Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homeschooling Preschool/Kindergarten/Grade 1 Curriculum Extravaganza; or How Crazy Can I Be?

You're in the mood for a homeschooling post, right?

No? Well, you can hang out anyway to see if I'm completely crazy, or just come back tomorrow, either way.

Its the end of September, and I know everyone else has had fabulous curriculum posts already, but I thought I'd squeeze a quick one in - its still September...I'm still sort of organized...well, hey - we've started school already, I should get points just for that I think!

Before we get into the books, let me just accustom you to my line of thinking about educating the preschool through Grade 1 set. Firstly; I honestly don't have much time to devout to teaching in my everyday. Basically, one-on-one teaching time boils down to when the baby is napping. And that is primarily nap time in the morning. Secondly; because of this lack of time, etc. etc., I'm lowering my expectations. By a bunch! And I'm ok with that! I think its better for your sanity to attempt homeschooling with lower expectations according to what's going on in your real life. Homeschooling doesn't happen in a magical bubble - it happens at home, which is full know, life! So, with the knowledge I have two babies under 2, one still nursing, and three children of the age of just beginning to show varying degrees of interest in the sit-down kind of learning this is what I've come up with and I think its ample for right now, maybe even a bit much.

Now, I also want to say I have zero experience teaching homeschooling. But I was homeschooled from second grade through all of high school. I think that gives me a little more insight into homeschool realities, but you never know. I was also the oldest in my family, so I saw my mom educate each of my siblings completely at home. She also had a couple of babies after us oldest three were all school aged so she juggled a lot of babies as well as teaching. I hope this covers my wild presumptions I'm about to make, because I'm sure I'm going to make them and in a few short months I'll wonder at my naiveté.

Lets get ready to rumble.

Primary Arts of Language. I'm using this for reading, writing, letters, sounds, poetry, and reading aloud. It covers everything in an integrated way which I like, and it seems fairly incremental so far which I also like. I'm not sure if this will work with all my children, but so far they seem to not hate it and pay attention. Both wins. This program also seems to be adaptable to any age, and since I believe I'll be doing this for multiple years with multiple kids I like that. 

The only downfall of this program is it requires a lot of cutting and glueing on my part. Which, as we all know, is not even close to my cup of tea, but if this is my cross to bear I'm probably doing alright.
My main objective is to do a little reading and a little math everyday. We'll then throw in reading different books whenever we can, its a lot easier to read to everyone when babies are awake or nursing.   

Singapore Math. I read a few people recommending this program as a decent alternative to Saxon. Not that I hate Saxon, I did it through most of my schooling, but that five inch thick kindergarten teachers manual was a joke, so I wanted to boycott Saxon just out of spite! Its colourful, very repetitive, and so far liked by the kids so that's all I need. Really, kindergarten and grade one math...really isn't something to worry about.

Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven: A Catholic Preschool Curriculum. Since I haven't used this curriculum yet, I thought this would be a good book for Luke, since he'll want to do school but won't have quite the same attention span as Gemma and Dom, because he's three. I like the set-up of this book, with the emphasis on virtues and saints. Her books lists are also great, but if you think I'm doing every little craft - well, you'd be crazy. I'm going to use this as a more general guide to reading lists, and a nice way to introduce different saints.

Faith and Life. This was an easy pick because it really is the best catechism for children going, and because my mom still had every single book. We'll read this here and there, maybe once a week? That'd be great.

I'm going to come clean here and admit that we get funding in our province to homeschool. Yes, it means you have to sign up with a school board, the government knows who you are and where you live, which is a big downside and I would gladly give up my moola for parental freedom, but since its in our best interest to not go underground I'll gladly spend the government's money on really great books! 

Gyo Fujikawa's fairy tales and books of poetry. I am possibly Gyo Fujikawa's biggest fan. I just love his art, and I think these books are perfect for introducing a child to great poetry along with beautiful illustrations. I like these to be books the kids will just pick up to look at, then once they begin to read pick up and just read random little poems. Or that's the dream.

I mean. These pages are just beautiful.

