Our First Day of Homeschool – The Nitty and Gritty

Today, The Veritas Academy* opened its doors and Mackenzie and I took a step into the unknown.

I’ll briefly document where Mackenzie is starting from, and how I prepared. Then comes the blow by blow of how the day went… because I know things are bound to change in the next year!

Mackenzie is…

  • Very excited about “doing school”. She’s been counting down the days for over a month.
  • Nearly 4 1/2 years old. She would not be starting kindergarten in public school for another 15 months but she is so eager for more knowledge and ready for more structure in our days that I know starting now is the right call.
  • Reading at about the sixth grade level, and starting to enjoy reading chapter books on her own (James and the Giant Peach, Ramona and Beezus, and the Magic Tree House books are in her current stack). She’ll read anything if I’m sitting with her, but was still sticking with picture books (Dr. Seuss, Bill Peet, etc.) on her own time until recently.
  • Counting to 100 by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 20s. Adding numbers up to about 10 plus 10 in her head.
  • Very good with scissors.
  • Very timid about art. She enjoys it but is quick to scratch out anything that doesn’t look how she wanted it to (which is nearly everything), and she’d much rather look at a picture and try to draw that then strike out on her own.
  • Not big on writing. She hardly ever asks to write notes or even her name, and although she can follow the guide on how to make letters, the letters are squirrely and big and the process is tedious for her.

Aside from doing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and tons of reading to her and with her, we haven’t done any formal schooling. No workbooks, no lessons. I’ve just answered questions as she’s asked them and looked for opportunities to teach snippets here and there.

Preparation

Leading up to today, I…

  • Went with two friends to a homeschooling convention in Cincinnati. It will be its own slew of blog posts when I get to it because those few days totally rocked my world. It was incredibly helpful to hear different methods of teaching each subject, different ways of organizing your days, and different ways to keep learning delightful. I also loved flipping through the curriculum options out there… there were literally 100s of booths!
  • Decided with Scott that year-round school would be the best fit for us. Rather than take a three month summer, we plan on doing school five days a week and take short breaks where it makes more sense for our family (after a new baby, more time before Christmas, more time in the fall and spring when the weather is gorgeous, and anytime Scott has a day or a week off.)
  • Bought lots and lots of stuff online. I’ll detail all our curriculum choices and the supplies I collected in future posts, but every new box on our doorstep in the last month has had me and Mackenzie squealing. You can homeschool for next to nothing, but we chose to do a lot of research and then take the plunge and invest in things that we think will do the job best and last for lots of kids.
  • Consulted Scott constantly. In fact, the poor man is a bit burnt out, though he is as excited as I am about this big new step.
  • Decided on the first four weeks of lessons and used Homeschool Skedtrack to organize it. I love that if you don’t get to something one day, they’ll bump it to the next day for you so the schedule stays fluid and you don’t get “behind”. We’re not in a race around here!

How things actually went down

7:30 – 9:15 am – Mackenzie wakes up, does her morning routine and eats breakfast with me and Caitlyn. During breakfast, she works on memorizing her first official “on her own” scripture (the First Article of Faith) though she’s been tagging along with mine for over a year.

After breakfast, I do my daily house cleaning while Caitlyn and Mackenzie play. Can you tell I got a laminator for my birthday? Now my daily stuff and zones are all markable. Woot!

9:15 am – We start with our devotional, which consists of a song at the piano (I’m trying to re-learn how to play) and then some scripture reading. About five words into the song, Caitlyn has an epic meltdown from which she does not recover. I change her diaper and put her in her crib and she falls right to sleep.

9:25 am – We start with our devotional (again). This time things go smoothly and we read from the New Testament Stories reader. We’ll go over the same chapter tomorrow but reading the story directly from the scriptures.

9:40 am – The Logic of English. This will be our spelling program and extra foundation for reading. It uses great rules and knowledge of phonograms (sounds of letter and letter teams) to build and practice word lists.


(We’re not writing in the workbook yet, because I’m trying to keep writing minimal and we’ll use a whiteboard until Mackenzie is more comfortable.)

We had fun feeling our throats to recognize voiced sounds (th in thin vs. th in this, and ssss vs. zzzzz). We also learned you can’t make the mmmm or nnn sounds with your nose plugged!

My favorite part was when Mackenzie volunteered a word that started with the same sound as “queen”. Her word? Crab. (Pronounced by a four year old as kwab.)

10:00 am – We do one lesson in the Singapore Math 1A Textbook together and Mackenzie does the workbook pages independently while I print out her Kumon. She begs to do more but I want to keep things fast and easy to start out with so we move on.

10:15 am – Mackenzie does one sheet of Kumon 2A (more about this in another post). She knows the addition facts cold but it took so long to write each number that by sheet number two she asks to just tell me the answers out loud. I figure writing 10 numbers was the right amount of handwriting for the day and we do the rest orally. I make bread while listening.


(She actually did + 1 today, the picture is of a later worksheet.)

