Friday, October 18, 2013

Homeschooling Kindergarten: What I'm Learning (Day 35)

Homeschooling kindergarten is an adventure, especially with a toddler and a preschooler under foot. But it's also been a great source of personal growth for me, the teacher. 

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Because it's been a while since my Day 10 post on our homeschooling venture, I wanted to give you a little update and ask for your encouragement, advice, and any other words of wisdom you might be able to share with me.

As someone completely new to homeschooling, I've experienced the gamut of emotions these past 8 weeks:

From excitement in my daughter's reading progress {she's reading a few Level 1 readers on her own} to extreme frustration that she cannot seem to grasp addition to mild anxiety at having her preschool-age sister home full-time now to pure joy at all the new worlds we're exploring together through books.

I mentioned before that keeping my preschooler in Mother's Day Out was one way to preserve my sanity in the beginning stages of homeschooling. Well, God laid on my heart that it was time to bring my daughter home, and I have reluctantly complied. 

So, I want to share my struggles in hopes YOU, homeschool Mama, might have some sage advice for me.

My struggles

1. Finding a good math curriculum. When I originally set out to create our kindergarten curriculum, I went frugal. Unfortunately, nothing I'm doing seems to be working, to the point that on Monday, my daughter had a meltdown because she just does not understand addition. Oh, my! How will I ever teach her algebra?!

To fix this problem, I decided (1) to put a hold on our math studies for a little while and focus on other areas and (2) to order all the math curriculum I could find. Well, that's exaggerating a little, but I did break down and buy Saxon K as well as Life of Fred, Volume 1 {Apples}.

I'll keep you posted on our progress or lack thereof. Advice?? What's your favorite math curriculum? How have you taught addition?

2. As I mentioned above, we've brought my ants-in-her-pants three-year-old home full-time. That means I need something(s) to keep her engaged while we do school. Cora is VERY sharp and also eager to learn, but she's also a typical preschooler and only wants to do fun stuff like her do-a-dot paints. She wants me to teach her, but since Kate is still so dependent on me in her learning, I really don't know how or when to work with just Cora. 

Advice?? What have you found works for you? What do you do with your preschoolers? 

My Discoveries 

1. I LOVE lesson planning. However, finding adequate time to plan and prepare each week's lesson is a challenge. Right now, I plan on Sundays during nap time and that's working. I love finding books, pictures, Youtube videos, and library resources to supplement learning. I love watching my girls devour all of it. 

Yesterday, we watched several scenes from Babes in Toyland and The Nutcracker Suite on Youtube to talk about how music affects our mood and makes us want to move. My girls pirouetted and twirled all over the living room, trying to imitate the ballerinas. It was simply precious. 

2. My preschooler is learning alongside her kindergarten sister. We do most of our lessons together {calendar work, Bible, some phonics, science, geography, history, music, and art}, and while Cora is up and moving most of the time, I never sense she's learning anything, but she's picking up letter sounds and talking about Aborigines and it's amazing!

3. Don't force what's not working. Initially I was very discouraged when Kate gave up on math. I tried lots of different approaches to teaching her but none worked. She was frustrated, and I was frustrated. So, instead of forcing her to keep doing something that was causing her great distress, I have decided to take a break from math for awhile. That's the beauty of homeschooling: I can stop and move on to something else until she's ready to come back to it.

Homeschooling our girls is hard work. I'm learning so much each day, mostly that I need the Lord to help me through it. But also that there are so many experienced and wise homeschooling veterans out there who freely offer encouragement and advice. If you have any for me, I'm listening :)

What advice on math & homeschooling preschoolers do you have for me? 

How is YOUR school year going?

Blessings to you,

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  1. I am with you on the highs and lows of homeschooling! I don't have great advice about math. I have learned that my oldest prefers games and manipulatives to worksheets, so I'm experimenting with those. And he enjoys life of Fred as well. I am thinking that break ass wise and you may find her picking it up easily later on.

    I also don't have great advice about the little one because it's something we're constantly adjusting for as well! I've done busy bags or movies at different times. Blanket time training helped. But lately I've noticed that the other kids have begun to keep themselves occupied. When they want to join in, I give them paper and pencil to "write letters," a worksheet from a preschool workbook, or an educational dry erase placemat and a license to write all over it. :)

    I must say it sounds like you guys are doing awesome!

