning.  *Note that according to Georgia Law I’m required to teach the following: reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.  The law does not go into further detail about what I have to teach.

Categories of Learning

The Basics:

Mama’s Emphasis/Additions:

  • Storytelling
  • Nature/Animals
  • International Education
  • World Religions Education
  • Spiritual Lessons/Life Missions – I have linked to my PBH page here because I think through this my sons will find their life’s work.
  • Leadership/Good Citizenship
  • Financial Literacy
  • Foreign Language

Without further ado…

Our Mission Statement:

The purpose of our homeschool is to not only teach our children what they need to know to be accepted into an accredited college (if they choose to do so) but to also foster a love of learning and give them a foundation on which to build a fulfilling life of their own.  We want to enable them to find what will make them prosper: spiritually, in their vocation, and for their livelihood.  We want to create strong citizens who have knowledge of the world they live in and a respect for the earth they live on.  We want to show them that learning is a life-long endeavor and that knowledge and experience are steppingstones to wisdom.

…Do you have a mission statement for your homeschool? Please share it with me.

In my next post, I’ll talk about our homeschool priorities for my sons’ current ages/levels: preschool and kindergarten.  And I’ll explain how I plan to go about fulfilling our mission.