Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homeschooling Your Kindergartener, Part Two

Yesterday I said that imagining a traditional public/private school scenario in your home was ludicrous and it is. Expecting your child to sit at a table or desk in your home for hours is a little unreasonable. Even in public school, there are a lot of breaks and playtime scheduled into the day.

Remember, the method you choose will heavily influence your lesson plan. But be flexible and prepared to change anything that doesn’t work. When I first began homeschooling, my schedule looked something like this:

(Three days a week)

• (Drop off youngest at preschool by 8:30) start school at 9 am
• Discussion (1-5)
• Math (10- 20)
• Reading Comprehension/Language (10-15)
• Break (15-20)
• Reading/Writing (20-30)
• Science (10-20)
• Arts & Crafts/ Games & Activities (5-30)

By the end of the year, I felt more comfortable moving things around and shortening days or lengthening according to how my child was doing. A few times, we only did one project that really captivated her attention. Most of the time, these projects counted towards her reading, writing, and science anyway.

Timing is Everything

Now I imagine the list above seems like a LOT, but keep in mind that the amount of time spent on each subject ranged from 5 minutes to no more than 30. And this was a KEY POINT for my child. Before I had this curriculum to help me learn how to manage our time, I was simply using workbooks that I bought at the bookstore and was beginning to have difficulty keeping my child’s attention. Once I began breaking up the subjects into short intervals that were long enough to learn a new concept (or simply review ones she had already learned), and then moving on to the next one, we were much more successful.

Also, I don’t mean that we did Reading and Writing after break. I mean that we did one OR the other. Reading Comp OR Language, Arts OR Games.

Soon after I began homeschooling though, I discovered that we needed to change things up a bit. And our routine sometimes varied according to the day and my daughter’s mood. I really preferred starting off with a discussion and math, because she enjoyed them a great deal. However, I learned that the later I put off reading, the harder it was. I eventually figured out that her brain was using up so much energy with other subjects that it was harder for her to focus on reading (which apparently takes A LOT of concentration and expenditure of energy!!) and would result in a meltdown. So I switched things up a bit and alternated it with the reading comprehension. Sometimes I’d start with it first and bump math. And sometimes I’d go ahead and give her a little snack beforehand for an extra little boost.

Placing the Arts & Crafts/Games & Activities at the end was a perfect reward for celebrating the work that she had accomplished during the lesson.

Now the curriculum I was using suggested a timeframe of about 9 am to 12:30, but we eventually worked it out so that we started around 9 and finished around 11:00 or 11:30.

But some days, school just didn’t work. My daughter was out of sorts, impatient, or simply couldn’t focus. So the biggest lesson I learned last year was: DON’T BE AFRAID TO STOP AND TRY AGAIN LATER!!! There’s absolutely no point in forcing your child to do school when they can’t (or won’t) participate willingly.

Here’s the thing: You’ll be able to go as fast or as slow as your child is able. Chances are your child will learn much faster anyway because of the one-on-one attention. So if Tuesday looks like it’s going to be a bust, just try again on Wednesday.

The Bilingual Aspect

As I’ve mentioned before, teaching my children Spanish is taking a lot of effort on my part. So in the end, I realized that the best thing was for me to actually assign time during our lessons and choose a curriculum to help me supplement what I had already taught them through our reading of bilingual books and the sporadic Spanish that I injected into daily conversation.

Bilingual and Bicultural Books

I review so many books for the Latin Baby Book Club that it is easy for me to substitute these for some of the curriculum books used in the Reading Comprehension section. Once I did a few of the ones in my curriculum, I learned what the key points were for developing reading comprehension in my child. So it was easy for me to take one of our stories and read it, then ask the right questions such as:

• Who was the main character in the book?
• What was his/her problem and how did he/she solve it?
• Where did the story take place? or What was the setting of the story?
• What happened first… (sequence)
• Do you think this could be a true story or a make believe one?
• How does this story compare to the one we read yesterday? How is it the same? How is it different?
And so on…

Language Lessons

You can also switch out the Reading Comp section and replace it with a Spanish (or English, if your are teaching in Spanish) curriculum. This coming school year, Spanish will be its own subject in our house. I think learning a second language should be implemented early and taught on the same level of importance as any of the other core subjects (i.e., Math, Reading, Science, etc.) This does not mean that you can’t practice the language at any other time (quite the opposite, really!) or that you shouldn’t designating time/days for speaking the second language only. But by incorporating it into your school lessons, you assign the learning of this second language to be of equal value to your other subjects.

