The Sacred Sprouts Schoolhouse

Archive for October, 2009

A Day In The Life Of…

Last week I promised to tell you a little bit about our homeschool days.  Before we started homeschooling this year, I definitely had some preconceived notions of how our days would go.  I had my concerns about how long we should spend on certain subjects, and just how much time was actually going to be consumed with our school day.  Searching about and asking other homeschoolers, I found the responses to be so incredibly varied- from a few hours to most of the day.  A friend generously shared with me a schedule from a public school fourth grade classroom, which obviously allows for things that we don’t need at home.

A typical day for us starts when we all get up.  The kids get up and play for a bit while I spend time at the computer.  After that, we do breakfast and Spongebob, followed by the official beginning to our school day.  We don’t have a set time that we wake, but I expect that time will get a little earlier with the time change this coming weekend.

We also don’t have a set time that we start school.  When I am ready to begin, we begin.  Normally, this is around 9:00 am, but we’ve started as late as 10:30 a few times, and also as early as a little after 8- it just depends how those first few moments of the day goes.

Our school day begins with Bible.  Abigail reads a passage from her Bible, and then if Zander has the corresponding story in his picture Bible, he reads aloud too.  This morning we finished up reading about the ten plagues and read about the first Passover.  We read from our American Indian Prayer Guide, pray together, and then we say the Pledge of Allegiance together.  Each week the kids take turns holding the flag and leading us in our pledge.  Finally, we work on our verse memorization by listening to scripture fitted to music. (CD is called Sing The Word.)  I don’t actually require recitation of what they memorize.  Each passage lasts for a few weeks, so I know they know it by their singing along.

After Bible, we move onto Math.  This takes our biggest chunk of the day.  So far they do it at the same time- both at the table.  Abigail’s has mostly been self-directed, and she’s doing very well with it. We’ve gone over a few things together- just this morning we sat down together to learn how to write a check.  Last week she learned how to solve an addition or subtraction problem for n with Andy, so there are some things she’s needing help with.  Zander and I do his math together verbally and then he does some independent workbook work.  We’re really, really loving the Singapore math.  It took some getting used to, but I love how they present concepts.  He’s learning his math facts without having to use a number line or count on his fingers- and he’s doing very, very well.

After math we go back to the living room to do our history and geography.  Generally that means that they listen while I read aloud from a history book.  I let them play with Silly Putty during this time too- they seem to concentrate better if their hands are busy.  After the reading I ask comprehension questions- and who knew a kindergartner could retain so much information!  Then we do map work, identifying any location we talked about, and Abigail will also add details to her timeline.  Early American History is such a fabulous time period to study, and we’re all enjoying it immensely.

Next is Handwriting, which usually only takes about 5 minutes.  They each have their own books- Zander’s working on his letter writing, Abigail is perfecting her beautiful cursive that she learned last year.

After Handwriting comes reading.  Abigail dashes off with her reader upstairs to get comfy on a bed while she reads to herself.  All her readers tie in directly with our History.  Tomorrow she’ll finish up reading about Squanto.  Zander and I go to the couch to read his readers together.  His also tie in with our history, but are picture books that are at his level.  He reads aloud to me, and then since his reading doesn’t take as long as Abigail, he is then allowed some computer time.  Once she is done with her reading for the day, I ask Abigail a few questions about what she is reading, and then we move on to Language Arts.

Zander does Language Arts just two days a week.  He is finishing up some workbooks that are really helping his small motor skills with writing, cutting and pasting, and coloring.   Abigail’s Language Arts is done four days a week, and is much more involved.  She starts with a Spelling test everyday- one of these days I’ll talk about that, because I really think the program we’re using is helping her become a better speller.   After Spelling she works on writing activities.  Monday’s are always dictation assignments, and the rest of the week is various activities and discussions that help improve writing skills.  Finally, we do Grammar, which I don’t enjoy teaching her at all, but I think is very important for her to learn.  We finally finished up studying prepositional phrases last week and are moving on to verbs this week.

