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How I homeschool my preschooler

How to homeschool preschool

Dakota beginning his preschool years (2013)

 

My son hates school. He hates the idea of going away from Mom everyday. He hates the coloring and other boring stuff. He wants to have fun!

When he turned 5 this past July, I knew I didn’t want him to start Kindergarten until he was 6. But I also knew I had to enforce school more. I had to buckle down and make him do it and learn. And then I had a melt down and wanted to (probably did) cry.

I was bored, he was bored, his sisters were bored. Everything needed to change.

Finally, I have found a plan that works for us!

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I signed up for a million homeschooling blogs and newsletter that I barely have time to read. One was from LivingMontessoriNow. About the time, I was ready to send him to a half day preschool, I opened one of their emails. It was a listing of different events or holidays for the month of October. As I was glancing through it, I saw how I could fix our preschool. I was too focused on the letter of the week, number of the day and blah blah. I sucked all the fun out of it.

Stuffed Animal Picnic Day

Stuffed Animal Picnic Day

I used these days as my theme for the day. Then, I tied in crafts, letters and sounds, counting and anything else I could, in with the theme. The days have a much more relaxed feel to it. He is asking if it is time for school. He loves the themes and is absorbing what I am teaching. He can even retell it to his Daddy during dinnertime. Without any prompt, he is telling Daddy or Sissy Alissa what he did or learned. I am trying to make everything visual and hands on. By doing this, I am seeing a difference. By letting him ask questions and answering or explaining things to him, he has become a little sponge!

Not only is my Lil Man loving and learning in school now, but it is cheap to almost free most of the time. I use Pinterest and blogs that provide free worksheets to create my “curriculum.” I use the library to find our books for our themes or movies. I also use Netflix from time to time.

So what has my son learned in the last month and a half.

  • We learned more about chickens.
  • We learned about Ducks. And in the process of reading a duck book, he learned what male/female meant.
  • He went to the movie theater for the first time and saw Dolphin Tale 2.
  • He learned the letters c,d,p,j,s,b,f and e. Meaning he practices writing them and learned their sounds.
  • Started practicing his last name.
  • Learned about Fire Safety.
  • Also learned about different ways to put a fire out and what keeps it going.
  • Learned about poisonous snakes.

One night at dinner, he was telling my hubby and I about how when it’s dark here, it is daytime somewhere else. I don’t even know where he learned that.

I know he learned so much more because he sat in on lessons with his sisters and helped on projects. And my lil guy is always asking questions and wanting something explained.

We have also been taking a lot of field trips! My son is very into maps right now and learning about Geography, where our state is and where other states and countries are. So a field trip to the Food Festival at Epcot was the perfect spot for growing that learning.

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And to play some drums!

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To wrap up the month, of course we had to have some fall fun with a lesson about how pumpkins grow and the life cycle. What letters and sounds do pumpkin and jack o’lantern start with and wrapping it up with a trip to the pumpkin patch.

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And the best part was how Dakota kept saying how much fun he was having. Score for Momma!

 

 

Beginning a new school year

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This is from a few years ago, but totally captured how I felt beginning this new school year.

This school year has had so many ups and downs that I am scared to see what the next 8 months bring. I just couldn’t get everything going. I had no motivation. Plus I was lost trying to homeschool 3 kids at 3 different levels. This was a first for me. Even when my girls were all home, they were close to each other that I could teach them all and then give different activities. But this year was different.

I have a High schooler,Cailin, as if that isn’t stressful enough. All the questions of am I doing the right thing? Am I screwing her up for life? Am I giving her enough classes or too much? What about college?!?

Then I have my special needs daughter, Brianna. She learns something but still struggles with 1st to 2nd grade math. We haven’t moved past basic division because she get so frustrated. She loves Science and Nature but hates writing and history. She gets frustrated if I try to help and then in the same breath frustrated that I didn’t help. *SIGH*

Last is my darling son, Dakota, who is extremely smart and retains things very quickly, but HATES SCHOOL!!!!! He would rather play with video games and toys or watch Disney Jr than pick up a crayon. He can write his name and recognize most letters. He just learned to count to 25 but would rather learn adding and telling time. Like I said extremely smart, but also my “I can’t” kid, which I have never had to deal with before.

Needless to say in the last month and half that we have been suppose to be doing school, there were a lot of struggles, tears and me saying I was done. I sat down with the kids a few times and tried to brainstorm what would help all of us. What I heard was

  • I hate being in my room reading from 10 different textbooks (Cailin)
  • I want more science ( Brianna and Cailin)
  • I want more projects or hands on stuff (both again)
  • I want more art (both again)
  • I like stickers, painting, storytime, circle time, fun games and toys, BUT NO COLORING! (demanding  darling son)
  • Cooking (all 3)

For me, it was research time!

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Maybe we were unschooling all along! Snow ball fight in Florida!

