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Homeschooling Update. Subtitle: Legos For Real, Y’all

parenting

This summer, I shared with you that we had made the decision to homeschool Remmy for kindergarten. That crazy post is right here. We are a couple months in, and since there seemed to be interest in our progress, I thought I’d give a little update.

This first month was a little rough. I had purchased a highly recommend curriculum (one I had used as a child in private school), and we painstakingly went through page by page, until I realized that we were both bored. As a beginner reader, Remmy doesn’t need to spend an entire lesson on what the letter b sounds like. I polled some homeschooling veterans and they all had the same advice – ditch it and find something new.

Homeschooling Update

Look at her cute little thinky face! LOOK AT IT!

We changed the curriculum, and it’s been so much better. Every morning, we start the day off cleaning together which has quickly become one of my favorite moments of the day. The house is empty and quiet, and it’s just me and Remmy, wiping down counters and tidying up the living room and kitchen while listening to soft music. It’s a lovely way to start our morning, and I’m enjoying our quiet one-on-one time together. After clean-up, we work on phonics, writing, and math, and then that’s it for super-serious sit-down-at-a-table work. Some other stuff we do:

– We belong to a homeschooling co-op. One afternoon a week, Remmy, Sophie, Minnie, and I head over to the co-op and take two classes. Sophie’s first class goes through a story and a lesson. Remmy’s first class focuses on science. After the first class, they each have a fine arts class. It’s fantastic to 1) chat with other homeschooling parents, 2) give the girls some time with other kids, 3) have Remmy learn something from someone who is not me.

– Remmy plays with LEGOS. If you have a kid who does not like school, seriously, get him/her some LEGOS. They’re great for working fine motor skills (needed for writing!), math, following instructions… there are probably a host of other benefit that I don’t know because I’m not an expert. We bought this starter set, and we love it.

remmy-legos

– We utilize technology. Remmy’s aunts bought her a Kindle Fire (this one) for her birthday. At first I was like whaaa nooo that’s too extravagant for a 5 year old and shouldn’t we get her to like paper or something first??, but it’s been a phenomenal tool. Remmy plays some educational games (like Math Bingo) and also watches documentaries on them.

Documentaries and the homeschooling co-op are as extensive as we’re getting when it comes to Science class for now. Remmy probably watches two or three documentaries a week, and she *loves* them. They’re not kid-centric at all; no flashing colors or cartoons… I honestly do not get it. She’s enthralled by listening to a British man speak in monotone… The butterfly then emerges from the cocoon… ZZZzzz. Obviously, Remmy is slightly more mature than I am. Ahem.

– We do a lot of art. I use “art” loosely, but Remmy pretty much has free rein on Play-Doh, stickers, markers, crayons, paper, scissors, as long as she cleans up after herself. It took one incident of “Sorry, you left Play-Doh crumbled on the floor, now it’s dried-up and gross and totally going in the garbage” to cement the rule, but it’s cemented.

– We read often (some historical fiction, in there, if you’re wondering where the History is at), but not often enough. She can read many books by herself. I should be reading more to her, absolutely. If we have a ‘helper’ over for the afternoon (sometimes I pick up 13 year old girl from school and she hangs out with us for the afternoon), she has reading time with Remmy and Sophie, and it’s great. Remmy will also often listen to an audiobook while doing art.

– She does a lot of independent play. I mean, for as serious as we all make kindergarten out to be, I have to realize that Remmy is still a five year old, and a lot of her learning comes from being a curious five year old taking it all in. :)

Is it hard? Yeah, sometimes it’s hard. I happened to take on a little more work at the same time, so honestly, the easiest thing would be for me to send her to school and have one fewer child home during the day. However, our time together is really sweet and beneficial, IMO, so we’re going to see the year out. [Edit: JK, update here.]

