My daughter cleans stables on the weekends, and since her brother has gone off to college, I have been going along with her. It’s peaceful work. The stables are beautiful, the horses are award-winning and the work straightforward. We clean stalls, sweep the barn, and feed the creatures. The tack room smells of warm leather, the stables of fresh alfalfa, of horse and life.
I look at the barrows full of manure, raked from freshly cleaned stalls, re-supplied with fresh alfalfa, and think, this is life. Cleaning, feeding, sweeping up the debris from the living. We talk to whatever horses are still stalled, and some time to each other, but generally we work.
My daughter, the gardener that she is, gathers tubs of manure to take home to feed her compost beds. Content in the hard work she’s done and the money well earned, we both get in the car, sweaty and tired, smelling of horse and work and life. Her work ethic has been hard-earned, both in her education and life.
My grandparents had a fourth-grade education, yet they valued the gift of education.
Out of my four grandparents, none of them went past fourth grade in any formal type of school. They were, however, always learning. They were hungry for learning. My Gram died a few years ago, 1-month shy of her one-hundredth birthday, still living in her own home near Medway Airport in Chicago. She died in a home that she’d literally lined with books and music and animals and life. She had magnifying glasses at all her sitting places so she could see to read: books, magazines, and papers. She taught my Momma-less, illiterate Mom to read at age eight, by reading Shakespeare out loud to her and rewarded her with Mother West Wind books from the Five & Dime.
My grandfather watched the stock market daily and took careful notes. He studied the Bible with the same careful tenaciousness that he gave to everything else. He wasn’t’ “educated” by today’s standards, but he could talk to anyone about anything and made friends wherever he went. He was passionately curious about people and how they lived and was a good neighbor to all.
My grandparents relished the gift of education. They believed that learning was a beautiful privilege and one they were hungry for.
Crown & the Growth Mindset
Queen Elizabeth, as portrayed in the mini-series Crown, seeks a tutor at one point. She has all the privileges of royalty and wealth, is the most respected woman in the world, which she travels extensively, and yet she sees a need in her own life. A need filled only by education. She hires a personal tutor to fill the void that money and prestige can’t fill. She is dissatisfied with what she doesn’t know and finds a way to fill the gap that lack of education has left.
Her sister, wealthy dissatisfied jet setter, is portrayed as bored and jealous and goes after a man that won’t “work” for her circumstances. We see a person who believes that the only satisfaction they can expect in life is physical and so she drinks and smokes and philanders to excess. The demands of her life don’t lead her to seek the fulfillment of learning and knowing. Because she hasn’t developed the intellectual discipline that character and education require, she settles.
So what does this have to do with the gift of education?
So often, in the homeschooling world, I hear this idea: character is more important than the book. “Put the book down and focus on character training.” I find this odd because it assumes that character training and education are at odds with each other. Au contrair! There is so much character training to be found by educating one’s self or another!
Let’s face it, the cycle of learning can be difficult. When we first encounter something, especially something challenging, it feels overwhelming. I remember the first time I tried to teach First Form Latin. I didn’t understand the teacher’s manual. I didn’t understand the grammar vocabulary; terms like Declension, Imperfect, Pluperfect, Mood, Conjugation. It felt awkward and tough. Now, years later, I love The Forms. It takes difficult material and lays it out in all its parts- vocabulary, grammar, sayings, culture.
Learning often requires an overview and familiarity before we ever get to mastery. It takes perseverance, hard work, vision and character to grow past overview. Getting to mastery requires all sorts of soft skills, character, and strength! Education IS character building!
Education is not a given
For many people around the world, education is not a given. My grandparents received very little formal education. Kids in the third world often don’t’ have the gift of education. Even royals don’t get the education that they need. Education requires infrastructure, stable government, money, and the character and vision to pursue it. It’s a gift. Educational choice is an even bigger gift.
