This homeschool year has started off well so far but it took a lot of work for us to get there. With all of the selections and decisions to make, homeschooling can be quite a daunting thought to those of us who are just beginning to look at the process. That is one reason I am thankful I have started this blog while our children are so young. I can share our experiences with you as they happen and while they are fresh instead of only being able to offer the perspective of a seasoned homeschool parent. I love reading posts from people who have done it for years but there is a sense of camaraderie when I know the person is still speaking from fresh fears, trials, tribulations, and triumphs. I hope it allows me to help those searching for solutions or ideas in a unique way. Do I have all of the answers? Definitely not. Will we stumble a few times along the way? You can bet on it; but that’s life and maybe you can learn from us as we grow. As promised, I am here today to update everyone on our choices for Kindergarten curriculum and give some tips on how to get your planning underway. There will be much more to come but welcome to our basics!
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One of the very first things I had to resolve was the debate of which subjects we wanted to highlight this year. I knew that we wanted to include writing and arithmetic for sure so those were the two subjects I researched the most. School has been a struggle for us over this last year with Aryanna asserting her independence and not wanting to participate in pretty much anything that was not hands on or crafty. So, for writing, I knew we needed something that would shake things up a bit and allow for it to be more fun than work. That is where Handwriting Without Tears came in!
My favorite aspects of this set for the earliest writers are their teaching strategies and the use of their manipulatives. We didn’t need the wooden shapes that help with learning about the basic formation of letters but I am highly considering them for next year with Alexandra.
Their small chalkboard has been a huge success so far and we have made more progress with her writing in this last week than probably all of last year! Part of the routine featured in the Teacher’s Guide includes the “wet-dry-try” method. We have been using a small piece of wet sponge to write the letter on a small chalkboard, a piece of cloth or paper towel to rewrite it (drying), and then chalk to try writing the letter for real. It seems so simple but it has been incredibly effective! She no longer gets grumpy with the lessons and will write in her books afterwards with no complaint since her confidence has been boosted before she has even made an attempt.
Arithmetic was a much harder subject to pin down and even now I question myself at moments. Aryanna is somewhere between the recommended Kindergarten program (Number Skills K5) and the recommended 1st grade program for A Beka. In most other curriculum she would be fully in the 1st grade lessons but I really prefer the A Beka materials, she seems to progress better using them, and they build in a way that makes it easy to modify. For us, the program ends up being worth the dilemma and alterations.
One of the biggest complaints I saw when researching A Beka was that they have too much seat work or bookwork. I do not exactly understand how this could be a turnoff when looking into arithmetic lessons for this age group. I just don’t. Isn’t adjusting everything to fit our individual children part of why we love homeschooling? So, instead of complaining about the extra steps they suggest, we teach the lesson as scheduled, allow her to work on the areas she needs to until she fully grasps the material, and then we move on. If she needs 3 worksheets and extra practice on a white board then we do it. If she only needs to watch me do it on the chalkboard and passes a speed drill without a blink of the eye then we move on quickly. When you start looking for curriculum, if you are wanting a full set that is laid out for you, try to remember that you can adjust things as your child needs. You do not have to complete every single page or you can always find creative ways to add more. Go with something you feel comfortable with and remember that every child learns in a different way and at a different pace.
After settling on the two big items for this year, I started looking at the other subjects. I knew we wanted to teach our children about God and include Bible lessons as part of our routine. Honestly, I have still not found the perfect lesson plans for us when it comes to this but we do have some products that we will be incorporating into our days. We plan to read from our children’s devotional almost every morning and then will focus on sharing the stories that fit as holidays come and go. If you have any suggestions on this one, I am all ears. We do not want to push our children into their religion and faith but we do want to guide them along their spiritual journey with God. Ultimately, we feel that it needs to be their decision. We believe that a person’s walk with The Lord is much stronger when they are allowed to explore, question, and discover instead of simply memorizing and going along with things because “we say so”. I will share more of what we are doing and how this progresses as the year goes on.
Science, History, and Geography are all important parts of this year’s lesson plans. They will make up a good portion of our learning for fun, as well as Aryanna’s reading practice. We will be including several field trips, crafts, and countless books along the way. One of my favorite parts about teaching in unit studies (besides the ever changing subject matter) is that the books can be reused each year as we elaborate on what we learned the previous year. You can expect a lot of my posts to include a variety of ideas from what we did to how you could go farther or even how I plan to add to the lessons next year. For this year, I started out by pulling up several websites that list all of the holidays. I made a list of everything we wanted to study or celebrate for 2015-2016 including serious holidays (such as 4th of July and Thanksgiving), national celebrations that just seem neat (such as National Aviation Day or National Blueberry Month), and some silly days (such as national gummy bear day). From there, I marked these in our planner and filled in around the days with complimentary activities and other unit studies we want to complete. As I share week to week or month to month, you will begin to see just how it all fits together and maybe you will be able to note things to try out with your own crew! Excited to get started? You should be!