Planning for the First “Official” Week

August 18, 2013

I’ve made my first “lesson plan” for Henry’s homeschool, to begin this upcoming week. I suppose I want to get more focused since school is starting for my husband and for the whole county as well, and it seems like a good time. I used this planner (link), downloaded for free, after buying a $20 planning book I don’t need and downloading a $3 planner that I hate from a website I love ( The $20 planning book is the one I always used as a teacher, and I loved that it had big spaces for planning, since I usually taught several different types of classes each day and needed the space. This year’s copy doesn’t have as much space, but I don’t need it anymore. Instead of using it as a planner, however, I’m using it as a sort of journal to record what did happen instead of what I want to happen.

I have the following categories listed on my HS planner for now: Math, Reading/Writing, Science/History, Art/Music, and Field Trips. I split science and history and art and music because I won’t do both each day unless Henry is interested. Right now Henry is getting interested in science. I pulled up our local library’s website and the “kids’ library” page has a lovely set of thumbnails showing the various categories of books they have. I pulled up the science thumbnails and asked Henry which ones looked interesting to him. He chose “The Human Body” and “The Solar System.” We’re starting with the solar system and he’s excited about creating a model of the planets. He says his best friend Lukka will be able to be the rocket and fly around among the planets. I’m beginning to notice that it’s all about people for Henry!

For phonics and reading this week, we’ll just play a few games I found on Pinterest. I imagine this will be our curriculum for quite a while, since Henry is not interested in workbooks. I may try to get him to sound out the next Bob book if he’s willing. He was very excited last week about watching the reading LeapFrog DVDs, so perhaps we’ll watch those again.

Henry’s Math-U-See materials came in, and he’s already been playing with the manipulative blocks. Will he want to use them in the way the curriculum sets out? I’m not sure yet. Will he be ready to write the answers down on the sheets? I’m not sure yet. I’m going to take it really slowly. I don’t want to make him hate math since he’s such a fan. Over lunch the other day he asked me math questions by counting backward by fives (“Mommy, what’s 25 plus 25? What’s 25 plus 20? What’s 25 plus 15?”) He loves math patterns.

For science, I planned to just do nature walks this week, but Henry wants to get started learning about the solar system, so I printed out a few things about planets from the internet. For art/music, I’ll just provide art materials and let him freely create, we’ll play with the guitar, and one day we’ll make cloud dough. For field trips, we’ll be doing a homeschool playdate at the park on Monday and on Friday we’ll most likely go to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens or to the Children’s Museum.

I spent a great deal of time planning, printing, and preparing for this week’s activities, even though we’re not really doing that much. I imagine from now on my weekends will be filled with planning, but I enjoy it. The next step is to make sure that I don’t get upset when things don’t go as planned!

Relaxing about Reading

August 18, 2013

Yesterday I tried to get Henry to do a few pages in his Explode the Code workbook, and it was like pulling teeth. I broke down a little, honestly, because I started worrying that I’ve made the wrong choice. But I know that’s not true. Forcing him to learn to read before he’s ready would be wrong whether I did it or someone else did it. I gave up on the workbook, and honestly I don’t know if I ever want to see those books again. I’m 100% sure Henry doesn’t want to. He’s just not ready for workbooks, period, and he’s not really interested in reading yet. He’s told me a few times that he doesn’t want to learn to read. That doesn’t mean he will never want to learn. I did ask if he wanted to try something different with reading, by sounding out some words in a Bob book, and he did that, working his way through “Fun in the Sun”, the first book in their second set. He can sound out words; he’s just not interested in doing so yet.

Today, however, he’s all about watching the Leapfrog DVDs about letters and phonics. We’ve watched Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Word Caper, and he finds them very exciting. He’s seen them before but he’s into it today. He was yelling all the new words up the stairs to his daddy a few minutes ago, so excited with each new word they made. Hey, I’ll go with it.

The only other learning thing we did today was talking about nature. We had a picnic at the pond next to our house for lunch, and he started asking me “What is nature?” We came up with all the things we could think of that “are nature,” including various animals, trees, leaves, rocks, etc. We talked about it on the walk home before swinging for ages in the front yard.

He played with two ten-year-old girls and a two-year-old boy today, so he got some social activity going on.

Good enough for me. Much better than forcing him to fill out worksheets.

Curriculum or No Curriculum…

January 7, 2013

That is definitely the question. Henry’s only four, so I know I shouldn’t be that worried about curriculum right now. But I think about it every day. Should we be doing some kind of formal “learning time?” Am I hurting him by not doing it? Would I hurt him if I did it? I know he’s doing fine with just playing all day, because he seems to know just as much as any other kid his age, if not more. Of course, I know those kinds of comparisons are pretty useless anyway, but it’s hard not to think that way when your child is not in school and nearly every other child is. I imagine this will always be a dilemma for me. 

