Monday, October 5, 2015

Homeschool in Our Home Part 1

I've had so many ideas for posting on this blog but no time to actually type them out and publish them. I've wanted to. But with 4 kids, two of them under the age of 2.5, a fifth child on the way, homeschool, personal prayer, interaction with real people in person, personal needs and realities of life, nothing has happened here. Still, the thoughts rattle around in my brain and typing them out helps me organize them. So maybe I'll be able to visit more often, if only as an organizational tool for myself and my poor brain.
A couple friends of mine asked me about how I homeschool as they were canvassing several of their friends for new ideas. I typed up a schedule of our typical day for them, and then I typed a list of several resources I have used or currently use. Since the lists are already typed, I might as well publish them for anyone else who might find them useful. ;-)
My kids are Maria-8 (3rd grade), Reese-7 (2nd grade), Princess-2 (likes to imitate her older sisters in everything they do) and Ant-16 months (our first boy, and he doesn't do anything school related). The particular friends who asked for my input have children 7 and under in one family (already homeschools but was needing to make some changes), and 5 and under (just beginning to homeschool and really asking around all the moms she knows for the different perspectives to figure out what works best for her).
This is a "typical" "full day" at our house, distinguished from a "half day", when I require reading, math, and Spanish, but the rest of their checklists are not required because we are busy with other activities (field trip, art projects, trip preparations, trip clean-up, etc.) The morning family routine is mostly similar, so they are still doing memorization, personal prayer, and family prayer on "half days".
1. Around 7am-8:15. Wake up, dress, before breakfast chores
2. Around 8:15-8:45. Family breakfast. My husband and I model narration for them during the breakfast conversation by recounting something we read that morning during our personal Bible studies. Sometimes he will ask the older girls to tell about their Bible studies from the day before. We read a short devotional, review our Scripture memorization verses, then pray aloud for each family member. The older girls are expected to pray for one of their siblings and an extended family member, giving them practice in praying aloud in a small group.
3. After breakfast chores, finish dressing (hair, teeth). If our schedule allows for it, we have family prayer time, which means my husband plays a couple songs on the guitar, everyone sings, those who choose to may play a child instrument (tambourine, egg shaker, ukulele, maraca). In between songs we encourage charismatic prayer (1-2 minutes) and close the prayer time with the Our Father, usually in Spanish.
4. Personal Prayer Times. For the prayer, I began by making a chart for each girl and we would pray through it together, sometimes 1 parent-1 child, sometimes both girls with 1 parent. Probably in another year (i.e. 3yrs old) Princess will begin doing this with me and it won't take long after that before Ant starts to join us. Now, the older girls (8.5 and 7yrs old) do their PPT and Bible studies individually, but I don't think they do much prayer; I think they mostly focus on the easier Bible study. That's ok; we'll return to the PPT instructions in another couple years. They currently own their own Bibles and read a section each day. We've put out incentives to them for finishing 1 Gospel, all 4 Gospels, the NT, the OT, the whole Bible, the whole Bible in 1 year...They have both finished Matthew (ice cream!), Maria has finished all 4 (bigger ice cream!) and Maria is now working through Romans, motivated to earn a new doll when she finishes the NT. Reese has a basic notebook for her prayer journal, in which she writes the date and the title of what she read, then a picture of what she read. In May Maria graduated to a pretty diary journal and writes in it rather than drawing. Her description is still very basic (even more so because she is reading Romans) and she independently includes other details of her life. I do not look at her prayer journal, but I do ask both girls about what they read and usually review Reese's, sometimes helping her decide what she will draw, helping her work through what she read and what it means.
5. Checklist: Math, Reading, Handwriting, Spanish, Music, Phys Ed. I add or change it around when needed.
Math is a lesson with Mom and a worksheet, followed by about 7 days' worth of worksheets. They bring their worksheets to me to correct before they can consider their math "done" for the day. They have the option of working through more than one worksheet in a day or skipping sheets if they know the material well, but they don't often take advantage of either option. It's easier to work through problems that are already well understood and thereby extend the lesson than to jump forward to the next lesson which includes new, more challenging concepts. They usually take the easy road. ;-)
