This September 12th marked the beginning of our second year of homeschooling. Our first year began with a traditional schedule of September through May, but after a big move, we decided to take a break during March and April and extend our school year into the summer. I played with the idea of year-round school, and because I was in the process of switching curricula, I decided at the time that June would be our official start time for our new school year.
It was a great idea for all of about two weeks, and then the play dates, and summer fun began to lure us away from the schoolroom. We managed to work our way through 10 units of our kindergarten curriculum, but in August, I decided I liked the consistency of starting in September and decided we’d have another “first day” of school. That left us in a weird predicament, halfway through our kindergarten curriculum and beginning first grade midway through the year.
I struggled with this for a while. Do we call this his kindergarten year? Or 1st grade? He went through a kindergarten curriculum last year, but since the curriculum really wasn’t a good fit, and we started with a new one, what grade was he in last year? Was that pre-K? I was very confused. I’m finding that in the world of homeschooling, however, grades are sometimes arbitrary numbers oftentimes meant to serve the person who asks, “What grade are you in?” Oftentimes, a child will be two grade levels ahead in one subject and on-grade level in another. I’ll have to figure out exactly what this means for us as we work through the kinks.
For our “official” pictures, however, we decided to go with kindergarten for my son and pre-k2 for my daughter. As far as our curriculum goes, we absolutely LOVE My Father’s World Kindergarten curriculum! This has been a perfect fit for our family. It is eclectic in nature, merging the living books and outdoor exploration of the Charlotte Mason approach along with classical models of instruction.
For those who are not familiar, each unit focuses on a specific letter that represents a specific topic, such as “S” is for SUN. The science lessons, songs, and hands-on activities are centered on this topic, including plenty of read alouds and opportunities for exploration. Phonics and writing lessons are also centered around the letter of the week and build on previously-learned phonemes.
The Biblical concept for the week is also related as the sun is used to help children remember something special about a Biblical truth. The sun, for example, represents that “Jesus is the light of the world.” In order to learn this truth, Bible readings and correlating activities are provided along with a Bible badge for future review. For the moon, my children learned that “I am the light of the world” as the moon reflects the light of the sun. It’s such a neat way to use the concrete topics we are learning about as an introduction to more abstract Biblical truths.
The hands-on activities have also created such special memories for us. From making an octopus hot dog and observing our ants in our ant hill to painting rock ladybugs and enjoying homemade baking powder biscuits with honey on top, we have greatly enjoyed this curriculum through and through. We are, however, supplementing a bit for reading and math since we had already done a year of “kindergarten” and wanted to provide a bit more of a challenge. In the future, however, I plan to use it as is for our daughter when she begins kinder at 4 1/2 years.
For math, we are using Right Start Mathematics, which has also been a perfect fit for my son. It’s creator used inspiration from the Montessori philosophy and has combined it with songs and plenty of manipulatives for lots of hands-on practice. Each concept is taught using different forms of representation, such as fingers, colored tiles, tally sticks, the abacus, dot cards, etc. so that students transfer their understanding into the different contexts. Once the concrete is established, the abstract concepts are then introduced. This process ensures that children internalize the math skills and establish the ability to “hold” numbers in their head in order to compute mentally. It was quite an investment up front, but the manipulatives are used up through 6th grade, so it should even out as we move through the grade levels. So far, we have really enjoyed this curriculum alongside My Father’s World.
Here’s how our homeschool works for my son, 6 years old.:
Read Alouds: My Father’s World reading lists
Sight Words: You Can Read! See pics below for sample activities. On the left, my son rolled a die and is graphing the sight word that is shown. On the right, he is using Play-Doh to form the words.
Science: My Father’s World
Bible: My Father’s World
History: Classical Acts and Facts History Cards: Ancient World, Medieval World, Modern World, New Worldand Timeline Songs by Classical Conversations (Since we were a part of a Classical Conversations community last year, we wanted to continue this part of our Foundations memory work. We use the cards and songs to lay the “pegs” for future learning. Our goal will be to have all of the timeline events and presidents memorized by the end of the year. Because of the song, my children already have about half of it memorized! Of course, if my son is interested in an event or topic, we jump right in!)
P.E.: Outdoor activities, park, trampoline, martial arts, swim lessons, etc.
My 2 year-old daughter also likes to join us for many of the wonderful My Father’s World lessons, including the hands-on activities, crafts, songs, read alouds, and even some phonics games, like Bingo. I had planned on letting her play during my one-on-one time with my son, but she has insisted on having her own activities and schoolwork to do. Because of this, I set up a small agenda for her. I align her activities to the letter we are studying in kindergarten so that she is covering the same letter at her level. She can choose from a learning basket, folder game, learning folder, or the sensory bin. She then puts her smiley face on anything she has completed. (You can download the My Agenda sign, agenda squares and smileys here.)
Here is where I get the ideas for her activities.:
Learning Baskets: My Father’s World Preschool Package, Wood Pieces Set for Capital Letters–Preschool to Grade K. I also collect Montessori-inspired ideas and other preschool activities on my Pinterest board and find a number of other great ideas on www.freehomeschooldeals.com and The Big Book of Homeschooling. I also fill the baskets with flash cards, lacing cards, or other learning “toys” we have around the house. Here are a few of my learning baskets. I set up 6 at a time and leave them out for the month. She can pick one to work on each day.
Below, you can take a peek inside a few of the baskets. At the top, the basket held a pack of flash cards I had been given so that she could sort the cards by color. The bottom left basket has a bag of coffee beans, a spoon, cups, and a bowl for serving the beans. I have since added a small brush and dust pan for clean up. The middle basket includes fuzzy stix and beads for making bracelets, and the bottom right basket has strips of paper with lines for cutting practice.
Folder Games: Confessions of a Homeschooler: Letter of the Week You can find plenty of free samples throughout her blog. These games include a variety of skills, including color matching, size sorting, shapes, letter matching, puzzles, counting, etc.
Learning Folder: Confessions of a Homeschooler: Letter of the Week, My Preschool Journey by Teaching Mama. In her learning folder, I include cut-and-paste handouts, coloring pages, and Do-a-Dot letters (pictured left) for writing and coloring practice.
Sensory Bin Ideas: My Preschool Journey by Teaching Mama. The kids loved this sensory bin. I am not sure what those pigs are doing in there. 🙂
I love the ideas in My Preschool Journey! The curriculum includes a craft for each letter, along with a number of hands-on activities and experiments, sensory bin ideas and connected read alouds.
That about sums it up. Of course, we don’t cover every subject every single day, but altogether, this makes for a full 2-3 hours of school four days a week for us. (To view our Homeschool Agenda, click here.) On the fifth day, we attend a local co-op where the children get to learn with other kids and review many of the concepts we are studying at home. Of course, we also work in field trips to the zoo, botanical gardens, farm, apple orchard, etc., and “home economics” activities, such as cooking, baking, budgeting, cleaning, and decorating and breaks throughout. We also make sure to include plenty of opportunities to visit with friends and family. Overall, this works well for us, and we are excited for another great year.
When we begin “first grade” somewhere in the middle of it all, I’ll re-post with our latest curriculum choices. Stay tuned!
Want to see how we organize it all? Click here! Subscribe to my blog for a FREE Homeschool Planner Download (shown in the top picture).
What are your favorite curriculum choices for Pre-K and Kinder?