Sorry for the radio silence—there’s been a lot to adjust to over here, what with the move into my mom and stepdad’s basement, the fact that Matt is now staying up in Cache Valley for half of the week so he doesn’t have to commute for two and a half hours a day, and the start of our homeschooling journey (which was never in the cards in my original Life Plan).
And I definitely WANT to be writing—oh, I want to be writing pretty much daily! I want to be writing about our (roller coaster) search for our next home, I want to write about what it’s like to be living on a “borrowed” homestead (aka, in my folks’ basement), I want to be writing about how much the kids are changing and how weird this summer has been and how much I’ve been leaning into the idea of creating daily “rituals” to try and center myself on something more sure and tangible during a very unsure time of our lives.
But time to create and write and just THINK has been so limited, and when it finally DOES come my way, I almost always use it to sleep or go to the gym or just zone out with a book or with HGTV.
I definitely considered a nap today, but I also really want to take some time to process our first week of homeschooling, especially since, while this is the only year I’m planning on doing this, this year has also taught me…best have a plan B. And C. And maybe D, for good measure.
So, in case I ever find myself homeschooling at this kindergarten level again (or any level again, for that matter), it will be good to have some thoughts recorded.
Note: There are affiliate links to products mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission if you decide to purchase any of these things for your own homeschool.
We officially started our homeschool on Wednesday August 19th. I chose this day mainly for two reasons—one, it mirrors what our future school district’s schedule will be when we move down south with Matt’s work, and two, I wanted to start on a day when my mom was home from work so I would have some help with the younger two boys (one of whom is two years old, and the other eight months).
We haven’t gotten into a hard and fast schedule yet (and maybe won’t ever), but our loose schedule looks somewhat like this:
- 7:00 a.m. Wake up (or, rather, the kids wake me up, and I am forced to concede to their wills)
- 7:15 a.m. Change both boys’ diapers, get them dressed, use bathroom
- 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. Get breakfast for everyone, feed the baby
- 8:15 a.m. Clean up from breakfast, tell Raven to go get dressed
- 8:30 a.m. I get dressed and put on makeup
- 8:45 a.m. Do last-minute prep for homeschool–check schedule, print out lessons, pull up videos, etc.
- 9:00 a.m. Put baby down for nap and start homeschool
- 9:00 a.m. – 10: 30 a.m. Homeschool (more on that below)
- 10:30 a.m. Mid-morning snack break, get baby from crib + change his diaper, get him fed, settled, etc.
- 10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Homeschool
- 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Prepare and make lunch for everyone, feed baby
- 12:45 p.m. Clean up from lunch and from homeschool
- 1:00 p.m. Put both boys down for their afternoon naps
- 1:15 p.m. Give Raven an independent homeschool thing to work on (like handwriting worksheets, listening to an audiobook, etc.) and do some read-aloud time (if we haven’t already)
We’re done with “official” homeschool by 2:00 p.m. every day, though Raven will often choose to work on homeschool-type activities (like doing activity pages in one of her workbooks, working on art projects while listening to audiobooks, looking through picture books, etc.) at other hours of the day as well.
My homeschooling “schedule” right now is pretty basic—we work on math and reading every day, and then I also mix in another subject with her (and often Mathias) each day as well (like art, music, science, or cooking/life skills). Each of the three subjects we cover generally has some short “direct instruction” time up front for me to teach the concept, and then I’ll come up with an activity or worksheet (or both) to reinforce it further.
For example, this is what our day looked like on Tuesday of this last week:
We started our day with a “wiggle” song we learned from Musik at Home, which we got a free two-month membership to through The Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle. You can also sign up for a (shorter) free trial of it without purchasing the bundle, and it’s been a fabulous resource. I wasn’t sure at first how the kids would take to it, but they have LOVED it and have regularly sung songs from it around the house. It’s often a great way to begin our homeschooling day because it combines music with movement, so it’s perfect for those days when it’s too hot to go outside for much “recess” time!
Math: We followed the daily plan from the Evan-Moor math instruction book for Week 2, Lesson 3 that included a simple worksheet, then I reinforced the concept through doing a “caterpillar” activity that came with my Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle purchase (seriously, that was SUCH a lifesaver purchase! If you’re homeschooling, I highly suggest getting put on their email list for the (one) time that that will go on sale again, because IT HAS BEEN WORTH EVERY PENNY AND MORE). Note: We did this whole first part outside on the table on the back patio so that Mathias could run around outside and ride his bike while we worked.
