A Week In The Life of Our Homeschool – Kindergarten
We’ve come to call or homeschool ‘H&M Learning Lab’, just for fun. We’ve selected the chameleon as our school mascot because they are slow and intentional. Adaptable. Clever and ‘their eyes can move different ways!’ One day we may get one as a class pet… we’ll see. The kids each picked one color for the school colors. We ended up with baby pink and green.
Our first semester has passed. It’s silly to call it a semester when we’re doing kindergarten. I still very much feel pressure to apply school terms to this adventure we’re on. In reality, the first half of kindergarten has passed and life isn’t a whole lot different than it was before school started. Just a little more structure has been introduced. Not a lot, but enough.
Spoiler: It’s been as amazing as it is challenging! I (mom) have enjoyed the heck out of it! Way more than I would have expected to!
Hazel’s want to go to public school
I haven’t heard ‘when do I get to go to real school’ once since the first week. I hope this means homeschool is scratching her itch. In reality, she goes to a ninja class twice a week, in the evenings. I think that is what is scratching her socializing itch. She wants a structured time to play/learn with peers. So we have made sure to provided that.
When we were up in Moscow I think it helped that our neighbor went to school SUPER early. Hazel would be groggy, just out of bed, when Katie would waltz down the lane to catch her bus. The first day that seemed exciting to her. The next day she asked why it had to start so early! We explained that she had to catch the bus and that’s the time it came. If she was in public school she would be up at least an hour earlier to get ready. We got a funny face for that. And we explained that clothes weren’t optional, she would have to get dressed and ready first thing. Another funny face. (We get dressed late in this house!)
Now, instead of ‘when do I get to go to public school’ we regularly hear ‘I wish everyone else was homeschooled too!’ For now, I take that as a win. I am very excited to stay in one place a bit more and engage in the local homeschool groups or maybe even a co-op.
My take aways
I have learned an incredible amount about how my kids learn. It’s different than how I learn! Hazel has amazing focus ESPECIALLY when she isn’t actively focusing. This was an important lesson for me. Her mind almost needs to be doing at least two things to retain anything. In the beginning it was a bit frustrating. I would read to her and she would bounce around, even chattering with Miles. I thought I would pull a ‘test’ on her and give her a little pop quiz so she could learn the importance of paying attention. I had a line of questions about the chapter I read to her (with her seemingly paying no attention). Damned if I wasn’t shocked when she answered every question I threw at her with the right answer.
Later I asked her to just try to sit and focus (because it was less distracting for me…) she could not focus. She retained nothing. Her mind was elsewhere while she focused on sitting super still. Now, she can fiddle and I have learned to let her be because she hears me better that way!
Miles… I can already tell will be a different story. I don’t think I could have more different learners than those two. I suppose we will confirm that later when he starts a structured curriculum.
A week in our school
We do about 1-2 hours of structured school per day. We chose to do Blossom and Root curriculum because it is not based within any religion and it centers around nature. Pretty much all of the supplies can be found outdoors or at your local library. It pretty much extends everything we have tried to instill in our kids and engages them in fun, nature based play. Along with Blossom and Root we use ABC Mouse (for those days that start to feel monotonous to any of us).
Our local libraries are closed on Monday. I initially had the big goals of starting strong on Monday. The first day was spend running around to three libraries without finding one open (I could have saved time by going online). Instead, we had a crapshoot of a day where we kind of just went over the things we would be learning that week. I read the first chapter of the (school year long) animal book, Burgess Animal Book for Children, that teaches about predators, prey and adaptations. I talked about the goals for the week (all outlined in the curriculum).
As it turns out, this was AWESOME. It was quickly shown that Hazel prefers to know the general direction and goals beforehand so she can key in on the things to do with that. It was a happy accident that lead to a lot of success. Instead of becoming something to dread, Monday’s turn out being our easy day where we prepare for the work ahead.
Tuesday’s are the day we go to the library. We usually get one of the private study rooms. We spread out. We talk about the goal of the reading for the week and her interpretations and observations with it. We start our science lesson (which is a continual project centering around space but with loads of abstract concepts to grapple too!). Then we start on math. Math comes very naturally to both Hazel and Miles. They are both doing subtraction and addition with ease. We are transitioning it to counting by 5’s, 10’s and 2’s in preparation for things like reading a face clock (something they are apparently not teaching anymore in schools??). It’s been fun for me to learn how to effectively teach math. I found an awesome website that has endless printables all divided by sections, ideas and grade levels.
