How I’m Teaching My Preschooler

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I don’t know about your kids, but my 3 year old has to do whatever his sister is doing, so we’ve been at this homeschooling thing for a bit. I was using just a hodge-podge of Dollar Tree workbooks and coloring books with him (after all, $1 is a very reasonable price for things when he goes through these books as fast as he does), but this month, we’re starting some more formal lessons. He already knows his letters, shapes, numbers, and colors, so my goal is to work with him on his fine motor skills and solidify what he already knows. I don’t want to do a lot with him, but just enough since he insists. Here’s what we do, it takes less than an hour a day (with the 20 minutes of reading books factored in.

Pre-Reading: All About Reading’s Pre-Reading Program

I liked the level one books so much, I made the decision to order the pre-reading program for him as well. He loves that his “learning activities” look like his big sister’s, and I like having things laid out in a lesson plan. We’re still also doing various things we’ve picked up from the dollar store as the extra practice.

Mathematics:

I’m using a couple of things – Critical Thinking Company’s Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 1 and Kumon Numbers 1-30 are the two main resources I’m using. I have other things that I pull out from time to time, but these are quick and simple.

Art & Music:

Mr. 3 is taking an art class that meets once a month, and he’s always coloring or painting something. We listen to a variety of music and talk about the composers and artists.

Literature, History, Science, STEM etc.

We’re members of the Amazon STEM toy of the month club. We also use What Your Preschooler Needs to KnowWe read a large variety of books in addition to what we do for reading. Mr. 3 also does a basketball class, zoo class, and a dance class.

Mostly, he plays, as well he should at this age. The only reason we do anything formal is he’ll be all up in my face begging me to do something when his sister is learning if I don’t give him his “work” first.

What do you do for preschool?

 

What I’m Using to Homeschool My Kindergartener

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My 5-year-old is doing kindergarten, and has been since August, since she was 4 when I started, we wrapped up some of the unfinished preschool curriculum. After a long winter break, we’re looking forward to getting back to it. Here’s what we’re using right now (note: we don’t do all subjects all days, and the total time sitting – not counting science experiments, reading books together, art projects, music stuff, etc. is only about an hour and a half. The majority of her days are still spent playing.):

Reading:

We were using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington. However, the curriculum really didn’t suit my gal, and I’d been really curious about what All About Reading had to offer. So, I switched it up. We’re now using level 1, and we love it. It’s hands-on, has reinforcing activities, and most importantly really works well with my gal’s learning style. They just came out with a color version, and it’s gorgeous. I’ll be talking more about that next week.

Penmanship/Writing:

For writing, we’re doing a lot of tracing of words and letters, but we’re also reinforcing proper letter formation using Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade K. We do a page or two each day. She loves this.

Spelling: MCP Spelling Workout A

I started with MCP Spelling Workout A before I switched to All About Reading. I’m on the fence about continuing with it or changing to All About Spelling Level 1 once we finish All About Reading Level 1 and begin Level 2 as recommended.

Literature:

For literature, I’m working on making sure she’s familiar with classics and contemporary picture books. We’re using a variety of resources as well as the book, fairy tales, poetry, nursery rhymes, etc. lists from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.

Math:

We’re using Singapore Math Essential Math Kindergarten A and B. We’re about halfway through book B, so we’ll be starting the “first grade” book probably in March if we keep moving at the pace she’s setting. She loves math.

Thinking Skills:

I’m using Kumon’s Kindergarten Thinking Skills Workbooks. We’ve almost finished the Logic book.

Science:

Science is kind of a hodge-podge, like literature. It’s partially interest-based, partially driven by what’s in What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, and partially based on various science kits we have and fun experiment ideas I come across that fit the season/interests. I just got 180 Days of Science to add to the mix just to make sure we’re hitting all the standards and building a solid foundation for 1st grade. Science is another favorite subject, so we also read a lot of books on topics and watch YouTube videos.

Social Studies:

We’re reading a variety of picture books about historical events and biographies of great figures. We also read selections from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know and discuss what we read. For geography, we’re using DK Geography, KindergartenWe also have a daily calendar we do, and we’re using My Book of Easy Telling Time. We also do a lot of talking about community roles and safety and other things.

Art:

We do a lot of art projects, drawing, coloring, etc. around here. She also has a class she does with her grandparents and loves.

Music:

We’re taking a break from violin at the moment. We listen to a variety of music, and I point out the different styles and talk about instruments and famous musicians.

Misc./Social Activities/P.E.

