After a whirlwind summer, with four week-long vacations, visitors from overseas, and the twins' 5th birthdays, we're back home and getting into the swing of homeschooling. This is my third "Day in the Life" post since I've been blogging, and it's always fun looking back and seeing what homeschool was like for us at each stage. Here's A Day in Our Homeschool Preschool and last year's Homeschool Kindergarten Daily Schedule. This year the girls are "officially" in Kindergarten again (we're getting free Calvert materials through an online charter school), but I'm adding a lot of 1st grade material as well.
No homeschool day is the same for us, but here's a little glimpse into a day in our life....
6:30 Kids and I wake up. We have breakfast and they play while I work on my computer.
8:00-9:00 Activity Stations. We go downstairs for "stations". Basically I take out a variety of puzzles and activities that they can pick from. There is a wide range of types of activities and skill levels, but each one has a certain completion state. The kids get index cards with boxes that I check off for each activity that they successfully complete. Here are some examples of what they chose this day:
L is working on a Q-Bitz puzzle. This is great for developing some of the spatial skills that we'll be doing as we progress to mapping later in the week.
E enjoyed working on these sequencing cards. I ask her to narrate a story about each one when she is done.
Once each of the kids has completed four "stations", we head upstairs for Circle Time.
9:00-9:45 Circle Time. We all gather on the floor in my bedroom for Circle Time.
For our Circle Time poem, we've been focusing on a different poet each month using the series "Poetry for Young People". This summer we covered Robert Louis Stevenson and Emily Dickinson (which we'll probably revisit later in the year). Now we're working through Lewis Carroll. This day's poem is Father William.
Something I love about this series of poetry books are the illustrations of every page. I read the poem all the way through, followed by a brief discussion (what was the poem about?) and defining any terms they might not know. The second time I read it, the kids act it out..
In the poem, Father William stands on his head, does a back somersault, eats an entire duck (bones, beak, and all - we pretended to do this), and balances an eel on his nose.
Next comes the Calvert Kindergarten curriculum. It includes a brief discussion (this time about being helpful), and a story (the Lion and the Mouse). After the story, I ask the kids to put on a play and act out The Lion and the Mouse. There is also a letter to learn. Since all the kids have been able to recognize their letters since age 1, we change things around and play charades where each person thinks of something that starts with the letter of the day and acts it out for the others to guess.
9:45-10:00 Worksheets. The girls complete their Calvert worksheets.
There are typically five worksheets assigned each day. They are very easy, but a good chance for the kids to focus, follow directions, and work on being neat and thorough.
10:00-12:00 The kids play. This day they played with train tracks and wooden blocks, but I forgot to take a picture. While the kids were playing, I was on my computer fixing software bugs for the preschool/kindergarten critical thinking curriculum I will be launching soon (stay tuned...)
12:00-1:00 Lunch. After lunch the kids watch TV - usually something educational (Magic School Bus) or stories from the Scholastic Treasury DVDs.
1:00-1:30 Read Aloud. I read aloud to the kids on the couch. We're currently reading a novel called Genie and the Witch's Spell. After a chapter, I read them Jack Prelutsky poems from Carnival of the Animals, followed by The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen, which is H's favorite picture book at the moment (H, almost 3, loves finding all the hidden animals). At 1:30 I put H in his room for a nap.
1:30-2:00 Independent Reading. The girls read book aloud to me...
These are their choices - Fancy Nancy for L and Little Bear for E (who has been working through this book for a couple days, with a chapter a day). They are both reading somewhere around a first or second grade level. I try to pick a variety of books for them - easier ones to develop fluency and speed, and more challenging ones to give them practice decoding multisyllable words.
2:00-3:00 Special Activity. Each day is something different - board games, a math challenge, writing stories, or a science experiment. This day it's science. We're using a Magic School Bus chemistry kit which they received as a birthday gift (thanks, Aunt N!).
They read the instruction cards themselves and let me know which materials they will need for the experiment. L is able to get two ice cubes to stick together (using salt), while E can't get a string to stick to her ice cube. She gets a bit frustrated, but I see it as a great opportunity to get her to think (what do you think went wrong? What else can we try?). This reminds me of a passage in the book A Thomas Jefferson Education:Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Centry by Oliver DeMille, where the author describes going to an advanced chemisty lab in a high school (in a well-off school district) and one of the groups of students' experiment has failed. He goes up to that group and starts asking them questions about what went wrong, how they might fix it, etc.. and their reply is that they must have not followed one of the steps correctly and they need to wait for the teacher to tell them what to do... sad... I want my kids to be THINKERS....
Next I show the girls how to use pink and blue litmus paper to test whether something is an acid or a base. I realize that I'm not quite sure how to explain what acids and bases are to 5 year-olds (since they don't know what hydrogen ions are). So this becomes a lesson in observation and classification instead (and they can describe what pickle juice, vinegar, and lemon juice have in common without knowing a thing about molecules). Each girl gets four substances to test and completes a lab sheet (trace the name of the substance, test it with both pink and blue litmus paper, and determine if it is acid or a base). I'm honestly a little disappointed by the litmus paper. I remember making my own litmus with my mother when I was young by soaking strips of paper towels in red cabbage juice, and the colors were a lot more vivid.
3:00-4:00 Art. The girls generally do art projects in the afternoon using a variety of mediums. This day the girls chose to paint:
4:00-5:00 Free Play. I cook dinner during this time (and sometimes the girls help).
5:00 Family Dinner. We eat dinner as a family - in theory. In reality, this day L ate with us, E sat under the table and cried (because she was told that she had to eat what everyone else was eating) and H had a fit in his room (he woke up from his nap grumpy).
6:00-7:00 Family Outing. We try to do something as a family after dinner every day (while the weather is still nice). Usually it is a park or playground. This day we go to a playground and then walk around the lake making nature observations. As the kids are looking for small stones to throw into the lake, L finds a duck or goose egg (that has already hatched). "I'm such a lucky girl!" she declares.
7:00-9:00 Read Aloud and Get Ready for Bed. The kids' level of cooperation around bedtime varies. We need to really get our routine down. Usually the kids get baths and then I read aloud a huge stack of picture books and poetry books. We talk about our day and the kids go to bed nicely. This is in theory, of course. Some days are picture-perfect while others leave me wondering where these wild monkey children came from.
So this is a (somewhat) typical homeschool day. The actual organized schooling doesn't take much time, but all the free play and exploration is just as important to their development. We'll be adding additional elements to the kids' school time once we've eased into a consistent schedule, but I want to keep it fun.
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