Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Brand new-to-us homeschooling hits & tweaks

We are on day 12 of kindergarten homeschool + trickle down benefits for the twins.  A friend texted me yesterday wanting to know details, so I’m jumping at the chance to press pause on life (which is kind've insane right now btw) and think on that question.

All the boys are asleep as I type this. The house is so quiet.... <smiles>

Anywho, here's what I see right now just a little over two weeks in.

what’s working well

  1. checklist notebook: 

Before the kids wake up, I pull out Thomas’s spiral bound notebook and create a checklist for the school day. Some days I even take care of it the night before.  He is always going to see a reading lesson, read aloud, poetry and math lesson listed on his daily rundown.  How I decide on the rest (handwriting, history, science, art, etc.) is complicated but takes very little time.  I take a moment and think about two things: 1) what did Thomas struggle and/or excel at yesterday?  and 2) what is on our schedule for today? essentially—how much time and energy will we realistically have to offer school today?

I mapped out a scope and sequence for our year, so I know what we need to do each month to keep us on track. But with the consideration of our schedule (appointments, errands, play dates) and what things I think I need to offer either slack or supplementation for, it’s easy for me to write down the rest of our activities and assignments for the day.  

When Sarah Mackenzie shared about this on her blog, I saw the benefit for older students who completed a great deal of independent work. I thought I would try it with Thomas anyway. He took to it right away. I love when something so simple works so well. 

2.   school (mostly) during nap time:

Our homeschool rhythm is largely influenced by the needs of the twins.  Yesterday was an odd morning and the boys were pretty calm and quiet for the first two hours of the day.  I kept thinking maybe somebody fled the scene, but no. Legos really are that awesome. Typically, the boys are wound and loud by 8 am, so focusing on school work during the morning is not a wise choice.  

Thomas knows that his checklist is ready to go in the morning.  We eat breakfast and cleanup. After I get my morning chores rolling, I make myself available for reading. Some mornings it is picture books. Most mornings Thomas asks to read our chapter book while they are playing.  I have to judge the climate of the house and if it’s too loud, I just wait for when we move outside or switch to drawing or whatever.  This used to frustrate me.  But I’ve accepted that reading aloud is really important and the only way we can make it work well is for me to wait for and ride opportune moments and not force it. This is all to say that we read a lot throughout the morning, but I don’t initiate any school in the morning, but if Thomas asks to get started on school, I’m happy to help and that’s okay too. 

So we largely do schoolwork during the twins’ nap, even if that means they are in their room playing while Thomas and I can focus on things like math or history that take a bit more focus.  I would love completing schoolwork in the morning because I’m one thousand percent a morning person. Maybe one day. But the season we are in with toddler twins and the relatively small curriculum needs of a kindergartner—nope! 

3.   everything reading

Our reading game is fierce. It is the one subject which has me feeling all the good feels: happy, excited, eager, confident.  I know the kids are not missing out.  Our home is definitely formed largely around a love for reading and ideas and imagination.  Ask me in person about reading to kids and you've set off a bomb. I will talk your leg off. Not so much for math and science.  I like what we are doing there, but I'm still watching and thinking and trying to find our fit. 

Here's what's on our plate:

  • direct reading instruction 
  • read alouds (current: The Green Ember)
  • oodles of picture books
  • + those that Thomas reads independently
  • and audiobooks

The reading instruction book we are using is The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons last year.  I skipped a couple sections of TOPGTTR because I felt it overlapped a bit with 100 Easy Lessons, and Thomas loses interest if something doesn't challenge him enough.  Also, and I'm totally going to bore some (all) of you here, but there is some poetry work Bauer weaves into learning vowels that I do not like.  Just my opinion   Recitation along with reading instruction felt a bit cumbersome and so I stuck my flag in our ground and said nope to that.

Honestly, I wasn't excited to start The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  It doesn't have the same crowd appeal or cute visuals like the Explode the Code series. However, it is extraordinarily thorough.  Every bit of reading instruction you would want to equip a blossoming reader with seems to be contained in that book.  Thomas does well with the lessons and I see now how Bauer has layered the learning in a way that is really making it stick. So far so good, but I'm eager to see the rest of the lessons play out throughout the year.  Generally impressed... as of day 12.  ;)

what we'll be tweaking

1. science 

Thomas shows so much interest in science. That's awesome. What is not awesome is that by not wanting to overwhelm him, I planned on covering science through tons and tons of reading and the very occasional fun activity or experiment. Read: light science. 

It was made abundantly clear though that Thomas's idea of school meant a lot more exploration and contact with science manipulatives and such.  I can do that. I can meet that need. But I'm doing a little bit of scrambling to pull those resources. They are coming. 

2. theme days

I love simplifying things.  Less choices. Less clutter. Save the decision making for the stuff that can't be anchored onto some kind of loop, routine, or rhythm. So I'm working on theme days.  A home ec day. A poetry tea day. Maybe an art day.  If I ever get it figured out and it sticks, I will let you know.  I want to breathe life into each day of the week with their own unique flavors we can anticipate and savor. I want hooks in our weeks and days that entice us even in the most mundane (what? never!) stretches of curriculum work.  

3. and mommy time

Prior to kicking off our school year, I had been letting myself crash during nap time.  I would take a cat nap and maybe read or just lounge for a bit before rolling into the afternoon and getting back to work.  That's just not feasible with our homeschool days. Now, by the time we finish school work I have no time, if any at all, to sink into solitude before the twins wake.  Night time is the one place I can see in my schedule where there is time to steal. I want to return to going to bed early and reading myself to sleep and feeling rested enough in the morning to tackle these long days where I'm often solo parenting while Paul's away or working long hours. 

It's really important that I take care of myself. Paul has traveled so much in the past year, and I have learned so much about self-care. I'm still learning. But I know this truth.  A mommy who carves out time to fill up her cup can pour herself out with abundance.  It's an ever shifting game of seizing opportunities that still fit well with our family. Hey. As long as I know there is going to be one small swath of time for be to be by myself and to get quiet and listen to my thoughts, I don't care when it is. I'll take it!

+   +   +   +   +

Okay. That's all I've got for now.


I've got a lot more to share, but I'm biting my tongue and sitting on my hands and trying on moderation so I can be responsible and go make a panini and feed the boys like a good mom.

Let me know your school-isn thoughts!



  1. Really enjoyed reading this! My oldest is 3.5, and the twins almost two, so they will be a bit older by the time we do school ... but probably still "napping." I like the strategy of doing school during naptime!

    1. "napping" -- yes. I bet you know exactly what I'm talking about. :) Oh, twins. They just don't know how to stop having a blast with each other. LOL.

  2. So glad to see an update! I've been thinking about ya. Your homeschool sounds awesome. Your theme days sound so fun, don't use up all your good ideas too fast (i.e. perhaps save some for February?)

    This book was recommended to me for fun science. I don't have it yet though. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1580625576/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=2WE62YXMRX4QQ&coliid=IDFILMFKVPVT8

    1. You are the 2nd person to recommend that book to me, so I hopped on Amazon and ordered it. Thank you. I think we'll find some great stuff in there.

      The dreaded February. I've heard so much about how terrible homeschool is during February that I'm actually curious to face that beast and see for myself. I do hate winter, so the likelihood of me struggling just like everyone says is pretty stinking high.

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