Next we do Science most days.  We were slow to start science this year, but now that we’re studying the planets, the pace has picked up a bit.  We read together about our topic, and then do an activity or add something to our Astronomy Journals.

Finally, our formal school day wraps up with our Read-Aloud.  This is our favorite time of day.  The kids pull out the legos, k’nex, or Lincoln Logs and build things while I read out of our book- which also happens to tie in to our History.  This week we’ll finish reading The Sign of The Beaver.

Surprisingly enough, all of that usually is accomplished before lunch.  After lunch we do other school activities- but that varies from day to day.  Tuesdays we do music class, Fridays we have gym class, and the other days of the week we try to do arts and crafts or projects.  Last week Zander asked if we could do a baking class one day- so one day after school we baked cookies together.  Our History Pockets are also done during this time.  We may also watch a video or the kids will get some computer time, but mostly, the bulk of our schooling is done in the morning.

How is this possible?  How is it that kids go to public school and spend 7+ hours there.  Are my kids lacking in their education?  Well, here’s what we’re not doing.  We don’t spend any time during the day getting into lines to walk down the hallway to go to a different class.  We don’t have to line up to go use the bathroom, and then wait our turn to wash our hands.  We don’t have to take a full 45 minutes for lunch and recess.  We also don’t take a recess time- we just keep going to get our day done.  When one child is done with their math work, class is over, we don’t have to wait an extra 15 minutes to make sure all the students have finished their work.   We don’t hand out extra worksheets to try and fill a certain time slot with activities to keep squirrely kids under control, and we don’t have to allow an extra ten minutes to clean up at the end of the day.  We aren’t spending time before each recess putting on coats, hats and mittens and finding athletic equipment.  We also don’t spend time after recess putting all those things away and then washing hands before moving on.   School teachers have to specifically fill time slots, and they have to allow time for things we don’t need to. (Such as the extra time between subjects to line up and walk down the hall.)   We don’t, we simply move seamlessly from subject to subject.  Some we finish in just a few minutes.  Sometimes our math takes almost an hour one day, but then it only takes 20 minutes the next.

We follow our subjects in the same order every day- but never look at the clock once- except to see if it’s close to lunchtime when I need to start something cooking.  When I first decided on this loose schedule, I made it a point to make sure that all our writing work was not done in succession.  We go back and forth from a sitting/reading activity to a writing activity.  I think this is key to keeping the kids from getting bored.  Every once in a random while I’ll also throw in a bonus- instead of a scheduled activity, we’ll play a board game together instead.  Or if we’re a little pressed for time, we’ll do the read-aloud while the kids eat lunch.

Now that we’re on our ninth week of school, we’re totally confident with what we’re doing.  I can’t believe that as of this coming Friday, we’ll already be 1/4th of the way through the school year.  It’s going quickly, and we’re learning so much together.   The kids have gained amazing confidence in their abilities to do certain activities.  Zander has even asked if he can try reading a chapter book to himself.  I may very well hand him a Geronimo Stilton next week and see how he does with it.

And you know what?  I can, because I can do whatever we want to enhance our learning.  I love that.

posted by Erika in Uncategorized and have Comment (1)

Weekly Planning

This past weekend I was told I need to update this blog more often.  I will try, because I know many parents and potential parents are wondering the same things I was wondering not all that long ago.  Can I really homeschool?  Can it be successful?  How hard is it- really.

Yesterday I did my weekly prep while we sat in the living room and visited with family.  A football game was also on.  My weekly prep time is a direct reflection of the curriculum we’ve chosen for our family- and I thought I’d share what I do, because it is so, so easy.  I know from talking to other homeschoolers that one of the considerations of a curriculum is time we parents need to put into it.

