kindergarten

Block Scheduling

IMG_6660.PNG

The beauty of block scheduling lies in that chunks of time are carved out for chunks of school, so if keeping to a strict "to-the-minute” schedule isn’t your thing, you’ve still got a working plan in motion that sets expectations for everyone on when school subjects will happen. This block schedule is for your ideal day - the ones that will run as a “normal” school day at home without the interruptions of extracurriculars. For us, this is three times a week. Our other two days are modified for co-op day and Bible Study mornings. Remember, you’re homeschooling, so you get the joy of setting parameters and working around what you choose.

————

Here are some ways you can begin to categorize and break things down before working on timing:

-individual subjects vs. mommy-led subjects

-grouping table/together subjects in one block (such as morning time, devotional, character study, any subject that is done as a family)

-identify subjects that require your student at their sharpest point in the day, such as math

—————

Now you can begin looking at your day, your family’s typical flow (or maybe the flow you hope to instill!), and use your categories above as to how you can group subjects + time of day together. For us we grouped school into two main chunks of time in which all our attention is focused on completing our work:

10am-12pm Morning Subjects

1:00-4:00pm Afternoon Subjects

(Call me crazy, but these are also hours I try to keep my phone usage to a minimum, if at all. Turning it on silent, do not disturb or leaving it in another room helps me stay just as focused as I expect the kids to be).

—————

Now that this is established, let’s begin to break things down into a little more detail:

Which subjects take the longest?

When do you, the teacher, have time for each child’s mommy-led subjects?

Is there a point in your day where everyone is a little cranky or needs more movement?

Is math especially hard in the early morning, or does it take four times as long at the end of the day?

What needs to happen before morning and afternoon school start?

What are things I’d like to include in our day for enrichment but not grouped into our morning and afternoon school blocks?

—————

With answers to the above questions in hand, here is how we plugged things in and around our Morning and Afternoon Subjects:

Block one - (8:30-9:00) morning time, including character, Bible, poetry, read aloud

Block two - this is about 30-45 minutes long for us and it’s when I get to do preschool & books with the 4 year old, while the older two can work on subjects like handwriting and explode the code which does not often require my help.

Block three - (10:00 am- 12:00 pm) Morning Subjects! By this point everyone is hungry which is a great segway into doing a few things that we try to do together, such as history, science, etiquette, music. Then we split up and work through the rest of our Morning Subjects which also include a few mommy-led. Everyone knows that their list of morning subjects must be complete by the end of our block, and whatever is not complete turns into…homework! The motivation? If they’re finished before noon, *F R E E T I M E *

LUNCH & RECESS

Block four - (1:00pm-4:00 pm) Afternoon Subjects! Nappers nap, others that need quiet time get quiet time or the option to work on stuff on their own that didn’t get finished earlier in the day. And we work through the last few subjects of the day before - free time!

For more information on planning your day and year, visit Pam Barnhill’s homeschool solutions - she has a wealth of resources!!

And if you’d like to see a more detailed schedule, check out last year’s round up for Pre-Pre-K, Kindergarten and 2nd grade here, or this years’ round up for Pre-K, 1st & 3rd here.

Our Loose Homeschool Schedule

I am a scheduler at heart.  I love color coordinated calendars.  I love to know what is coming, what is expected and I typically thrive when there is more to do.  HOWEVER.  I also need downtime, time to reflect and process and freedom within my well planned schedule to breathe, reassess and just let us all be.  Which is one of the many reasons I love homeschooling and the freedom it affords each member of our family.  

Some new things we incorporated this year: 

*Table time for the 3 year old - a lot of great ideas out there, but essentially 45 minutes - 1 hour where the 3 year old plays at a small table quietly with things only brought out during table time, so I can work with the older two on combined subjects (map work, Classical Conversations memory work, presentation preparation, etc.)  

*Rotations for the big kids to play with the 3 year old - this worked in 30 minute increments, long enough for me to complete 1-2 teaching subjects with each of the older two kids one-on-one

*An electives only co-op because having a house of highly active boys, and needing a little differentiation in age-appropriate activities I will gladly pay $10-$35/month for science, PE, art and more.  It has been a gift to us this winter/spring!

