Homeschooling Stream of Consciousness – Part 1, Past

I’m starting to think about next year’s curriculum. This year, we kept it very unschoolish. I started out very negative towards unschooling, but I have warmed up to it, purely because before about age 7, I think it’s maybe the most developmentally appropriate of methods. Especially for wiggly little boys who spend a not insignificant part of their day jumping off the arm of the couch. Repeatedly. Our only set in stone, sit down subjects were reading, writing, and math. Anything else we got in was a bonus.

David is slowly breaking through into reading. He started to spontaneously sound out words he saw around Christmas, which was a big deal. But he’s still easily bored, so I have to keep on my toes when having a formal lesson. At this point, I’m reading the Ordinary Parent’s Guide lesson for myself, then going straight to the reading with him. I tell him the concept once, then go straight to the words and sentences given in the lesson. If he messes up, I correct the pronunciation and we just keep rolling, lest he lose momentum. Too much repetition and he either gets frustrated because he wants to communicate the information differently than written, or he gives up because he can’t do it.

But with this method, the Ordinary Parent’s Guide doesn’t give enough sentences for practice, so we’re also reading early readers. I’m not paying as much attention to the difficulty level so much as how well the book holds his attention. Right now we’re reading both Little Bear and No Fighting No Biting right now, and if he comes to a phonics concept we haven’t covered yet, I just pronounce it and we move on. I plan on sticking the Inch and Roly readers in his Easter basket.

I’m a little worried he may need glasses, and that this is behind part of his reluctance to read. He tends to stick to bigger text, and has trouble reading in line without drifting up or down.

I also ask David to read board books to Raphael. He has many of our board books memorized-ish, but as practice in patience, it has been very good for him. But Not The Hippopotamus is a favorite of Raphael’s, and he routinely tries to rephrase the very first page.

So with reading, we’ll keep on with this method, without even taking a break over the summer. For next year, when he has his own library card, I’m going to institute the method Jessie Wise did with her kids – take him to the library and he has to check out one book from each subject, and as much other reading material as he likes.

In math, he has being doing brilliantly. I kept him in manipulatives/written hashmarks until he started spontaneously sounding out words, then started transitioning him to numbers and mathematical notation. I figured that if he was struggling with reading letter symbols, he’d struggle with number symbols too, and I didn’t want to turn him off the subject he enjoyed. Yesterday he did his first addition ‘worksheet’, on adding one to numbers 0 through 10. Today, he got the same worksheet, only with the problems rearranged. I may start him on math minutes in the new school year.

I feel more that I need a list of math concepts to teach him than I really need a curriculum. But at the same time, I’m not good enough at math to know intuitively what he needs to learn. So I need a curriculum, but I don’t know what to choose. I like Right Start Math very much… except for the price. It burns to pay that much for something I don’t need a ton of guidance to teach. I may let him go to town with Khan Academy’s math.

Writing has been done mostly with tracing paper over things I’ve previously copied. I bought a whole ream of K-ruled paper and we will just continue using that for writing practice until it’s gone, then I’ll move him down to a smaller size.

Really, writing is the area where I need to get my plan-ahead act together and have something for him to copy every morning during breakfast.

Science has not had a formal structure this year, mostly because I’m qualified to answer any question he can come up with at the moment. But I want to add more structure here next year because he is painfully unobservant. But here I probably will write my own curricula. Both as a money saving measure and because all the other science curricula I’ve seen stink and go about it all wrong. All. Wrong.

Oh, there’s one last thing David’s been learning this year. Knitting. I gave him all the leftover denim blue from Raphael’s blanket and he is an inch or two into a garter stitch scarf. He sits on my lap and manipulates the needles, and I manipulate the working yarn, and help guide his hands. His goal is to finish the scarf by the time it gets cold next year. He only has the attention to do a row or two at a time, but if he does that even every other day, it will be more than long enough by winter.

This has run on long enough. I’ll save my new subject musings for another post. And I suppose I ought to do another one on how to do Science right.

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4 Responses to Homeschooling Stream of Consciousness – Part 1, Past

  1. melaniebett says:

    The way I use the Ordinary Parent’s Guide with Bella is to just copy the lesson’s new words and sentences onto the whiteboard and have her read them with me. I couldn’t possibly do any more practice because if I try to get her to read any more than will fit on that white board on any given day, we get tears and gnashing of teeth. So we’re moving forward with very, very baby steps. Sophie just reads me a Bob book every day. But she’s also much more likely to try to sound out other text she encounters. Bella bristles when I try to get her to sound out other things. She’s very resistant to reading and I think she only complies with lessons because I convinced her they are necessary if she ever wants to read on her own.
    She likes writing more than reading and I suspect for her the road to fluency is going to be through wanting to write down her own stories instead of through a desire to read other people’s stories.

    I’m still not really happy with any math I’ve tried. Sophie likes Saxon well enough so she’s sticking with that. Bella will tolerate Life of Fred and so that’s what we’re doing. At least it’s entertaining and teaching her a little about a lot of topics.

    I’d love to read your thoughts on science. And if you write a currriculum, I’d love to try it out.

    I really want to learn to knit. My sister has tried but neither of us has the attention span or time really to devote to my learning. If only I’d decided to learn it before I had kids! Some day….

    • GeekLady says:

      That’s the buster of it, I’m afraid of having to try a lot of curricula to find one that works… and per child, too! I wish curricula offered some sort of trial, like a PDF of the first 10 lessons that you could try for $5. As it is, RS is very attractive, but so expensive for only taking the lesson planning off my shoulders that I think I’ll end up using a combination of Khan and my own lessons.

      Then I shall write out those thoughts! Soon, I hope, although we’re still all discombobulated with sick here.

      Knitting is very easy to learn, IMO, since there are only two real stitches. I learned from videos on But I love it because you can do amazing things with simple patterns even with distractions.

      • melaniebett says:

        I love the idea of being able to try a few lessons of a curriculum. But I guess the providers don’t have a huge incentive to let you do so. This is where homeschooling groups can be a huge boon because if you’re connected, you can often find someone with that curriculum laying around who won’t mind lending it or at least letting you flip through it. That’s what I did with Miquon Math. I only bought the workbooks, everything else I borrowed from a friend.

        I’m a dunce when it comes to knitting. But mainly, it’s just not having a lot of extra time and attention span. If I’m sitting with no little one on my lap, I’d rather be reading or writing. And while you can knit and watch tv once you’re proficient, getting to that stage is the trick.

  2. Megan says:

    I wait for the post on teaching science with bated breath. That is not one of my strong points.

    (I have a friend who is a math teacher and I’ve already told her she has to do Skype lessons with my kids when the time comes.)

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