In my weekly Latin classes, I pray. I pray that we all appreciate the gift of Latin and Education and that we steward that gift well. Latin isn’t going to save the world, but students who learn to appreciate words and the Word that became flesh, are great instruments to lead people to the One who can!
Gratitude for a life full of education –
Homeschooling is such a unique and beautiful gift in this day and age of fast food everything. We have the time and opportunity to train our kid’s character as we school them. It’s a both-and, not an either-or proposition. You can teach math AND character at the same time. In fact, I would say they often go hand in hand. And to have the time and opportunity to train our kids well-their minds as well as their character is a gift.
I often hear that homeschooling should be fun, and I wonder where that idea got started. I’m not saying it should feel like slavery or a grind, but often hard work requires just that- work. Not that you can’t have fun while you work, but often work doesn’t feel necessarily like fun. And even if our kids don’t feel like they are having fun, they should still be educated, and we should not cheat them of the opportunity to have that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from learning and academic accomplishment. We should teach our kids to be grateful for the gift of education, for the opportunity to homeschool. It’s not a right. It is a privilege.
And what’s all this have to do with a horse barn anyway?
That simple gift of work that causes one to sweat a little and feel the good tired that comes from working hard; that’s what education often consists of. Real education – the kind that takes us beyond ourselves and transforms us, requires hard work, like the horse barn; vision, like my grandparents had; and a growth mindset like the Queen.
Gratitude reminds us of the above – that we are being given a great gift by being educated, and we are giving our children a great gift by handing them a personalized education, in the form of homeschooling.
I’ve had several young Mommas (so young I could be their Momma!) ask me about homeschooling preschool and kindergarten recently. The biggest challenge of littles is keeping them engaged. Most still have a relatively short attention span, are quickly tired, and need to be fed and watered at regular intervals. Habit is key- routine is your safest bet.
So what are my tips for homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners?
Tip #1 – Morning Baskets
I would recommend developing a morning basket for littles. This method means they get your attention first thing, right after breakfast. This basket is a great way to think about what you want your littles to learn and how to organize it. Morning Baskets for littles can include card matching games, Kumon workbooks, Memory CD’s, Poetry, Simple Bible Stories, Phonics, and math games if they are ready for them.
After years of doing this, I recommend over-planning before you get started and then going with the flow once you start. With littles, like with anything else, you don’t get what you want, you get what you plan for. With littles, you often get lots of surprises, too, right?!
Tip #2 – Add in age-appropriate chores.
Kids do what you inspect, not what you expect, BUT, they do need to know what you expect, too! One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Andrew Pudewa is that if your child keeps asking for help, they need help. This seems simple- well, it is, really, but it might not come naturally! Life skills are a big part of homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners.
Tip #3 – Add in Some Books
If you live with books and magazines, your kids will think having them around is normal. My kids love books on tape. We use Sonlight, Bethlehem Books, Memoria Press, and Veritas Press catalogs as reading lists. Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids, Ladybug, Boys Life have all been favorite magazines around here.
Pre- Reading: Read aloud 15 min a day. There are so many adorable books on everything under the sun; don’t limit your read-alouds to baby books.
Curriculum Suggestions for Homeschooling Preschoolers and Kindergartners
I think some table time is good at this age because it helps kids get acclimated to regular study. Art or History Cards are great to look at, even for pre-readers. Usborne, Memoria Press, and Veritas Press all have beautiful ones.
Christian Studies-Arch books are a fabulous way for your littles to get a great introduction to basic Bible stories with pictures that they’ll remember for a lifetime. We also have loved and read out loud to our kids a couple of different Children’s Bibles, including the Golden Children’s Bible.
We had tons of felts, and teaching Bible stories through felts is always an attention grabber.
IEW Language Acquisition through poetry memorization– this is a fantastic program and easily accessible for littles, especially with the CD. There are four sections of 20 poems each, starting with simple, short poems and ending with epic dramatic re-tellings. Andrew Pudewa (who put the program together and recites the poems) has incredible diction, so your kids will hear fantastic vocabulary and superb story-telling.
