Sunday, October 6, 2013

How I Homeschool Harbor {Our Preschool Tutorial}

I always seem to get asked how we home school/preschool.
And I quite often feel disqualified to answer, to be honest.
I have an education degree and I taught at the middle school level for many, many years.
But! Teaching a little one - with another little one {still nursing!} is a challenge.
So here is my disclaimer:
I have a four year old.
We don't use -or adhere to- a certain text or curriculum.
I don't use Common Core or look at standards and frameworks weekly
My purpose: create and maintain a daily schedule,
2. to develop personal accountability and self discipline within my child,
3. to spend quality time learning together,
4. and to teach basic skills in Literacy, Math, and Science.
We spend about an hour 1 1/2  a day in "school":
an hour in the mornings
and a half hour or so reading before bed
{both independent and guided reading styles}
So, I feel the need to state all that because:
 I know lots and lots of you who read my blog are true home schoolers.
I don't want to claim that I am or downplay the lesson planning and alignment I know you all do.
We have certainly, as Harbor's parents, expectations, but as a four year old, at this point in the game, we are working on building basic skills and developing a quiet "seat" time where he can work upwards of a single hour per day, uninterrupted.
So who might benefit from this post?
Possibly mamas of young children who have no current schedule
but a desire to begin teaching basic skills at home and are looking for some type of format.
Another popular question?
What will we do next year when he starts kindergarten?
I honestly don't know.
We are still seeking the Lord.
I taught in the public school system for six years, and I believe in the model.
I can see the good in it.
But I am not sure what the Lord would have me do right now.
I'm glad I have time to work it out and pray about it first.
This is our "daily" schedule.
We tend to change it every month.
For example,
come November, we will add the days of the week to be written.
We keep one copy on the refrigerator.

And one copy above his desk.

I always prepare the morning work before Harbor comes downstairs.
It causes less squabbles for us that way.
He has to write his first and last name {every day} and complete a sight word pack {everyday}
Mondays are also our Literacy day focus with two sheets to be completed.
He sits in the green chair, and I sit beside him in the other one.

His sigh word cards are located on his desk in the back of the metal organizer.
I label his work before he comes downstairs with the day of the week.

And all of his sight word cards are from Dollar Tree-
sturdy card stock and they range from Pre-K to 3rd grade. We have all sets and we use them all.

On Monday and Wednesday, we work in his Awana Church booklet for bible study time.
He has to recite his verse alone in his class, so it helps him to review.

So, Monday mornings, after breakfast, he sits down and looks at the schedule.
He knows to begin with his name. We just use basic handwriting paper.
I prewrite his name at the top in marker for him to use as a guide.

After he writes it, we go over his handwriting. Fix mistakes. Talk about the letter structure.
He gets a sticker beside his name for each day he writes it and tries his best.

I then choose his sight word pack.
{You can see the baggies in the organizer, sticking out of the top}

He has to say them out loud, clearly and loudly.
We talk about a good speaking voice and being heard.
Sometimes, I ask him to define a word or use it in a sentence.

Then we put them back in the bag and start our seat work.
I buy {or his Gigi buys!} his workbooks from Sam's Club, educational stores, or even Wal-Mart.
Don't be afraid to buy something if you think your kiddo would like it!

Some sheets require coloring.
I am a fan of coloring.
Some parents aren't, but at this age, I think it helps with fine motor skills and patience.

Henry is always beside us.
Sometimes he is in his highchair watching or in his jumper bouncing.
I rarely let him crawl during this hour, if I can help it.
It is too big a distraction for Harbor.
I try to alway feed him right before we start to help him stay comfortable.
Then, we go over his work together.
Together, we pick out his best sample and talk about why it was chosen.
We circle our favorites and I give lots of praise.
He is only four, after all.
: )

Monday wraps up with our bible study verses.
We again start with first and last name.
When he is in kindergarten, my goal is for his name to be quick and easy.
I want to help him to feel confident-
and being really comfortale with your name is one way to do that early on.

For our sight word cards today, after he says them out loud, we use them to play a matching game.
I divide the cards in half and we match opposites.
He has to now read a book out loud to either me or Henry.
He goes to his room alone to make his choice.
He chose a Toy Story book to read to Henry.
I listen, but I try to make a big deal about including little brother, also.
Kids picking their own books is huge!
At the middle school level, choice is everything so my teaching philosophy about choice and feeling a sense of ownership is a vital part of what we do.

We start with first and last name once again.
While it admittedly gets old hat for me, he thrives on knowing the routine.

We move on to sight word cards.

And today is a Math day on the schedule.
I have chosen and labeled the work the night before.
He works without help- unless he asks for it.
I really try to sit beside him quietly until he attempts to ask for help.
It helps him to try on his own and to grow his confidence.