How’s she doing? Honestly, amazing. Remmy is currently reading and doing math at a solid first-grade reading level. She writes well, although she struggles more with writing lowercase letters than uppercase letters, and some of her numbers are backwards (5s and 3s, for example). Remmy loves reading, loves being read to, and enjoys any sort of play-learning. I feel really blessed to be able to spend this year with her. Ultimately, I’m cool with taking a relaxed approach to kindergarten, as I really want to cultivate a love of learning instead of forcing her to sit and write letters on worksheets until we both pass out from boredom. :)

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32 Comments

  • Reply Meagan November 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    first year homeschooling my kindergartner too, and I HATE the curriculum that i picked out (and so does he.) If you don’t mind me asking, do you use a curriculum for math and writing? are there any homeschool blogs you follow that you love? I am so overwhelmed, of course that could be because I am pregnant with my third and we just moved into a new house (literally a week ago) and my husband is switching his job for the third time this year. Cue me breaking out into a cold sweat, what was I thinking deciding to homeschool too??!!?? any info you have or encouragement would be much appreciated… also, can I move to connecticut and have coffee and be bf’s with you and go to homeschool co-op and introduce my two (maybe 3?) boys to your little girls and discuss some sort of arranged marriage option? No? too much? oknevermind…

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      Hahaha not too much, when are you moving here? :)

      Not really following too many homeschool blogs, but I do pop in over at Simple Homeschool. (Recommendations welcome, anyone reading this!)

      Yup, we use a curriculum for math and writing, but I definitely supplement with those subjects as well.

  • Reply Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution November 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    You’re so lucky that you’re able to homeschool! I wish I had that option, but despite not having a child yet (I’m working on it), I doubt I will. My husband and I both depend on our full time jobs (outside the home) too much.

    But really what I came here to comment on was Remmy’s keen fashion sense. I wish I could get away with that outfit. Adding the tutu was a really good touch.

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      I am fully aware that I’m really lucky to have a working situation that’s flexible enough to allow me to homeschool. :) It was totally one of my “things that I’m thankful for” this month on Instagram, haha. http://instagram.com/p/gnfvu3w5Uq/

      The girls want dresses every day. If I put Remmy in pants and a shirt, she’ll disappear for five minutes and come back with a tutu on top. :)

  • Reply Catherine November 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I love this. I think you are absolutely doing a great thing. My younger son is in 2nd grade and isn’t coping well. Prior to going to school he was a super curious, imaginatively playing whirlwind. Now he hates learning, hates school, is overwhelmed and begs to be homeschooled regularly. He does have sensory adjustment disorder and I think the constant noise and movement at school is just too much for him. The school he goes to is a really good school and they are working with us to try and help him but I honestly think that, come the new year, I will probably pull him out and homeschool him. Until I can get him in to the local Montessori school anyway! I am not sure of my ability to homeschool but I am going to give it a try for his sake. Because of my interest in it, I love hearing your updates!

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Oh man, good luck, Catherine! I totally, totally feel for you. Keep me posted!

  • Reply Tiffani November 26, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Way to go Remmy! We are homeschooling too, technically preschooling but it’s going well. We hated the reading curriculum we had, it was uber boring for everyone. We switched and she is speeding through the new one. Today she was spelling, sounding out and reading words with letter cards. The look on her face as she figures it out is worth it.

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      I love that! It’s like magic. Probably one of my favorite things so far.

  • Reply Carolann November 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Keep up the great work ladies! Homeschooling isn’t for everyone but it sure works for my 10 yr. old boy and 8 yr. old girl. We’re in our third year and they have surpassed their grade levels in several subjects. @Kristy, hiphomeschool mom’s on Facebook is a great resource. Also, Pinterest has countless ideas, lesson plans, science experiments that you can pull from. Good luck to all of you! Love reading your blog Roo!