Letter and Number recognition– we used Kumon and Usborne workbooks, colorful, easily accessible, and fun. There are tons of complete programs available.
Phonics- We always used Alpha-Phonics in conjunction with Explode the Code. There are other great products out there. We took the low cost, no bells, and whistles, a practical approach.
Bible Study– Arch books, Bible Memory, reading a good quality Children’s Bible, Veggie Tales, Veritas Press, or Bible Study for All Ages Bible cards.
Memory Work – When our youngest was four, she learned 160 VP history cards that year (even though she was a pre-reader), along with 24 history sentences, several others hundred facts related to grammar, geography, Latin, poems and more because we regularly and diligently used CDs and table time to review. She also learned the letter sounds and started on a notebook-sized time-line. I say all of this so that you realize your littles are capable of learning a LOT.
This is NOT to say that you should set them at the table and force information down their throats. Kids this age, however, can learn a ton through CD’s, good DVD’s, books and great visual aids such as flashcards. Also, if you have older kids, why not include your younger kids? They are sponges. If you start early “training their brains to retain,” you’ll be amazed at how much they really can and do retain as they grow older.
More Fun Ways to Learn while Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten
Outside play, exploration, and nature walks – Nature journaling and nature tables are an excellent way for kids to display the cool things they’ve found as they explore the great outdoors! Homeschooling your preschooler and kindergartener should always be fun!
Read-alouds – At least 15 minutes a day; more is better ; )
Crafts and Art – There are so many fun art books, but in any case, an easel, paper, and paint is always appropriate. Colored shaving cream is excellent for bath/shower painting. And hey, how about a shower tile wall- works great as a whiteboard and for painting- easily wipes off- all for $15 bucks.
Gardening – This can be in the yard, with containers, or how about a Fairy Garden?
Open-Ended toys – Brio Trains, Playmobile, Duplos/Legos, Stuffed Animals. Pinterest has some adorable pins of old entertainment centers rehabbed as play kitchens. Add some felt food; and old pots, pans, and measuring cups.
Art Supplies – Easels, paint, glitter, glue, pipe cleaners, colored paper, stickers, colored rice bins, colored shaving cream to “Paint” in the bathtub, Whiteboards around the house (make a whiteboard wall with shower tile or several smaller lapboards), chalkboards and magnet boards (easily made with some chalkboard or magnet paint).
“Sound exploration” – Musical makers. Kids loving making sounds.
Cooking- My kids have all loved to help cook in the kitchen. Usborne’s First Cookbook is full of fun and simple recipes.
Gross motor skill development– For years, we had a “Step 2” playscape, complete with ladder and slide, IN our house.
Sandbox or table– a friend built a sandbox in their basement for their kids, and we had a sand table on our front porch for years.
Fine motor skill development – Have plenty of pens, pencils, markers around for the kids to play with, sewing cards, small toys (once they are past the “everything in their mouth” stage- legos, of course.
Travel/ field trips – What better way to learn about the mail than actually visiting the Post Office? These types of learning experiences make learning fun AND educational.
Singing – the Wee Sing series, with books and CD’s are full of old favorites.
Daily Prayer – Family evening prayers, with everyone snuggled in a bed together, is a gentle way to teach your littles about what’s important to you. We have each child pray, youngest to oldest, ending with Daddy blessing each child. If your kiddo doesn’t know what to pray for, just help them along following ACTS (Adoration, Confessions, Thanksgiving, Supplication). We would have them repeat a simple sentence or two, such as, “Thank you, God, for this day.” This year, we made an Easter garden.
Finally, as a word of caution…..Limit screen time.
There are so many apps, computer games, DVD’s, etc., and they are all fascinating. We use some but in limited quantity. You want your pre-Ker neurology to be hard-wired to people and words, not electronics. Studies have shown that kids learn language skills by interacting with people-NOT screens.