More great books I didn't have to spend my own money on - but would have because they're wonderful. James Herriot's Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and SmallAesop's Fables for Children, and The Blue Fairy Book. Did I mention I'm following the Ambleside reading lists for the young grades? They're really perfect for a good basis in classical literature for children which inspires the moral imagination. I don't know what my homeschooling philosophy is, but I'd say I'm a big believer in developing a moral imagination in children through good fairy tales and storytelling. I blame Anthony Esolen. I'll feel good if we come away from this year having read most of these books, not even all of them.

I thought now would be the time to buy the whole My Book House collection as well. I found a great deal on eBay after I found only four at my local Thrift Village. So if anyone needs Vols. 5-8 I can hook you up. I hope we can get into some routine of reading aloud from these at some point in the day. We'll see how it shakes down.

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children and How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. Another dream of mine is to have small people walking around my house quoting soliloquies on demand. Ok, that sounds a little creepy, but I do want them to have a good acquaintance with Shakespeare from an early age. I'm not sure how we'll do it yet, but I figure reading this book will help. 

And there you have it. My schooling philosophy for this year really boils down to simply reading and math everyday, and reading aloud from good books whenever we can fit it. No worrying about subjects. No science projects. Just the basics and letting their precious, spongy little minds soak up everything they can. 

I really think that most preschool/early elementary learning is done through simply reading good books with your kids. Everything else is gravy.

I also am a believer that the things you think of as subjects just naturally get rounded out through life, and especially life at home. For instance my husband fills them with all sorts of scientific knowledge that I think is too much for them, but which they seamlessly absorb and can repeat to me verbatim days later, just in having conversations with them or seeing something new. We live on a ranch and are surrounded by nature so that leads to endless ecological, biology, questions. And we make more than good use of our library with scads of picture books. We also try to live liturgically, saints, feast days, and Mass. I've conned employed my little sister to teach a weekly "arts and crafts" lesson so I don't have to deal with glue sticks and my kids somehow learn the primary colours. I think this all sounds pretty good to me. 

Again, I'm totally stressing that I'm not an expert. But there are so many awesome homeschool blogs out there that should I get stumped I'm sure to find a little help and inspiration somewhere along the line. I'm also going to save all my crazy ranting for another post, another time. And trust me, there will be ranting! 

So with fingers crossed and dreams undashed, and maybe a good case of wine for me and you, I wish a very happy school year to all! 

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  1. Can I sign up as your kids long distance Shakespeare Tutor? Teaching Shakespeare (and adapting theatre to children's learning) was part of my major in college and I can give you lots of fun games to play with the kids as they get older!

    And now I have a lot of books to add to our collections!

  2. If you are serious about the my book house extras, I would take them off your hands! We live in Seattle and I've found books 9-12 at thrift stores here. (I also have family in BC that we see regularly if that could make it easier for mailing purposes.)

  3. Oh I loooooove Gyo Fujikawa too! I'll be very interested to hear how things go this year - next year is probably when we'll need to start something formal for John Paul, and I know Cecilia won't be willing to be left out!

  4. I see you have A Child's Garden of Verses in your curriculum. My parents bought a copy of it when I was young, and it was my first exposure to poetry. The edition they bought had beautiful illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith. A few years ago, I found a copy of the same edition in a used bookstore, and I had to buy it for my future children!

  5. So I wrote my HUGE big freshman honors english college paper on....teaching children Shakespeare!!!! I thought I was the only geek!!! My prof had thought it was a sorta starnge topic and wasnt sure i could pull it off but I did but NEVER ran over either one of those books. Now I'm at home with two (#3 in womb) and FORGOT that I wanted to teach my kids Shakespeare!!!! Thank you! Thank you!

    And yes the Gyo Fujikawa book "Babies," one of my favorite since childhood.

  6. Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry I called you "geek." It's truly an endearing term, as far as I'm concerned!

  7. I love this! I will be checking out some of the books you listed. I started my 5 year old in kindergarten this year.

  8. I just love this post, you say that there are better homeschooling blogs and all that out there, but for people starting out this type of post is just so much easier to relate to and doesn't overwhelm the way say a homeschooling blog might. I think I've referenced this post like 10 times in the last 2 days trying to figure out how to start with the homeschooling thing. So yeah thank you! :)


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