How to Come Up with 4 Hours of Homeschooling Kindergarten

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Some states ask homeschoolers to perform four hours of instruction in each of the 180 days of school they must report at the end of the school year. Tennessee, where I live, is one of those states.

State officials do not ask for specifics on what we did each day during those four hours. However, for my own sake, I keep tabs on what we do daily and how long each activity took. I use a simple notebook on each child, even though my daughter is in preschool and, as such, her instruction is not “official.”

Now, let’s define instruction. Any time knowledge is imparted, instruction happens. Children do not receive instruction only if they are seatead at a desk with their textbooks opened at a specific page as directed by an adult licensed as a teacher, who is standing in front of a blackboard or white board or SMART interactive board.

Children learn all the time. It’s what children do. They learn. They haven’t been around much, so most of what they see around them is new and exciting. Our task as parents is to surround them with positive, age-appropriate sources of information, according to their learning styles.

My daughter, a preschooler, joins us for most activities, so I use plural when I describe what we do. Here’s how I come up with four hours of instruction for my son, who is in homeschool kindergarten.

 

First Hour

30 minutes – Bible. This represents both our morning and evening devotional times, during which we read stories from age-appropriate Bible curriculum, learn hymns and praise songs, memorize passages of Scripture, pray, and do crafts or activities that will solidify and make real the knowledge of God. This time also covers those precious moments throughout the day when we talk about God because they ask about life and I direct their minds to the truths of the Bible.

30 minutes – Home Ec. Think making the bed, taking dirty clothes to the hamper, putting toys and school supplies up at the end of the day, dusting, wiping the table after meals, doing laundry, setting the table, stirring the oatmeal I cook for breakfast, pouring flour from the measuring cup into the mixing bowl for pancakes, pushing buttons on the blender filled with yummy ingredients under my supervision, learning to mow with daddy, emptying the dishwasher… I could go on and on. Home ec. skills are life skills which establish habits that will make them great spouses and parents and responsible adults with healthy self-images. Instruction happens throughout the day in small bits. I have approximated this to be half an hour daily.

 

Second Hour

1 hour – Romanian (mother tongue). I speak with them in Romanian 90% of the time I am with them. I also read to them in Romanian. It adds up to more than one hour a day, but I keep it simple for recording purposes.

 

Third Hour

30 minutes – Recess. Why not? If they count it as school time in public schools, we can, too.

30 minutes – Reading with mommy. I read picture books and various readers to them. We worked our way through “Before Five in a Row” and SimplyCharlotteMason.com reading lists. Now we are working through “Books Children Love.” Sometimes I have my son read a page or a whole reader, depending on how motivated he feels that morning.

Fourth Hour

30 minutes – P.E. Every day, as long as it is over 46F and dry, my children spend time outside on their bikes or doing various ball activities with me or with each other. Today we played a bit of tennis, for instance. Catching, throwing, rolling, and bouncing a ball are important large motor skills. Some days they bike the Gatlinburg trail. Daddy and I run alongside them. It is four miles both ways and we do it in 70 minutes, including a five-minute break when we turn around at Sugarlands Visitor Center. Great cardio workout. When it’s warm, we go to the pool. Every other month, they take swim lessons.

30 minutes – The 3Rs, i.e. formal instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. Ten minutes per subject is plenty for a five-year-old. A child’s attention span is their age in minutes plus one. So a three-year-old can focus for about four minutes and a five-year-old for about six minutes. I make sure I don’t push my son beyond his limits. We might take a break and talk about something (he always has a story to share) before we go on to the next concept. We will probably do fifteen minutes per subject in the second semester; by then, my son will be six.

 

Fifth Hour

30 minutes – Reading with daddy. This is a nightly routine which happens after supper and just before bedtime.

10 minutes – Music. I play classical music for them throughout the day, during meals, or in the car. If they are interested, I tell them it is Telemann or Handel or Mozart etc.

10 minutes – Arts & Crafts. They make cards for different events and people on a regular basis. They draw, cut and paste in their lapbooks. They decorate their bedroom according to their fancy with old ribbons and scotch tape. They paint. They draw with chalk in the driveway.

10 minutes – Science. Once a month, they take a class at Ripley’s Aquarium. Nature walks or simply being in the yard provide an opportunity for spotting insects and animals. We melt ice. We make popsicles. We grow butterflies out of caterpillars we mail ordered. We write in our nature journals. We learn to cook and can and garden.

10 minutes – Foreign Languages. I tell them things in French and Spanish every day. Simple things. “Thank you” or “here you are” or “please” or whatever simple phrase I may use in Romanian, I repeat it in French. Or Spanish. Or English. I find myself saying the same thing in three or four different ways. Sometimes I make them repeat it, but other times, if we are hard at play, I just say it and we move on. We also repeat the days of the week and the months of the year in several languages for our calendar activities.

