Homeschooling

Question: How to Homeschool a Preschooler?

I received a timely request from a reader the other day. She asked a sensible question, which ran as follows:

With the new school year approaching, I would love your input on beginner homeschooling with a preschooler. How did you structure your day when you first started, and what did you focus on during those first years as a homeschool mom?  What should I do for Morning Time? What is Morning Time? Do you have any other tips to keep me sane and joyful?

I’ll give my best to answer this question by breaking it down into sections.

What did you focus on during your first years of homeschooling?

I started homeschooling when my eldest was about 5 years old. I also had twin 3-year-olds, and a baby. Now this sounds busy, and it was, but it was worth it.

Here was my “crew” about a year after we started in 2012.

Our “homeschooling” day consisted of reading a lot of books. When I was tired, I played audio books. We also went on daily walks and met other moms at the park.

Even in colder weather, we always tried to get outside for my sanity.

While we did do “seat work,” it wasn’t much…a math workbook, a phonics book, and a book where The Eldest could trace letters. I can’t remember much else.

I do remember stressing out because I thought she was supposed to be a whiz at math facts–adding and subtracting single digits with the snap of a finger. I bought flash cards and wrung my hands because she wasn’t very quick. If I could do it again, I’d cut that part out. Of course math facts are important, but not to the point of tears.

The focus of those first years was just to enjoy reading and being outdoors and learning to help around the house.

What we didn’t do was technology. In other words, very little screen time was ever allowed.

How did you structure your day when you first started homeschooling?

Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have always begun the day with prayer. This has evolved over the years, as to what and how we prayed, but we’ve always done it. For how can one be a decent wife, mother, and teacher without Jesus? Not possible.

So, prayer first. Then, I just followed the natural rhythm of the day. After breakfast and clean-up, I liked to do “school” right off the bat for the simple reason that we could be done for the day.

Then I remember daily walks around the neighborhood. Then lunch. Then naps. And oh! Blessed Day if the younger children fell asleep at the same time, and I could nap too.

Afternoons were always a bit difficult, however, if there wasn’t anything to do. At times, I felt lonely. I suspected I called my mom a lot, just to chat with an adult.

What else did we do?

I took all the children everywhere, just to get out of the house…Target, the grocery store, more neighborhood walks, a friend’s house…I learned how to cook, experimenting with different recipes and ingredients. I eventually learned a little bit about gardening.

We read more books.

What is Morning Time?

Cindy Rollins coined the term “Morning Time,” I believe. It’s just a time when Mom and all the children gather together for prayer and school for a short while. It varies from household to household.

We’ve always started Morning Time with a short prayer, followed by whatever song I want to learn. Right now, it’s Ave Maris Stella, a traditional Vespers hymn. When the children were all little, I seem to remember learning other favorite hymns and also the different parts of the Traditional Latin Mass, like Credo III or something.

After prayer, the children recite whatever poem they are memorizing. Today it’s Shakespeare’s Sonnet 27 for the older children and “O Wind” by Robert Louis Stevenson for the younger ones. Years ago, when I started, we did a lot of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.

In the beginning of my homeschool career, that was likely all for Morning Time. Now, however, we’ve added our Latin vocabulary and any other school songs we may be working on for grammar, writing and rhetoric, or geography.

What should I do for Morning Time?

You should do whatever you’d like all the children to learn together. I would of course recommend poetry. And then, think about what you would like to learn. That’s how I choose most of our material, especially the poetry, songs, and Bible verses that we’ve memorized over the years.

I’ve found that if I’m interested in the material, the children will be too, and if I’m not, they’re not.

Ultimately, you can do whatever suits your fancy! And, feel free to return to family favorites. I’ve written about this before. There are certain poems that we always recite at particular times of the year every year.

Other tips for maintaining sanity and joy?

Yes, read A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. She lays everything out beautifully, getting First Things first.

In particular, I like her recommendation of getting out of the house by yourself from time to time. I generally spend a few hours away every Saturday. It’s restorative for me.

