It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I resigned from my job as a middle school English teacher and began my journey as a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom. When I was finishing up at work, I had a number of individuals tell me that I would have days that I wished I were going back to work. Honestly, I can say those days have yet to come; even the days full of sickness, vomit, crying and fighting have been worthwhile and have served a purpose. I have loved every minute of being at home with my own children. Don’t get me wrong, I loved teaching in the classroom; however, personally, I was at a place where I knew that, with my desire to be a great teacher and an involved parent, something had to give – I couldn’t let that be my family.
After some research and chatting with other homeschooling mamas, I put together a plan for homeschooling my eldest son for preschool. You can read my plan going into the school year here. Reflection is essential to success in teaching, and, likewise, in homeschooling. So here are my thoughts as to what has worked in our homeschool this year. In my next post, I’ll detail some things that I will change for next year.
What has worked for us this year
Using Sonlight P4/5 as the base of our curriculum
Cultivating an early love of reading is essential: my husband and I want to raise readers. Sonlight curriculum has helped so much in this area. My four year old son LOVES being read to and since he has a good attention span for reading, we began our journey with Sonlight’s preschool 4/5 curriculum. We loved the books! He is already asking to reread some of the books. I am struggling to hold off on beginning Core A (which I have ordered and plan to start with him in September) with him now! For summer, we are working through recommended book lists, reading some recommended early chapter books, lots of science readers and picture books, but I love Sonlight’s quality of stories. The vocabulary and quality of the narratives introduced to young children are fabulous!
Following a structured routine
At the start of our school year, our day followed this basic routine:
- Bible story, review verse and character trait (Sonlight)
- Read aloud (as recommended by Sonlight or books from our personal library) These read alouds include books about science and cultures.
- Phonics: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
- Math: Horizons K
- Perceptual growth: Developing the Early Learner Book
Being that for most of the year my baby still napped in the morning, I was easily able to accomplish our goals daily with my preschooler. Even on days when we had plans, we could usually get our school work done before heading out for a playdate or outing.
Completing school work in the morning
Unfortunately, if my preschooler naps, he is awake until 10pm at night – and although I love him to pieces, I’d much rather him be in his bed by 7:30! Since naps are so rare, he is usually pretty zonked by 1pm. If I try to accomplish school in the afternoon, it doesn’t work for us. If it’s a good day, and he’s not too wiped out, I can sometimes squeeze in a hands on math lesson/game. Reading can be done in the afternoon in our family; however, oftentimes this makes me exhausted! Needless to say, I still prefer to do most of our ‘academic work’ in the morning before lunch!
Midyear I switched from using Horizon’s math level K curriculum to using Singapore Math’s Early Bird program. Personally, at this level, Singapore is working for us. I love that the Early Bird program incorporates many concrete hands-on activities as examples before asking the child to complete the workbook part of the program.
All About Reading Level 1
For phonics instruction we started with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and we continued with that until about lesson 25. However, at that point, frustration began to build for my young learner. I quickly realized that we needed to slow down and change things up a bit: my four year old needed more hands on practice and lots of practice with blending short words, one word at at time, before moving on to sentences. For a new curriculum, I chose All About Reading Level 1 and we haven’t looked back since. My four year old is now reading two and three letter words – mostly CVC words – on his own now. He just began blending the phonemes on his own without any assistance from me this week – a major breakthrough for him!
Instituting a daily quiet time
An hour of quiet independent play in the afternoon has proved essential for my sanity. For most of the year, this hour coincided with my baby’s afternoon nap, which was perfect. Recently, however, my little one has transitioned to one nap, which has led to a new schedule and reworking of ‘quiet time.’
Making time for lots of free play and skill building
Knowing that many boys, especially, struggle with fine motor development, and how much this affects handwriting skills later on, I have made a concerted effort to provide my preschooler with numerous ‘play experiences’ that help to develop these skills. Lots of playdough, building, water table/sensory activities and drawing or writing whatever he is interested in (many, many, many treasure maps)! Similarly, I try to incorporate as many ‘easy’ (read: not lots of setup or prep required!) hands on activities to teach ideas as possible.
Teaching science and social studies through literature and hands on activities
We have begun using Elemental Science’s preschool curriculum – when we have time and are looking for fun activities to do – and have really enjoyed studying science this way. Additionally, I read as many books about animals, plants and the earth as my preschooler wishes. We’ve read so much about tornadoes, volcanoes, the big cats, the sea, insects, bears and the Arctic. We borrow books on these topics from the library and I often pick up books on these topics from our local second-hand shop for our home library.
Learning at home with my munchkin has been such a grand adventure. I love learning about the world alongside him and, at this point, wouldn’t have it any other way!