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      Pinterest: not just for Oreo lasagna. Also for homeschooling ideas, totally. :)

  • Reply Titania Jordan November 26, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I love this so much Roo. Contemplating the same for kindergarten for my son next year. Keep these homeschooling posts coming. You make it seem like something I just might be able to do. :)

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      Oooooh you can totally do it, Titania. xoxo

  • Reply Natasha November 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Ahhh!!! Remmy can come over and watch alllll of the documentaries with us!!! My kids have a serious thing for National Geographic, and we’re always down for watching Oceans over and over again :) one of their fav cartoons is Wild Kratts-my siblings and I used to watch Chris and Martin Kratt when we were younger!
    It sounds like it’s going really well, I like hearing views on homeschooling-we’re starting to do some ‘preschooling’ with Emmett. And yes, yes, yes on the Legos!!! Even the Friends sets (sorry, Mommyish). Lu has the Vet clinic and Horse Stables and the RV and has so. Much. Fun. With them. And Emmett has a few sets (including the beginner one you have!) and they’ve gotten to the point where they combine their sets and build their own thing, which is a lot of fun. I actually love playing Legos with them haha. And they’re such a good tool.
    Remmy’s thinky face is the cutest. You’re doing such a great job Roo-keep the updates coming!!!!!

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      Aw, thanks Natasha! I’m trying to be flexible about everything (even though I LOVE PLANS). Legos are totally my favorite toy, too. PlayDoh ranks up there also.

  • Reply Katherine November 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I love hearing homeschool news. We’re doing kindergarten with our oldest at home, too. Verrrrry laid back, in that some days we do nothing structured at all in terms of “school”. But I think that’s fine for this stage. Like you said- cultivate a love of learning. If I can do that, I think I’ll call this year “good”.

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:28 pm

      Oooh yeah, we definitely have our ‘unconventional’ days. Children are so naturally curious, and I just want to keep feeding that curiosity and creativity. :)

  • Reply Katie November 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job keeping Remmy engaged and learning in a really age-appropriate way. Kudos to you for making this work! But, as a science teacher (I actually teach future teachers how to teach science these days, if that makes sense…) my heart hurts a little when you tell me that the only science you’re doing is watching documentaries. Science is not only content but also process. To learn science, students must learn about science ideas, of course, but they must also practice doing science. But… don’t worry! You’re probably already doing a lot of this without realizing it. The “doing” part of science is often called science process skills. The most basic of these (appropriate for kindergarteners) are observing, comparing, classifying, measuring and communicating. If you simply commit that list to memory and look for times when you and Remmy are practicing those skills you’ll realize that you already have a pretty solid starting science curriculum in place. Playing outdoors, cooking or baking, bath time, playing with magnets on the fridge – these are all great opportunities for Remmy to practice these skills, and for you to support her in doing so. There’s more to science, of course, but basic process skills are the foundation. Much like reading bedtime stories and looking at letters in the environment leads to literacy, beginning to practice science process skills with kids in everyday life will assure that they’re well on her way to scientific literacy.
    I know this is long. I hope it’s not too preachy! This subject is near and dear to my heart – feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

    • Reply Roo November 26, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Not too preachy, Katie, although I definitely cringed at “my heart hurts a little.” Reaallyyy? :/ I’m not abusing her; we’re just focusing on phonics/reading/writing/math/having fun. She’s only five (I mentioned in my last post that she’d be the very youngest in her class because of the way cutoff dates land). We do plenty of the other things you’ve mentioned (playing out doors, baking together), and aside from the documentaries, I also said in this post that she takes one long hands-on science class at a co-op once a week. I’m cool with not having a structured science (or even history) class for at least a few months while we’re gaining our bearings on reading and writing.

      • Reply Katie November 27, 2013 at 12:10 am

        Definitely not abuse! I just love science and am always sad that it gets left behind… in traditional schools as well.

