We’re in week 4 of “homeschool kindergarten,” as Abby proudly calls it. We’re still settling into a routine, and I’m still making some tweaks here and there. But the initial takeoff is behind us. Phew!
Some of you are happy to stop there. But I know there are some fellow schooling junkies out there who are curious about some additional details. Nerds, this post is for you:
Stephen has the luxury of a flexible work schedule, which I do not take for granted even as I do use it to my advantage. We’ve adjusted his morning work hours so that he can take Jem out of the house for the first hour of our school day. As it turns out, this is a double bonus– they often do my grocery shopping or errands! And, as was our primary purpose, it gives Abby and I some focused time for the nitty gritty parts of our day: math and language arts.
Neither one of us can take more than an hour of that, so when Jem gets home and Stephen goes to work, we eat a little snack and then resume school with our more toddler-friendly subjects: Bible, mapwork, art, nature study, etc.
After some free play time and lunch, Jem goes down for a nap. While he sleeps (or plays or screams in his bed, depending on the day), Abby and I do a quick review of math and handwriting and I read aloud to her for a bit.
After we read, I turn Abby loose for Quiet Play (a lovely tradition we’ve held onto since she gave up naps in the afternoon), a little time on the computer, and more free play time with Jem. When I can stand it, we hold off on TV until the last hour of the afternoon, when they’re tired of playing and I need to cook dinner.
I’m trying to follow the advice of Jennifer Fulwiler and do as much planning for the week as I can on Saturdays. This means detailed lesson planning, all of the necessary researching/printing/copying, as well as menu and errand planning for the week ahead, so that on Monday morning all of my energy can go toward executing (and troubleshooting) The Plans I’ve already done the work of creating. So far, focused Saturday planning time has been hit-and-miss, but I never regret work done ahead of time, when I am able.
The essential core of our school day is intentionally simple: we do focused math and language arts four days a week. I’m not being creative here; in both of these subjects I’m obediently following the lesson guides provided by the curriculum. We’re using Saxon math. Most of the teachers and institutions I admire prefer Singapore/Math in Focus, and if we stick with homeschooling over the long haul I think I’ll convert at some point. But for this year, I liked the straightforward, idiot-proof structure of Saxon. For language arts, we’re using Spell to Write and Read, which is phonics-based and a bit dry, but a really solid foundation for the necessary skills behind (obviously) spelling, writing, and reading.
We do a Bible story per week, moving chronologically through New Testament stories according to the Big Picture Bible Timeline book. We read the assigned Bible story a few times through by the end of the week, Abby colors a timeline card, and sometimes we do a related arts-and-crafts-y project if I happen to have had time to look for one on Pinterest.
I try to hit all of our “electives” –art, science, and geography– once a week, but I don’t stress if we miss a lesson here and there. (These are always the first bumped in the event of a schedule hiccup.) I’m inventing these as I go, pulling mainly, at this point, from resources by Evan Moor.
(Yes, I know about–and love–the Story of the World series. But most of the sources I consulted do not actually recommend starting a formal “history” curriculum at this stage. For at least the Kinder year, if not Kinder and First, I like the idea of doing lots of geography and culture studies to give Abby lots of “hooks” for people and places that will help her make sense of historical narratives in a couple of years.)
Most of all, we’re reading, reading, reading. I’ve pulled lots of titles from the Sonlight reading list, which have been helpful for appropriate grade-level titles as well as suggestions across the disciplines. Our first long read-aloud is Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, a choice both sentimental (my mom read it to me when I was in Homeschool Kindergarten), and obvious (see previous posts about Abby’s Charlotte’s Web obsession). We’ve also checked out some audio CDs of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series and a little collection of Kevin Henkes stories, which Abby is currently binging on.