Preparation is Essential in Single-Parent Homeschooling. Reflections, Paul’s Pre-K, Weeks 10 & 11

It has become apparent to me that to be successful trying to homeschool Paul around my full-time job, I need to plan ahead. I have a boxed curriculum and a parent guide, but those things only get me so far. … Continue reading

Sock It To Me (Quote)

“Any object in your household is a toy to a baby. So you can be doing laundry and sorting socks, and your child can just be putting the laundry in and out of the hamper. And you know what? To a child, that’s a perfectly fun way to learn up and down, and high and low, and in and out, and eventually reds and whites, and counting.”

~Maureen O’Brien, Ph.D, child development specialist and author of Watch Me Grow: I’m One-Two-Three

as quoted in Unplugged Play, by Bobbi Conner

Busy Beginning

What a week – what a past couple of weeks – what a summer! Good, very good. Busy, yet not too busy, so that I can savor the weather, the green, the garden, the kids. It’s only August, so we still have two months left of nice, out-doorsy weather. (The voice in the back of my mind also says, “It’s all ready August?! The year is more than half over! Only two months left until the cold autumn weather…then…winter.” But I try to push that one away as it doesn’t have anything good to say.)

I decided to start school this past week, prepared, yet on a whim. Elizabeth and I have been doing workbooks each morning, as a prep, and I started the Spanish curriculum on Monday, but by Wednesday, she seemed a little disinterested, so to keep the ball going, I suggested we do the English curriculum and she was game. Though I think the parent guide and my big planner unguarded her a little, she was able to get into it each day. I know that teaching takes practice, I know that I’ve got to find my groove too.

So, we started on Monday and by Friday, I was contemplating skipping a day, but we didn’t. Afterward, I had a number of deep thoughts on our homeschool.

Setting the scene, I didn’t have any caffeine on Friday, so felt sluggish to begin with. I also had the pressure of preparing for the ‘Bring Your Own Squirt Gun Party’ that we were going to host on Saturday. After doing Elizabeth’s work, I noted that I had kind of gone into it just trudging forth – and it’s only our first week. It occurred to me that though the units are set in five days/lessons, I don’t need to do five consecutive days (as I all ready messed up the perfect week by beginning on a Wednesday anyhow). Also, this past year Elizabeth went to nursery school only one day a week, is it necessary to go from one to five? No. We are starting a 30-week curriculum during the summer, which means that we have LOTS of time to get it done. Additionally, we are homeschooling pre-k, which isn’t obligatory for (most of) New York State, so we are ahead of the game, in my book. Lastly, we could start out at three days and work up to more. Isn’t that the joy of homeschooling – working at your child’s pace?

So, I was having good thoughts, looking at things from different perspectives, of which I am the queen. I also like patterns, so my next deep thought appeared at 3pm, as it had appeared before on previous days. My son was asleep, and I had done our normal nap time routine with Elizabeth because I thought she might be tired enough for a nap. She wasn’t, yet I needed some quiet time to write and think. On my other blog, Seedling, I recently wrote on Forcing Dropping The Nap, and though it was my idea,  am finding it exhausting to become accustomed to not having my daughter sleep in the afternoon. (As my computer is very sick and I am writing this on the iPad which doesn’t let me highlight to put in links, I will correct the link at my first opportunity. Until then, please look under the ‘Recent Posts From My Other Blog: Seedling’ at the right of the screen to be directed.) Tied in with dropping the nap, you see, is also the issue of pushing tv time back for school time. By Friday, I was feeling like school, then tv, then lunch, then Paul’s nap didn’t leave any time for play, especially out doors. And at 3pm Friday afternoon, when Elizabeth and all of her energy interrupted my quiet time, I felt that THAT was the chunk of the day that should be reserved for tv time so that I can do my own thing if she doesn’t sleep. Having at least made the decision that’s been brewing in the back if my mind, I’ve got to implement the rule and encourage her to be patient enough to wait until that hour to watch it.

On a different note, today, we hosted a successful ‘Bring Your Own Squirt Gun Party’. 🙂 It was a small party, purposefully. We actually had more adults than children, because I had asked my mom and sister to help chaperone so that parents could choose to leave their child (and take a break), but only one did (out of three.) (Maybe it had something to do with the fact that auto spelling now tells me that I spelled chaperone wrong, so they may not have understood…). It was nice and low-key, and I tried to not stress about the state of the house (which rarely seems to get beyond ‘disaster’ no matter how much house work I do), especially as we were all outside. I also kept the treats and activities simple. We let the kids just free-played, then we all had snacks, after which, they went off on the bikes. Just when they were getting tired of that, my cousin showed up with her little girl and BUBBLES! Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of our little party. My mind even contemplates more get-togethers… A potluck in the park?… Hmmmm….


