Friday, October 26, 2012

First Quarter Report

We have completed twelve weeks of official homeschooling--an entire quarter! I think it is a good time to share some of my experience and the adaptations I have made to our schooling (the original plan being laid out here). I have been learning so much about how to manage children, how to talk to them, how to inspire them--it's possible I've learned more than have my children!

We are doing schooling four mornings per week, with Wednesdays being spent at Catholic Schoolhouse (which is also school). Catholic Schoolhouse takes off about one day per month (plus all of Advent), so on that day we might take a field trip or just relax.

I was having difficulty squeezing in so many of my academics (which my experienced homeschooling friends knew I would be but were gracious about it!), so I backed off. When John was showing a lot of misbehavior during school and telling me, "I hate school!" I had the first of what I'm sure will be many crises and examined things anew. Things I had to bring to the forefront of my mind:

1.  Kindergarten remains an optional year of school, not even mandatory according to the Big Brother state.

2.  John has already achieved all or almost all of the state standards for graduating Kindergarten, so anything I teach is "gravy."

3.  Until recently, Kindergarten looked like what preschool looks like today. Lots of finger-painting, puppet-playing, and running around outdoors, while achieving some basic familiarity with letter recognition and numbers one through ten.

4.  Many other countries do not teach reading until age seven, and I've read enough books on the good reasons behind that.

I decided to back off and start smaller, plus add more fun into my schooling. I'd been doing the fun Kindergarten-type activities for so long that I wanted this to be "official" school which, unfortunately, looked very boring and dry, and not age-appropriate for my five-year-old. I forgot that Play-doh is school for a Kindergartener.

I am now trying to start the homeschooling morning (always in the morning, immediately after breakfast) with standing in a circle, we pray a prayer, we say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then I should do something fun, like our animal noises game or sing a fun song, but we achieve that on some days, not on others. Then we do our joint lessons, which always starts with the Bible story of the day. After that, Mary can wander off if she wants. (But I have begun doing workboxes with her, which she enjoys so much.)

I prefer right now to "do school" in one focused period, instead of a lesson here, a lesson there, throughout the day. It's what works for my family at this time. (I don't want to use nap time to educate John because that is my Quiet Time!) So, school takes us one to one-and-a-half hours, but that includes my going back and forth between teaching John and Mary, plus tending the toddler, plus various potty breaks, and switching laundry. We're done by 9:30 or 10:00 and the rest of the day stretches before us.


We are reading three or four stories per week from The Golden Children's Bible, then illustrating the children's own Bible about once per week. This is a favorite and the children's artwork has visibly improved because we brainstorm ahead of time different ways they might draw the story.

Catechism lessons from Chats with God's Little Ones occur four days per week and I am extremely pleased with this choice. The Socratic method is exquisite for the human mind! John also receives catechises at Catholic Schoolhouse and three Sundays per month at our parish.


We are doing a lesson from Right Start Math Level A twice per week. It's a parent-intensive program and one lesson often take more than 30 minutes.


We were doing lessons from All About Reading Level 1 daily, but then I slashed it to twice per week. I recently introduced All About Spelling Level 1. So, for the time being, we are doing Reading once per week and Spelling once per week, with Math on the other two days.


At some point during most days of the week (including at bedtime), we read some great books together.


We were doing handwriting daily, just a page, but I've cut even that to less often. My children do so many random workbooks or artwork and I think that counts at the mature age of FIVE for developing fine motor skills. At this age, working with Play-Doh or stringing fat beads or drawing in sand is "handwriting."


Totally cut out poetry! John hated it!  Considering this child memorized nearly all the Mother Goose rhymes (which are poetry) at an earlier age and loved them, and memorized quite a bit of Scripture just from listening to his unabridged Bible on CD, I halted in my steps when having him memorize poetry was inciting such bad feelings from him.


Twice per week only we read a story from the Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 2, which is all of two pages long.


Totally cut out music! John hated it! John hated having to memorize a dry hymn not of his choosing, but I realized that he listens to a tremendous amount of music on his own. He listens to the classical radio station and analyzes the music ("this piece is very jolly/sad/reminds me of dancing/sounds like a battle," etc.). He knows everything he can about Beethoven. He sings our family Rosary Gregorian-chant style. I decided that at this early age, I probably won't ruin him if I just keep making high-quality music available for his enjoyment.


  1. It is great to see how you are putting your children's love of learning as a priority over what might be your preferred ways of teaching. It must be a challenge for you. But I think your frequent re-assessments are so helpful to that end. Great job! I'm impressed with all you can accomplish.

  2. Sounds to me that yo've got things figured out and that you're doing a wonderful job.

  3. Ooh, I just ordered Chats With God's Little Ones. I have been not so satisfied with what we've been doing. Glad you linked it here! Our experience with kindergarten has been as you write in number three... Thankfully. Tons of outdoor time, gentle introduction to letters/sounds/etc.... Rosalie is loving it, really, and I'm glad. They have so many years to be buckled down academically it can start later as far as I'm concerned!

  4. I am so impressed! Max does struggle a bit maturtity wise and so we too are strating small. I am most impressed at his new found love of reading...he likes to do that first! I would love any suggestions you have on classical music for kids. I am often turning on Pandora radio, but some of the adds I find annoying and interupt the peaceful atmosphere the mucis creates! Thank you for being such an example to me!

  5. You ladies are all so sweet, thank you.

    Claire: We have classical CDs but John gets a lot of his listening from the only radio station he's allowed to listen to (ha ha), which is the local classical one, I think 89.9. No weird commercials, you just have to pay attention to news at the top of the hour in case something too adult is discussed.

  6. Thanks for sharing. This gives me some food for thought too. I've been trying to do all our subjects four days per week, but maybe I will think about spreading them out more. I have also been trying as of late to do all the lessons in one sitting or two. Before I spread them out so much over the day, it felt like it was dragging on and on! When you do the math lessons, do you do the whole lesson in one day? I usually spread one lesson out over two days, sometimes three (since there are so many activities and usually two topics per lesson.)

  7. Sarah,

    You know, it had just occurred to me recently that maybe one could (I should?) spread out a Right Start math lesson over several days. There is so ridiculously much to cover! One lesson can take 45 minutes! Am I supposed to use that for the whole week? Hhhhmmm.

  8. Sounds like you are doing great! Also makes me feel good about what we are accomplishing (because let's face it, you are my yardstick). I have been meaning to ask you about the bible lessons, I'll email. We have been reading only one per week.

  9. Priscilla: I shouldn't be your yard stick! I'm just one step ahead of you, feeling my way along as I go.

    Re: Bible lessons, email me your question. Religion is one area that I think it's important to do daily, to have the child immersed in it. I think it's especially good if they haven't been hearing Bible stories in previous years, if you're catching up. The illustrating can take a while, what with the supplies, but reading the story could even be part of bedtime (take it out of "school") and take just five minutes.

  10. Update: This week I spread out one Right Start math lesson over the course of the week and it was so much better! I wonder if it was designed that way. If one really did every activity listed in Right Start, including all the math games suggested, it would take a Kindergartener one to two hours! I kept wondering why the lessons were so long. Well, if one spreads them out over the week, they make a really nice and do-able math curriculum! And then I don't have to skip the "extra" games. Thanks for the idea, Sarah.