For littles, almost everything they encounter is new and amazing. It’s so fun to explore the world together and to see it through fresh eyes. You don’t have to be super planned, but some planning does help and kids, again, thrive on routines. So what are you waiting for, take the leap to homeschooling preschool and kindergarten today!
In our Orienteering Class, we talk about many things related to adult life and careers. We had the good fortune to have a guest speaker this month, a homeschooling, blogging, expat, living in Scotland, to share about how travel has enriched her life and the life of her families. With the emerging “Gig Economy” and the ability to work remotely, people have more options than ever before to travel. So how can you use homeschool travel as career prep?
The benefits of travel in relation to building one’s career are great and something to consider as you plan your student’s course load, opportunities, and eventual career! I’ve gathered a short list of ways that travel enriches one’s life and, ultimately, career. If travel is not an integral part of your educational plan and path, isn’t it time to consider integrating into your overall strategy?
What are the benefits of homeschool travel?
1. Travel can open unexpected doors as you meet new people. Jobs are often learned about through contacts, and the more you have, the more options available to you.
2. Travel allows you to bond with people in extraordinary ways and form life long friendships. I have remained friends with my tarp mates from a month-long backpacking trip as well as my travel buddies to Greece, during a college trip.
3. Travel allows you to learn a new language – if only just a smattering. But getting up to speed on some necessary verbs and then practicing abroad or living as an ex-pat for a time is a great way to hone skills.
*In August of 2016, my family went on a trip to Alaska with my mom’s dad and her brother and his family. It was so much fun and so pretty there! One of my favorite things we did was take a train from Seward to Anchorage. On the train, they also served the BEST roast and mashed potatoes that I have ever had, so we certainly got “dinner with a view.” ~Amme (True North Homeschool Academy Student)
5. Travel allows you to develop Soft Skills- communication, leadership, flexibility and adaptability, time and distraction management, creativity, and teamwork. Travel demands soft skills as people get tired – physically from the trip, but emotionally as well, from the barrage of new experiences, places, and even languages.
6. Travel allows you to fail and demands that you fail forward. No trip is complete without a missed connection, showing up at the wrong time or place or lost luggage or wallet. Snafus are just part of an excellent travel adventure, and “failing” is to be expected. Learning to fail forward with good humor is an excellent skill to learn early and well!
7. Travel allows you to develop courage as you see, smell, feel, and hear the world in new and different ways. As you fail forward, courage rises to meet new challenges!
8. Travel allows you to learn management skills -if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Not packing necessities may mean that you go without. Having to show up on someone else’s time when you are experiencing jet lag or not stewarding the time allotted may mean you miss out on the not to be missed sight-seeing trip.
9. Travel allows you to become a better storyteller- your life becomes enriched with all of the experiences and memories that you gather and gain. We are people of the Word, and followers of the Master Storyteller. We should take the time to learn how to tell compelling stories, as well.
*This past January, we took a family trip to Washington D.C. and the surrounding area. Although our trip was during the Government shutdown (obviously we didn’t plan it that way – our trip was already scheduled, and tickets were booked when the Government shut down), we still had a fantastic time! All of the Smithsonian museums were closed, as was the White House, and several other historic sites. However, we were still able to visit several amazing places – my favorite being George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. ~Amme
10. Travel allows you to gain confidence as you replace the fear of the unknown with a healthy curiosity. Traveling to new places means we don’t know what to expect, and we’ll need to pack along a healthy dose of courage to get through to the next thing.
11. Travel allows you to gain independence and interdependence as you craft your solutions and learn to rely on others, perhaps some of whom you just recently met- as part of those solutions.
12. Travel allows you to become a better problem-solver as you tap into and develop your creative genius. Travel demands on the spot problem solving and innovative solutions.
13. Travel rests your brain and fosters creativity. It provides a break from the regular routine, gives you new input, and rejuvenates and reenergizes you!
14. Travel allows for family bonding, and you support each other, problem-solve together, and create beautiful stories and memories together.