*Morning time! - time together every morning we are at home, which realistically boils down to 2-3 mornings/week where we read scripture, share a devotional, study a character trait, talk through an etiquette lesson, read poetry, and then a chapter or two from our current read aloud.  We might cover map work or a few pieces of memory work review during this time.  The only time I require them to give me complete attention is during Bible, devotional & character.  After that, they are allowed to work on/play with something quietly while I read or we discuss.  I try to rotate things in the basket that are available each week just for this time (dot to dot, cars, hand puzzles, jar of shells, etc).  I love pambarnhill.com and appreciate all the things, especially her morning time suggestions/plans as well as A Handbook for Morning Time by Cindy Rollins.  

Our schedule started off ...super scheduled.  Time windows, back to back, and motivation to finish promptly which equated to a few free minutes outside or doing something of their choice.  It worked well at first but I felt bound, without freedom to fluctuate between subjects if needed or give the kids a longer break if necessary; this was confusing to them to deviate from the schedule even if we really really needed to deviate from the schedule.  

So then what?  We adjusted :) 

Before you read ahead to what OUR day looks like, this is in no way to try and force your family into our mold nor lead you down a path of comparison.  Our "average day at home" is about 2-3 days a week.  Full of mini breaks, moments of correction, and getting off track often.  Each year when I evaluate our schedule I am constantly searching for ways to improve, whether adding more or taking away or changing it up altogether; that's all this is for.  To show another means of "how".  

Our average day at home looks a little like this: 

7ish - breakfast

8-9ish - all morning chores/responsibilities completed; I read and puzzle with the 3 year old if he's feeling social :) 

9ish - Morning Time!  **I mean, sometimes morning time didn't start until 10.  Sometimes I just needed longer for coffee.  Or someone soiled clothes and I had to get a load of wash in, which means I didn't get dressed when I'd hoped.  Or let's be honest, some days during this pregnancy I just plopped right back in bed and let the kids play.  Be. Free.  To wake up, assess the day, and reevaluate what best suits the needs and emotions of all those precious people in your house...including yourself :) 

10ish - Snack & some sort of review/presentation topic discussion.  Or a few moments for me to switch out laundry, take a bathroom break, check my email.  

10:30ish - 3 year old plays on his own or has Table Time.  This is a stretch for me because Table Time inevitably means playing with all the things in all the ways that make all the messes.  I try to ignore and limit correcting/instructing if it's not a life or death situation.  2nd Grader goes to a quiet place to go through all morning work subjects that do not require my help (includes: LifePac, Handwriting, Math Worksheet, Spelling Worksheet, two pages of Review from his Classical Conversations Cycle 3 note booking pages).  I work with Kindergartener on as much as I can get through in half an hour - usually starting with Math.  

11ish - Kindergartener needs a BREAK or is sometimes finished for the day so he plays with the 3 year old while I work on 1-2 subjects with the 2nd Grader

11:30ish - everyone is cranky and begging for food so I send them outside or to their room/basement to play basketball while I make lunch

*in an ideal world we are finished with school by lunchtime.  Some days this happens..others we all need food and a nap so we tack on some more later in the day.

12ish-  lunch

12:30ish - nap time for the 3 year old!  (and all the people said amen)  Reading/spelling lesson with kindergartener if not completed earlier while 2nd grader has free time or works on something he didn't finish earlier

1ish - everyone has quiet time for an hour and a half...or longer if needed...

2:30/3ish - Finish up last 2-3 subjects with 2nd grader if it's one of those days, otherwise...freedom!!  

The reality is - seasons change.  Life with littles is tough!  Give yourself grace, give your kids grace and worst case take them all to chick fil a and the library and call it a field trip + life skills lesson while looking for books ;) 

Kindergarten and 2nd Grade Roundup

Woo!  May is here which means school is almost not here - or maybe it's already left your house for the summer :)  Either way, we are celebrating with completing books, finishing up our tests and looking back on goals planned and now achieved.  

Which inevitably means - time to look at options for next year!  As registrations quickly approach along with all those terrific homeschool resale pop-ups I thought I'd offer a peek into what our kindergarten and 2nd grade roundup look like.  

If you are new to homeschooling or just getting your feet wet with the idea - be encouraged: It does not have to be hard.  You don't have to compete with the school system at large; you get to choose what works best for YOU and YOUR family!  You get to use all the "transition time" that takes up a large portion of the public school day and let them learn at their own pace, pursue their personal interests, help them catch up in areas of weakness, challenge their strengths and offer them a taste of truth, goodness and beauty in the every day.  

