Friday, April 26, 2013

A Homeschool Day

I thought it was about time that I chronicled another homeschool day. I want to occasionally describe what a typical homeschool day looks like for us because, before homeschooling ourselves, it was something that I was curious about. What does a homeschool day look like? It can vary enormously from family to family and from day to day.

Today was an absolutely perfect spring day. There are only so many perfect days like today, so we made sure to take advantage of it while also getting a fair amount of specifically school time in. Noah screamed for most of the night last night, so I rolled out of bed rather unwillingly around 8AM. In a rare display of homogeneity, the kids all wanted the same breakfast, so four bowls of oatmeal later, we were already on our way to the backyard. Shoes and pants were, unfortunately, an after-thought.

Around 9:45 I decreed that we really must get some formal schooling done, and the kids tromped in and gathered at the table. For the next 45 minutes, Alexander worked on a writing prompt, Jack worked in his phonics workbook, and Kai worked on his preschool skills workbook. Alexander abhors the task of physically writing and  requested that I take dictation or allow him to type. However, the purpose of today's exercise was penmanship over creative writing, composition, or grammar, so I encouraged him to forge on. He worked slowly, but didn't really complain too much. To his credit, his penmanship has improved immensely since the beginning of this school year. We plan to tackle cursive as soon as his workbook arrives and, since it is something novel, he is excited. We'll see how long that lasts!

Jack isn't much for physically writing, either, but I think for him it is more due to his perfectionism. Even if I tell him that a letter is done well enough, if he isn't satisfied he will insist on erasing it and trying again. Because of that, it took him the full 45 minutes to write out 8 words. But, he did have to first figure out what word to write and, ultimately, his work was very well done.

I want to be clear that I don't force Kai to do schoolwork. I don't even say, "Kai, would you like to do some schoolwork?" He sees his brothers doing work and asks when it will be his turn, or where his work is, or whether he can do it, too. So I find something for him to do because if I don't, he will beg me until I do. Today he was working in a general preschool skills workbook. He asked me to read him the directions on several pages, most of which involved coloring things certain colors and then tracing the color word. Next came a page where he was to circle the letter that each of several pictures began with. I read him the directions and then focused on Jack for a while. A few minutes later, Kai exclaimed that he was done and, sure enough, he had gotten all of them correct except one, where he chose a lowercase /b/ instead of a lowercase /d/. Hardly a mistake to jump on for someone who just turned three!

After 45 minutes of sitting and writing my children were, of course, starving. I made some biscuits which we took outside so that we could enjoy the weather and a short break. At 11:00, after half an hour, we broke out the books. I gated off the deck and brought out a few toys for Noah so that we could stay outside. Alexander started a Flat Stanley adventure based in China, since he is learning about Asia right now. Over the next hour, he read the entire book. There are still a few days where he wants to know what the minimum chapter requirement is for reading time, but often he prefers to just read an entire book in one sitting. I don't blame him; I have a hard time putting books down myself! This was double-duty reading and social studies for him.

Jack and Kai were also reading during this time. They are both working their way through Set One of the BOB Books (easy readers). Another quick brag on Kai: He can read, not just recite, at least the first four books of the series. These include such simple sentences as "Mat sat on Sam." and "Dot has a cat." Part of his reading precociousness is that he just happens to pick it up quickly. Part of it is the exposure, of being raised in a homeschool household. I've always read to my children frequently and taught them letter sounds and numbers and all that. But Kai is the first one to be exposed, at his age, to actual and specific reading lessons. He crashes Jack's reading lessons 99% of the time. Jack's no slack, either. He will enter kindergarten (at home) already reading at a basic level. I'm so proud of all my readers!

After an hour of reading, we headed back inside where Jack and Kai had lunch while Alexander used online games to practice multiplication and division for about 45 minutes. By that time it was about 12:45 and we all had lunch, played with Legos, and rode bikes and scooters for a little while.

At 1:45, we left to visit a retirement home with a group of homeschoolers that we belong to. We go there once a month to do an activity with the residents. They love just being around the kids and I love seeing the kids bring people joy just by being there. Today the activity director had set up some carnival games for the kids to play with the help of the residents. Noah was taken all around the room by one of the employees to say hi (and, later, bye) to all the residents and I love that just seeing his cute little face made them happy. They all said how cute he is. Kai did great and was led around from station to station by a few of the residents. Jack is much more reserved and actually hid under a chair for a few minutes when accosted by friendly, but batty, Millie. Millie is wonderfully cheerful and loves to sing to the kids, but she's a little much for a shy kid like Jack. She'll sing a rousing little "Whoop dee doo!" song, and then babble on in Millie-ese for a while. It freaks the kids out a little bit, but I have to stifle a laugh. She seems to be enjoying herself, in any case!

After the retirement home visit, the three homeschool families all met up at a playground for more socialization, exercise, and outdoor time. We've met up with one of the families several times now, and the kids are definitely starting to consider the little girl their friend. As we were leaving, Alexander and Jack both picked bouquets of dandelions for her. Alexander also said to me, "A---- is my new Anna! I've been looking for a new Anna and A---- fits the part perfectly!" Anna was his beloved neighbor and friend back in Frederick. I am so glad to see the kids starting to feel really connected to at least one kid here! There have been a few that we've played with, but no one that they really talked much about after the fact. When we got home, Kai insisted on drawing a picture of A---- on his Magnadoodle.

We finally dragged ourselves away from our friends, the beautiful weather, and the playground around 5PM. Alexander made homemade chicken strips, boxed Mac-N-Cheese, and steamed veggies for dinner. (He cooks every Friday.) I put Noah to bed. When Justin got home, I spaced out a little and said to him, "We should go to Dairy Queen. Oh, wait, we can't. Noah's asleep." Justin suggested that I could take the kids to Dairy Queen while he cleaned up the house. I suggested that, perhaps, I was living in a fantasy land. I go eat ice cream and you clean? Deal. Does that make me a bad wife? I did bring him home a Blizzard if that counts for anything!

A pretty successful day of homeschooling in my book. Most days do go pretty well. Some days are lazier, some are jam-packed with academics. Rare is the day that I truly question my decision.

Until next time, friends. ;)

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