One thing that’s really worrying me is that I want to make sure Henry fulfills his potential when it comes to math. It seems like he’s a bit advanced in that area. I don’t work on it with him, obviously (we don’t “work” on anything), and he is already starting to figure out multiplication in his own way (counting sets of window panes and imagining more in his head, adding sets of numbers, etc) and can count by threes in his head. He seems to love numbers, always asking us addition problems and preferring that we get the answers wrong so he can help us figure it out. So here’s the dilemma: how do I encourage him to develop that skill without killing his love for it? My other dilemma is that he strongly resists anything that I want him to do. If he gets the sense that I am requiring something of him, he shuts down. Ah. Wish me luck.

Still Learning

November 9, 2012

We’ve still been living and learning and enjoying our time together, but obviously I haven’t been posting about it! We’re definitely going the “unschooling” route this year. Henry rejects any attempts at structured learning, and I can’t say I blame him: he’s four! I frequently feel this pressure (not from anyone in particular; just from society and from the fact that nearly every 4-year-old is in preschool) to do some “schooly” things, but when I try they never work out quite like I’ve planned. And I’ve noticed that Henry seems to be learning quite a bit anyway just from life. I’ve never sat him down and taught him letters or numbers or anything, really, and yet he knows them. At some point we’ll definitely need some structure, but for right now I’m just letting him play and explore. In the meantime, I’m continuing to read and research pretty much every possible aspect of homeschooling and how children learn. I’m also making plans to create a playroom/homeschool room for Henry. I don’t think I need a room for him to “do school” in, because I think his learning will always be more relaxed than that. But I’d like to use our extra bedroom as a space for him to play, read, paint, draw, etc. 

I’m noticing lately that Henry is getting a little frustrated that he can’t read words on his own instead of always having me read to him. I’ve told him that we can work on learning to read whenever he wants, and of course I show him how to read specific words whenever he requests it. The other day, he actually asked if I would give him another reading lesson from the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book. It’s horrendously boring, though, so he lost interest before we finished the lesson.

Physical Me (Monday, 10/1)

October 3, 2012

I bought a book called The Complete Resource Book for Preschoolers to give me some ideas for activities. It’s geared toward preschool classrooms, but I can use many of the ideas with Henry. The curriculum is set up by two-week units. Today we started some of the activities in one of the first units. We won’t do all the activities, and if he doesn’t respond well to any of them I certainly won’t push them, but it might be fun to try a little bit of a unit approach.

The unit we’re doing is all about Henry himself – his body, his mind, his senses, his feelings. The first couple of days are devoted to “Physical Me,” so we played Body Parts Bingo using some cards included in the book. We also investigated thumbprints using a blueberry-scented inkpad I bought at the teacher store the other day. Henry wasn’t as interested in his thumbprint as he was making smiley face stamps all over him and covering as much of his skin as possible with the ink. I was definitely not surprised by this turn of events, and I encouraged it! (He’s still a little blue a day later).


A really fun activity for us was doing a self-portrait by tracing Henry’s body on a large piece of paper (I don’t have any butcher paper so I used some big graph paper and taped two pieces together). He lay down and I used the marker to trace him, which tickled under his arms. 


The first thing he wanted to add was a little swirl on top of his head. I asked if it was hair, and he said, “No, it’s a pigeon.” Ha! Then he decided it was a mouse, and that the picture didn’t need hair, only a mouse. He added eyes, nose, mouth, and toes (the lines coming out like claws on his feet), and then we drew and wrote all over it and hung it up on the wall.



Catching Up

September 27, 2012

I haven’t posted in a while, and Henry and I haven’t been doing anything out of the ordinary. We’ve had trips to parks and to the library, his gymnastics class today, and lots of playing and reading as usual. Henry’s very into dramatic play now, especially pretending he and I are a Mama and Baby Bear in a cave (under a blanket). I’ll update more later this week. 

The S Word (Thursday, 9/21)

September 22, 2012

Thursdays are a little busy for us, because I have piano lessons and tutoring, and we have a few hours between in which we either go to the park or the library. Henry does really well with traveling around from place to place and waiting patiently while I teach piano or tutor. Today he played quite well with the piano students (they’re twin girls, so he plays with one while the other takes her lesson). They have an old kitchen toy out on their patio, and he’s always drawn to it. This time, he was busy cleaning it with an old towel. The girls also gave him a Happy Meal toy they didn’t want – a Power Ranger figure. He didn’t say “thank you” and I didn’t push him to do so, but later in the truck he kept saying “Mommy, it was so nice for them to give this to me.” So I asked if he’d like to write them a thank you note, and he said yes. That’s something we’ll work on soon.

After piano, we went to the park and met my friend Crystal and her kids Breckin and Bryce. Breckin’s one of Henry’s buddies. He’s a little younger (nearly three). He and Henry have always played really well together, and today was no exception. They chased each other all around the place. They went into the woods a bit, they swung, they slid, and had lots of fun, and I got to enjoy talking with Crystal about homeschooling (she’s also a HSing mom).

After the park, we had tutoring. I tutor Andy, a nine-year-old boy in reading, and we do the sessions at his parents’ Chinese restaurant. I like that Henry gets to see a little bit of how Andy’s parents run the restaurant , and he gets to interact with the two boys (Andy’s little brother Ricky is six or seven). Usually Henry plays with Ricky while I teach Andy. Tonight, he and Ricky played with some superheroes, made block towers, and ran up and down the hallway chasing each other.