So on to the good stuff....

Kindergarten!  About 45 minutes - 1 hour a day of direct one-on-one teaching time...

Handwriting - A Reason for Handwriting

Math - Saxon 1

Reading: started with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons then eventually moved on to any level one readers from the library

Spelling - All About Spelling

Classical Conversations Cycle 3 - incorporated during our morning time, copy work found on Half A Hundred Acre Word and several fill in the blank options from CC Connected

The End :) 

 

Second Grade: About 1 1/2-2 hours of direct one-on-one teaching time

Handwriting - started with a Reason for Handwriting cursive; wasn't a great fit this year so we switched to Handwriting Without Tears and it's been a night and day difference.  

Math- Saxon 3 (finished up from last year) and Intermediate Saxon 4

Reading - Sonlight Readers - they offer a great online assessment to evaluate which level to pursue with your reader; the chapters for 4th Grade increased significantly in length so we followed our own schedule and will finish these through the summer.  

Spelling - Sequential Spelling

Classical Conversations Cycle 3 - incorporated during our Morning Time, copy work found on Half a Hundred Acre Wood and several fill in the blank options from CC Connected

Language Arts - Writing With Ease (we stopped after week 24; it wasn't a favorite for both of us and we were able to incorporate similar ideas and concepts in our other books) & First Language Lessons 3 (this is going to last us through next year as well so we only did about 2 lessons a week after we got into the diagramming of sentences).

History - LifePac Grade 3

 

That's really all there is to it!  The kids get science, art & PE at our co-ops, and we will use Apologia Science Jr Notebook Journal for our summer studies.  Of course there are plenty of games, lots of reading aloud, music studies and all the things that make up our school day that can't be quantified into a textbook.  That's the beauty and hybrid bit of homeschool for us!  

If you're looking for an idea of a daily schedule, visit this post, Our Loose Homeschool Schedule 

 

 

 

Those Early Years - Part 2

As mentioned last week, there is just all the grace and flexibility in the world to let those little years stay filled with wonder and discovery.  The way we approach “school” during the four-five years involve a lot of hands-on, everyday life with a seasonal stack of “extras” that might include cut and paste, sorting, tracing, early handwriting, etc.  If it gets by us one day, or a week, there is no stress.  If there is extra interest and excitement to do more in one day, then we do more.  But for the most part, I follow their pace.

*for one of my children’s Pre-K Year I did intentionally try and have him complete one or two school related tasks a day.  The only purpose of this was to instill in him the habit of listening to my teaching and understanding that there are set expectations for school; it had very little to do with academics.  

*We are also part of a co-op that starts at age 4; We don’t do much with review until their second year, but they retain so much of it anyways!  Review time is always incorporated as a family and largely led by books we check out that pertain to the material.  

Here we go!  

Favorite Curriculum & Websites

**again, used loosely.  I print things off monthly and keep a big stack in a folder for each age and pull out as desired.  

1+1+1

This Reading Mama

Read Aloud Revival

 We love Zaner Bloser for beginning handwriting and their 1st book is a great start.  That could be a post in and of itself - reading and writing and when to start.  

 

Favorite Toys for Pre-K:

Dollar Tree Buys:

Corn and beans in a tray or small bin

Pom Poms to sort, put in and out of containers, etc.

Pipe Cleaners with letter beads

**I made a ton of busy bags one time for my first born; but was reminded that boys are just a little different when it comes to quiet time play and almost everything I made was either destroyed or reconstructed to be something else, so I let that one go...  

 

 

 

 

Those Early Years - Part 1

Once upon a time I had a baby.  Who turned into a sentence speaking 18 month old that turned into a 3 year old reader who then started computing multiplication in his head around 4, reading through the Bible around 5 and completed his first boxed set of novels just before 6.  His drive and focus was amazing and sometimes overwhelming.  He was so busy - he never slept.  In fact I’ve just now surrendered my 7 year battle of trying to get him to sleep more :)  He is who he is.  I also have a precious almost 6 year old who cannot get his b's and d's sorted out to save his life.  He sees everything in shapes and colors, what it could be instead of what it actually is.  He spends most of his time creating and dreaming, living outside of any sort of proverbial box and it's amazing and wonderful.  He's taught me a lot about slowing down and savoring.  My 3rd born is a unique and incredible mix of the two, who keeps us laughing/crying on a daily basis.

