Friday, February 21, 2014

~ A Day in the Life of Our Kindergartner... and her little brother ~

Teacher: me, mom!
Students: Elli and her two-year old brother
Reasons I choose to homeschool: I've always wanted to be a teacher, and know in my heart that I'm the first and most suited teacher for my children. I want to instill in them a love for God, good books, and learning about the world around them... Not because they have to, but because they want to. 
My method: I appreciate a classical education, and absolutely love the writings of Charlotte Mason.

I am excited to share what our homeschool day looks like, even though each day is different from the last around here! I have a lot left to learn about homeschooling, but I'm happy to relay what I've learned thus far. My kindergartner turned five in November. I've basically been doing school/educational activities with her since before she turned two. So the preschool, pre- K, and now K have been good practice for us both. We live in Brooklyn, NY and I don't start reporting grades or anything until next year, so that's all still foreign to me. Since I'm not a stickler for an exact schedule, I'll give approximate times and activities. Hoping to run a tighter ship by first grade, but yeah... we'll see. 

When my daughter was in Pre-K, I made up this nice schedule board with times (and even pictures of clocks so she see the times on them!) and when we would eat and sleep and do schoolwork and blah blah blah... and then baby brother came along! When his nap times started to change or went from two to one, I think that's when the chaos started. To put it another way, we no longer have that poster up. 

This year I settled for a simple school calendar ($1 section at Target!), which has helped tremendously. We just move the " today is..." sticker each day, and our usual "school days" are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with Monday being a prep and/or catch up day, and Friday being my day to prepare for the Sabbath (we are Messianic believers.) We are using My Father's World as our primary curriculum, and I sometimes add to it as well. A typical day/week looks like this:

6:00- 6:30 a.m. Toddler usually wakes me up :)

between 6:30- 7:00 a.m. Elli usually wakes up

7:00 -8:30 a.m. waking up, eating breakfast, (sometimes) getting dressed...(if it was up to the kids, they would probably just live in their pajamas... and in the winter, I'm the same way!)

8:30- 10:00 a.m. If there are errands to run, we leave the house to do those. If there's laundry to be done, I like to start it early because we live in an apartment building and the washers are in the parking garage, and there's only three of them. If the kids are playing peacefully together, I leave them alone and wash the dishes or something else that needs to be done in the kitchen. Also, I may be preparing what schoolwork we will do later on. I try to buy groceries on Mondays when my husband is home, (especially in this cold, nasty weather) so I can shop alone. I won't go into here what shopping in Brooklyn with two kids is like, even in nice weather... (In case you're thinking I'm being selfish with my time, I'm really just an introvert trying to steal a few moments of solitude throughout the day) :)

10:00- 11:30 a.m. Monday is usually library day. I do a lot of searching for school books and putting
books on hold online, so sometimes we simply have to pick up books from the desk. Little brother has story time there at 11:00 a.m. so we try to get there early to look at books beforehand. Fortunately for us, the library is literally half a block from our home, so it's very easy to walk to. If we didn't make it to the library, we're most likely out shopping with my husband or recovering from a busy weekend. On some Tuesdays or Thursdays (in nice weather), we would get together with a friend for a joint activity (they also have a kindergartner who uses the same curriculum). The weather has been cold and wet lately, but last month we made it to the American Museum of Natural History during our study of dinosaurs! A nice perk of living and homeschooling in NYC! As she gets older, I look forward to visiting many more museums in the city. AMNH is great because it has a Discovery Room for kids, where they can touch everything and participate in fun activities.


In warmer weather (because frankly, I hate being cold), we frequent parks and a new natural
playground in Prospect Park that is made entirely of fallen trees (from hurricane Sandy).

After beginning to read through Charlotte Mason's volumes on homeschooling last summer, I have tried to incorporate as much nature study as possible, and I'm really anxious for warmer temperatures so we can get outside more. We are in the middle of a three week farm animal study, so we were planning to visit the Queens County Farm Museum this week (because the temps got up to the 40s.. woohoo!) but there is still snow on the ground, and I found out that it would hinder us from getting close to the farm animals. We'll wait until the weather warms up... a lot!

11:30 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. If the kids are playing peacefully together, I leave them alone. They always come to the kitchen when they're hungry anyway. :) I'm preparing lunch during this time. If they are not playing peacefully (either now or earlier in the day), then I may get out our sensory bin. They both love it, but especially the toddler. Of course, it is extremely messy. I have decided that it's worth the mess if it keeps Judah's busy little fingers occupied. Otherwise, he's probably rummaging through my closet now for his father's shoes and rolling suitcase, which are some of his favorite toys. It's amazing how messy small children can be, and mine successfully turn our small apartment upside down on a daily basis. Since we are learning about farms right now, the bin is full of oats, split peas, rice and some beans. I've also tried potting soil (fun, but don't close the lid up with any kind of moisture in there... yuck!) sand from the beach, floral water balls (found at craft store in floral arrangement section), barley, pasta, flour, and water (of course).

