Monday, September 23, 2013

Our first week

I intended to write about our first week of homeschooling before starting our second, but we just moved out of our house and my weekend didn't have enough sanity in it to include blogging :)

Yes, we started school the week before moving house, and in the middle of the chaos of boxes and packing and lists and Goodwill trips, we had a great week! I am so excited that our journey into school at home started well.
I am also glad that the length of our school days has ranged (so far) between an hour and a half, and 45 minutes on our quickest day. It just feels so ... manageable! I know this time will increase as she gets older (if we're still homeschooling by then), but for this season that is a really good time frame.
We start our school day around 9, and pray before doing anything else. This is mostly for my own benefit since I am trying to manage a toddler while I help Anna with her school work, but hopefully is also instilling a good habit in her too! We start out with our Bible verses that we're working on memorising during the year, and then switch to her 'workbook' classes. She uses a book for math and handwriting, and since those require more of her concentration than the rest of her work, we start with those when she is fresh and eager to learn :) Levi usually sits with us at the table and colours on a piece of paper (Mark's idea on our first day, and it's become a fun habit that hopefully will last! Every single day Levi asks me to draw airplanes, helicopters and eyeballs for him to scribble on...). When she's finished with her math and handwriting exercises, we go sit on the couch and read her books together. We're reading the Mother Goose book of nursery rhymes, Uncle Wiggly's Story Book and Eric Carle's Animals Animals, and also the Berenstein Bears' Science book. We don't read all of them every day, except for her science book.
And then we're done! Oh, and we don't do school on Fridays :)

I am planning on adding in a phonics book next semester (we're not doing any specific work on reading right now, although she's picking up a lot outside of 'school time' anyway), and I have some books on music, art and world cultures that we'll incorporate during the year too.

I'm trying to include fun activities that supplement the ideas we're learning, especially in her science book. We started with seasons, which obviously she knows very well by now, but we're incorporating some new ideas too. Winter was the season we studied last week, so we compared cold water from the tap with ice water to learn about different degrees of 'coldness'. We also saw that even though cold tap water felt cold, it was still warmer than the ice so it made the ice melt - and then became much colder itself as the ice cubes became smaller.

So, we are having fun! I'm praying that it lasts, and that this is something good for our relationship. She is definitely a quality time girl, and I'm wondering whether the focused time we spend together might be one of the benefits of homeschooling. We'll see!

Monday, September 9, 2013

We are almost back to school

Almost ... because until this afternoon I was still waiting on a math syllabus to arrive. And, honestly, I'm ok with a little delay :)  Since deciding to homeschool Anna through her Pre-K year (and probably beyond), I have cycled through many different thoughts, plans, and feelings regarding this decision. 

For the most part, I am so excited to be the one who gets to teach her.  I get to watch her grasp ideas, grow in her understanding of God's world and how she fits into it, grapple with challenging concepts (and hopefully master her frustrations without too much agony!) ...  and this looks to me like a huge privilege.

I'm also a little anxious, though.  In recent weeks, her behaviour has become more challenging. I've started to see some anger and defiance, especially when I ask her to do something that goes against her will.  I know that I've had it pretty easy with her until now, and even her 'difficult' times could be a lot worse!!  My anxiety comes from the fact that I don't want our more intensive time together during her schooling to become a place where we butt heads.  I know I need to be responsive to her needs and abilities rather than simply getting through my plan for the morning, and I also know that adding a structured time specifically dedicated to learning is going to add some element of a 'teacher' role to my mothering.  I want to get the balance right and respond to her well ... to know when to push her and when enough is enough ... and I want her to love learning!

So, because this is our first year homeschooling, and because she's not even in Kindergarten yet - come on, people, how rigorous does this really need to be?! - we are going to focus on enjoying our school year together, and if we get through the whole curriculum by the summer that's great.  If not?  Then we will have had a good year, learned a bunch of stuff, and be ready for the break! 

As far as the details of what we'll be doing, here is an outline of our curriculum:

  • Language Arts syllabus from Sonlight
  • Singapore Math
  • Exploring God's World (Sonlight syllabus) for a simple intro to world cultures, geography, science; also using some of this for Bible verse memorisation & daily Bible stories
  • Other stuff - I've picked out books either from the Charlotte Mason book list or just books I've found on Amazon that introduce her to musical instruments and concepts of art

Before everyone falls apart at the idea of doing all of that every day, we're not :)  My goal is to do some form of reading/ phonics, handwriting practice and math every day, and also our Bible story and verse.  The rest of it will happen if we are still interested in learning after all that.  (I did initially plan out our year, week by week, to try to make sure we would cover everything in the syllabi I bought, but then realised that that was just too much.  We would have been reading at least half a dozen books every day even before getting to any actual 'work'.)

I plan on doing school Monday through Thursday, probably for an hour or two in the mornings depending on how Anna's concentration is doing.  And how her little brother is doing!  Ha.  My plan for Levi is actually to include him as much as he wants to be included, in what we're doing.  He LOVES to play with Anna and mimic whatever she is doing. 

So while he's not going to be able to follow much of what she is capable of learning, I do want to have activities for him to do with us if he wants to.  He's also pretty good at entertaining himself by reading books or chasing balls around the house or playing with a tub of water, and I think he would like playing with Anna's math manipulatives when we're not using them. 

(As an aside, he has started recognising letters from Anna's little scrabble set recently!  He can identify O, N, A and E pretty reliably.  It has not even crossed my mind to start working with him on the alphabet yet, so I have no idea where he learned those things.)

So, one more week and then we'll be starting.  Our math stuff did arrive this afternoon, so we don't really HAVE to wait another week ... but the thought of starting school on not a Monday sends a wave of discomfort through my OCD self.   I am excited, and praying that God grants me the wisdom, grace and patience to steward this little girl's mind and heart and learning well.   And, somehow, still fit in things like cooking and laundry and showers too  :)