        • Reply Roo November 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

          But how extensive is it really supposed to be for a five year old? At this point, I feel like they’re primarily learning through play and discovery. For what’s it worth, science was my worst subject all throughout my schooling, haha. :P

          • Katie November 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm

            It should absolutely still be play based in kindergarten! Science needn’t be a specific curriculum. If you wanted to incorporate it into the daily schedule, I’d encourage a longer term study of a specific topic of interest – maybe planting seeds and observing what happens over several months, transplant them in the spring. To continue the analogy with learning to read and write – you probably point out letters as your children are playing and exploring, and I’m sure you’ve provided books, toys with letters, etc. I know you’re using a reading curriculum but the reality is, with support from you, she’d learn to read even without that at some point given the exposure to the written word and support you provide for her. Early exposure to science skills through play will have similar positive effects. As her teacher, being aware of opportunities and of what is developmentally appropriate will help you to maximize her learning.
            For example, a 5 year old might draw a picture of a butterfly while playing – with pink polka dots and a smiley face. Awesome! Address that interest in butterflies and next time you see one (outdoors, at a museum, in a photo). You might point out the patterns & shapes on the wings, the way it moves, etc and encourage her to try drawing and writing about what she actually sees using scientific, rather than imaginative, drawing. This encourages skills like observation, comparison and communication.
            Similarly, while in the kitchen, you might point out the various measurement tools you use while cooking and baking. Most 5 year olds know will recognize that a ruler is for measuring, and would also immediately realize you were being silly if you tried to use it to measure flour. Exploring the various measurement tools in your house, and picking the correct ones to use while baking can lead to a fun discussion about different tools you use for measurement.
            You talked about cleaning with her each morning, that’s a perfect opportunity to notice that liquids take the shape of whatever container they’re in. This may lead to dumping liquids from one container to another… and you may choose to continue that investigation at bath time. This could obviously continue to a discussion of properties of solids. If you put her legos in the same container, how do they act similarly and differently?
            In my (biased! science educator!) opinion, scientific literacy is a life skill that all children should be encouraged to develop. It should be a part of our daily routines as parents (and teachers) as much as reading a bedtime story and saying our ABC’s is. Remmy seems interested in science topics (as most 5 year olds are). Helping her to think and act like a scientist will give her more opportunities to pursue her own scientific interests.
            Ok, I basically just summarized a semester long course for your here… no charge. ;)

          • esther December 10, 2013 at 12:42 am

            Wow, love everything you outlined here Katie! I never liked science but the way you describe exposing children to it makes me want to be part of that 5 yr course you just described haha. Tons of great tips from a pro that I seem like they would work great for all moms, homeschooling or not. Love it!

          • esther December 10, 2013 at 12:42 am

            5 yr olds course *

          • Katie December 10, 2013 at 1:31 am

            Thank you!

  • Reply chelsey November 27, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Try reading eggs, it has reading and math lessons that are made into a game basically. My four year old enjoys it.

    • Reply Roo November 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

      I’ll check it out. Thanks for the rec, Chelsey!

  • Reply RebeccaNYC November 27, 2013 at 2:27 am

    I am thinking back to my own kindergarten years (granted…who can think back that far?) but a “relaxed approach” with Math, Science, Reading, Writing and History in Kindergarten?! Whoooooo Boy have things changed in #$%something years!!! We did have PlaDo, and legos, but there the similarity ends. Looks like Remmy is well on her way to Academic excellence!

    • Reply Roo November 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Hahaha Rebecca, I TOTALLY don’t remember kindergarten.

  • Reply Laura November 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    It sounds like you’re giving Remmy an ideal and enriching environment! We’re several years away from kindergarten, but I started wondering what I was going to have to do to make sure Ava was prepared. I started reading “Einstein Never Used Flashcards,” and it’s fantastic. A great reminder that play is work for kids, and there shouldn’t be so much pressure on making preschool and kindergarten super academic. So your approach seems spot on. I hope you’ll keep sharing the experience!

  • Reply Building a Little Kid Library - NEON FRESH December 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

    […] is my first year (and maybe my last, who knows) as a homeschooling mom. I gave the update last week that Remmy is doing really well with reading/math, which is a huge sigh of relief for me. I may […]

  • Reply Lindsey December 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Just curious on your tips for developing an advanced reader like Remmy? Is it because she just naturally loves it and it comes easy to her?

  • Reply Kim S January 10, 2014 at 11:19 am

    On the note of the benefits of manipulatives like Legos, you should look into Math-U-See! They use blocks for learning math and is the #1 math curriculum across the board. You can request a video!

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