Reading: We did lesson 5 out of The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (the short vowel sound of /u/), which I reinforced by playing a letter game using these magnetic letters we bought last week (another purchase that was worth every penny). I put all of the vowel letters in a cloth bag, and then I had Raven pull each letter out and say the short vowel sound. If she got it wrong or couldn’t remember it within three seconds, I got to keep the letter, but if she got it right, she got to keep it. (Spoiler: I only got to keep three of the U’s, and she got all of her other vowel sounds perfect every time, as well as a couple of the u’s by the end). We also played a simple game with the magnetic letters and the accompanying magnet board to work on sounding out some simple two- and three-letter words that had “u” in them.
Science: We reviewed what we’d learned earlier about a butterfly’s life cycle using some picture sequence cards and little puzzle cards (also from The Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle), and then we watched this awesome 9-minute video (free) which we found via Wide Open School (which was referred to me by a reader—such a fabulous free resource!). Then, to review some of what we learned about butterflies in that, we did a fun little review game about how butterflies smell/taste/breathe etc. that had both Raven and Mathias up and moving and having a good time.
After the three subjects, we did read-aloud time, which involved two picture books for Mathias’s benefit (we’ve been getting some super fun ones through the Bookroo subscription I recently got for the kids while we’re living here) and then the longer read-aloud book I’m doing with Raven (The Very, Very Far North). Raven then worked on her mini alphabet book for “U” while I got the boys down to nap after lunch (which was yet another activity from the Homeschooling Bundle).
On other days, we did longer music time (from Musik at Home), had art lessons with my mother-in-law (I was so impressed by how I could easily tell that Raven had drawn a bird without being told what it was!), did a couple cooking projects, and had some “gym” time with my mom (who taught the kids some tips with throwing and catching a ball). All in all, a fun and enriching week!
Victories, Big and Small
- The biggest one—Raven really started to “get” reading! Thanks to fabulous preschool teachers, she’s known her letters and sounds for a long time, but stringing and blending the sounds together to read words was just not quite clicking yet. But on Monday of this week, it all of a sudden just kind of came together for her—she started getting how to blend the consonants and vowels together without such a hard stop between the sounds, and she’s been able to start reading a ton of words! It was very exciting for both of us and felt fabulous to get such a major win early on. (Most of the credit goes to the teachers she had before me, but I was still excited all the same!)
- I got out some (simple) puzzles for Mathias to play with while Raven and I worked on reading one day, and he was able to figure them out with zero prompting from me whatsoever. I literally have never helped him with puzzles before this (and Matt hadn’t either), so it was pretty crazy to watch him just know exactly what to do. Looks like I need to get him some more puzzles! (I’ve got my eye on these four-piece ones or these ones that have varying sizes from 2 to 8 pieces. What do you think–worth it? Or should I skip up to something more challenging right away?)
Obstacles and Challenges
- Definitely the biggest obstacle right now is that when my mom goes into work on Monday and Tuesday and I’m all on my own with the three kids, it can be HARD to give the kind of focused dedication and time I’d like to Raven–it can be hard to keep Mathias entertained and/or engaged in what we’re doing, and if the baby doesn’t go down for a good nap in the morning, then his needs tend to trump everything. My mom is a huge help Wednesday through Friday, as she’ll often entertain Mathias or have him come outside with her so that Raven and I can just have quiet time together (while the baby goes down for a nap). We did discover that doing some of our homeschooling outside tends to be a decent solution for when I’m on my own—that way, Mathias can play on his wiggle bike and on our little plastic slide while Raven and I work, but I will admit that that often means Raven just wants to join him rather than sit and study. It’s a tricky balance to figure out, because I want her to have plenty of time outdoors every day, but that morning time is definitely the best time for both her and I to really focus on learning. Tricky, tricky. Hopefully as we go along, we’ll be able to figure it out more and more and come up with something that works for everyone better.
Lesson Plans + Activities to Remember
- A successful way to work on grouping and counting was to play Yahtzee Jr. together (we happen to have the Pokemon version, but there are others). Mathias can “play” along with this one too (with ample help), so it was a good one to keep him occupied, too.
- For a hands-on way to practice the letters and numbers we were discussing that day, I cooked up a small batch of spaghetti noodles and then had Raven form them into different versions of the letter A, the number one, etc. It was an especially effective way to teach the variations in the way that letters are sometimes written, like the lowercase “a.”
And that wraps up our first week! I’m excited for the growth and learning and fun we’ll have over the course of this year!