I thought I would take some time to explain what our typical school week looks like. Home schooling the girls has been like starting with preschool/kindergarten age kids – but without the immersion in English most kids get their first four years of life!
I began home schooling Kelsey when she was starting second grade. I was not one of those moms who always knew I wanted to home school. I thought about it, talked with other home school moms about it, but was afraid to do it. I guess I bought the lie that you couldn’t teach your own kids if you weren’t a licensed teacher or the other lie that they will miss out on all this great social interaction if they don’t go to school. I am not saying that home schooling is the ONLY way you should educate your children – just that you can do it without being a licensed teacher and there are many ways to socialize your children.
What led me to try home schooling was the high cost of private school. It is funny how God gets you where He wants you to be. Even when we decided to try Kelsey at home for second grade I was not sure the experiment would last longer than that year. Because I was so insecure about my ability to home school I had Grant at the private school for kindergarten that year. I thought I could concentrate on Kelsey and figure out how to school her while Grant was being taken care of.
Another decision I made with Kelsey was to use all the curriculum that they used at the school she had attended. That turned out to be a bad decision because the curriculum was not made to be used with one child in a home setting, but with a classroom. Even though the year was not the best experience we could have had I did start to feel like home schooling was what God was calling me to do with both Kelsey and Grant.
To make a very long story short, after years of navigating my way through teaching my children at home, I could look back and see a hundred reasons why it was what I was supposed to do. God always knows best.
Now as I work with the girls I see how much I learned over the years and how it prepared me to teach them. Back when I first started home schooling I talked with friends and found out what they did, I looked at different curriculum and did as much research on different methods as I could. To be honest, it took me awhile to figure out what worked best for my kids (and me!) and the same things weren’t necessarily best for both of them. When Grant was in third grade he was diagnosed with some learning disabilities. I had struggled with teaching him to read for years. I had tried many things, but finally found a wonderful tutor who helped us to have Grant tested and then worked with him for two years after that. I learned so much from her through that time and I am blessed to call her a friend and to be able to still call her and pick her brain for ideas for teaching the girls.
Kalindi and Kira knew very little English when they came home. They could recite the alphabet, but did not recognize hardly any of the letters. They could count, but did not recognize most of their numbers larger than ten. They came home in February 2008 and all I did to start with was to play some simple card games with them, an alphabet game, read picture books to them, and used flash cards with pictures and words to teach vocabulary. I found out that they were great at memory card games and could put together pretty advanced puzzles. I had wooden shapes and pictures where you use the shapes to fill in the picture. They both could do very advanced ones easily.
With those activities I learned a lot about them and we worked on language and got to know each other. I decided that we would take it easy and start in schooling full scale in the fall, which we did.
I saw how important phonics was in teaching my son to read so I knew I really needed to start with a good phonics program. We started the year working with the 70 phonograms in the Spaulding Writing Road to Reading program. I made a mistake in the beginning thinking that I needed them to know all the phonograms before I moved on. After realizing that they weren’t translating the sounds they were learning when they saw them in another context I talked with my “personal education consultant” 🙂 and she gave me some great ideas.
My friend had experience teaching older kids in Mozambique (she has literally done it ALL) how to read English and knew some of the issues I was coming up against first hand. She told me that I needed to expose them to the letters and sounds in as many different ways as possible. So, now we do this weekly schedule for reading/phonics:
Every day – Adventures in Phonics (Christian Liberty Press – Level A) we do a couple of workbook pages, working together so that they are hearing the short vowel sounds as they work. We read the word lists and stories in the phonics reader that goes with the workbook. We do two pages in book 1 of Explode the Code. We do them together as they are not yet able to read and do it on their own. I also bought the Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook put out by Christian Liberty Press for each of the girls. I am teaching them to use it to look up letter sounds if they get stuck. For instance on the page in the workbook when they need to fill in what short vowel completes the word they can look in the handbook and see the vowel and the word/picture that illustrates what that vowel sound is.
Monday/Wednesday – I dictate the phonograms and they write them in their notebook.
Tuesday/Thursday – We use letter tiles and I have them find the letters to spell words. Some days we spell words from the word list in the phonics reader, other times we do word families, some days we do sight words from a list I have. I usually have them find the tiles to spell the word and then write it in their notebook.
I see Kira making great progress with reading. She is catching on so quickly and remembers the letter sounds and words. Kalindi struggles a bit, but is doing well. Kalindi went to school for three years in India. Unfortunately, the government schools in India do not have a high level of education. They teach memorization, copying and recitation, but there is very little application. I think the years of non-learning have given her bad habits. She sometimes has trouble keeping her focus and has a lack of self esteem. I think another problem for her is stress. She worries when she thinks she can’t do something. I try to have the girls read to me separately because Kalindi was noticing that her younger sister was having an easier time and that was demoralizing to her.
The girls have made so much progress this year. When we began the year they could not count to 20 correctly. They can now count to 100 accurately, count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s. They are learning about place value (ones, tens, hundreds), they are learning to tell time and about money. Their grasp of speaking English is amazing. I can’t believe how far they have come in a year. In addition to reading, we do Math U See. They have finished the Primer and just began the Alpha book. They really needed the good foundation that this curriculum provides. They are doing great with math. We also do some different Building Thinking Skills activities every day or a page in a book that teaches sequencing.
At this point, I am keeping school fairly simple. We do Bible every day in addition to my reading aloud. We are reading Despereaux right now. I also have them work on Rosetta Stone English on the computer and let them play phonics/reading games online every now and then. We usually begin school about 9:00 a.m. and are done by noon. Some days go better than others. But, all in all, it goes really well and I am enjoying myself immensely. I feel like I am better equipped to teach the girls than I was when I first began teaching Kelsey and Grant. I struggle with patience, but aren’t I lucky that I get to work on that every day? ha ha
I apologize for that getting so long! I know that a few people read the blog who have recently adopted or are going to be bringing kids home soon and thought it might help to hear what we do. I know I always like to get ideas from others and then figure out how to best adapt it into our situation. I hope I can be of some help to someone starting out. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I do not have all the answers. Thanks for reading!