As you can see, I easily come up with more than five hours of “instruction” per day. Which means that I can leave out certain activities based on what we have on our schedule as a family that particular day. Activities can carry over for recording purposes, too. It works out well. I told you homeschooling was a flexible endeavor.


4 Steps to Homeschool Success

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In life, flexibility is the mother of all things good. In homeschooling, it is do-or-die. Want the dictionary definition for “do-or-die?” Here it is: requiring supreme effort to avoid the dire consequences of failure. As a recovering perfectionist and schedule-oriented person, I feel flexibility does take a supreme effort on my part. But I want to avoid the dire consequences of failure. So, I get flexible.

One of the greatest books a homeschooling newbie can read is Things We Wish We’d Known by Bill and Diana Waring. I am reading it right now. Fifty veteran homeschoolers share lessons from their own mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to learn from other people’s mistakes. What I get from most stories so far is that flexibility equals homeschool success.

Take this example… This homeschooling family was traveling through South Dakota on a cross-country road trip adventure. The children did not finish their workbook assignments, so the parents did not allow them to see Mount Rushmore. They continued on their not-so-merry way and showed the children who the boss was. Astonished? Yeah, me too.

Mount Rushmore Flexibility Equals Homeschool Success

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

I would have used that instance to teach grace, i.e. unmerited favor, and remind them of the great gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. I would say something like, “Grace is a gift from God and we do not deserve it. You children did not finish your workbooks, but we will show you grace and take you to see Mount Rushmore anyway. Grace is what God gives to us through His Son, because He loves us. And we love you. So we show you grace… We will see Mount Rushmore and then you finish your assignment.”

As our first official homeschooling week was drawing to a close, I realized I was already making adjustments to the plans I had so carefully laid out, based on our circumstances (my sister and her family left after spending the summer with us) and my students’ responses (the emotional letdown of saying goodbye took a toll on them; plus, they found it hard to get on a schedule after unschooling for a month).

To help me flex my weak flexibility muscle, I came up with 4 steps:

1. Teach according to the lesson plans you made. You have to start somewhere. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Make a plan and work it, even if you feel it is incomplete because you do not have the time or the expertise to take everything into consideration. As a homeschooling mom in my first year of teaching, I definitely fall in this category.

2. Tinker according to the events of the day. Many things happen in a household that interrupt homeschooling. Some are as banal as a UPS delivery. Others are life-changing like a pregnancy or a death. Take a deep breath (or many) and wait for the moment to re-start where you got interrrupted. Or how about this example? DS says, “I am tired” after reading six three-letter words to me (mud, cud, run, sun, rub, tub). Is he tired or lazy? That’s for me to determine based on what I know about his life in the past 24 hours.

3. Tweak based on the responses of your students. Some nights, my children just don’t sleep well. Or they are just being kids. Or something. They do not cooperate during the morning devotional. No matter what consequences I dangle in front of them, they will not listen. I go to my room to pray and ask for wisdom. They know I do that because I tell them. When I come back, they ask me, “What did Jesus tell you?” and I can see it in their eyes. They have come to their senses. They are ready to obey before I even tell them what the plan is. I learned this technique from one of the best books on parenting I have ever read, Kay Kuzma’s Easy Obedience.

4. Troll back to your lesson plans. Were you too ambitious or too lax? Adjust based on what you learned in the previous steps. Change is the only constant.

So tell me, is flexibility an issue for you? How have you had to adapt and change your plans in your homeschool? Please leave me a comment below.


Homeschooling Stats

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Homeschooling, like anything else, can absorb all your energies and consume you if you let it. Pretty soon, you and I will be so busy with daily and weekly goals, we might forget about the big picture. So before we can’t see the forest from the trees, I wanted to share some information that came into my inbox recently.

If you are only thinking about homeschooling, the data should give you food for thought. If you are already in the homeschooling trenches, you should be encouraged.

Personally, I already feel the homeschooling ride getting faster. I have homeschooled officially for all of six days now and find myself adjusting methods, curricula, schedules, and the transition between activities. I had to cancel a picnic with one of my support groups (Blount Home Education Association) because our schedule was too full for that week and the children were feeling it. One of the advantages of homeschooling, after all, is flexibility.

Another important detail: during our first week of official homeschooling, we said goodbye to our summer guests – my sister, her husband and their fourteen-year-old son. Lots of emotions to deal with plus lots of things to get done before and after their departure. The silver lining? Taking my sister and her family to the airport doubled as a field trip for the children.

Which brings me to my point about the stats below: homeschooling happens in real families who deal with life events on a regular basis. All the more reason to appreciate the hard work of the researchers who put it all together. Enjoy!

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up