Monday, August 23, 2010

Getting the Homeschool Ball Rolling

Forgive me if this post is a bit all over the place -- that's where my homeschooling head is at the moment!  But I'd love some help to get more focused.

The Bibliophile is only 2 years, 9 months old, but I am starting to own the identity of a "homeschooler" more and more lately.  We know we will not be enrolling in preschool this fall, or any time in the foreseeable future, and we have focused on teaching/learning activites since he was born.  To me, that is just a natural part of parenting.  But lately, I have felt more of a need to formalize my plans.  Blame it on pregnancy nesting, or just the realization that if I don't have a system in place, my laptop is going to end up babysitting the Bibliophile when I'm stuck in around the clock newborn/nursing hell heaven in a few months. 

So, I have been scribbling lists of goals and learning ideas for months now, bookmarking favorite curricula or printables, and subscribing to other homeschooling mamas' blogs.  But, today I did what I do best: shopped.  (Side note: if you have an Office Max near you, go get some paper and notebooks!  At least at our store, packs of lined paper cost 1 cent, full sized notebooks are 5 cents, and composition books are 50 cents!).

Advantus Cropper Hopper Home Center Rolling Cart, 10 Drawer Multi I am ridiculously excited about this set of drawers that I just ordered and am hoping to use to house our daily activities this fall.  Isn't it beautiful?  I also bought a refill for my label maker, and I'm ready to go to town with the planning and labeling!  The trouble is, I still have to make up my mind about how to focus everything I want to do.  Although I have always enjoyed following along and occasionally sampling preschooler alphabet book crafts, I don't think this is the way I should go with the Bibliophile.
Brother PT-80 P-touch Electronic Labeling SystemHe already knows his letters and phonic sounds, so the letters would really just be a way to theme his activities (and have some crafty fun).  I do plan to do some of that.  We are super excited to be starting an informal homeschooling playdate with some like-minded friends this fall, when we'll probably do a letter-themed craft per week.  But, I'd also like a way to organize other types of learning that aren't letter-focused.  A lot of the great kindergarten curricula I have found use a literature-based approach (hello, kids books to teach?!  we're there!).  I love this idea (of course), but in a way I don't want to "waste" it until he is fully ready.  We could obviously start an approach like this now, but I think I'd have to write it myself to really match his current abilities - otherwise, some of the kindergarten level things will be perfect for him and others will be over his head. 

So, I am still in a brainstorming phase.  He is still so young that I figure this first year will really just be a time to get our feet wet.  My biggest goal is to avoid extinguishing his natural love of learning.  I'm boldfacing that to keep reminding myself!  My primary motivation in using an organized system is not to teach him structured learning, time management, or anything like that (afterall, he is only 2, soon to be 3) or even really to increase the amount that he is currently learning (he's exceeded my expectations up until now, and seems to learn best through games and fun activities).  I would just like to have a place to put ideas as I find them, rather than filing them on a mental "someday when I have time" shelf.  And I think the structure might help us to KEEP learning as a new baby is thrown into the mix.  

So, back to the file system.  The cart will have 10 drawers, which he will have unfettered access to, and I have a few ideas of what I'd like in them.  I'm still debating whether to fill them weekly, daily, or on an as-wanted basis (leave them full and just replace as he does a particular activity).  I'm leaning toward the last of these options.

I'd like the categories to be broad enough to give me flexibility as to what I put into each box, but also still be engaging/appealing to him.  I have been trying to think outside the box (no pun intended), and to use categories that I know will specifically interest my child, rather than that necessarily make sense to everyone else.  Afterall, that is the beauty of homeschooling, right?

Here are the category ideas I am toying with:
  1. Fun with Numbers [Math, Measuring, etc.]
  2. Spanish
  3. Physical/Active Play
  4. Places [Geography]
  5. Animals [I guess I could cut this, but it seems like he'd enjoy it]
  6. Games [I could just make game activities appear occasionally in his other drawers.  But we like to invent games.  Not daily though.  So this would likely be more of a once/week thing.]
  7. Reading and Stories [Some days I'll include a story journal for us to write in, other times just books for him to read me; also want to work on comprehension more, maybe some sequencing]
  8. Word Play [Word Searches, Unscrambles, etc.] - arguably not necessary, but he loves games/puzzle type learning, as I always did.
  9. Art Fun
  10. How Things Work [Science could go here?]
Ideas I probably can't fit, unless I change things around:
  1. Food Box [Recipes, New Foods to Try, learn about his allergies]
  2. Surprise Box [Treats, Activities that don't fit]
I think those categories would allow me to fit in most of the things I'd like to work on teaching, or give me the flexibility to work them into activities within those categories (for instance, I want to do more scissors-practice, but could easily include it in Art Fun).  

Please Comment!  "Been there, done that" moms -- do you think these categories will work?  Am I missing anything important?  How do you organize your learning?  How did you get started?  What has or hasn't worked for you?  Any other advice for us? 

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Amy said...

I am not a been there, done that mom, but I think this is great idea and I can see how your little guy could get really into it. If you fill each week, he would eventually get around to each drawer. It might also be a good idea to move the drawers around.

Good luck with the new program. I look forward to reading more about it! I've been reading your blog for a few months, but I am not sure if I have commented before.

