Preschool Homeschool Spring 2016

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsI thought it was time I shared what we are doing in our homeschool right now.  Our learning is geared toward K, who is currently almost 3.5 years old.  I am still very inspired by the Montessori method, but I have been learning about and incorporating more from Charlotte Mason as well.  I don’t have a plan for T, who is 1, but I do try to narrate what I am doing with him, and he is included in our activities where possible.  Mostly, I wrote this for myself, to help me organize my thoughts and have a record of what we are doing; hopefully it can help others too!

Daily

Outside Time

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

Collecting wildflowers to identify later

This is not a traditional subject, but I mention it here because I try to prioritize outdoor time for myself and the children.  It may be in the form of our walk, playing on a playground, or on our deck.  Ideally, we go for a walk in the morning, and then have some time to play on the deck or the playground in the afternoon.

Morning Time:

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

Our current “Morning Time” books and schedule

A bulk of our learning is done during our daily “morning time.”  Our morning time is a Charlotte Mason inspired “Circle Time.”  It is a time when I can fit in daily activities – such as updating our calendar and reading – and expose the children to beautiful and enriching stories, art, and more.

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsIn addition to our calendar time, we read poetry, sing songs, read biographies of artists, musicians and scientists, we do yoga, and we read some more!  I chose a family “read-aloud” for us to go through – right now it is The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter – as well as a nature themed book, which is currently The Burgess Bird Book for Children.  Our current biography is Michelangelo, by Diane Stanley, which I am really enjoying.  As I write this, our poems this week are “May” from Elsa Beskow’s Around the Year, and “Hurt No Living Thing” by Christina Rossetti, and our song is “Mother Earth” from Lorraine Nelson Wolf’s Come Follow Me! album (I am not sure who wrote it).  For yoga, we choose 2-3 cards from the Yoga Pretzels deck to do together.

For more on morning time (or morning basket as some call it), I recommend Jen Macintosh’s posts on her Morning Basket, Cindy Rollin’s 31 Days to Morning Time, and Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket Podcast.

Reading & Numbers

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsAside from morning time, our main focus right now is on learning to read and numbers.  I try to work with K on these several times a week, usually when T is napping. I do try to follow her lead and make it fun.

I am following the Montessori method of teaching reading and writing outlined in a booklet by Muriel Dwyer, which starts with learning to identify the different sounds and letters phonetically.  (The booklet, “A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading as a part of the Total Montessori Approach to the Development of Language” can be purchased at the NAMTA website.) We started last year playing the sound game (very similar to the ‘I spy’ game that many of us played as children), and since the fall we have been working through the sandpaper letters for the 40 sounds in the English language – this includes all the letters of the alphabet as well as one double-letter representation for each additional sound.  We have now just started working with the moveable alphabet to build words.

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

Looking back at these, I see that all except ‘dog’ include double-letter sounds!

This is not about reading, which is decoding words, but is a chance for the child to encode the words – or write them.  We are not worried about correct spelling here – they write it using the letter combinations they know, and what sounds they hear.  (e.g. she would spell “hear” heer).

For numbers, we count a lot!  We count the days every morning during calendar time, but we also count random things throughout the day, especially on our nature walks.

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

All the goslings that live around our lake present a perfect opportunity for counting!

I have a few counting books that I have checked out from our library multiple times: Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond, by Cathryn Falwell, and Baby Bear Counts One, by Ashley Wolff. (There are a few more listed on my ‘Books We Love’ Page.)  We have also started the early Montessori math materials that are for understanding the concept of numbers.  I will post more on those once we are a bit further into them.

Weekly

Each week we try to do art, nature study, and Montessori classroom time.

Art:

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

I try to give her specific art activities to do – most of the time it is not a specific craft we are making, but open ended painting or playing with clay, etc.  The goal is to do that once or twice a week, but it usually doesn’t happen that often.  However, she draws with her crayons, markers, colored pencils or chalk on a daily basis, often several times throughout the day.  Our art center and cabinet helps facilitate this.  T sometimes draws with her – I give him a set of chunky beeswax crayons – but he often starts eating them and I have to take them away.

Nature Study:

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

A sampling of my nature journal pages

The study of nature is an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education.  She required her students to spend time most days observing nature and recording their observations in a journal.  They did this through notes and dry brush watercolor pictures.  I have started a nature journal for myself right now and try to do a new page once a week.  I encourage K to observe with me on our walks and invite her to journal with me,  She is happy to observe different elements of nature on our walks and will often sit with me and draw or paint while I do, but she is not quite ready to journal herself.   She does really enjoy when I bring the art supplies outside, so I plan to do that more.  I refer to the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock to learn about the things we have seen,and use Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon for some great ideas for what to look for and put in the journal.  It is actually a nature study curriculum, which I highly recommend.  Because K and T are so young, I occasionally pull ideas out, instead of using it as intended.

