Our family is embarking on two new things this year: our oldest is school-age and begins kindergarten this year (how is she that old already!?), and we have chosen to homeschool her for kindergarten. We thought long and hard about this decision for the last few years, and came up with some compelling reasons for our family as to why homeschool would be our best option, so we went for it!
I purchased a curriculum that I use to direct my teaching each day, to ensure I get every component in so that my daughter’s education keeps pace with her public school peers. I appreciate that our curriculum also allows me the creative freedom and space to include additional activities of my own. I am a teacher by trade and by passion, so this arrangement is a dream come true for me.
The rhythm of our homeschool day is very different than that of a public school day. It isn’t as concrete and it sometimes changes based on the needs and moods of my kids (ages 5 and 1.5). And let’s be honest, it sometimes changes because of my mood too!
We usually begin around 8am when the kids and I head downstairs to our classroom. We gather on the rug for calendar time. We talk about which day it is today, which day it was yesterday, and which day it will be tomorrow. Each month we focus on a different skill with our calendar such as colors, shapes, or patterns. We are also using straws to count by ones and tens how many days we’ve been in school, with a celebration planned for our 100th day.
After calendar time, we have music time and sing a few songs before moving our class to the teaching table. My toddler often joins in with what is happening at our school, despite the fact that he has many toys and activities sprinkled throughout the classroom to keep him occupied. He looks up to his big sister and wants to do everything that she does, so we try to include him as much as we can. Often he will climb up on a chair at the teaching table too, wanting to cut or paste or color like his big sister.
At the teaching table, we talk about the letter of the week and we have a variety of activities we use to reinforce that letter and sound. Usually by the time we are done working on our letters, it’s time for a movement break.
Movement breaks are critical for both my daughter and I. She’s a typical, active 5-year-old and uses these breaks to get her wiggles out and have some mental time off to digest all she has learned. I use them to get set up for next activity. Our basement is amazing for these movement breaks – it was damaged in a heavy rainstorm a few years ago and we had to completely gut it, losing a finished bedroom, bathroom, and living room. While it was devastating at the time, it ended up being the best thing for our family because when we refinished the basement, we just carpeted the entire room, making it 1,000 square feet of FUN! We have a swing and a trapeze bar hanging from the ceiling and have many large motor toys on the floor as well. This has been the perfect space for my daughter to move for a few minutes in between activities while at school.
We come back to the teaching table to do some math and our Bible lesson, and then comes my favorite part of school – story time! The curriculum I’m using relies heavily on library books for the science and thematic components, so we will often snuggle up on the couch and read the book or two we have for that particular school day. I am grateful that I can snuggle my daughter at school. 🙂
By this time it’s around 9:00am or 9:15am and the kids are ready for snack. We clean up and head upstairs for a snack. Sometimes, we have finished all our material by this time, so we are done for the day. Yes, we are done after an hour of school! Other times, there are extra activities or experiments we do after snack, it just depends on the curriculum for the day.
One thing we always try to do after snack is get outside. We often meet up with friends and play outside together. Our curriculum puts a heavy emphasis on outdoor free play and exploration. It’s viewed so highly that on the last day of each unit, the school work components are very minimal and the day is designated as a park day or zoo day. I appreciate that this is built into each weekly unit, and it allows us ample opportunities to take in all the Twin Cities has to offer!
Having worked in the public school system for five years, it feels a bit like I’m slacking when we are done with our focused school work in 1-1.5 hours, rather than the 7-8 hours in a mainstream school day. I’ve been trained that to do school well, you need a whole day. What I have to remind myself is that when I am teaching just 1 student instead of 25, I can move through material a whole lot faster! Also, we don’t have far to go to get to our bathroom breaks or the gym, so transitions are much shorter for us than in a regular classroom.
I’ve really enjoyed this month of homeschooling so far and I look forward to seeing what it feels like after the first year. Thus far, I feel it has provided a deeper connection for my daughter and I, increased both my son’s and my daughter’s ability to play independently, and given us more purpose in our days.