Reading is their choice of a number of non-fiction books supplied by me via the library and book sales. I choose these books based on their current interests. I would like to give more structure than I do now to the subjects, eventually. After reading the book or the chapter (if it's a long book), they write/draw a book report and give me an oral narration of what they learned. Sometimes instead of the report they will complete a project (found by me or invented by them), interacting in another way with the material (e.g. creating their own solar system map, researching and writing about Eastern Cottontail Rabbits, making a recipe from the book, writing out a timeline found in the book's appendix).
Handwriting right now is cursive. They trace on a white board I found at a garage sale or they trace and copy on a worksheet I print off. They are not expected on this assignment to think, only to form their letters.
I require them to work on a Rosetta Stone lesson at least a couple times a week. They can work on it every day or they can alternate with some youtube videos I found and bookmarked for them of stories being read in Spanish. On days when the computer isn't available they complete this assignment by memorizing 5 words from an Usborne picture dictionary. My goal is that they creep as slowly as they choose toward mastering a second language, enough that someday they can call themselves bilingual and can test out of any foreign language requirements in college. Hopefully they will even be able to communicate in Spanish and may even choose a 3rd language to learn before they graduate high school.
Music has expanded to two instruments, ukulele and piano. We bought our daughters ukuleles to help them learn how to hold a stringed instrument, how to strum, how to form chords. When they know enough about music and are big enough to hold a guitar, we hope that this introduction will make it much easier for them to learn how to play the guitar, which is really the instrument we most want them to learn. We just got a piano and our goal with that is for them to learn music theory and reading music. My husband was going to teach them the ukulele but his schedule hasn't allowed for it, so we have found the internet and youtube helpful for that instrument, since our standards for it are very low. Like Spanish, I find lessons and bookmark them, and the girls play through one video until they have "mastered" (our standards are low...) the song. We will be paying for them to have weekly piano lessons, though in the meantime I give them mini lessons most days and they play around on the piano with the books that we have for the required 20 minutes (required because they would rather spend 60 and I limit them to 20).
Phys Ed is my most recent addition. My daughters would like to spend more than half the day reading but their attitudes are more positive when they get some intentional physical movement in their day. Phys Ed can be completed with a family walk, with swimming lessons, with backyard (or team sport) basketball practice, with biking or running around outside, with racing up and down our basement stairs, with a modified Pilates or dance party.
6. Ideally, lunch (noonish) is made by one of the older girls, rotated weekly, by herself or with me. I am working with Maria especially on thinking ahead (first step in menu planning). She can make a few simple things on her own, including fried eggs, quesadillas, microwaved white or sweet potatoes, and boiled eggs. With my help she can follow a basic recipe and make meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Realistically, this of course doesn't happen every week. I eat lunch after the kids so I can read aloud to them during their lunch. I am trying to read one picture book after each chapter book, before beginning the next. These read-alouds are classic children's fiction, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Little House books, the Wheel on the School, etc.
7. Quiet time, around 12-2pm. The babies nap, I eat and introvert, the older girls read quietly whatever they want or play with something quiet such as drawing, writing, paper dolls, other dolls, Legos.
8. Snack time, followed by any schoolwork they didn't finish during the morning. They are quite capable of completing their checklists before lunch and often do, but sometime attitudes and procrastinations get in the way.
Not in our daily schedule: We listen to books on cd in the van, books that the kids enjoy but my husband doesn't when we're in town (American Girl, Phantom Tollbooth, The Wizard of Oz) and books we all enjoy on roadtrips (history, Chronicles of Narnia, James Herriot). Besides planting books on the shelf filled with history and science, we do science projects together a couple times a month. Movies that we watch together as a family are often nature related, and the kids learn a lot from them. I also find myself showing them a video or article more days than not, either because they ask a question ("What does a baby bee look like?") or because it comes up in my newsfeed (A woolly mammoth skeleton found in our state this week) or something in one of the blogs I follow for this very purpose sounds like it will interest them (Squirting cucumbers??)

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