So the first thing I do, is I take out my giant Sonlight binder.

big binder

I learned the very first week of school that this binder is way too big to be hauling out every day.  So instead, I have a working binder that I change out every week.  This is working great!  I take out the old weeks work and put in the new weeks work.  I also check to make sure that I have the correct sheets for history, the reader, and our read aloud.  Language Arts has its own tab as well.

working binder

Here is what my blank week ahead looks like.  I love my instructors guide! It’s so neat and orderly.  Everything is carefully ordered for me- we’re using a five day format, but on the flip side of my pages is a four-day format for those so inclined.  The IG sheets list Bible, History and Geography, Reading, and Read-Alouds.  There are blank spaces to add in your math, science, and whatever else you are adding in.  The Language Arts IG is similar- it lists spelling, vocabulary, handwriting, readers, and daily LA work.  Had I ordered science from Sonlight as well, I would also have a science IG sheet.  Next year we’ll be doing SL Science.

blank guide

My task each week- which I do Sunday afternoon is simply to go through the week to come.  I make sure that I have the correct guidesheets for the history, readers and read-alouds.  Then I check what Zander will be reading, and make a weekly schedule for him- simply listing the pages each day.

Then I need to add to my weekly sheet.  I add sections for math for each child, I add science, and then I add in any extras we’ll be doing- our History Pocket work, DVD’s, music class and gym class.  It takes just a few minutes to plan out my week in each of these. Here is my filled out sheet.  I use pencil- because things are always changing.

filled guide

And that’s really it.  I look closer at the science to make sure I have everything on hand for any experiments, but other than that, my week is now ready for me.  It takes me maybe 30 minutes total to plan out my week.

Now each day, all we have to do is sit down together to start school.  Daily I make any copies I need, and each day at the end of the day, all our books go back on the shelf in the order we’ll use them the next day.

Next, I hope to share about our daily “schedule” and I use the term schedule very loosely.

posted by Erika in Lesson Plans and have Comments (3)

Exploring Sun Science

Week five of our homeschooling journey is a wrap, and week six is on the horizon.  We’ve definitely gotten to a place where we’re comfortable with what we’re doing from day to day, know what’s coming next, yet also feel good enough to be a little flexible with our time.

Thursday was a great example of being flexible.  I had planned a little science demonstration using chocolate bars, a magnifying glass, and a little sunshine to demonstrate the power of the sun- and the danger in looking at it directly.   Andy was unexpectedly laid off early this year, so yippee for me- Andy’s taking over the science education, and will also be adding in some extra phy ed during the week for fun.  When we woke up Thursday it was bright and sunny, and the afternoon forecast called for increasing clouds and a chance of rain.  Normally science is an after-lunch class, but this day we decided to do it in the morning right after math.  They all had fun seeing what they could do with the magnifying glass and a little bit of sunshine.


We also had some excellent discussions this week regarding God and what we believe in.   We read in-depth about the Aztec Indians and the way they worshipped evil Gods and sacrificed so many people and children.  At first I was concerned about reading what I was reading, but they both were fascinated, and then it really opened up some great discussions about how we have a loving God who would never want us to sacrifice a person or even cut ourselves on purpose to sacrifice blood.  Abigail surprised me this week with her deductive reasoning skills and really showed a maturity level that, quite honestly, took me aback.  In fact, at one point, she paused in what she was saying and said a quick prayer that the Aztec people living today would know that God loves them.

This week we also gave Singapore math a try for Zander.  We started with the first level 1A (not the Earlybird series) and so far he seems to like it.  It is completely different as far as a math program goes, but he did really well this week.  We sit down together and verbally go over the problems in his textbook, and then when he’s mastered that, we flip over to the workbook and he does a sample problem.  Friday he did so well that we went ahead and did a whole extra day’s lesson.  He definitely seems to be enjoying the math so far.   Abigail is still plugging along with the Horizons math and says she still likes it.  So far it is still review material for her though, so other than explaining a few wonky directions, it’s mostly self-guided so far.

So far, so good.  We’re looking forward to reading about Pocahontas this week, and I’m looking forward to finishing our current read-aloud.  Not my favorite so far.

posted by Erika in Random Thoughts and have Comments Off on Exploring Sun Science