Thursday, June 30, 2011

Homeschool dry run.

So! First homeschool attempt completed. It was...okay. Actually pretty good, I guess. No bloodshed. Minor excitement, on both our parts. Even if, for the rest of the summer, the kids say "no" every time I ask if they want to do it again, it showed me what parts worked and what parts need tweaking, and what parts need more prerequisite work.  Here's what I tried, from my extremely amateur homeschooling mind...

I used the "Goodnight, Moon" book (as suggested by Totally Tots). I split up what would be all my lessons into Bible, Math, Science, History, Language, Art, Music, and Home. Obviously not all of these subjects will apply to every book (unless you're much more creative than I).

Bible: (I was nervous when starting this section, but that's my own nervousness about boldly bringing up spiritual subjects with my kids. That's my own lesson to learn, and God is working on me.) (Preparation: I wrote out the Bible verses, Psalm 4:8, Proverbs 3:24, Psalm 121:3-4.) We talked about how restless the little bunny was, and how long it took him to get to sleep. I asked who never sleeps? My 7yo read the Bible verses. We talked about we can sleep peacefully and not worry because God never sleeps and is always watching over us.

Math: (Preparation: I drew 8 clocks on a piece of paper, without the hands.) We talked about how long it took the bunny to fall asleep, and talked about difference between the first clock and the last. We took turns reading the clocks in the book and drawing the hands in the right places on the paper. This worked even for my 4yo - even though he can't tell time in full, he could tell me where the hands were on the clocks, and I helped him translate that into times. We also wrote the time in digital form next to each clock. (My 2yo even got in on this part by finding the clocks - a favorite item of his - on each page.) After all the clocks were drawn, we talked about how the clocks go up by 10s.

Science: (Preparation: I drew the 8 phases of the moon with their titles: new, crescent waxing, half moon waxing, gibbous waxing, full, gibbous waning, half moon waning, and crescent waning.) We did more "finding" in the book (the part my 4yo was really interested in) to find the moon in each picture, and talked about how it was "rising," moving up in each picture, and that the moon in the book is a full moon. We talked about other ways that the moon looks, and how they have different names for each one, and then I explained the difference between waxing and waning, and how the cycle goes through each one and then starts over.

Language - Vocabulary: (Preparation: I wrote the words "waning," "waxing," and "gibbous" on a page, with simple definitions.) My 7yo read these words and definitions, and we explained them a little further.

Language - Grammar: (Preparation: I wrote out the words room, light, balloon, clocks, kittens, moon, bears, house, chairs, socks, comb, nobody, mouse, brush, mittens, lady, stairs, noises, mush, and air. Below that I wrote the phonics oo, ch, ck, ou, sh, and oi.) We talked about how each letter has its own sound, but when you put two or more letters together, they make a new sound, and those are called phonics. We went through each one and talked about the sound of each letter, but then the new sound of the two letters together. Then they took turns finding words in the list with those phonics.

What Worked
I liked having it all based on one book. I liked having something to refer back to, and something to take all my inspiration from.
The kids really enjoyed drawing the clock hands. They wanted to do more finding of things in each picture.
My 7yo really enjoyed reading anything that needed to be read: the Bible verses and the vocab words.
They loved making the sound of each phonics. It worked out nicely that we had several funny sounding phonics here: oo like a monkey, ch like a train, sh like quiet, and oi like OI!!

What Didn't Work
An actual Bible story would've worked would've given more fodder for discussion and more to work with. However, I understand that not every book will match with a story, and sometimes just Biblical principles are just as worthy of discussion - and worthy of the effort to find the discussion.
My 4yo would need more practice on simply reading clocks...counting by fives, what each space on the clock means. He kept tripping up on the 12 meaning "o'clock" (it worked out that he got both the 7 and 8:00 clocks). Some more ground work would help there.
By science time, they were all getting tired of this activity as a whole, but that is something that I expect, and if we were doing this for school, it's something we'd have to work through and I'd expect them to come to terms with it relatively quickly. We were also sitting on the couch all lazy-like, and if we were doing this for real, we'd at least be at a table, if not some kind of make-shift desks. This would definitely help with focus.
For science and language/vocab, I would come up with some activities for them to do actively (like charting the moon's phases, or drawing their own, and reciting the vocab, or quizzing them on it) rather than just reading. The language/grammar activity of finding the right words was good, but maybe not involved quite enough.

In general, I found that I need a lot more groundwork. We need to go over phonics in general, maybe not starting them as part of a story. When I was in first and second grade, we had giant charts of all the phonics listed that we'd read over and over, and I'd like to find (or make) something like that, as well as some charts of counting by 5s, 10s, 20s, etc. I'd also like to have some clocks posted somewhere that they could practice with, or one of those practice clocks where you can move the hands (wouldn't be hard to find, or make if I had to).

I also found what things worked well for my 4yo (finding things, copying clocks, demonstrating letter sounds) and what things worked well for my 7yo (reading, naming terms she already knew, processing Bible concepts, putting letter sounds together).

But I did see how much less time it would take than a full schoolday, and how I can integrate a bunch of different subjects from one item. And the crowning realization: I've already admitted that my conception of homeschooling being a giant lack of structure was wrong; but not only does homeschooling include structure, it's an absolutely essential part. Whew! Not bad for the first day.

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