We’re doing Girl Scouts this year, and a dance class. She wants to do a running group for kids this spring. We also go to the local zoo’s classes as we can.

How to Get Started Planning Your Homeschooling Year

Plan Your Homeschooling Year

I’m a big fan of lesson planning. I know, I know, there are many people out there who do not enjoy the planning process, and many balk at it. I find that planning is a key component of having a successful year and combating that malaise we get when the excitement of new curriculum wears off. It helps to ensure that your child is having all of her or his educational needs met. The best part of planning: You can always change things if they’re not working out. After a couple of years, you’ll have a good idea of what works for your family and what does not work for your family. Here is how I plan my homeschooling year.

1. I look up state standards, Common Core standards, and Core Knowledge standards

Every state varies a little bit in what they expect for each grade level. I know, it’s super-annoying to me, too. It’s one of the reasons I think a standardized list of standards is important (say that five times fast). The reason I start my planning by looking at and noting standards is I want to guard against holes in my kids’ knowledge. It’s also important to know where children “should” be at for their grade level – just in case anything happens and I have to send my kids into a traditional school setting.

I live in Kansas, and a lot of the standards are a little more behind other state standards, so I also pull up California, Pennsylvania, and New York.  I know. It seems like a lot of work. A lot of the standards overlap. But some standards do not, and some topics in science and history, in particular, have radically different state standards in Kansas from the standards in Pennsylvania and New York.

I also look up the Common Core standards. I know a lot of people thumb their nose at them, but it’s still important to be aware of what the actual language is and what the “Common Core” actually says. Finally, I look up the Core Knowledge standards.

2. I enter those standards into my record-keeping software.

I use Homeschool Tracker. I do have some qualms about using it, but I’ve also found that it’s the best for what I want to track and for how my mind works. I’ll do a post soon about different types of homeschool planning programs.

This is such a tedious step, but if you use a program that allows you to enter standards in, you’ll be able to create assignments and pull in the standards. When the assignment is completed, it marks that that skill has been worked on. That’s super useful in putting together an end-of-year report and portfolio. Yes, I live in a state that doesn’t require any of this stuff. I want to know where my kids are at and what they’ve learned. I like being able to print off a report on that.

3. I review my curriculum and make note of how it aligns to standards

By the time I’m sitting down to plan, I’ve already purchased my curriculum. BUT! When I’m entering in standards, I’ll sometimes find holes that I need to fill. I make a note to find resources for these things so they don’t get skipped. I then search my local library, the Internet, and Amazon to see if I can find resources to make sure that I don’t have significant gaps in the education my kids are receiving. Oh, and sometimes, I find that a field trip or an outside class will do just what I need it to do.

4. I have a composition book for my records for each kid

I don’t want to be glued to my computer while teaching. It’s too tempting to go into Facebook world or trying-to-get-things-done land. So, I created a notebook for each child. At the front, I have a list of the courses we’re studying, then a list of resources with abbreviations I’ll use. At the back, I paper clip off some pages so I can write down the titles of any books we read so I can add those to the record-keeping software. Each day, I’ll write what I want to accomplish & any extra we do.

When I’m planning the next year, I have a more realistic picture of what my child does in a single day and a single week. This helps me to better plan for that child. I highlight what was planned ahead and leave the extra that was done alone. If we don’t finish what was planned, I put a small dot next to it and carry it into the next day.

5. I sort my resources by course

This goes without saying. Sort resources by course.

6. I figure out what our homeschool schedule will be

Kansas asks for 186 days and not less than 6 hours per day for grades 1-11. Since we’re doing Kindergarten and Preschool this year, I don’t need to worry about so much, but I do try to schedule out at least 186 days just so we’re in the habit.

7. I outline each course by topic

I select one course resource to be the main resource by which I outline the entire course. Other resources then become the supplemental resources. I go through and ensure that everything matches up. This means some jumping around in some resource materials, but it also makes for much easier scheduling. I put this outline into a Word document.

8. I create my lesson plans

I enter in my lesson plans into Homeschool Tracker. I used to plan out the whole year at once. Now I only do that if I’m absolutely certain that a curriculum works for us. Otherwise, I enter the lesson plans for the next month. That way, if something’s not working for our family, I didn’t spend a lot of time entering stuff from a resource we won’t continue to use. Also, a month’s time gives me a good idea of how fast/slow we’re going to move through the material I have planned, so I can make adjustments for the next month.

How do you plan out your homeschooling year?

Share your thoughts in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to tweak my system!