Monday, September 15, 2014

An overview of our kindergarten homeschool thus far

Well, Izzy turned 5 back in April, so she officially began kindergarten this school year.  What does that look like at our home - aka, our homeschool?

Pretty much like every other day:  we play, do a few chores, read some books, and play some more.

There are so many homeschool styles/philosophies out there, and after much research, I've finally decided that our style will reflect that of a Charlotte Mason Education (Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the 1800s).  The previous link gives a pretty good overview of what that looks like. 

Now, what that looks like in kindergarten (or the preschool years), is very different from what most of us are used to.  Honestly, I don't really know what goes on in a kindergarten classroom nowadays.  I imagine it looks very structured with the whole day involving pre-planned out activities/lessons; stations and what-not.  Of course, play is somewhere in there, but the day is most likely not driven by it.  And by play, I mean free play; imaginitive, creative, kids-are-left-alone-and-play-with-whatever-they-want, play, with most of that being outdoors.

A CM (Charlotte Mason) kindergarten day, however, is driven by this type of play.  It allows the child time to discover, imagine, explore, and pretend.  It allows the child to be a child.

Now, let me say that that does not mean the children are not being watched carefully by the mother (or parent or whomever), and that the mom doesn't ever interact or guide the children.  Not so - but there must be a balance between the mother intervening and letting the children alone.

Here's an overview of what a CM kindergarten (or preschool, for that matter) day looks:
  • The majority of the day is spent outside in the fresh air, which gives kids ample opportunity to be curious and explore and make connections about things in their own minds, and it gives kids lots of time to just dig in the dirt.  Being outside is good for children.
  • The rest of the day is spent developing habits (obedience, attention, etc.) and character (of course, this is done while outside as well), reading good, quality books and stories, and maybe some phonics and math are sprinkled in here and there, gently, if the child is ready (big emphasis on if).
Formal schooling, with a curriculum and all that, does not begin until at least the age of 6.  It's recommended that a child gets a full 6 years of playful, passive, non stressful time to be a child.  When he/she is surrounded by good books, plenty of outside time, and loving parents/caregivers with whom they interact, the child will have a solid foundation to begin formal lessons.

Studies actually show that children benefit more from having ample time to play rather than being forced to learn academics until age 6 or 7.  

So, with all of that said, here is what our homeschool has looked like so far this year with 5 year old Izzy (kindergarten) and 3 year old Addy (preschool). 

First, some of my goals for the girls (in no particular order):
  • Get outside as much as possible each day (CM recommends 4-6 hours everyday in warm weather and 2-3 hours each day in the cold)
  • Read good, well-written books
  • Develop a habit of Bible time/devotions
  • Character/habit training (all. day. long.)
  • Plenty of play time
  • Introduce the "riches" of a CM education - hymn and folk song studies, composer, art, and nature studies
  • Math/Phonics if Izzy shows an interest
Here's what most of our days look like (this is more of a routine than anything):

At breakfast we have Bible and poetry/rhyme time.  For Bible time we're reading a chapter per day from "The Book for Children" (this was actually Jared's when he was a child - his mom and dad got it for him when he was four), starting in the beginning (pun intended).  For poetry/rhyme time we're reading 2 or 3 or 17 rhymes from "The Real Mother Goose" (which I got for a buck at a yard sale, yay!) or A Child's Own Book of Verse which can be found online for free here.  "The Real Mother Goose" can also be found online for free here.

The girls l.o.v.e. Mother Goose, by the way.

I've also given the kids a print-out calendar for the month.  They colored it and each day Izzy puts the day's number on the calendar, plus stickers or something for any upcoming events.  Here's her September calendar.  

She had a little trouble with writing her numbers at the beginning of the month, but she's getting better!  

After breakfast the girls make their beds, change clothes, and brush teeth (Addy still needs me to help her with this).

Then it's  outside/play time.  We usually go in the backyard and the kids just play.  We'll sometimes venture out into the front if they want to ride bikes or something.

This is also the time we may go for a walk and when we do, I try to weave in a sort of "nature study."  Nature study is big time in a CM Education.  Most of the child's science education in the younger years (grades 1-6) comes from nature study.  Here's a great quote from this article:
Nature study as a subject is one which should be approached with great reverence, for in dealing with birds, animals, flower and all other forms of natural life, we are perhaps, nearer to the Creator than in any other branch of science; for the natural world is the expression of God's personality in a form that is within the reach of all of us to comprehend in some measure.  And is not the natural world one of the greatest proofs that there is a God?
We're still getting the hang of this, but I think we're doing pretty good since the kids are still so young.  The main goal at this age is to make outside time a habit and to introduce the habit of attention and close observation.  

My goal, in addition to playing outside everyday, is to drive somewhere else and go on a "nature walk" once per week.  For example, one day we went to the park and the kids just played and played.  Then after awhile, I had them do the nature walk in which we just walked around the park, noticing and collecting things.

Izzy found a stick shaped like a "4".

Examining a spider web.

"Look what we found!"

Nature Study.  Importante.

I may try to introduce a nature journal this year, but I haven't got that far yet.

(Oh, if, while you were looking at the above pictures, you thought to yourself, "Who is that little boy?  She didn't mention having a little boy..." I also babysit.)

Moving on.  At lunch we *may* read a picture book or two or four (when the kids' mouths are stuffed is a great time to read).  After lunch the kids help me clean the kitchen - they take turns wiping off the table and sweeping the floor.

Then, Izzy and I snuggle on the couch and I read a weekly read-aloud to her from our list of "kindergarten" books.  Addy is more than welcome to join us (and usually does), but she doesn't have to.  Izzy is expected to listen (because I know she can).  However, if Addy is not in a listening mood, no big deal, she can go ahead and go lay down.

Here's a schedule of our current weekly read-alouds (1 chapter per week):

Monday - Among the Meadow People by Clara Dillingham Pierce - found online for free here 
Tuesday The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Wednesday - The Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang - found online for free here 
Thursday The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter
Friday - Stuart Little by E.B. White

Once Iz and I are finished with her story, it's quiet time for all of us (including me...absolutely).  The girls have some quiet time separately for at least an hour. 

After an hour Izzy and I will maybe do some phonics, handwriting, or math, which at this point, really just consists of making all that stuff seem like a game.  For example, I found a bunch of letter stickers at Hobby Lobby awhile ago.  I sometimes get them out and we may do some word building.  She has dry-erase writing books for handwriting, and we play games like dominoes, uno, go fish, checkers, war, etc. for math.  Or we'll bake.  Or fold clothes.  Or just do nothing.  Formal reading and math lessons won't officially begin until first grade (unless she's ready and shows interest; we've just kind of played it by ear).

Once everyone is up, it's snack time (we may make some green tea once or twice a week; Addy loves green tea, Izzy not so much).  We do the "riches" of a CM education during this time:

Monday:  Hymn study.  At this early age, hymn "study" consists of just listening to some hymns during this time, telling the kids when it was written, who wrote it, and maybe a little of what the hymn is about.  Then I'll sing or play some hymns at random times during the week.

Tuesday:  Art study.  Right now I'm using this time to look at the "Come Look With Me" books by Gladys S. Blizzard.  They are great and our library has several of them that I'll rotate every couple of weeks.

Wednesday:  Composer study.  Similar to hymn study.  I'll also play the music at random times during the week.  Right now we're listening to The Nutcracker soundtrack by Tchaikovsky.

Thursday:  Folk Song study.  Same as hymn study.

Then, back to outside/playtime.

And that's pretty much it.  Happy homeschooling!