 

Unschooling
Unschooling was one of the first methods I checked out. I knew I was tired of worksheets and blah reading. And I also knew I was burned out. And I knew I just didn’t have it in me to be stressed out and worrying about curriculum deadlines. But I was worried about Cailin not having enough credits or requirements to get into culinary school. I knew she would read and learn on a daily basis, but what about Brianna. During the weekends all she does is sleep, walk around the yard or sleep and watch TV. She has no goals, interest, hobbies or independence. She needs me to lead and direct. Then there is Dakota, who as I stated earlier would play video games all day long.
I didn’t like the couple of days we tried it and neither did the kids, except Lil Man. At the same time, there were some readings about how unschooling is letting go of everything. No chores, no rules, eating whatever they want, basically letting them make their choices. Again this is not going to work in my house.
  1. I am a control freak and so is my hubby.
  2. My kids will eat junk food instead of making healthy choices.
  3. I am trying to go organic and that stuff is expensive. If I let my skinny mini special needs child go on free will by the end of the day my groceries will be gone. She doesn’t eat because she is hungry. She eats because it is 8 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 5 o’clock or because she is bored.
  4. I have a VERY hard time getting the kids to do their chores as is, if I let them choose then nothing will be done, other than me listening to Hubby complain.
  5. I have a large family and I am only 1 person!

So some of the ideas didn’t sit well with me.

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Doing a fun project just because we can!

 

Project based learning
Project based learning was next. I liked how it was very hands on and I knew my kids would love that. But it was once again child led. We tried this for a few days. My oldest began a project, did very well, but hasn’t touched it since. My youngest just wants to read the Mo Willems Pigeon books, but no activities to go with them. And Brianna refused to read the book, picked out a cat, started to make a cat but then got frustrated. Once again I helped too much and then not enough.
Meeting time
We sat down again and went over everything we liked and didn’t like about the last few weeks. The things we took away from this meeting were pretty simple. My kids liked when I was teaching them and planning the activities. They didn’t want to have all that responsibility, but they do like a say in what we learn. Which is fine because I love Pinterest and planning all those activities.
My kids hate writing! So I will include that in with other subjects.  Brianna loved Little House in the Big woods and Cailin wants to read Shakespeare. UMMM OK!!! Everyone wants more science. Heck, if all day, everyday was just science they would be happy. Cailin was doing Biology and she liked what they were teaching just not how and Brianna is very interested in animals, insects and plants. Take away textbooks, add some hands on activities, videos, interactive notebooking and field trips~ you got yourself and very fun science curriculum.
I struggled with History and Art. That is not my thing. American history, YES! World History, NO! So I have my mom helping me to put that together and make it more hands on. They liked our curriculum, Story of the World, but wanted art tied into it and more videos and hands on. I have to admit in my we have to finish this now, I would skip a lot of hands on activities. Yup bad mom of the year here. But it’s okay, because I am reformed now! And again, thank God for Pinterest and lovely homeschool blogging moms who have the answer to my struggles.
This helped with my older kids, but what about Dakota. Well for one, he likes to say he is smarter than his sisters. So I being the mom I am told him if he doesn’t do school and they do school eventually he won’t be smarter. Don’t judge! He is my stubborn one and if it works it works. But seriously, I also noticed that if it is something that catches his attention, he will participate. The other day, the girls were observing and drawing in their nature journal outside, which was his idea (a miracle). He had to have a nature journal too. And so he sat, drawing and from time to time running to catch butterflies. That in my book is a success!
In the end
We can’t and won’t be labeled. We are Unschoolers. Everyday is learning if you really pay attention and think. We think we are just living, but living and learning goes hand and hand. So me explaining why the dumbass who just cut me off in the car is a dumbass is learning. Or why we need to go get this for the chickens or why we don’t buy this brand or version of the food. It is valuable information that they are soaking up and storing away.
We are Project Based because we love using our hands and really being able to observe and process it. We love a good project but also know when to move on. It doesn’t consume our lives.
We are Teacher led because my kids want to spend time with me and listen to my knowledge. And let’s be honest, I don’t know how many more years I have with them and I am going to enjoy them. They are getting older you know.
We are Curriculum Based meaning we follow a curriculum but it was set up based on suggestions from the kids. Which must mean we are Child Led also.
Look I don’t know about you, but recently the reality has hit that my kids aren’t staying little. I have a year and a half until my oldest public school daughter graduates and goes off to college and 4 years with Cailin. Those years are going to fly and I just want to enjoy. I want to make memories and laugh. I want to have fun and live. I want to enjoy this season of my life before the next comes around. So I am not looking to check off a box of another school subject done. The only boxes I want to check off is moments lived!
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Picnic time

Homeschooling after vacation

Apparently, my kids took our Spring Break as the beginning of summer. We have had a really, REALLY hard time getting back on a routine. The first week home we did some review because I knew we had testing coming up the following week. Plus an unexpected (but welcomed) house guest stayed with us for a few days. So after life got settled down, I thought it will be easy to knock out the next 2 months. We are refreshed and ready to go….or not. Everytime we sat at our table for school time, I dreaded it. I wanted to be doing other things, crafts, science projects and more, not sitting at the table giving another spelling test or reviewing the same concept of a sentence for my special needs child for the millionth time. I love homeschooling, it’s one of my passions, but I was hating it at the same time. Turns out I have Homeschool Burn Out. I don’t know how many times I threatened to send the kids back to school because I was over it. All I wanted to do was throw out our books!

