Sunday, September 30, 2018

Setting Up For Our Homeschool Year ~ Schedules and Curriculum

I used to be a teacher.  My classroom was filled with 20 four and five year olds.  We would work through the morning with a focus on reading, art, writing, math, science, circle time, and story time.

In all the years I taught, I was given the curriculum, given the calendar, given the order in which it would all go.  Told how long the kids got to have "free play", how much outside time they got (which was still structured teacher led), how long they had to sit for each activity.

On the flip side, through it all I learned how I would want my classroom to flow like if I had the freedom to have more say in how the schedule and curriculum looked.  Despite the attempts of telling parents there is a balance between teacher directed and child lead in the classroom, there really wasn't.  Literally everything was scheduled, if it wasn't teacher lead it was teacher influenced.  For example, sure we could have the block area open, but we told the kids which ones they could use for that time and suggested what to make.  No real free, open play...not even outside.  And looking back, it was a lot of sitting for the kids too.

While I had my own classroom, I tried to make as much room for free play and learning through play as often as I could because in the end, that is what the kids really needed and learned the most from.  I tried to plan and schedule, then let the flow of the day lead.  So if reading books was taking longer because the kids were enjoying them or the discussion was going well, I kept reading and adjusted things later in the day as needed.  When areas were open, I just let the kids use their imagination and play.  If circle time the kids were getting antsy, we would take a break and get moving. 

While most of those sound like the right thing to do, I was really going against what the schedule and curriculum said or allowed for.  I was risking getting in trouble from the director.  But even before having kids of my own, I knew that while yes a schedule is needed because it creates consistency and routines for kids, they need time to just play and be kids.

So when we decided to home school, I knew what direction I didn't want to go.  I also knew that I could really tap into my kids likes and dislikes, to build our day and the curriculum.

For the first time ever since becoming a teacher I bought a lesson plan book.  I found it in the dollar section at Target and thought, it's $3 pick it up and maybe I will use it to help put a plan down on paper.  I am using it.  For two reasons, one to help guide us through the year and the other is to keep a running record of what we are working on for records.

After assessing I laid out our plan of what we need to focus our curriculum on.  No, I didn't buy a bunch of curriculum.  But I do have a few things. 

I have a Alphabet Letter Curriculum that is filled with different letter and math activities with each letter.  Right now, I am using the letter color page for my youngest and the fun poem on how to write the letter with my oldest.  We are using Reading Eggs to guide through learning to read and sight words and Mathseeds for the number side of things.  We are also using Growth Mindset for Kids.

The rest of the curriculum has been found online for free.  So while my oldest has a focus on letters and numbers, my youngest is starting to learn his as well.

Each day we do calendar and weather, as well as we have a thought of the day card that also pairs with the letter of the week.  This week our letter is A and the thought of the day, which we use for the whole week, is always be kind.  There is also a sight word posted near the calendar to help learn specific sight words.

So here is what our week looks like:

Mondays are our reading focus day as well as the growth mindset activity.

Tuesdays are our getting together with other home school kiddos at playgrounds

Wednesday is our swim lessons day and outside for as long as we can, mixed in with art

Thursday is bible study fellowship

Friday is our math focus day

We head to the library, have time to just play, art whenever the mood strikes, and plenty of other adventures and exploring around the city.

Add in science, geography, history throughout each month and the planning all falls into place.

The library fills the gaps, especially for learning about history and geography.

We have put together a nature bag so that we can capture moments for our time spent out and about in nature as we have such a vast amount of possibilities for exploring.  There is a home school on the go bag, so I can put in any work we need to accomplish in the day and take it with us.

A few other items we got for supplies:
  • I bought a magnetic calendar and weather set up
  • Kid writing lined notebooks to create an ABC Journal and Math Journal
  • Flashcards
I have various other items we have gathered over the past year and a half to set up for homeschooling.  I have yet to decide when and where, or how those will be incorporated.  But for now, we have some letter boards, dry erase dice, puzzles that can help guide us in our learning.

As we start this journey, we are also learning the flow that works the best.  So, for now, this is what works.  Both kids are enjoying learning, asking for me, and show enthusiasm.  It provides enough variety, while getting in the things we need to, as well as utilizing the things the kids enjoy doing.  Because we can learn through all areas of life, where ever we are, no matter how old we are.

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