Montessori Classroom Time (Sensorial, practical life, other):

In a Montessori school a child has access to many materials in several different subject areas – practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, geography, and sometimes science, art and others. She is presented new materials when the guide (teacher) recognizes she is ready and can choose which works she wants to use during the work period.

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsI love the Montessori materials, in particular those in the “Sensorial” area.  The pink tower, the brown stair… their purpose is to refine the child’s senses, and I have really not found anything like them in another philosophy or style of learning.  We have several sensorial materials, as well as some in the other categories in a “school room” I created in our basement.  We have tried doing a Montessori style work-period where she gets free choice of the materials, but she seems to only want to dance around and play with her brother’s toys.  So now I assign her specific work each week that she must accomplish before she can play down there. (The assigned work does not take very long if she just does it.)  Other than sensorial, we use many other Montessori materials and lessons outside the confines of school time, such as the language and math materials mentioned above.

Monthly:

Each month, I schedule a poetry tea time, and every 3-4 weeks we go to the library.  During the school year, our library offers monthly classes for kids that we attend – I love the librarian who leads the preschool class, and it includes a craft!  I also try to plan 1-2 field trips or play dates during the month, although this is something I could definitely do better!

Poetry Tea Time:

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsI heard of poetry teas from Julie Bogart of Brave Writer, and from what I can tell she came up with the idea.  We set the table nicely with some tea and some food (sometimes we have treats) and pull out all of our poetry books and poems that we have printed out and we drink tea, eat, and read poems!  We alternate choosing poems; obviously, I read them all right now, but in the future the children will read some too.  We try to do this monthly and it is something K and I both enjoy (and T enjoys the treats)!

Working into our life:

Some things – like household work and cooking, music, and manners – don’t have a specific time we do them, but I try to work them into our day and our lifestyle.

Life skills: cooking, housekeeping, gardening

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

Kneading dough to make Daddy’s sandwich bread.

This is not a formal part of our learning right now, with the exception of a few practical life activities during our classroom time. Parts of the home are set up for the children to be able to do things independently – e.g. stools and potty seats in the bathroom so K can go to the bathroom and wash her hands herself, and clothing and coats where she can reach them, so she can choose her own and get dressed.  We also have child-size utensils, kitchen tools, and cleaning tools.  I often invite K to join me if I am cooking or cleaning, and show her how to do whatever it is we are working on.  She especially enjoys washing windows, spraying and wiping, as well as cutting her own food!  T is currently really helpful picking up, and he likes to help wipe up after spills (which are of his own making).

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom Musings

K’s bucket on Easter. T had one just like it (but without the slinky)

Neither K nor T are particularly helpful in the garden right now, as they are a little too rough, but we gave them child-sized gardening tools and they each have their own container of dirt.  I try to model what to do, and I know they will eventually catch on.

Music:

I love to listen to music and to sing, so we do that a lot.  I am trying to listen to a variety so that they are exposed to different genres, composers, and artists.  We have and will read books on composers, and I love the Classical Kids CDs. If we have read a book on a composer, I try to play some of his or her music for us to listen to during that day or week.  Pandora is very useful for music that I don’t already own.

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsWe have 3-part cards on instruments, and a CD called “Orchestra” which goes through the different families and instruments.  I also highly recommend Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, which you can find free videos of on youtube.

Manners/Grace & Courtesy/Habits:

Like most parents, I try to teach my children manners and appropriate social behaviors; I consider this part of homeschooling as well.  Montessori would call these “grace and courtesy” lessons, while Charlotte Mason referred to building good habits.  Each of these is a little different, but I am taking from both.

Play:

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsAlthough it seems like we must spend a lot of time on learning activities, a majority of K and T’s time is really spent playing!  K is three and T is one, so they mostly learn from play right now.  I do often hear K reenacting or in some way incorporating the stories we have read and things I say into her play, which just reinforces for me that this is important time for her to synthesize what she is learning and hearing.  I try to provide what I feel are good quality toys and materials.  I am especially drawn to Waldorf toys – beautiful, natural, and open-ended – like the play silks (this rainbow one is a favorite) or wood blocks.  Farm animals and a barn are a current favorite of both kids (T grabs an animal and runs around yelling “neigh!”) To be honest, though, they often just pull things out onto the floor and play with other (non-toy) household objects.

Homeschool Spring 2016 | Happy Mom MusingsI plan to add more to our learning later this summer and in the fall, including more formal music, foreign language (probably Italian), geography, and an overview of world religions.  It seems like a lot, but for most of these it will only be a short lesson (10 minutes or less) a few times a week.

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