There are other things that help with sanity and joy too. I am thinking of a weekly Adoration hour, just for you. Then also, be sure to go to confession at least once a month. We all need it.

Lastly, if you aren’t already, pray a rosary together as a family, daily. If that seems overwhelming, just start somewhere, maybe a decade or two. The point is to start now and work towards the whole as soon as you can.

The beginning of the Second Homeschool Year and pregnant with Number 5!

Does this help? Let me know if I need to be more specific in any area. Also, if anyone else has anything to add, be sure to comment below. I tend to forget things.

P.S. If you’d like another book recommendation…read Michael O’Brien’s Landscape with Dragons. Not only does he lay out great guidelines for what makes a book good, but there’s also a book list in the back that I found helpful for children.

Life is Worth Living

Life Goes On

As I sit here and type, life goes on all around me.  Sounds of Julian Lage’s latest album drift in from the dining room.  I can hear the three older children chatting and laughing while washing the dinner dishes.  A few of the other children are playing on the swing set out my window with my husband.  And I just finished folding a load of laundry.  It’s rather peaceful around here.

But in the meantime, the media spins and screams and dictates and shames all day long.

What to do?  Today I thought I’d offer a few suggestions that might help.  Read through them if you want.  Take what you need and discard anything that overwhelms you.

A Few Thoughts to Consider

  1. Sigh.  Maybe it’s time for a “media” break?  If the news is getting to you, shut it off.

I hate to be a downer, but I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.  Think of 9/11.  Think of all the security measures that resulted from that tragic event–the security measures that came and stayed.

As our culture becomes more and more obsessed about health (and less and less concerned about the soul), there will be fewer and fewer personal freedoms.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t happen every year–I mean a Mandated Stay at Home Law every winter and spring.  New viruses will come after all, and we’ve just set a precedent–lock down for everyone.

That’s kind of a depressing thought, however true I think it is.  So for me, I’ve got to step away from the media for awhile.

2.  This may sound a bit crazy, but assess your local situation as regards to the Sacraments.  Are your bishops and priests finding ways to nourish your souls?  If not, consider moving to where these things are happening.  For if our culture continues on this current trend of limiting personal freedoms and shutting down the Sacraments, it will be necessary to have courageous bishops and priests willing to sacrifice their lives, perhaps literally, to ensure the survival of the Faith.

If you’re curious, our priest here delivered a dynamite homily yesterday about seeing this current situation for what it is.  He starts at about 17:20, and I can tell you, he had our attention.  (Yes, that’s my kid screaming about halfway through.  Embarrassing.)  We are so thankful for his witness.  And for our bishop.

3.  Organize your family life.  You need a schedule for everyone’s sanity.  If you struggle with this concept, get a copy of Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  She gets her priorities right–prayer first, everything else next, etc.

4.  Speaking of prayer…have you considered praying the breviary?  These are the ancient prayers, psalms, and readings of the Church.  They are the Church’s Divine Office–a heartbeat of love to the Father.  Of course I would recommend praying the Roman Breviary, but if that’s too much for you, start with the Christian Prayer book.

If you’d like more information on the breviary and it’s history, read Pius Parsch’s The Breviary Explained.  My husband couldn’t put it down.  Consider giving that book to your husband for Father’s Day.

5.  Learn how to garden.  Now I am no expert at this, but over the years my husband and I have just plugged away at it, and it’s always been rewarding.  Even if we have crop failures, like the year we thought we planted cucumbers, but didn’t, or the time the carrots didn’t come up, or the time the boys pulled all the onions because they thought they were weeds…  But something always does manage to grow, and it’s fun eating it.

6.  Enjoy a glass of wine with your husband tonight.  Let the kids watch Lilies of the Field and play a hand of cards.

And Just For Fun

A reader was recently inspired by my post on Art Walls.  She made one of her own, which I’ll post below.

IMG_2540.jpg
It looks great!  I especially love The Little Flower.

Did anyone else make one?