I am finishing up my first year of homeschooling. It has been a challenge homeschooling a four-year old. I originally had visions of a more structured schedule of schooling during the day. My daughter's changeable tastes and my lack of energy, since I was pregnant for most of the year, required some changes to that original vision. At the beginning of the year she was starting to read and needed help sounding words out. She could count but I didn't notice any mathmatical skills beyond that. She was pretty good at coloring for her age. Of the items on my list titled "Kindergarten Curriculum Overview" she had mastered about a quarter of them right off.
During the course of the last year she has mastered about half of the items on the list and moved past to the first grade list. The remaining items on the kindergarten list are things (mostly social studies) that she has been exposed to, but her understanding has been a little fuzzy. I plan to work on them more in the coming months now that she is four and a half, and acting a little older. She is now reading most things quite well, needing occasional help with unfamiliar words. She can add and subtract smaller numbers and understands that different number combinations result in the same answer (ie.: 5+5, 6+4, 7+3, 8+2, and 9+1 all result in 10). She has learned a little about telling time and money. She has improved her drawing and coloring abilities and has been experimenting with perspective. Using paper, tape and scissors, she has been experimenting with 3 dimensional objects. She has enjoyed helping to put together recipes for various foods and seeing how things are made. She has helped plant seeds and seen the resulting plants come up from the ground. She has mastered potty training (finally! though we had some regression this week). She has taken a few dance lessons and seemed to improve her ability to listen to the teacher and improve her behavior (both as a student and as a dancer). I consider the year to be a success.
It was a combination Preschool/Kindergarten year for her based on what she has been learning. I don't like the idea of testing a kid at this age, because the results are hard to determine accurately and you have to train them to take tests instead of learn. However, we have some educational computer games that she likes and they have the nice feature of keeping track of the child's ability level and can serve as a test substitute. On both the Preschool level and the Kindergarten level she is getting percentages in the mid-90s to 100s in all subject areas except one. That one was "pre-reading" which, from watching her play, resulted in a lower score because she didn't play it enough to advance to the higher levels of skill. It was a case of boredom with it, not inability.
I have also considered myself as homeschooling my younger daughter (2 year old) as well. There is almost no structure at all for her. I read to her. We talk about numbers and the alphabet. We sing songs. We work on puzzles. She colors too. She is learning to use a toddler computer game. We listen to music and play toy instruments. She is making progress, too. But right now her business is play and learning about her world that way.
Now that I've got a year's experience in, I can look back and see the successes and failures. Trying to do the same thing every day is a failure. Doing something every day works. Workbooks need to be used sparingly (she gets workbook burnout before she finishes the workbook). Reading is good. Writing is being resisted, so I need to find a way to make it attractive. Active or experiential methods of learning are highly appreciated. Art is almost essential to our daughter. Music is important in our family and the kids love it. The younger girl is starting to want to do everything her sister does. So how is this going to color the way we do homeschooling next year?
I will use only one workbook in the coming year (math) which is a very good curriculum that uses methods that seem to work with our older daughter. The younger daughter can start simple skills workbooks in the coming year (she keeps begging me for workbooks). We are going to do a lot more reading. In fact it is time that we get a library card and start visiting the local library. I'll see if I can work in the library's story time into our schedule once a week. I have a lesson book that covers simple science lessons about the human body in activities that the child participates in. It is appropriate for young kids and can be done about once a week. I have a lesson book on combining drawing and writing. Basically, in each lesson it teaches how to draw an object using simple shapes and building and refining the final picture from that, then the child is to write a sentence or two to go with the picture. My daughter would be very tempted by this. She is fascinated by art and takes every opportunity of learning more about it. She also likes to make books using pictures she draws and writing what she likes to go with them. The local parks and recreation group has lots of classes that are appealing to kids (swimming, sports, martial arts, art, music, etc.). And, we have just bought a piano for future musical endeavors (Mommy may want to take lessons, too).
I will consider myself as homeschooling all three kids. So one day will be library day. One day will be science lesson day. One day may have dance class or some other active class. We may start piano lessons this year. Math and Reading will be every day. Drawing with the writing to go with it will probably be every day, but I will base it more on demand since her love of art is the lure. Our second daughter will be learning what she can based on her ability level. Her interest in what her sister does suggests workbook work, being read to, art time, etc. Anything that will help her feel like she is doing what her sister does, but helps her learn at her level will be appropriate. As for the baby, that's easy. His job is play, learning to build his muscles and become mobile. I think that I'll teach all of the kids baby sign language. They will find it interesting and it will help their brother learn it and communicate. He will get read to and sung to as well. His sisters find him interesting, so they can help me teach him things.
Do I think that this is workable or am I being too ambitious? I might be too ambitious. I tend to overestimate my ability to do what I plan. However, I think this is more workable than my original plans which were based on very little more than idealism. It allows for variety and allows for some structure (the structure is more for me, but the kids need to learn to deal with structure, too.) It covers many of the major areas of study that they need to learn. I fully expect our oldest child to have a combination Kindergarten/First Grade year this year. Our two year-old will probably be at beginning Preschool level (she seems to be following a typical learning pattern). Will I make adjustments as needed as we go along? Of course. That is the nice thing about homeschooling. You can tailor it to what you need it to be, rather than a national average or even a classroom average. I also think I'm going to add a few things not on the typical school curriculum. Getting the kids to share with Mommy the joys(?) of housework. Hey, you can make anything a game if you have the right attitude.