After he finishes, we grade it together right then.
I don't keep a grade book or keep records or anything like that.
But, I do want to provide immediate feedback.
He loves the one-on-one attention and seeing the feedback.
And, please know that it isn't about having a smart kid.
You might have a special needs child, or a struggling child.
Maybe you have a gifted child.
Or honestly, maybe you have no idea what kind of learner you have.
It's okay.
: )
Just start somewhere that feels good for you both.
Having fun at this age is what counts!
Spending time together is a blessing!

Sometimes, David can barely get in the door from work because Harbor is so excited to show him what he learned in school! David knows that the graded work is really important to Harbor and takes his time looking it over.


For today, I chose Science instead of time or money or facts flashcards.
We are currently working through a kindergarten level A Beka Science book.
It is an older version, but "new" to us.

If you're not familiar with A Beka, it is a Christian text broken into chapters, easily read and understood by little ones. We love the scripture references and the way the chapters are broken up and worded.

Harbor and I take turns reading it together.
Sometimes, Henry is fussy and wants to nurse- and I might nurse him on the chair behind the dresser in the corner or take him up for a nap while Harbor reads silently and looks at the pictures.
Like I said at the start, for us, this schedule is all about learning self-discipline and what it means to work for short bursts of time alone.
It has been a great experience for Harbor since we started at about age two.
Back then, we were learning the ABC's and the names of the shapes,
but our routine was much the same.
Henry is never far behind us.
: )

This is the last day for Harbor to practice his name and then the weekend!
We take the weekend off to be together as a family.
Harbor always reads the schedule to make sure he knows what the day's work looks like.
Sometimes, if Henry is fussy or I have to start dinner early in the crock pot or bake muffins for church, Harbor will sit down alone and get started without me.
Having an easy to read posted schedule- and a routine that is repetitive- is a plus!

Every week, we look back over the entire handwriting sheet.
We choose our favorite sample and circle it.
It is another exciting praise moment- and Harbor loves to show Daddy the one we picked!

Henry likes to listen and we sometimes stop to play peek-a-boo.
: )

Fridays are unique in that I choose the seat work myself-
there is not a set requirement for Literacy or Math.
I tend to choose what I know he has struggled with during the week for a review.
Sometimes, as a treat, he will find a maze sheet or a holiday sheet.

Here, he is writing words to describe the hippo.
We use a handwriting chart to help, but he has to write them by himself.
Sometimes this can be a slow process.
It is a great time to model patience and grace with your child.

I liked this particular sheet because the top had a fun dot-to-dot that required him to count by 2's all the way to 40. Then it included a Literacy component by having him write to describe the animal.
So, we got both Math and Literacy in one sheet.

We keep the entire week's worth of work on the fridge.
We use a small Commander style hook to hold them all {at his eye level}

When Daddy comes home, the work comes off the hook.
We save it there instead of using magnets to keep the fridge from getting too cluttered.

And after a hard weeks work, it is always nice to have pizza!
Homemade, no less!
: )

I hope this post was beneficial for you.
Having a home preschool can be easy.
It doesn't have to be fancy.
Make a schedule that works for you.
Use construction paper and markers and hang it up.
When Harbor was two and three, it was pretty simple stuff.
And I'm not a perfect "teacher" or run a perfect household.
We struggle. We are normal.
The point is to provide structure and to be as involved as possible in their early education.
When I taught, I always said to parents,
"They will look to you to see if it matters, if it is important."
Creating a simple, daily routine at home is a great way to show that it matters, that you love sitting close to them and spending time with them, and that you think they are the smartest, brightest, most brilliant people in the whole world.
: )
Let me know if you already have a home preschool, if you home school in general, or if you read something I suggested and you plan to try it with your little ones!
Can't wait to hear about it!
{If you want to pin this to Pinterest in order to find it quickly again, feel free, just make sure it links back here to our blog. Thanks!}
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  1. Thanks for sharing all these great ideas! I have a four year old that goes to preschool at our church 3 mornings a week, but I like to do school things with her at home on the other two mornings. I also have a 2 year old that I am starting to work with too. This makes me want to create a better work space for my girls and get on a better routine. I love the A Beka books!

  2. Your pre-school work is amazing Jessica! Harbor is doing wonderful! Cade goes to preschool 3 days a week, but I really need to figure out another schedule to do more preschool work at home. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  3. Although my little one is not here yet (due in March 2014) I do plan to home school when the time comes. Thank you for sharing these great ideas...I will file them for later... oh and the pizza ADORABLE!

  4. I am a long time blog reader (since before Harbor was born!) and first time poster. I have a little one (19 months) and hope to use some of these ideas as he gets older. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Jessica, this is wonderful! I've spent most of my time working with kids from 2-3rd grade. These are definitely the right activities at an appropriate level. He's going to be so ready for Kindergarten!