But I remember approaching those preschool years with my firstborn and feeling a lot of pressure to dive into homeschooling - because we could.  He was ready.  I was ready, I thought.  And we’d just spent the past four years playing, puzzling, reading, field tripping, walking and talking and doing all the things.  And really, I found schooling, curriculum shopping, all the extra reading and researching so much fun.  There is so much to look at and choose from and such great resources available right at your fingertips; Unit studies, coloring packs, busy bags galore.  All the seasonal crafts you can think of are just right there!  The eagerness and excitement of starting something new and setting up “school” just seemed fun.  

I am thankful we started when we did, and how we did and the things we chose to do.  But in my few years of parenting, and then diving into it again with my second born, I am just so thankful for the freedom homeschool affords; and if I could impart any wisdom or have the opportunity to encourage any new mamas out there with preschoolers and kindergarteners on their hands...this would be my list of top ten things to remember….

-DO play.  For me, that sounded dreadful.  What on earth had I been doing the past four years?  I was played out.  But every study under the sun shows the benefits of early play - even into ages 6, 7, 8 and 9.  Let those littles create, dream up and think to their hearts content.  **for those busier bodies that go from one thing to the next, structured play and sticking to a loose schedule is so helpful!

- DON’T over plan.  They are just so young!  Know your personality type - but also know the personality types of your kids.  I am a planner to my core, but not all of my kids thrive at the same pace or in the same box that I do.  Leave them space to explore at their own pace, even if it looks so much different than yours.

- Less. Is. More.  Our natural inclination is to give our kids the best this world has to offer; All the electives, all the classes, all the sports, all the books and experiences.  Academically speaking, children don’t need unit studies and tidy curriculum packages at this age.  They need structure and they need to know what to expect but ditch the busy work and extracurriculars to let them be.  

-Ditch the electronics.  If your house is anything like mine, there is a magical thing that happens when an electronic device come out: peace. And. quiet.  Mama gets a break.  Free babysitting.  But these are such precious years to instill self control and wise decision making; if you give a child the choice between playing/reading on a tablet or building with blocks or legos, they will of course gravitate towards the tablet!  But as educational as those apps claim to be, nothing...noth-ing… compares to the hands-on play time at such a young age.  

***I want to be clear here, life happens in seasons.  And if you find yourself in a season needing those moments of quiet or needing a break, I am with you and understand.  We are in a season where some days I’m couch ridden or just do not have the capacity to move a muscle - give yourself grace.  Use what is available to maintain peace and sanity in your home until you find yourself a little more capable.  

-Enjoy the slower mornings, and choose to focus on character and responsibility more than academics; my eldest thrived on the structure of a schedule.  Some mornings he was dressed, fed, read to, played with, and finished his morning snack by 7a.m.  Which kind of set me on a trajectory of jumping right to it every morning - but mamas, be encouraged that those slower mornings matter.  Taking time to instill helpful habits, starting with the Word, snuggling up for a great book or exploring nature on a morning walk - they all matter more than getting in that reading or phonics lesson.  

-Read.  Read.  And then read some more.  The end :)  

-If something isn’t working, give it some time - if it’s still not working, switch!   Sometimes we feel really bound by deciding on something that we stick it out even if it’s making "school" time miserable; Because we have to check it off the list, duh.  But it’s just not worth it.  I bet one of your goals in home educating is to tailor your child’s education to what works for them - so just keep in mind that if it isn’t working, you’re in charge and can change it!

-Let them lead.  If they are driven, let them keep going.  If they are laid back, let them be laid back.  If art and creativity consumes their day, follow them along and see what can be discovered together.  If reading lessons are going great but suddenly there is push back, it’s ok to back off.  I once read somewhere that as far “ahead” as kids can be at a young age, and as far “behind” as they can be at a young age - by the age of 10 most children meet around the same spot academically.  

-PRAY.  Our God is the God of creativity - He delights in discovery.  He adores relationship.  He is the giver of all wisdom - and He genuinely cares about your heart to homeschool.  Before you dive into curriculum and scheduling, spend some time praying over what would be a best fit for your week, month, year.  Ask Him to give you insight to your kids, open your eyes to their unique giftings and areas He wants you to focus on.  After all, He is the one who made them :)

So I guess I only had 9, not 10.  

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will be a list of my favorite preschool and kindergarten blogs, printables, curricula and toys!