Arts and Crafts

I really enjoyed using the Arts & Crafts time to incorporate cultural activities that either complemented the bilingual/bicultural book we read earlier in the lesson, or to introduce a new idea or concept. For example, we read Playing Lotería by René Colato Laínez. I supplemented the book by having my child create her own “Lotería” board, which we later played. Or when Día de los Muertos rolls around, we may read Yuyi Morales’ Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book and then follow up by making a calavera mask or puppet (she has some great crafts on her website.)

So regardless of whether you are teaching in Spanish or English, it is possible to structure your time so that you can incorporate a second language. And if you are worried about how to schedule your day, remember that the method you choose will help you to organize your lessons.

Anyone else? How are you scheduling your days?

Tomorrow: What do I teach my Kindergartener and where do I find it?

Con mucho cariño…

Did you enjoy this article? Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Let me help! My book - The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling - covers everything you see here and more. 


  1. This year our "school" work will be completed while little brother is napping on Diego's non-preK days. Next year when we officially start Kindergarten, I plan to do it while little brother is at preK two days a week. Since Spanish is Diego's stronger language we will do the majority of the lessons in Spanish, not teach it as a separate subject. I am actually still trying to figure out how to integrate English into our lessons. Thank you for the article. It gives me a lot to think about.

  2. Adriana,

    Since Diego is Spanish dominant, perhaps you can start slow by just including a few English or bilingual books a week. Maybe one video a week. I think I would concentrate on his basic math and reading skills in Spanish, especially since learning to read in Spanish is actually easier. He can later transfer these practices to learning English and it will easier, too.

    Simply focus on making sure he hears English without worrying much yet as to whether or not he can speak it. (He's going to learn it quickly anyway from outside influences!)

    I have more reading programs in Spanish coming up.

    Good luck!

  3. What a fantastic blog! Do you have a reading program you use to teach your children to read in Spanish? Do you have a curiculum picked out for social studies or science? I am trying to pick what curriculum I can use for the new year. My daughter learned to read in English first, now I want her to learn to read in Spanish. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

  4. Let me ask you about specific books to see if you are familiar with them. I am interested in using Coquito Clasico - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/097794980X/ref=s9_simvh_se_p14_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=auto-no-results-center-1&pf_rd_r=189GKBSBPR0RMHWWXCPQ&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=1263465782&pf_rd_i=nacholito

    Also there is a book called mi metodo de lectura by Nilsa Ortega http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1881729060/ref=s9_simvh_se_p14_i2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=auto-no-results-center-1&pf_rd_r=189GKBSBPR0RMHWWXCPQ&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=1263465782&pf_rd_i=nacholito

    I love the idea of teaching children to read in sillables in Spanish just because that is how the language is! We used hooked on phonics for English reading, but it seems like all the Spanish reading books (that are translated from English) focus on individual sounds instead of silable blends. Estrellita seems more like his program. What do you think?

    Thank you so much for all of your ideas! I have been ejoying reading all of your research and ideas :)


  5. Hey, Tati!

    I am intrigued by Coquito Clasico. I will ask around and see if anyone has used this book. If you do purchase it and use it with your children, I would love it if you would do a review for us!

    I can say that the program I am using to teach my kids Spanish focuses on learning syllables, too, and I think it is easier for them to catch on. It began with vowel sounds and emphasized the fact that the vowels ALWAYS sound the same no matter where they are found in a word.


  6. Thank you so much for your response, Monica! I'm so glad I can ask you these questions since I have no one to ask these questions :) Please, tell me the name of the program you use to teach your kids to read in Spanish. It would be so helpful to me :)

  7. Sorry, Tati. I was on vacation this weekend...

    As far as your question goes, my son is still too young to learn to read, and my daughter is English dominant, so I chose to teach her in English first. But I have also heard that some families have used la Pata Pita books to teach their children to read in Spanish...


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