After math we talk about the animal story we read the day before. She tells me back what happened (working on retention along with learning about actual animal behaviors, habits and families). Sometimes she draws a picture to go with it, sometimes she works on writing a paragraph about it. After that, we work on letters. She can identify every letter and it’s sound but, at this particular point, has a hard time blending letter sounds into each other. I am doing a lot of work on my end to research how to teach the blending in a way she understands. I feel it is my shortcoming at this moment because I have never thought about how to teach these sorts of things. There is an incredible amount of information out there though to help. Practice is key and we’re good at that!
After all that we read books off the shelves for about a half hour.
We go into more art on Wednesday. She gets to learn about 4 artists this year in depth. So far it’s Monet and Picasso. We look at one piece of art per week and talk about it. The styles. The colors. The feelings and whatever else we can. She then get’s to try different techniques. Sometimes it’s a type of medium (watercolor, charcoal, just pencil, etc.), sometimes its a task – like ‘draw the wind’. We get into seasons and weather, plans and people with art and it tends to be very free-form. I mostly make myself available for questions and let her explore. We talk a bit about how to convey an idea verbally too.
Wednesday is also the day we get into ‘history’. This was initially my favorite part of the Blossom and Root curriculum. Her history is all about the history of her! She gets to hear our stories about how she came to be and the events that have shaped her life so far. Then, she gets to learn specifically about her mom and dad. Where we came from. What events shaped us. What it was like for us growing up. It’s given us the opportunity to connect in a way I am not sure she fully understands yet. It’s been a very good thing though. It’s still one of my favorite parts! We’ll extend this outward to the grandparents in the coming weeks. She’ll have to practice things like interviewing/asking questions and having a conversation (which seems simple but it is a learned thing!)
Thursday is a refresher of math and reading/writing from Tuesday. We revisit the concepts and make sure they stick. We also read a chapter from a different book (it varies, right now it’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’). We talk about the concepts. We connect them back to all of the other things we’ve learned through the year. It’s a day of impact and reinforcement but it’s also pretty ‘freeform’. I let her guide the talks as much as possible. In a lull, I bring up ideas and ask her questions. Basically, I try to teach her how to think critically about these basic ideas. Sometimes we try to spell some words and learn blending (lately). Occasionally we write a letter to someone and mail it! We usually do a bit more drawing around a topic of the week, too.
Friday is an easy day. Much less structured than other days. We’ve added making dinner to her teaching moments. Friday’s have been her day to cook dinner which she gets excited about (we haven’t been great about this around these holidays but we’re all excited to get back to it in 2020!) She picks a meal. Makes the list of the things we need to have. If needed we go grocery shopping. She learns things like how to read price tags. SOMEWHAT about budgeting. Usually she is given a price limit and has to make sure that the food needed fits in her budget. She learns things like how to tie an apron, how to wash dishes, to respect the stove (along with other tools!).
She has made (almost entirely by herself-I’ll read the recipe and help her understand how to do various tasks correctly – she does them) things like spaghetti, hamburgers, goulash, calzones and even fancy stuff like swordfish and asparagus! Usually the meal is picked based on something we read earlier. (For instance, the art assignment one week was to draw a warm and a cool sunset over the ocean. We searched on Youtube together watching things about the ocean. Miles saw a swordfish. He wanted to know what the heck it was so we learned about swordfish for an hour. Hazel thought it was cool and wondered what it tasted like so we tried it out. Her budget was bigger that week but we got it done and everyone actually ate!). Basically Friday is our collector day.
Even though our ‘structured’ learning is generally 1-2 hours a day, learning takes place in all the waking hours. Our through line focus always revolves around kindness, consideration and integrity. We try to work on being brave and taking risks whenever it makes sense. Even though James works out of the house (at coffee shops most days) he usually knows exactly what we’re learning about based on what the kids talk about. He’s very in tune to what they are up to. On the days I work (from home) I get to overhear their conversations. Almost always he knows exactly how to reinforce and sometimes straighten out their questions in a way that aligns perfectly. It’s great fun to overhear!
Homeschooling is way easier than I expected (so far). If I am honest, I am still terrified I am somehow fundamentally messing up my kids. It feels very natural though. It feels impactful and important. It FEELS like exactly what we should be doing right now. I again feel lucky that I think more with my heart than my head (occasionally that bites me…). It’s as educational for us as it is for the kids. I am learning so much about how my kids’ brains work. I am learning their tells when they are frustrated, proud or feeling a bit mischievous. I think all of those things are only going to help us be great family members.