Beginning With Hola

Previously, I blogged about wanting to practice a school-like routine before beginning our actual school work. My motivation was based on wanting to ease my sometimes-strong-willed child gently into the schooling to avoid complete resistance; Elizabeth does love learning, but needs to be pushed in a way that is gently encouraging yet firm at the same time in order to move ahead. So we’ve been workbooking, and she seems to like it.

In addition to the work time we are doing, there are other routine changes that directly and indirectly effect her that I am allowing her time to get accustomed to. First off, we are adjusting her napping routine by dropping napping some days of the week so that she sleeps well during the night. The workbook time coincides with pushing the regularly routined television time back by one hour, soon to be two by or when our homeschooling starts.

So, for a little more than a week now we have been dedicated each weekday morning to the workbooks and it seems to be going well. I have contemplated over and over just starting the regular curriculum because she seems interested and I’m pretty excited myself, but for a number of reasons which seems too lengthy to list here, I am wanting to wait just a little bit longer. But it really comes down to not wanting to have to stop once we start – which is a bad habit to start right at the beginning.


But then yesterday, Elizabeth and Paul were playing phones in the afternoon, making pretend long-distance calls to their grandmother in Honduras, and beyond saying, “Hola, Abuela,” she spoke only gibberish, and as badly as I feel it reflects on me, it made me realize that she must not know how to speak at all. So I made the decision then to begin the Spanish lessons.

Elizabeth was up for it, so we got out her doggies, as the ‘you all’ form will need a bigger audience than one child to learn, and we started with very basic, “Hola, mamá,” and some flash cards.


Today, after a coloring activity, we did it again, but in reviewing, she got bored and decided that it would be more interesting to play cars. I did encourage her back, but as it touched on the same content again, she wasn’t very into it. Note to self: follow her lead on speed, especially as she is not starting from scratch.

One interesting thing that happened throughout yesterday and today was that she was very clingy and quite obedient. Her nature is to be sweet but not very touchy-feely, and though she is generally very well behaved, since April when we had a stressful event happen that indirectly effected her, she has been quite difficult for me and with her brother. So this was a surprise. It has made me wonder, since I bought the curriculum at the same time, if her problem actually was that she thought that I was keeping it from her (because technically I was as I didn’t want to read all the books before hand, nor get everything disorganized), and didn’t know how to express her frustration at that, rather than it being lingering angst about what had happened.


Share your thoughts: How do you prepare for starting school up again? Do you begin piecemeal by only introducing a few subjects at a time?

Practice For The Both Of Us

For the past couple of weeks, every day, Elizabeth has asked me if we are going to begin our school that day. I have finally finished reading through all of the curriculum, and have made a 4-week plan. I even, on a whim, found a Spanish/English book that I need for the first unit and borrowed it from the library yesterday. I guess we are ready to start.

But, I think we need a little practice first.

One issue hangs over me before we begin: the tv time issue. For the past 2 years, 9am has been the earliest that Elizabeth has been allowed to watch tv, and has kind of been slotted as the ‘tv time.’ But for the toddler brother, 9am is also the time in which he is well rested and freshly breakfasted and least likely to bother us while we are doing our school work together. I am wanting to push the hour in which she watches tv back and do our school work then, but I expect resistance to the idea, or more so, to the actual application.

Opposite the fear of Elizabeth resisting me pushing the tv time back, I firmly believe in choosing life over passively watching television, and find it hard to accept working school in around tv, rather than the other way around.  But I also know that my attitude toward television is a learned behavior, and one that took years of self-discipline, one that a 4-year old would not have honed yet. I want, though, to make the transition as smooth as possible into a daily routine of working together on the school books and activities. I want to make it not seem like a punishment that her tv time is pushed back but a positive thing instead.

So this week I’ve been experimenting, we’ve been practicing.

Prior to our first day of practice, I explained to Elizabeth how I wanted to do our school in the mornings and how I felt it would be easiest in the 9am time slot for all three of us. Then, I asked her if she agreed to push tv time back for one hour for now and work on workbooks together during that time. This of course is taking a risk, because there’s always the possibility that she would say no to that idea, but with my daughter, I know that having her forewarned and agreeing works much better than just popping it on her, which usually ends with a tantrum, or a seriously long and drawn out resistance to whatever I am trying to do.

