Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What We Do For Homeschool Preschool

Picture 1 - Our learning room
Picture 2 - An alphabet train activity, where the boys match objects with their starting letter
Picture 3 - The boys playing a "Saint Joseph" matching game.
Picture 4 - Bedtime stories, an important part of our learning each day!

Today we had a very productive and happy learning day, so I thought I'd post about what exactly it is that we do for "homeschool preschool." I know that most of you who are reading my blog aren't really familiar with the nuts and bolts of homeschooling, so maybe this post will help you understand more about what we do each day/week. (Grab something to drink.... this is a long post!)

First of all, there is no one right way to homeschool. Each family does it differently according to what works best for them. Especially when it comes to preschool, there are many differing theories about how structured or unstructured homeschooling should be. I try to keep a balance --- doing specific themes and lessons, but not overly-planning for every minute of our day. I try to leave lots of time for play and spontaneous projects and outings, etc.

The most important thing we do is live the liturgical year in our home. We celebrate the seasons and feast days of the Church. We begin and end our days with prayer. We learn about the saints and the traditions of the Church. We go to Mass and are involved in our parish. We have lots of books, cd's, videos, games, etc. that are helping us grow in faith each day. Our faith is always part of what we do.

Last year we did "Letter of the Week" - using a variety of websites and worksheets and ideas from books. We learned the letter sounds, made our own alphabet book which included pictures of our family members, posted words and pictures on a learning board each week, and did lots of activities and cooking to go with each letter.

This year we have a theme for our learning each week. I have taken the themes from a Catholic preschool homeschool curriculum called Little Saints by Cynthia Blum. The curriculum seems a bit young for my two at this point and many of the activities suggested require lots of preparation and materials. However, I really like the themes and the book lists. I pick and choose from the activities and add my own. Some of the themes have included: weather, pets, colors, outer space, plants, forest animals, nutrition..... We do stories, poems, songs, crafts, cooking, field trips, experiments, and other activities based on these themes.

As far as our schedule goes.... most days (Monday through Thursday), once we are dressed and ready to begin our day, we pray and talk about the calendar and the weather and any special holidays or feast days or saint days. Then we do some work at the table (more on that in a minute). From there we usually do a more active project/craft and then some reading. After that, our days really vary. Sometimes we have a play date or go shopping or on some other outing. Sometimes it's just play time or we go outside. After lunch we usually come back to some kind of theme-related school activity and/or finish up work from the morning. Then I try to make sure we do some active play or exercise. Sometimes the day looks totally different than this, though. If we have other plans or just don't get around to school in the morning, we do things in the afternoon and/or evening. That's part of the beauty of homeschooling! Basically, I make a list of projects/lessons/activities for the week and we check them off as we go. Sometimes we cover them all. Many times we choose to do activities that aren't officially planned.

It's great to have our "learning room" in the dining room. It has become the center of most activity in our house. My dad's cousin gave us these great shelves that hold all of our books, learning games and activities, craft supplies, etc. The boys know that they can choose these things to do anytime. They spent lots of time there playing, drawing, and working on projects.

At this point, besides participating in our themed activities each week, Adam is doing a lot of coloring and drawing. He is playing learning games, doing puzzles, learning his letters and numbers. He listens to lots of stories.

Ray, however, is doing more structured work with me. If you ask him, he is already in Kindergarten. That's fine with me. We are working and learning each day, using lots of kindergarten level materials. It's awesome to be able to go at his pace and give him so much individual attention. When we work at the table each day, the first thing he does is write his first and last name in a writing tablet. It's been really neat to see how much his writing has improved already. He also works in a Math book by Modern Curriculum Press. He does writing worksheets, mostly from Catholic Heritage Curricula's "Little Folks' Letter Practice." Ray received a "Hooked on Phonics" reading kit from my mom for Christmas. It is an awesome program! Each day we complete the drills and lessons and read from his own little books. He has made really great progress and he is very proud of himself. When we finish this kit in a few months, we will begin a Modern Curriculum Press Phonics book.

It may sound like a lot, but each thing only takes a few minutes. We also play lots of games, listen to various kinds of music, sing, read, do science experiments, go to the library, swim and play at the Y, go to sports classes at the Y, attend Metroparks programs, go to the zoo and COSI.....

On Fridays the boys participate in a program with other homeschoolers. It has two parts: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Montessori. They do lots of hands-on learning there and they learn how to function in a group and learn from teachers besides me.

One other thing that we are thrilled to be part of is our "Little Saints' Club" -- a group of Catholic homeschool families with young children. We gather each month for activities and projects. The boys are making good friends there and so am I!

So, that's what we do.... in case you were wondering.

Right now Jon and I are in the process of making final decisions for next year. It looks like we really aren't going to enroll Ray in Kindergarten. That is scary and exciting at the same time! We are looking at all of our curriculum options (from very structured "packaged" programs to do-it-yourself "combination" resources). There are also some co-op opportunities for things like music, gym, and art. We hope to be part of those programs as well.

Thanks so much for your interest and support in our homeschool adventure. We really appreciate your assistance and prayers as we try to give our boys the best education possible.

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