Socialization is the big concern that most people have about homeschooling. I suppose I used to question that as well, before I educated myself about how it all really works. I’m not sure why we all believe that the socialization that happens inside a school building is the only healthy kind. There’s good and bad about it, just like with homeschooling or anything else. Today was a great example of the kind of socialization Henry will receive living out in the world every day, as a homeschooled child who doesn’t stay home all the time. I think we can safely assume that most HSed children don’t stay home all the time; I would be worried about socialization if homeschooling parents kept their children in dungeons, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true. Today, Henry played with two nine-year-old girls, a nearly three-year-old boy, and a seven-year-old boy in three very different places. He had no trouble relating to any of them. School didn’t teach him that, since he’s never been to school. And how would school teach him that? In school, a child is primarily with one or two adults and a group of children his same age all day. School children, I assume, learn more about how to relate to people of all ages when they’re out in the world, living their lives. If Henry doesn’t go to school, he will miss the chance to work in groups with children on projects (he will most likely get this same opportunity in homeschool co-ops or whatever other groups I get him involved in, however). If he does go to school, he’ll miss several hours during the day when he could be out in the world, socializing with people of all ages. He will also spend a great deal of time on the bus, in line, and waiting while other children catch up (or conversely, tuning out when things are going too fast for him). With homeschooling, we can tailor his learning to his needs and use all the extra time for field trips, playing, and yes, socialization.

I’m not saying homeschooling is better than schooling or that it’s the right choice for everyone. I’m saying it’s the right choice for us, and I believe the big concern about socialization is misplaced.

Gymnastics Class (Wednesday, 9/20)

September 22, 2012

Today was Henry’s first gymnastics class. He’s in a group of boys who do a bit of casual sports along with jumping, flipping, etc.  We had some trouble at the beginning because he didn’t want to remove his socks, but the coach finally let him try it with socks on and got him out there. A few minutes later, I saw that Henry’s socks were off! Somehow they had ended up in the coach’s pocket; I don’t know how he did it, but my hat’s off to him.

Henry did a great job for his first try, and I was so proud of him for doing it even though he was a little scared. I could see that he had trouble understanding how to move on to the next thing (they did a lot of obstacle course-type things), but the coach was very encouraging and I think Henry did quite well. He was so proud of himself when we left, asking many “Did you see me do this?” and “Did you see me do that?” questions.

I agonized over the decision of whether to start him in any kind of formal class, since I’m not big on forced participation at this age, but this class seems casual and fun. The coach definitely can get a little stern, but I didn’t see anything troubling (also, he was stressed because he didn’t have any help and had a larger group than normal). While watching Henry try to do some flips and things he’s never done before, I felt a bit anxious, worried that he wouldn’t do as well as the other kids. Then I realized my fears and anxieties weren’t really about him at all. They were about me. I was one of those last-picked-for-the-team kids in school, and gym class was a daily nightmare for so many years. I was perfectly confident in my academic abilities, but when we got out on a field and did something with a ball, I was a mess. I didn’t do anything athletic until I started running at 35 years old, and it was hard to run in front of people even then. So to me, Henry’s class looked like a Lord-of-the-Flies nightmare. To him, it was a big room full of fun stuff to try. I want him to always feel like that about sports and being active. I want him to feel like that about everything, actually, which is one of my biggest reasons for homeschooling. 

Forts, Treasures, and Rice

September 19, 2012

The first thing Henry wanted to do today was read this really great book: Things That Happen Sometimes by Avi. So we read half of it while he ate pretzels and grapes (his breakfast request), and then we made this fantastic fort:

Henry wanted to put lots of things in our fort. The beautiful thing about the fort, really, was that Henry actually picked up all his toys in order to make room for it.

After the fort, we counted treasures in a treasure chest and weighed them on his scale.

We also did a bit of rice writing, which I’ve been meaning to try for a while.

I’m glad we did this activity, because I discovered that Henry doesn’t know how to write the following letters without a little help: D, G, J, K, L, U, V, and W. He needed a little reminder with M, though he usually has no trouble with that one.

After he wrote some letters, we mostly just buried each other’s hands in rice.

We also did some straw-snipping and some necklace-making.

Henry was particularly proud of this necklace with only small beads.

Reading Lesson (Monday, 9/17)

September 19, 2012

Today we slept in and missed our homeschool group playdate – bummer. It was nice to sleep in, though, and just stay snuggled up with Henry for a while. We mostly had a lazy day of watching Veggie Tales movies (his new obsession), doing some coloring, some connect-the-dots sheets, and hanging out outside a little bit. He enjoyed counting how many times he went back and forth on the swing. We played with some letter cards and then did a quick reading lesson in the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book. We’ve only done three lessons in the book (over the course of several weeks) because I only do it with him if he really wants to. He loses interest in it very quickly, and I don’t want to push it. It’s not a terribly engaging book for a young child, that’s for sure. But when he wants to do it, we do it. As always, however, mostly we play. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.