*Every summer, we drive up from San Diego to central Oregon and attend a family camp for 800+ people that is hosted by some of our friends. We often stop along the way to visit national parks such as Yosemite, Lassen, the Sequoias, and Crater lake. They are all unique and beautiful in their own way. We make many memories in the car on the long drives. ~Amme
15. Travel allows that you learn from geography – how places define and determine how people live where they’re at, what things look like, smell, taste, and feel like. Geography is of utmost importance in the Bible, so much so that people call Israel “The Fifth Gospel.”
16. Homeschool travel allows you to gain a deeper perspective on your home, and also reminds you of the beauty in the seemingly mundane aspects of life. It helps you appreciate the beauty and joy of home. There’s a reason why the adage, “There’s no place like home” is understood.
“We went to Colorado in 2016. My favorite memory was when we went up Pikes Peak. At first, all was well, until we were almost at the top. My mom and dad started freaking out! It was a 10,000 foot drop, and the van was 1 foot away from the edge. My dad was thinking of backing up, but thankfully he drove on until there was a wide enough place to turn around. Later on, we found out that every year people fly off that mountain and get killed in motor accidents every year and it is rated as one of the top 10 most dangerous roads in the U.S. We had a wonderful time in Colorado; there is so much to see!” ~Rupert
Travel builds practical skills, as well as Soft Skills. And, if you’ve listened to our podcast, you know, “we are hired for our hard skills and fired for our soft skills.” Travel builds your kiddos soft skills muscles, which are going to be more critical than ever before in the emerging world of tech and industry that our kids will be living and working in.
Where have you traveled recently? What’s been the biggest benefit of homeschool travel that you can see?
When you first begin homeschooling at a young age, it’s hard to know what is considered “on track” before first grade. Here is a checklist of “essentials” that a child should know before being ready to successfully begin most first-grade curriculum. For more information and activity ideas, check out this great article from SPED Homeschool:
According to Proust and the Squid by Maryann Wolf, reading is not a natural process, but strictly a learned one. Therefore, there is usually not a single method that works for every child. There may be an issue with reading if a child has difficulty with phonemic awareness skills or phonics after being specifically instructed in these areas.
Before beginning to read, your child should know:
Upper Case Letters __________ out of 26
Lower Case Letters __________ out of 26
Names ________ upper and lower case letters in 1 minute (goal is 52 in 1 minute or less)
Names _____________ letter sounds
Knows 2 sounds for a, e, i, o, u, c, and g
Phonemic Awareness – This is a huge “buzz word” in the early childhood teaching world right now. However, you are most likely already doing it. Here are the parts of phonemic awareness and some simple activities for each.
Syllables – breaking words into their parts – clap, jump, stomp the syllables of familiar words like banana – ba-na-na (3 claps)
Alliteration – Most or all of the words begin with the same sound – Sally sells seashells by the seashore (tongue twisters)
Rhyming – words sound alike at the end like cat and hat (Dr. Seuss is great for rhyming)
Onset-Rime – the onset is the first sound in a word (/c/) and the rime is the rest of the word (/at/). When you put them together you get c-at, CAT! (you can give your child the two parts and have them put them together)
Compound Words – two unrelated words come together to create a new word like rain and bow go together to make rainbow (you can give your child the two words and have them put them together)
Segmenting – breaking words apart. Say CAT, C-A-T, CAT
Blending – putting words back together – C-A-T makes CAT
***Phonemic awareness activities are very important to learning to read by phonics and other methods. It equips children to later be able to decode words, find words within words, and perform other effective reading strategies.
Before a child holds a pencil to write his/her name, there are a lot of skills that need to be mastered to help build hand muscles.
