Monday, January 31, 2011

Homeschooling: week one

This was a long and somewhat odd week, what with the city being paralyzed by snow on Thursday. In some ways, it made life easier, since B was home Thursday to help out, although I think that was more or less balanced out by Alec also being home instead of at daycare.

Anyway, we've survived our first week of homeschooling. Here are some notes, mostly for my own use:


We are using Calvert reading and math, which are pretty straightforward. There's a bit of prep needed ahead of time, mostly to make sure we have the math materials ready and have found all of the readings in the various reading books we've been given (I'm not sure if this is a "Starting in the middle of the year so it's assumed we know how to find readings" issue or they're just not being explicit enough, but it took me quite a while to find everything I needed on our first day because we have three different reading-related books and they didn't say which one we could find the stories we needed in).

Science and social studies, on the other hand, are requiring quite a bit more preparation and thought because so far, they're just telling us what to talk about without a textbook to read. Social studies, at least, has a list of suggested books you can read with your child. Science last week, however, blithely told me to discuss land masses, glaciers, the water cycle and air with very little guidance. Thankfully, I was able to message my personal librarian to ask him to bring some books home.

So far, of all things, What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry has been by far the most useful book for this. Social studies has been a discussion of various professions, and even though it was written in the seventies, the sections on riding on airplane and taking a train trip were still surprisingly relevant (although the flight attendants served food. How quaint!). And while I used library books for the overcomplicated science lesson, I later opened What Do People Do All Day? to discover a perfectly good explanation of the water cycle, and also realized that we had his Great Big Air Book, which would have been very useful as well. Sadly, the next social studies lesson is fishermen, and Richard Scarry seems to be letting me down on that topic, so I'll actually have to find something else to be my social studies textbook.


So far, our days are pretty free-form, but I would like to be a bit more strict about scheduling so we don't wind up having to do work in the evening. Part of the problem last week was unanticipated breaks while I did things I should have prepped ahead of time, like when I found myself having to cut out 78 letter cards, so hopefully we'll have less of that this week.

The workload is pretty reasonable. We're supposed to be spending five hours a day on schoolwork (since this is a public school, there are attendance requirements. We also had to send them vaccination forms, despite the fact that we're not coming in contact with any other human beings), but this is all on the honor system, so as long as we're getting everything done, well, no one is the wiser as to how much time it actually took.

Toddler wrangling is another area we need to work on. Right now, he's still going to daycare Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we have those days free, but there's still Mondays and Wednesdays to figure out. He's pretty good about being self-entertaining, but he does have a tendency to want to get in the middle of whatever K is doing. My best strategy so far has been to create an obstacle course between him and us, so he has a number of things to distract him as he comes toward us.

Another aspect of organizing our days is that instead of the various work options laid out, I apparently have decided on 5. None of the above, continue your normal schedule and level of childcare and just add a ton more work on top of it. Ai yi yi. Doing the math, working 20 hours a week plus childcare is about the same amount of money as working ten hours a week without childcare, but I don't feel ready to have both kids all day every day while we're still figuring out the homeschooling thing. So I've been trying to get some work done during the day and haven't been doing too badly. We'll see how long I can keep this up.

The student:

K seems to be enjoying pretty much everything except Reading. We're definitely going to need to stock up on strategies for when she doesn't want to do any work at all, but mostly she's been pretty good about doing schoolwork. I suspect the Reading issue is that she's always been very shy about demonstrating knowledge until she's quite certain about something. That doesn't mix well with being asked to sound out words, which so far she mostly refuses to try to do, even when it's things I know she's capable of doing. She's happy to listen to stories and to work on handwriting, but the phonics lessons are going to be our big sticking point, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Does anyone know any good strategies for encouraging the reluctant student who is too shy to reveal what she knows?

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