10:25 am – P.E.! I scheduled this in as a nice break in our morning, to get wiggles out, and to get me some exercise as well. Luckily Caitlyn was awake so today we take a 2 mile round trip walk to the nursing home where we sing twice a month with other children for the residents. We stay to visit with a friend who has Alzheimer’s there.

12:30 pm – Lunch (hot bread with homemade jam, blackberries, almonds and bananas). I read aloud D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths to the girls.

1:30 pm – Caitlyn goes down for another nap and Mackenzie narrates to me what she learned from the reading. She settles down to draw a picture and ends up insisting that “were happy” make it in to the story as well. (The picture is actually a bunch of brown circles with each representing a member of Zeus’s family from a family tree shown in the book.)

“Zeus was the strongest of Cronus’ sons. Cronus swallowed his sons and daughters except Zeus because Zeus’ mother hid him. His mother wrapped a stone in baby clothes and gave it to Cronus and he swallowed it.”

2:15 pm – I remember that we forgot to do the phonogram flashcards that morning so we do all 26 single letter cards and go over the tricky ones a few times.

2:30 pm – Mackenzie finishes drawing those circles and heads to quiet time with D’Aulaire’s book under her arm. She also ends up reading the Disney Hercules book for another take on Greek Gods (apparently). I nap.

4:00 pm – We play outside, run a few errands, start dinner, and welcome Daddy home.

6:00 pm – While dinner is cooking, Mackenzie asks to do history, the final checkbox on our school list today. We talk about what history vs. pre-history is and how we can dig things up and try to guess at how old they are and what life was life long ago, and that God has told us how the world was created (though we don’t understand it fully) and what happened even BEFORE the world was created. We read the first chapter of the Old Testament Reader and Mackenzie narrates what she learned to me.

“We were in heaven before we were on Earth. Satan was bad and he wanted everyone in heaven to follow him. Heavenly Father had a plan and Satan had a plan. We had spirit bodies then.”

7:30 pm – After dinner, Scott whisks Mackenzie off on a special first day of school celebration date!

Verdict

Not counting our walk and Mackenzie’s quiet reading time, school was probably 2 or 2 1/2 hours spread out over the course of a day.

So far, so good. Tomorrow is science instead of history and I haven’t checked out our books on timber rattlesnakes (Mackenzie’s choice of animal to study first) yet. So we’ll hit up the library and run around the library park for P.E. :)

It’ll be a whole new story to have Caitlyn awake for most of school. Wish me luck!

*We’re still finalizing the name but Veritas Academy is Scott’s current favorite.

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About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to two beautiful girls and one boy.
This entry was posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Our First Day of Homeschool – The Nitty and Gritty

  1. denise gonda says:

    Anne, Looks so great!

  2. Laura says:

    I like your point about year-round schooling. One reason why I’ve waited to work with Owen on the reading textbook is the writing component–like Mackenzie, he’s not big on writing and the time it takes to form letters. I feel like I’ve just received permission to skip it ;)

    Good luck! You’ve got a great start.

  3. Heather J says:

    Enjoy! We are nearing the end of our first year of homeschooling (for “kindergarten” and with 2 younger ones in the house) and one of the books I loved reading was “The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child” by Linda Dobson. Each family and child is different but I will say that things look much more relaxed around our house than they did at the beginning of the year. Best of luck for a wonderful experience.

  4. Katie says:

    Anne, I am so impressed and fascinated by you and your fun little family! I’ve never planned on homeschooling (let’s be honest, it’s more out of laziness on my part than anything else), but Olivia’s thirst for reading and writing and letters and math and counting and everything else has already made me realize that, at this point, if I were to start her in preschool in the fall she’d already be above what they’d be going over (for 3 year olds). I’m still planning on putting her in public school once she’s old enough, but in the mean time I’ve been focusing on doing as much with her at home as I can*. And I think if she keeps going at the rate she’s at, I’ll definitely need to be doing supplemental activities/educational stuff with her after school and during the summers. Anyway, that is my long-winded way of saying that I am totally looking forward to reading more of these posts. :)

    *We started doing the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with Olivia a couple weeks ago (thanks to recommendations from you and Tiffany and a few other friends). At first she loved it, then she hated it (when the lessons started getting longer). So now I’ve started only doing anywhere from 1-4 tasks at a time and she is totally loving it again. So it may end up being more like “Teach Your Child To Read in 5000 Easy Lessons,” but at least they’re easy and enjoyable now!

    P.S. Do you sometimes feel judged by others for doing so many great at-home educational things with Mackenzie? (Since, like you said, you’ve been teaching her casually already for years.) Because I don’t feel like I’ve done nearly as much great stuff as you have, but I already feel judged sometimes for the things I do with Olivia. I’ve always personally believed in teaching children whatever they’re ready for, whenever they’re ready for it, regardless of their age. But every now and then I seem to encounter people that judge me as being some harsh dictator of a parent just because my 2 year old knows the alphabet. Do you experience that? And, more importantly, do you have any great advice for how to respond to that in a positive way?

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