Saturday, September 1, 2012

The First Two Weeks of School for Sadie

I originally posted this on my other (teeny tiny little) blog Our Little School. I'll mostly be writing about our homeschooling adventures there, with a weekly update over here (at least that's the plan!).

We've just finished our second week of formal school and after the first day, when Sadie insisted that school wasn't over for an entire five hours, we've begun to settle into a happy medium, of two hours a day, five days a week.

After five years of researching homeschooling programs and curriculum, I'm still in love with the ideas put forth in The Well Trained Mind, and so we're embarking on a Classical Education.  Of course at the moment, that doesn't set us too far apart from what many other four year olds are learning.

Our school days, so far, go something like this:

We start with a little prayer and then Sadie decides whether we'll do math or reading first.  More often than not she decides on math, because she's quite taken with her math books.  At the moment we're working on math story books, so that she can become more familiar with math concepts before we dive in to computations.  I was surprised when her favorite math book was about division (Divide and Ride).  If given the choice she'll read it over and over again.  After that she's a big fan of How Much is a Million (which is a very beautiful book!).  Also at the top of the favorites list at the moment are Sir Cumference: And the First Round Table (A Math Adventure), Math for All Seasons: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles, One Hundred Hungry Ants, The Greedy Triangle and Pigs Will Be Pigs: Fun with Math and Money.

Then we move on to reading, which is really a mixture of reading and religion.  We start our reading each day with a book from the Catholic Child's Treasure Box.  Sadie has been in love with these books from the moment they arrived.  She loves hearing about Saint Therese and reading the stories about Wupsy, a little guardian angle.  She even wants to hear about the old fashioned game suggestions in each book.  Then we move on to other books at random and read about whatever happens to be interesting her on any given day.  Once we've read a half dozen books we move on to the more active section of the day.

We move over to her little table and pick one of these activities and then proceed through the others in varying order depending on the day.  Some days we begin with drawing.  She drawers on a large sheet of paper, or colors in one of her many coloring books, while I read out loud to her from the "big book" that we're currently reading, which at the moment is the Magician's Nephew.  When we first began the Magician's Nephew I wasn't sure she was paying attention at all, until I paused and she began to question me on what had just happened in the previous chapter and begged me to go on so we could find out what happened to Digory and Polly (because they'd just disappeared!).

We work on a "maze" book by Kumon, that helps her work on drawing lines in different directions (she loves drawing zig zags and repeats "zig zag" with each movement of her crayon).  After the maze book we practice writing letters, with one letter a day, being careful not to go for too long because she's a perfectionist when it comes to letters and gets upset if they aren't looking like the example letter.  Lately we've followed the letter practice with an ABC book that was mine when I was her age that she absolutely loves (it's giant with colorful pictures of animals doing silly things).  We've go over letter sounds throughout this portion of the day too.

I've been pretty excited because before we left for the summer I'd begun working with Sadie on pronouncing words and had found that she was struggling with around ten different letters, including, of course, S.  This summer we didn't work much on particular letters, but she mastered S by the time we came back east.  Earlier this week I gave her another little quiz on pronunciation, with her favorite letter book and found she was now only struggling with G, L and Q.  Two days ago she got G down, so it's on to L and Q.  One of the big helps with her language skills has been having her repeat nursery rhythms, poems and Doctor Seuss books, word for word (a sentence at a time) after me.

Our other activities include a sewing kit that teaches hand sewing (this week she worked on a bracelet and a little bird toy), fashion design (her favorite subject: she has a board kit where you put fabric over a doll dress shape and another board with a cut out makes it look as if she's designed a dress.  She'll play with this for quite a while, draping lace over satin to come up with different looks...and she now get all of my fabric scraps) and math pattern blocks and puzzles.

A giant floor map of the US is her current favorite puzzle of the moment, and it always turns into some sort of geography or history lesson.  She's pretty amazing with her knowledge of states (at least from the point of view of her proud mother!), since she seemed to memorize the US map pretty thoroughly during our drive cross country this summer, and our puzzle piecing turns into conversations about the trip and into conversations about how Canada is a different country from us, which, through many Sadie questions, turned into a question about the Revolutionary War (because she wanted to know "how countries become their own countries").

When we have extra time, and she's still interested in "doing school" we look at our science books.  This week she was interested in a giant book on fossils, that I remember reading around fifth grade.  She asked a flurry of questions as we paged through it, sparked a conversation on "what happens to our bodies when we die" after seeing a tiny picture of a skeleton (that didn't look all that human to me), that resulted in a conversation about the resurrection of the body that she seemed pretty pleased with, and squealed over various dinosaurs and their sharp pointy teeth.

On Fridays she gets to watch one episode of Discovery Atlas on Netflix, either after lunch of before bedtime.  So far we've watched the episode about China and the episode about Italy, which has only increased her interest in geography.

Now for the weekend.  Hopefully I'll be updating the Our Little School blog a little more frequently (I'll probably still do a once a week post over on A Woman's Place at the end of each week!).

I do have a question for all you homeschooling parents out there.  How long (and how many days a week) do you usually put aside for school during preschool? I've seen time suggestions, but they usually start at first grade, and I haven't seen many (or any!) suggestions for preschoolers!


  1. It is awesome that she enjoys the math storybooks, but be careful of pushing formal math too early. Before the 60's formal math didn't begin until children were around third grade, and they knew math a whole lot better than we learned it! I didn't think beyond just learning numbers at the preschool level.