Raising a Happy Child said...

I tried workboxes and file folders before before, but they didn't work here. Yes, sometimes daughter will get something out of her boxes, but since we don't have any structured "school time", it pretty much happens very sporadically or not at all. In fact, I think she learned to tune those boxes out - she doesn't even notice when something changes unless it's her math box. I think that maybe you adding too many choices, perhaps starting with 4 options would get him interested to have more. In any case - good luck, and I am interested to see how homeschooling will work out for IB.

Infant Bibliophile said...

@Amy thanks for commenting! We will see how it goes. :)

@Raising Maybe you are right that so many is overkill. Hmm. I have this weird feeling like EVERYTHING I teach him must be in the boxes, which is just silly. Today we went to an aviary and were learning lots of stuff, and there was a tiny part of me that was sort of like "where would I put this in his boxes?" I do think homeschooling, or afterschooling as you called it, or even just good "teaching while parenting" just becomes a natural part of day to day life when it is done right.

Infant Bibliophile said...

Also, another idea I had originally was to do the seven days of the week with each drawer having a day. And then I'd be left with only three extra boxes, in which I could put special things like a game of the week or books around a theme. Bibliophile is really into knowing what day it is today, what day is tomorrow, what will we do tomorrow, etc., so I think he might love that system. But it wouldn't help me as much in terms of reminding me of all of the areas I want to cover. I could, though, just roughly have in my mind that monday is math day, tuesday science, wednesday reading, etc.

Sam and Boo said...

I'm definately not a "been there done that" mom, but it looks to me like you've covered most of the 'subjects' a preschooler would need. If I was doing this myself, I might generalize "Animals" to "Nature" so it could include plants and toddler-oriented conservation/environmental stuff.

Technically if I really was doing this myself, I'd also change "Spanish" to "French" as we're in Canada, but that's a lesson better covered by "Places" in your system. :)

Britt said...


Mister doesn't even know the alphabet yet. Sigh. It's so much easier with the oldest.... at least for me.

This is one of my main reasons for not considering homeschooling-- I don't think I could get myself that organized and be that disciplined.

Infant Bibliophile said...

@Britt Don't be too wowed yet. I'm a good planner... it's the implementation that sometimes leaves a bit to be desired! All kids are so different. He may be able to read in spanish, english, and morse code (haha, I need to post about this someday), but until recently, if you threw a ball at him, he just let it hit him, laughed, then stuck up his hands (why "learn to catch a ball" was on my academic goals this summer!). I'm intrigued to see what our #2 will be like in comparison to him, too.

Infant Bibliophile said...

@Sam and Boo Sorry, thought I replied to this to say that I love the Nature suggestion - will definitely make that change!

MaryAnne said...

I'm very impressed with how organized you are! We tried workboxes, but I wasn't super on top of it the way I think you have to be for it to really work, and so now the bins are filled with free play toys and craft supplies. It's my favorite way to store kid stuff, though, so I'm really glad I tried it out!

I wonder if your son would enjoy file folder games, especially where he loves books so much?

Laurie said...

I hear you about wanting to "save" the literature-based curricula till he's older. I think what I'm going to do with my son this year is focus on Nursery Rhymes... using each nursery rhyme as a spring board for other learning activities. We'll do a craft that matches the rhyme, we'll do "Mary, Mary, quite contrary" in the spring talk about flowers and gardens, we'll do the Itsy Bitsy Spider near Halloween and do a "unit" on spiders, etc. We'll also use the nursery rhyme characters in our play: cut out a Wee Willie Winkie, for example, and dramatize the rhyme by building block houses and acting out the story.

I don't know of any amazing nursery rhyme curricula, but Debbie Diller Designs has a set of nursery rhyme books for beginning readers that I'm considering getting. The books have one line of the rhyme per page with picture support. They come in a class set of 6 of the same book though, so you might have to find friends to split with you! Link for one of the books, for example:

Also, there are lots of books that I think of as "PK2 bookks," that are rather simple but can have fun learning activities attached. "Mouse Paint" by Ellen Stoll Walsh for some fun exploration with color mixing comes to mind. Another is "Farmer Will" by Jane Cowen-Fletcher.

Speaking of the work box idea, I read the blog and she uses that approach. I don't agree with everything she does or all her curriculum she makes--seems a bit repetitive to me, but you might glean some good ideas there.

Have a great year! :o)

Infant Bibliophile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Infant Bibliophile said...

@Laurie Thank you for such a thoughtful comment and so much great information. The Nursery Rhymes idea is so fun! I bet my son would love that too. We tried to do an A theme last week, and one thing we did was learn some new Spanish words (with some fun worksheets online), and he learned the Itsy Bitsy Spider in Spanish. He's been singing it all week and he's so proud of himself. I can see he'd really like delving into other nursery rhymes and figuring out what they mean. I'm not sure I'm focused enough to do a theme like that, but I do love the idea. I'll keep it in mind! Also thanks for the pointer to Confessions of a Homeschooler. I'll check it out right now. I have mixed feelings about the workbox idea too.

Infant Bibliophile said...

@MaryAnne I wouldn't be surprised if ours meet the same fate, but I figured the bins would always be useful one way or another. :)