April 27, 2012

Homeschooling...what do we do?

Several people have emailed and asked what exactly we're doing with homeschooling for the pre-K and Kindergarten years...like curriculum and schedules and all that. It's a question I've asked other homeschooling moms over the years and often got an ambiguous response and I'm starting to realize why. There's SO many things you can do that I think most people don't follow just one route. So, I thought I'd lay out what we're doing now and probably for the next couple years in the hopes that it might help someone else out there with a toddler who feels a little over their head but is considering homeschooling.

First of all, it's intimidating. You're not alone. I studied early childhood development in college, was a live-in nanny for triplets (often on duty 70-80 hours a week) and have worked with DHS kids who had been in and out of foster homes their whole life but the idea of educating my own children made me want to throw up...not because I didn't want to do it but because I didn't want to do it poorly. We're only a few weeks into the new schedule and I already feel so much more confident with it. I can see it working. I know better than anyone how much my son can handle...I know when he's had too much information or he's getting delirious with all the information or antsy sitting at the table and we stop. I send him outside to climb a tree or dig in the dirt and we do more later. If you're on the fence about homeschooling and specifically concerned about socialization or just want to know why we're NOT concerned about socialization, you NEED to read the blog post Weirdo which was admittedly written by one of my best real life friends. She does a great job in expanding on an article she read and gives her own personal experience.

The first book I read that has really laid out a clear route for us was "A Well-Trained Mind" which struck a cord with me because in my zeal to find a curriculum (something I was almost at the point of panic over when I first began looking into homeschooling), I started by looking into several homeschooling styles including unschooling, Montessori, and DVD/Video studies but in the end, the classical approach is the one that fits our family best. And that's really the best part about homeschooling, finding what fits you and your children best and running with it. With the classical approach, structured education is generally not pushed until the first grade and then education can be easily split into three stages each lasting four years. With that in mind, we expect to either start a classical curriculum with a co-op-type group such as Classical Conversations or perhaps send our son to a local blended classical school which has class two days a week where they introduce an excellant classical curriculum and the rest of the week is homeschooling and reinforcing what has been already introduced. The school claims 90% of the material is introduced there which as a first generation homeschooling mom, makes me feel so much better but it is a private school and comes with a private school price tag. It's something we could afford for the two children we have now but we hope to adopt many more children and even though the tuition isn't as pricey as most private schools because it's part time, it's not exactly cheap either. It's the big decision we have to make in the next two years.

In the meantime, we're preparing the boy at home. That's really the way we see the pre-K and Kindergarten years. The primary goal is to get him to read and read well. We're touching on the basics of other subjects but our focus is always reading. So here's our current schedule:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday: Reading, Writing, and Math

What we actually do: 
Until he's four, we're doing at least 10 mins a day for each (although for reading, it's usually something we're working on all day in one form or another). When he turns four, we'll bump it to at least 20 mins a day for each subject. And at four and a half, it will be 30 mins a day for each subject.

Reading: He doesn't read. Yet. That is our goal. So we spend our time going over letter recognition and sounds. We use flash cards without pictures because we want him to learn the letters themselves and not have to think of an apple first in order to think of the letter A. One of our favorite toys/tools is  his Leap Frog Letter Discoveries toy. It's great. It's not a leapster video game. It's a pad with all 26 letters as the buttons. Vowels are in red, consonants are in blue. There's four methods of "play" that (with the exception of the third) progressively get more difficult. The first is just the letter names. The second is the letter sounds but before it says the sound of the letter, it says the name of the letter. The third we don't use much for education...it's musical-each letter makes a different musical sound which is fun but not really helpful for learning to read. The last is a game where it tells the child to find a specific letter and then congratulates him when he does. We also bought the book, The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading which has been great but we're going pretty slowly through it. For example, the first five lessons are the vowels and they're great with going into short vowel sounds and why vowels are different than consonants (talking about how your teeth and tongue don't get used with vowels the way they do with consonants) but we're not doing a lesson in a day...it's more like a lesson a week because that's where our son is at and we're good with that.

Writing: He loves to draw. So we let him. I bought several of the large floor pads of drawing paper while Joshua was deployed (butcher paper would work just as well) so the boy could draw big pictures to send to Daddy. Now, we use it to draw shapes and letters. We also use the chalkboard side of his Step 2 Easel. We've started using proper handwriting paper but mostly we're getting the fundamentals of drawing straight lines, circles both clockwise and counter-clockwise (so he knows the difference) and all his shapes. Writing is just a lot of fun which is what all of homeschooling or schooling in general should be in my opinion.

Math: Counting. Lots and lots of counting. We count the number of smiley faces on his responsibility chart. We count his blocks. We count his sister's toes. We count everything. I also adjusted one of my favorite alphabet games (thank you pinterest!) that teaches matching upper and lower case alphabet letters by using Easter eggs to have a number written on top with a corresponding number of dots on the bottom half. It's been great! We're also starting to touch on monetary denominations and time...both of which Daddy has taken the lead on. Woo-hoo for Daddies that are involved.

Tuesday and Thursday: Art and Science

Art: We do a craft or art project like painting outside, making a tissue paper mosaic or going on a photo walk (I believe photography to be an art form and the boy loves it!). Basically, there's a million little art and craft ideas out there...all of which are on pinterest too so if you lack inspiration, you can always find something to do there.

Science: This one is totally Joshua and the boy. We bought the book Mudpies to Magnets which has well over 200 experiments-most of which using common, everyday materials we already have. We also have a membership to the OKC Science Museum and go as often as possible. Science is something both my husband and I love and we fully expect our kids will be just as enthralled if we introduce it early enough. For the record, right now, the science experiments are less about the boy learning about gravity and the laws of nature and more about instilling in him a love of learning science.

So, that's it. That's what we're doing...for now (we're always open to new ideas and improvements). Is it perfect? Probably not. Does it work perfectly for us? Absolutely. I'm by no means an expert but I just want to tell anyone else who is considering homeschooling that it's much more scary before you do it. It takes some work to get started and you have to find what works best for you but you can. There are so many tools out there now and so much support online and in community groups. 


JG said...

What a great, practical post. I'm definitely sharing this around!