    1. Yes, my oldest loves worksheets in everything BUT math. She just isn't getting it. I'm hoping Life of Fred helps. But for now, we're just not stressing it.

      I am working on some things with my preschooler to keep her involved but also to have a little fun too. I like the dry erase placemat idea, and I think we have one! Thanks for sharing and thanks for the encouragement!

  2. It sounds like a great year, and those are normal struggles! Like you, I have loved seeing my daughter's reading skills progress. It's amazing. I think you'll be glad that you brought your middle child home, though it will definitely make things more difficult with school. I'm right there with you though--my 4, 2, & 1 year old are home with me all day while we do school.

    As for math, you'll be really happy you went with Saxon K, especially if you bought the manipulatives to go with it. We've been pleased with it and my daughter absolutely loves math. The only problem is that she really hasn't made progress in math yet this year--it's all stuff that she already knows. We're just flying through Saxon K right now and then we'll switch to Saxon 1 when we finish this book, which should be around Christmas.

    My 2 year old sits at the table and does school with us for as long as his attention span lasts, which means he's usually zooming his little cars through the teddy bear counters after about 5 minutes, and then he's off to do something else.

    1. I have a friend who recommended going straight to Saxon 1, but I just really felt like my daughter needed more foundational work first. I'm still waiting for the manipulatives to arrive, so I can't wait to see how she likes it.

  3. Sounds like you're off to a great start! Haha!I I totally get the "mild anxiety" part about having your preschooler home full time! I often joke that I need to send my younger kids to school in order for me to homeschool the rest of them! ;) Honestly, I haven't found any one thing to work when it comes to occupying my 3 & 4 year old or the 14 month old for that matter. Sometimes I'm settling squabbles more than teaching and other days, when all the stars line up, I can get a good 45 minutes to an hour of teaching! What entertained them today, won't engage them for a minute the next. It's really like a juggling act. I know that's not very encouraging, but I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone. ;)
    And, just try to remember that you don't need to do every in the teachers manuel. When I first started, I killed myself doing that. I was so scared that they'd be behind if I didn't. Now, I've swung far the other way and I don't even do kindergarten! Hang in there mama! you're doing great!

    1. Oh, Jillian, you always make me feel like a nutcase :) Like I shouldn't be stressing over kindergarten. You're right, of course, and I probably won't even do kindergarten with my other children. It's just that she's ready for school and that's where we're starting.

      Juggling act is exactly right :) But it's pretty fun!

  4. Our younger girl is 1 1/2 and loves to climb up and literally sit on whatever her sister is doing so that she gets the attention. We've tried a lot of distraction techniques. The one that works the most reliably is letting her draw on a whiteboard easel with dry erase markers.
    it some times ends up messy, but it can give us the twenty minutes we need to finish reading.

  5. Kumon company makes neat mini workbooks for basic skills (cutting, pasting, tracing, etc.) even for toddlers ages 2 and up. I use them with my second child who is two d a half year old and she loves it since she gets to do school too! They still involve some attention from me but to me it is worth it :).

    1. Yes, I just bought two Kumon books at Target last week just for my three year old. They didn't have the cutting or pasting ones, which is what she would like, but we're going to give the numbers one a shot first. Thanks for the suggestion, Adela!

  6. I love to see the difference in boys vs. girls at this age. My son is excelling at math and umm...not the greatest at "Reading". We do math very hands on and apply to every day life (ex. counting plates when setting the table, turning the dryer to the right time, or apply to counting games). I wrote a page on my blog about our school life. Maybe you can get some ideas from our Math section. :)

    1. I really like the Blink! game and the time flashcards. I'm always looking for fun ways to teach math because my daughter does not like it at all. We do math as part of daily life (counting clothes, telling time sporadically throughout the day, etc.) too, but addition has been challenging for her. We recently started Life of Fred, and it has been fun for her.

      Thanks for your suggestions and encouragement!

  7. I love Math U See. We are beginning first grade math soon, even though we are technically in kindergarten. I also have Life of Fred books, we have a few and they are great! I am in a very similar situation with a just turned three year old that wants to do school, but not. Plus she is so little there is no real expectations I have with her. I find she plays when she doesn't want to do anything and I give her a some wipe off alphabet books when she wants to do school. Good luck!