She agreed to my plan. Now, for the past few days, at about 9, or whenever we all finish our breakfasts, she and I have been working on a workbook of her choice (a vehicle sticker book, though I had envisioned a letter workbook).

And I’m glad I did! Sitting for even a half an hour is going to take some getting used to! For the both of us!

I myself am used to using that time block for a myriad of things – slowly drinking my coffee and reading WordPress updates, washing dishes, showering, etc. Now I’ve got to stop and put on the patience brake . 🙂 And turn on the concentration headlights. Oh boy! In no way do I want to discount any one who really has ADD/ADHD, but the mommy/nursing induced lapse in concentration makes making myself sit still in a usually busy hour a bit of a challenge. Not to mention the distracting toddler who insists on having his own chair, then paper and crayons, then stickers, then getting up and down and up and down (and he is very clumsy and falls down a lot). It’s at least giving the guy some experience with using those little writing muscles!

So, we’ve hit half an hour so far – only one more to go to reach what I estimate a typical school day will take… Oh my!  But Elizabeth loves books and is very interested in learning, and Moving Beyond The Page makes it seem like the kids are doing games rather than work, so I’m not too concerned that it will be too bad. As well, the flow of their program is a lot like our natural flow, except with project tools, so I think it will be really great. At this time, I am planning to start our school on either August 4, or August 11, after the ‘Bring Your Own Squirt Gun Party’ we are hosting for some of Elizabeth’s friends. I figure that there’s no reason to stress myself out with double the extra work between cleaning and prep for the party, and school. And I’m really glad I’m taking the time to establish a routine now so that the transition can be a little smoother.

Do you do any prep activities to get yourself or your kids out of the summer routine and back into school? Do you have any thoughts for me on the tv time issue?

Getting To Know The Curriculum

We are just beginning our home school journey, actually, we haven’t even started, and I’m sure some of you would roll  your eyes at my enthusiasm, but I am SOOO excited about it!  Elizabeth is finishing up nursery school, with just 2 weeks left, and then she will be taking the summer off before we begin our studies together in the fall.  I have the complete curriculum in hand and am reading through it, as I don’t like to get started with something just to realize that I don’t know what I’m doing or am short of materials.

Moving Beyond The Page materials

Moving Beyond The Page materials

The curriculum I chose for her first year is Moving Beyond The Page (MBTP) for ages 4-5, as well as All Bilingual PressEspañol Para Los Chiquitos for our Spanish lessons.  In addition, I searched Amazon for Spanish editions of all the MBTP books and found 9, plus Buenas Noches Luna (Goodnight Moon) by Margaret Wise Brown, which is an optional title, and they are on their way right now.  As my husband is an immigrant from Honduras, and therefore much of my children’s family speaks only Spanish, it is very important that they understand, speak, and write the language.  I will admit, though it embarrasses me so, that I have not done my part well in bringing the kids up bilingually, and while their father only talks to them in Spanish and they understand it, Elizabeth doesn’t speak fluently, and I’m hoping to make up for slacking by including it in our daily studies.  It makes me extremely glad, and a little relieved, thus, that I am homeschooling, so that I can make sure that fluency is fulfilled.

All Bilingual Press materials

All Bilingual Press materials

Anyway, I’ve made my way through the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum, and have read the Español Para Los Chiquitos materials. Now, I am making my way through the Spanish CD’s, which is clearing up some questions I had about the program, and jotting down some notes in the parent-teacher guide on that. I am also going carefully through the materials kit that accompanies the English curriculum to make sure that nothing is lacking.  I realize that I am going through the same things over and over, yet I feel like the way in which I’m doing this will also leave me well acquainted with the materials, and I will be comfortable with them when autumn arrives and we begin our classes.

Once I have finished combing through the materials, my next step will be collecting extraneous materials that the curriculums suggest, like blank paper and markers and what-not.  I will also finish noting in the MBTP parent manual things that I could easily do bilingually, as well as reminders on things I’m sure I’ll forget.  I’m glad I got the curriculum so early so that I can get t know it intimately and feel prepared when our classes begin.

Blue Doggie checking out some books

Blue Doggie checking out some books

I would welcome my readers to share their thoughts on things that have helped them in their homeschooling, bilingual child-rearing, or life in general.  Have a great day!