Pouring using 2 hands – pouring out of pitchers and buckets
Pouring using 1 hand – measuring cups and bath toys
Squeezing bath toys
Using tongs, children’s chopsticks, and other small tools to pick things up
Making balls and snakes out of play-doh (gluten-free/allergy-friendly play-doh is available for those like my son who cannot use traditional playdoh)
Painting – with finger paints, brushes, q-tips, cars, sponges, stamps, and a variety of other tools
Using a variety of tools for play – crayons, pencils, pens, markers, sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers
Stickers – great for developing pincer grip (what is needed for gripping a pencil – using two fingers and thumb)
Homeschooling Basics- how do you put it all together?
How do you put it all together to create a cohesive homeschooling year when you have curriculum, kid’s abilities, goals, family size, and extra-curricula to consider?
Set your Goals – Long and Short Term
One of the biggest homeschooling basics is to set your goals! I’ve talked to hundreds of parents as I’ve done Academic Advising with students from around the world with all sorts of goals and abilities. It is often apparent to the parents what direction their students will take by or around Junior High. Most parents can sense if their kids are going on to Vo-Tech, College, Military or Ivy League, if not specifically, at least generally.
Most parents also realize around Jr. High (if not before) if their kiddo has a learning disability, processing disorder or other issues or limitations.
If your kids have a specific skill set, like setting swimming records in your state and going for an NCAA scholarship, or dream of going to the Air Force Academy, you’ll want to be even more intentional and goal-directed than not, in order to make those dreams come true.
Have a good sense of a solid academics
The “Core 4” consists of Math, English, History, and Science. Of course, these all look slightly different depending on ages/ stages, abilities and long term goals, but it’s a good place to start with covering the basics.
“Extra-curriculars” include, but are not limited to, foreign language, computer, art, music, theater, dance, sports, health, speech, animal care, life skills, soft skills, Scouts, all manner of interests, and specific areas of interest within the core classes.
What field trips and travel do you plan to accomplish and how will you do this- with a co-op, camping, trading spaces with other homeschooling families? There is so much rich learning that happens when takes amazing field trips and travels, it should definitely be included in your overall homeschooling plan, if at all possible.
You can’t do it all, but you can do a lot of it.
One of the biggest homeschooling basics there is! You don’t have to sacrifice education for character training or juxtapose one set of priorities over another. Getting through difficult subject matter can be a part of character development and a good curriculum can support your child’s growth in ways that extend beyond academics. You don’t have to sacrifice or juxtapose one set of priorities over another. You do have to be intentional or something is bound to get lost in the shuffle.
How to manage it all?
Homeschooling is best goal-driven rather than curriculum-driven.
Start with the end in mind. Write the vision, make it plain, and feel free to make it outrageous and personal and epic and all yours.
Set your goals first
Name the course
Determine the curriculum you’ll use to accomplish your goals.
Student Morgan Grade 1 School Year 2019-20
Morgan reading by end of the year
Alpha Phonics, Explode the Code
Developing creativity and fine motor skills
Kumon Workbooks, MP’s Art Cards
Right Start Math
Discover the world around us
Magic School Bus Books, Usborne, Nature Walks
Understanding broad overview of Bible and familiar stories
The Golden Children’s Bible, Arch Books
Develop Memory Work Skills and memorize various subject areas
Invictus or Claritas Memory Work, IEW’ Poetry
Begin to understand the sweeping course of History
SOTW, Timeline, History Cards
Language literacy and development of foreign language skills
Spanish for Children
Student Reagan Grade 9 School Year 2019-20
Reading novels, plays, short stories, poetry, Writing persuasive and Compare and Contrast Essay
Music, Art, Theater
Life of Fred Algebra I
Understand the scope of Church History
Memoria Press Church History
Develop Memory Work Skills and memorize various subject areas
History and Lit Timeline,
Develop an understanding of how historical events interacted and contributed.
HOTW, Timeline, History Cards
Develop fluency in Foreign Language
First & Second Form Latin
No plan is worth a thing without your willingness to implement it. Chart your course, headed True North, and then engage with passion and perseverance.
If you enjoyed this post on homeschooling basics be sure to check out our Homeschooling 101 post as well!
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