  2. I guess I'd ask when is it "school" and when is it just life? My son had no "curriculum" at 4, but my daughter clamored for workbooks at the same age. She probably worked in them for under an hour a day. However, with both kids we certainly did some of the sorts of activities you're talking about. There were loads of read aloud books (long and short), there was lots of creative play (some involving fabric), there were loads of discussions about all sorts of topics. However, we didn't call it school. We didn't really do anything formal from a school day perspective until my son was 6 and the age that we had to enroll him for homeschooling with the state. We'd done some curricular stuff the previous year, but certainly not on an every day at a certain time basis.

    What I discovered was that few if any kids have the ability to sit for longer than an hour working on workbook, pencil and paper type activity until they were around 8. At least not happily so. This was true of my "couch potato" son, of my friend's very quiet son, and my more exuberant active daughter. I'm not sure how schools do it, but I suspect that a lot of the ADHD we're seeing diagnosed has a lot to do with kids really needing to move around more.

    Now lest you think we weren't all that academic you should know that I was considered the really academic mom in our homeschool group. My kids were certainly listening to Narnia by 4, both were reading at beyond a third grade level by 6 and a half, my daughter was reading adult level books at 9 (Barbara Woodhouse's No Bad Dogs).

    The kids never did more than 3 hours a day of actual assigned school work, and I mean never, until they went to college. We did have a lot of read alouds in there that probably extended the actual school day from other people's perspective to between 4 and 5 hours (depending on how long my voice held out). They did tons of independent learning that was unassigned (and for the most part not even included in their end of year evaluation reports to the state when we weren't just using achievement test scores).

    What I would say is be flexible, do what works for you. If Sadie loves to call all of this school at this point, so be it. So long as she isn't feeling pressured, and she's loving to learn keep on doing what you're doing. However, don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself to do specific hours, or even specific months. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can do what works for you. At this point in your homeschooling journey you don't have to document what you're doing for anyone else's benefit, so if you take a week off, if you head off on a different tangent, if you hit a road block in a subject area, if you have a new baby and are overwhelmed, it simply doesn't matter if you call off school hours and just go back to life.

    My granddaughter is three, and she and her mom do lots of the sorts of things you're talking about. There are read aloud books, sessions with play dough, toy foods and duplo blocks, alphabet blocks, and alphabet books. My GD is fascinated not with geography, but with bugs, birds, and animals. If she were school age, some of the stuff they do might be called field trips, but for now it's just life. She does have a gymnastics class she's started attending, but no one thinks of that as phys ed. It's just something she loves to do to burn off some energy.

    You've got lots of years of homeschooling ahead. The more that you can simply see the learning as part of your children's lives and not separate it in their minds into a special category called "school" the easier it will be for your kids to be life long learners. Flexibility is truly the key.

  3. I'm very interested in reading about how you're homeschooling Sadie, as our daughter and SIL hope to do so with their little boy in a few years (he's just 16 months now.) I wish that it had been more widespread and accepted in the 80s and 90s, as I think it would have worked well with our girls, especially given our crazy schedule due to their dad's work.

    You've created a warm, very nurturing atmosphere for your girls, where teaching and learning seem to come very naturally. Children are so curious, and there is so much to learn about this big, wide world. I'll recommend your "Our Little School" blog to my daughter, who will find it helpful, I'm sure.

  4. It might help to remember that "q" is actually a blend of two speech sounds: "k" and "w".

    Since she has just aquired the "g" sound (which is just the voiced version of "k") will be a challenge to get the "kw" (or "q").
    Sometimes is helps to say "k-k-k-kw". Point to your throat during the "k" and then to your lips during the "w" to emphasize the location of each sound production.

  5. I don't do any formal "schooling" before K age. Once my kids hit K age, I do 3 days a week for 1 to 1 1/2 hours a day, all year. My 4-year old currently "wants" to do school when his sisters do, so he has a couple of workbooks that he does. That is maybe 10-15 minutes a day. I also don't do any subjects others than handwriting, math, phonics/reading and religion before first grade.

    That said, as long as you and she are both enjoying the school, you should do it for as long or as little as you both enjoy it. Definitely don't "force" it or push it if either you or she stop enjoying it, but as long as you both are, I don't see any reason to worry about times or days. Just do it when you want to it and have fun. If you stop enjoying it or it becomes too much or a struggle then just take a break.

  6. After I and 4 of my 5 siblings being in speech, I think 5 minutes with a voice instructor did me more good than all those speech therapists. Think of the actual mechanics of making the sound (mostly the tongue and lip position) For l, your tongue starts curled behind your top front teeth, and then quickly goes down behind the bottom teeth.

  7. I haven't read the other comments but check out Mater Amabilis' web site which is the Catholic version of Charlotte Mason. It includes suggestions for time management.

    Good luck!

  8. I think you're doing great. Some kids do well with a more formal type of school earlier than other kids. My niece is one of those. She absolutely loved workbooks when she was three. When she was four I taught her how to subtract numbers to get a negative number for an answer. This was while we were in the car just driving home from somewhere. Now she's eight and still loves learning so much.

  9. That is so neat! I am definetly going to have to follow your homeschooling blog now! I just started homeschooling my oldest son, rigt before he turned 4. He was just ready. And I am one of those who does do some "formal" schooling. My son is eager for it, so why wouldn't I? (And his 2 year old brother is actually just as interested in learning). We use Seton curriculum. They have an awesome pre-K program now! I love their Early Literacy text. There are lots of activities, but also workbooks. Although the religion part is a little intense for his age (lots of reading from non-age appropriate Bibles). So I tweak that quite a bit and we focus on reading about the saints and learning their prayers for now.


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