Thinking About Schedules and Universal Pre-K. Reflections, Week 7

This week has been very low-key here in our humble homeschool. Our 4th unit was slowly wrapping up and punctuated by Elizabeth working ahead on the phonics worksheets and visits to the library.

I didn’t plan much this week besides one library visit in a neighboring town, in which my grandmother was to go with us to watch my toddler son. This was going to be the last day of the unit, and involved doing a little research at the library. I knew that we could do the research on the computer, and that it would probably go more smoothly, but I thought that I’d give the library trip a try. I knew that it could backfire because Elizabeth associates library with ‘games’ as opposed to ‘school,’ and I knew that if I dropped my son off at my grandmother’s then she would balk at not being left as well, so I devised the best plan I could, which included my grandmother accompanying us to the library. But, I could not get her to participate at all, or even listen to me, she only wanted to play on the cool touch screen computer and with the toys they have set in the corner. I’m not much disturbed by this though, as the girl is only four, and I’d say there are a mightily many more chances to learn how to use an electronic card catalogue and then search for your book – which I had problems with because I am not super familiar with this library. But, I also think that it was a good exercise, and am now thinking too that I will talk to her more thoroughly about what my objectives on going were, so that she might understand how a library works, and maybe become interested in trying next time.


Scorpion, our research project subject. Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Mantanya.


The rest of our week was spent doing extra autumn-cleaning on things that are out of the usual routine. My dad was also on vacation, so we took advantage of his free time and visited with him a lot.  I’ll admit that I’m also reading the Harry Potter series, and just plain felt like reading this week! I’m not worried though that we have had a week in which we did little of the curriculum, I had actually considered taking a week off every 6th week.

When I attended community college, the schedule ran as such: a 15-week semester broken into 5-week blocks, with the 6th week free. It was wonderful – absolutely wonderful! That week off helped me recharge, and relax. I don’t recall any semester ending with me feeling like I had just run a 100K and on the brink of collapse, just dragging my feet along muttering, “One foot after the other,” over and over again to get through exams. I felt like that EVERY semester in high school and when I went on to get my B.A. Nope, in community college, I felt fresh and clear for exams because of those routine, week-long breaks.

I have seriously considered adding breaks just like these into our own homeschool routine for everyone’s mental health. But when the real week 6 rolled around, I felt re-charged by Elizabeth’s sparked interest in the activities in the absence of a rigid schedule, so I continued at her pace and requests into the 4th unit. This week, our unit’s manipulatives have all ready been manipulated, and we were left with just a few loose ends and motivation to participate I life, so that’s what we did.

Tied into our low-key week is the fact that Elizabeth has taken three consecutive naps this week, which are over the hour in which we usually do our school projects. This is fine. Actually, needing and missing naps was one of the biggest reasons that I did not send her to universal pre-k this year at the public school. New York State has enacted all-day pre-k this year, and I just felt like that was too long a day for a 4-year-old. When I heard in late spring from a member of the school board that all-day pre-k was the probability rather than just a possibility, that was when I began seriously looking into homeschooling, and bought the boxed curriculum. At that time, Elizabeth still needed a nap, and I knew, absolutely knew, that she would not take a nap at school, even if given a quiet time. Since then, it did become apparent that naps were not working any more, and I allowed her to drop them, but she still takes one about once a week. I think all-day pre-k would be too exhausting for my 4-year-old.


Phonics sheet

As we finish up our 7th week of homeschooling, and the public schools are finishing up their first full week, my experience so far tells me that the rigid routine would have been too much for her too if I has sent her to public school. One of my favorite things about homeschooling so far is that I don’t have to rush her out the door anymore, she actually rushes me through breakfast so that we can do a school project! But when I tried to enact a school-like structured routine, she became grouchy and resistant to the work. I don’t think that public school would have been any better, nor that, after the initial fun of ‘going to school’ wore off, she would like it at all. I highly doubt that she would like to be shuffled from one subject to the next – for 6 hours! Here at home, she goes and rifles through the materials pile I have in the living room, and she presents what she finds interesting, and that’s what we do. Or, I offer her an option if I have something in mind which doesn’t have materials in the pile, like painting. After that, she may keep on working on her own, or help clean up to move onto something else. But to be in the middle of a creativity attack and told to clean up for some other subject, well it would just be plain old rude, and I think that her personality would really make her hard to work with if that were the norm. She would resist being obligated to switch gears, and just like our homeschool started out fun but then kind of lost it’s excitement, she would be miserable, and she would show it. I liken it to being interrupted while writing, but right when you are in the thick of your thoughts and really concentrating. Or else, to watching a really exciting movie for the first time and being interrupted right at the climax. It sucks.

I also had the pleasure this week to speak with the woman who would have been Elizabeth’s teacher. She has one of those people who are made to work with kids, and I’ll admit that I feel kind of regretful that Elizabeth wouldn’t get to know her as a teacher. She said that she had been looking forward to having my daughter in her class so that they could talk superheroes, too.

I feel regretful that Elizabeth won’t know this woman as a teacher, but I don’t at all regret that she’s not going to school, because, though she tried to sound hopeful, it was evident that the change from half-day to whole-day pre-k was difficult for her too. She told me that both pre-k classes this year are in the elementary school, as opposed to the children’s center where Elizabeth had attended nursery school. They have also been given classrooms without bathrooms, which makes for lots of potty breaks interrupting class time as the kids aren’t allowed to go unsupervised. My daughter is extremely resistant to going on demand for some reason, it’s her body and she decides when she will use the bathroom thus! I gave up the fight of even trying to make her go to the bathroom before bed when I was potty conditioning her. The teacher also told me that the pre-k students had not even made it to the cafeteria – thank goodness! I can’t imagine 4-year-olds in the cafeteria with high-schoolers (our public school is small enough to be a central school, now grades pre-k through 12). I remember being scared of high schoolers in elementary school. I’ll keep my kid from that, thanks.

Lastly, they have bussed the pre-k kids separately in years past, but they were going to bus them with the older kids this year, whether pre-k was half or whole day. That bothered me. It would also have bothered me to have had to wake my son up from his nap to go pick up his sister from school if I had decided to drop her off and pick her up myself. Naps are so important!

And after what I would have paid in gas money, clothes, and supplies, I figure that homeschooling probably is costing as much this year as it would have cost to send Elizabeth to public school anyway.

So, here we are in our Seed To Seedling homeschooling, humbly yet happily encouraging the love of learning, and letting some lessons come in their due course, like cafeteria and bus fears, but not today.

What else have we been up to? Here’s a sampling:

  • image

    iPad scribbles

    Independent letter writing, including making a list of friends to invite over for play dates

  • Playing new ABC iPad games in English and Spanish
  • Learning the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and dictating both for me to write down
  • Reading about scorpions
  • Nature walks and exploring outer productive garden
  • IDing bird songs in our woods

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