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. 


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