Monday, August 31, 2009

Week 1, day 1

Today my plan was to start school at 10am. This gives me time to do some tidying up, laundry, exercise and shower before we begin. I got out a set of double six dominoes and a bucket of pattern blocks and pattern cards for them to play with while I exercised and showered uninterrupted. As I was moving from the exercise bike to the shower, E announced, "We're pin-tending that the don-i-moes are mastodons." They were diligently hiding the dominoes and then engaging on a fossil hunt. After my shower, I requested that they tidy up the toys. P burst into tears - they hadn't even started playing with the pattern blocks. I told her that she could play with them when we'd finished doing school, and started putting away dominoes. I noticed that their room was in need of serious cleaning while trying to find the remaining mastodon fossils - it mirrored digging in the dirt a bit more closely than would be ideal. As of this writing, 5 bone fragments remain hidden somewhere in their room, despite my thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming it this afternoon.

At around 10:10, we actually got started. I suggested that we open with prayer, and both kids brought tears to my eyes with their genuine, relevant prayers that God would help them learn interesting things about him and the world he made. Since their typical prayer is a rapid, "Dear God thank you for flowers and trees and people and animals amen", without any variation, it was wonderful to see that they understand that prayer can be relevant to the specific situation as well. We started reviewing the kids' catechism that our church in Pennsylvania used, just covering the first 2 questions, and then read the Creation story in their story Bible. We worked on memorizing Psalm 119:11, and then moved on to the calendar.

My math plan for this year is rather “unschool” in philosophy. I’ve written down goals for P, involving an ability to use numbers up to 100 and a familiarity with the U.S. coins and their values, among other things, and intend to simply plan activities that move toward these goals informally. The calendar is one such activity. We printed out the calendar graphics from Sonlight’s MathTacular DVD. Each day, we change the day and date, and obviously the month at the beginning of each month. We also put up a graphic for whether it is hot, warm, cool, or cold outside. Changing the date involves adding 1 to a number from 1 to 30 (or adding 2 or 3, if we skip a day or 2). We also write down the temperature (P will read this from a digital thermometer, thus gaining practice recognizing numbers up to and – hey, it’s Texas – even above 100). We dashed outside to get a better grasp of what the atmospheric conditions were, and after some debate compromised that it was “bright cloudy” and cool. A mere 79 degrees – I guess we’ve acclimated to Texas summertime temperatures!

We're using Sonlight's Kindergarten level language arts curriculum this year, and if I write down exactly what we do every day there, I'm sure it'll be a copyright infringement. In any case, we looked at the picture dictionary for the letter of the week, and then made a letter poster using pictures cut out from old catalogs. Both kids participated in excitedly pointing out pictures of items that started with the letter in question, and in positioning them on the poster. Then it was copywork time, which I'd been concerned about because E is not old enough to participate, and becomes upset when P is able to do things he isn't. However, I gave E the opportunity to trace his name while I worked with P, and we got through it without any tears. E got bored tracing after about the 3rd letter. However, I told him that his own special school was coming next, which helped keep him happy.

Last night, as we were talking about how school would start soon and P would learn to write a variety of things, E became distraught and tearful. I comforted him by explaining that I had a special book (Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready) that was just for children who had not yet turned five – “So it’s specially for you, E, and not for P!”. This book has activities for each week from birth to the fifth birthday, and I used it a bit with P but hardly any with E, so it’s completely new to him. This week’s activity was to show the child the details of a penny and a nickel, then have him sort 5 pennies and 5 nickels into cups, and to explain that it takes 5 pennies to buy the same as 1 nickel can buy. I asked P to stay out of the way and let E do all the work, and she paid careful attention but didn’t bother him. By the end of the activity, though, I could see it was time for the kids to do some running around.

Note to self: the kids are inclined to run around outside for much longer than I am. By the time they were willing to come inside, the weather was no longer “cool”. I used the existence of air conditioning as a rationale for returning indoors.

I’m using a children’s atlas and Sonlight’s markable map to do a basic overview of geography, with a different country each week. We’ll supplement with library books, colouring pages, some of Sonlight’s stories from around the world from their preschool curricula and possibly ethnic foods. This week is an overview of the world, so I printed out world map colouring pages. P enjoyed colouring South Africa purple (my favourite colour for my country of origin), and identified North America, Australia, and Antarctica. Once they’d finished colouring the front, they enjoyed creating their own pretend maps on the back. E drew about 5 versions of South Africa, interspersed with the occasional Texas, Pennsylvania and Egypt. P drew a population map, with different colours for where more or fewer people lived, and an N where nobody lived. Inspired by this, I showed them the world population map in the children’s atlas, and they noticed China, India, and Java as particularly densely populated. By this time, we were all ready for lunch.

After lunch, P asked to play store. Ha! Another sneaky math activity! The kids both love this, as long as everyone gets a turn to be the cashier. After digging around in a Ziploc bag full of loose change for long enough, I turned an empty cereal box into a cash register with 6 compartments: pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, price tags, and blank price tags. Suddenly, I was exhausted, and declared a “quiet hour” while I took a nap. The kids played with their cash register, the pattern blocks, and a deck of cards. When I woke up, we worked on character development as they were compelled to overcome their reluctance and pick up all the tiny pieces, even though it wasn’t as much fun as distributing said tiny pieces had been. Once all the tiny pieces were accounted for (I even found a domino), I vacuumed. Their room is now tidier than it’s been in weeks.

Ahhh. The first day wasn’t as bad as my worst nightmares, by any means. I think as long as I stay aware of their attention spans, and we work on more cheerful cleanup, this will be quite manageable.


Hi! Welcome to my blog. I'm the mom of 2 great kids, a 5-year-old girl (P) and a 3-year-old boy (E). We're expecting Kid Number 3 in early February. My husband, Ari, was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade. I, on the other hand, moved all over the world as a kid (part of the "planetary" part of my blog address) and attended 9 different schools before high school graduation. One thing I hope to provide my kids by homeschooling them is stability - not having to adjust to a new school system or suddenly skip or repeat half a year by switching hemispheres. I've decided to keep track of how this first year of formal homeschooling (P's kindergarten year - we've done informal pre-K before) goes by blogging about it as it happens. Today was the first day - I'll report on it in the next post.