12:00 p.m.- 1:00 p.m. Lunchtime! We eat most of our meals at home, and I usually just pull up my Ikea stool and sit at the kids' table with them! Why? Because my table usually looks like this, especially on school days:

Living in a small, city apartment, organization has been a challenge for me. Believe me, organization has never been one of my strong points. I used to think I was organized, but having children tends to bring out the blatant reality that I'm not! Most of our actual "schoolwork" is done at the dining room table, and mostly when my two year old is sleeping (in case you were wondering if I had forgotten what this post was supposed to be about!) Although I am more of a morning person and would rather do school in the morning, it usually proves much easier to do in the afternoon when the little destroyer is asleep. When we do choose to do the "sit-down" work in the morning, I try to distract little brother with the sensory bin, or my ipad, or busy bags (to see my Pinterest board on busy bag ideas, click here.) But it's hard enough for a five year old (and me) to concentrate on the written work without a curious toddler getting into everything, so for now, naptime works. :) 

1:30 p.m.- 3:00 p.m. ish Helping Elli with her schoolwork. My Father's World for kindergarten is very simple and straightforward, but can be redundant (and even boring... shhh) for scatterbrains like me. I choose to supplement my own stuff and ideas that I've found on Pinterest, etc. Because I've always wanted to be a teacher, and I spent a year and a half being a substitute preschool teacher, I have quite the collection of e-books and e-workbooks on my computer from Scholastic Teacher's Express that I either got for free or spent maybe $1 on. I have way too many, though, and after reading Charlotte Mason, I have restrained myself from giving my daughter so many worksheets (which she actually really liked in Pre-K.) Now we simply do writing practice on the worksheets that came with the curriculum, on dry erase boards, chalkboards, and even in salt. I will admit that I am a paper fiend, so I had to stop printing out so much stuff! I know that kindergartners don't need worksheets to learn. In addition, I'm starting to think that my daughter is more of a kinesthetic learner than I thought. She definitely recalls things that she has seen on TV or heard about, but she doesn't enjoy sitting still and writing on worksheets anymore. That's probably typical for her age, but I would like to incorporate more moving and learning activities. 

I don't stress about her finishing all the MFW worksheets every week. If you're not familiar with the My Father's World curriculum, it basically focuses on a weekly letter and the corresponding aspect of God's creation (animals, rocks, water, etc.) and something about God we can learn from that aspect (from a nest, we learn that "God takes good care of me,"etc.) We practice writing letters and numbers, counting, letter sounds, sounding out simple words, sight words, reading lessons (Charlotte Mason style)

I have tried to utilize every available space in our apartment for education without making it look like we live in a preschool, ans sometimes to no avail! Our hall closet serves mostly as my arts and crafts and school supply storage.

 We also use a storage cabinet and bookcase next to our dining room table for school storage. Immaculate, isn't it? ;)

It's been great having a large metal front door for one reason: it's magnetic! I printed and laminated sight word cards from and attached magnets. I also use the door for little brother's activities.

Although my daughter has a nice desk in her bedroom, it doesn't work for school if her brother is sleeping in their shared room. For now, she uses it occasionally for art or coloring. She'll use it more when she's older.

3:30 pm- 4:30 pm Little brother is usually awake by now, which means school time is over! Some days I allow Elli to play educational games on my iPad (which means that the toddler then must have a turn of his own), or they watch some television. We watch mostly nature/science related shows like Curious George and Peep and the Big Wide World, which they both enjoy. I am cleaning up the school stuff (sometimes) now, or just watching television with them if I'm tired! Or trying to sneak into my bedroom and blog for a few minutes at a time whenever I can... to keep me sane. :)

Since I have mentioned the iPad, let me just say that it was been a wonderful educational tool for us. Since I feel that she's too young for written math in kindergarten (Charlotte Mason's suggestion), I do allow my daughter to play math games for fun. Also, she loves music. I have recently discovered an iPad app called Kinderbach, which teaches young children the very basics of music and playing a keyboard at a slow pace. This isn't a free app, like most of the ones we use, but she really enjoys sitting down with the iPad and the coloring sheets that I print out to go along with it (included with the app), and having her "music lesson." This lesson is also usually done when little brother is asleep, because he wants to do it too if he's awake!  She sits at the dining room table, within earshot of me (usually while I'm having my own party at the sink full of dirty dishes that never goes away), so I can help her when she needs it. It also teaches some rhythm, so she gets to bang (quietly) on a pan with a wooden spoon.

4:30 p.m.- 6:00 p.m. We eat dinner pretty early, so by 4:00 p.m. or 4:30 p.m., I am at least starting to prepare it. The school day is over, and everyone's energy is winding down by now. Dinner, cleaning up, some family fun time, baths, and getting ready for bed take up the remainder of our day.

between 7:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. Kids are usually in bed. Dad is finishing up his ministry work or relaxing. I am usually exhausted and useless by this time at night, so I try to read or blog... or veg out and get ready for bed! :) 

It's been a busy day for us, and some days run smoother than others. All days don't look like this, and to be honest, there are days when we accomplish very little...and watch movies! However, I know deep down that homeschooling is in our lives to stay, and I pray for the strength I need to make it through another day. As an introvert myself, it is extremely exhausting to pour myself (the good, the bad, and the ugly) into my kids all day long.... being watched, being followed around, teaching, mediating, disciplining, being asked countless questions, answering them for the 15th time.... it has a way of wearing us down. (I'll be posting in the near future what homeschooling is like for an introverted mom like myself.) 

With all that said, I love homeschooling, and wouldn't change it for the world. It allows me to be myself, providing the freedom and flexibility I need to teach them what I know to be important. It also allows them to be themselves, providing the pace and security that they need to thrive. 

I know I will never regret spending too much time with my kids, even when the apartment is constantly a mess, the hamper is constantly overflowing with dirty laundry, and the sink is constantly full of dirty dishes... 

~And there you have it, a day in our life. ~  

Thanks for reading! ~Joanna~


  1. Thanks for sharing your schedule! It was a nice read and I like that you show the realistic side of homeschooling. It is very easy in parenting and especially homeschooling to fall into a comparison game/keeping up especially due to social media. We also do the majority of our "school" time during our toddlers nap. That was an adjustment for me as well, but it has proven to be the best way for us.

  2. Thanks for sharing! It's exciting to meet other homeschooling families using MFW Kindergarten.

    Many blessings on your learning adventure & Happy Homeschooling!