Guess what? I did just that!

We are doing fun learning! Something I call school for Dakota because he “hates” school and it’s boring. I now do for all 3. We put all books away except for our Math. I sat down with my computer and tablet and made lessons plans based on what we are learning and using hands on activities, including lapbooking and notebooking.

Before this happened, I read a few articles online about Homeschool Burn Out, but never really took it seriously. Believe me, it is a serious condition! If I hadn’t taken action, I may have put my kids back in public school. For my kids (not all) that would have been very damaging. Plus I am not sure what I would have done with my day. I am glad something in my mind clicked and said research this. And when I read all the symptoms: depression, not wanting to do school, threatening to put kids in school, tired and irritability. I knew this is what I was fighting. Thankfully, I saw what me and the kids didn’t want to do and changed to the items we were craving, using our creativity!

It’s only been 3 days since I threw out the books, but it has felt so refreshing to be free. I am beginning to see that play really is the best education you can give a child. And I am focused more on doing than filling out a worksheet.

2014 homeschooling schedule

I am excited for this new chapter of schooling. I made some changes that I hope and pray will work because I just don’t know if I can handle throwing out and starting over part 3. Originally we were doing 6 weeks of school and then a 2 week break. This was idea when my kids were younger, but now we are in middle school. And honestly 6 weeks isn’t enough time to fit in all the learning that we wanted to do. Basically any hands on activity and field trips got pushed to the back burner. They have burned to a crisp by now.

Plus I realized when the holidays were upon us, there just wasn’t enough time to do our regular homeschool routine and celebrate with fun activities. So, of course, all the fun was sucked out again. Also I felt like I was always rushed to shop and entertain and homeschool and EVERYTHING!!! I didn’t get to enjoy it!

Well I have found a schedule that will fix all that. January through May, we are doing school consistently with a week off in March for Spring Break. Our spring break will be different every year because we will coordinate with my oldest daughters school schedule. They will also have the occasional day off here or there.  We will wrap our school year up in May and have June and July off for summer break. Then in August we will start our new school year and homeschool strong with the occasional day off through to Thanksgiving. The week of Thanksgiving will mark our Holiday break. We will be off until after the first of the year.

This schedule is just for my older kids. My preschooler will be doing school all the time. His schedule is a little more relaxed. We usually do school 3-4 days a week. And he needs consistency to keep up with what he is learning. These breaks are the perfect time for some one on one time with mommy.

 

 

 

 

 

Here we go again! Throwing out the plans Part 2!

Yes, that is right. I am revamping our homeschool schedule again! This is what I love about homeschooling. The fact that I can stop and change directions on a whim is empowering.

So this what we were doing in the beginning.

I was trying to fit every subject into everyday. I was also trying to do preschool like I did it back 10 years ago in a daycare center. And I was trying to follow the Florida school calendar.

This didn’t work at all!

Then I began:

Doing split scheduling like I did last year. We also started 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off, except preschool. And mostly book work.

Forget about it. With 4 kids that have dentist appointments, doctor appointments, sick days and the everyday household running, I felt like I was flying through the 6 weeks, but not accomplishing anything and rushing my kids through. I would leave out the “fun” part of homeschooling~ all the hands on stuff. And I still had a preschooler who hated school. He woke up twice and told me my school sucked and that he hated school, especially coloring. Plus with Christmas here and all the fun of that, it is hard to fit in school, fun, errands and cleaning.

So for now we are just coasting through. Working on hands on projects, finishing up books that we were reading, practicing our writing and working on Math. For Lil Man, we are making everything hands on. More learning centers, more arts and crafts, more computer and tablet time. And it has been working so far.

But beginning in 2014, we begin a whole new chapter, which the girls and I are very excited about. We are starting back to school January 6 and I will be posting more regular updates then.

Throwing out all my planning and winging it!

We are 2 weeks in to homeschooling and I haven’t found what will work for us. It is so much harder than any of those blogs, the ones that make you feel like your not doing enough, let on. I can’t seem to balance everything. So we are trying last years schedule with some adjustments and additions.

Preschool seems to be the hardest because he wants nothing to do with it or he wants all of my attention. I can’t win really. And trying to get a 4 year old to wait is impossible.

Hopefully next week I can post how everything has worked itself out and is going smoothly.

HOPEFULLY!

 

First Day of homeschool 2013

Here are my angels on their first day.

 

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Dakota on the first day of Preschool. This was our 3rd attempt at a picture.

 

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Brianna on her first day of 6th grade.

 

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Cailin on her first day of her 8th grade gap year. She has a goofy smile because of her uncle standing behind me.

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Here they are my 2013-2014 class!

You know I still can’t believe how fast time flies. When we started our homeschool journey Cailin was going into 3rd and Brianna was in 1st and little man was just a hope and dream!