Sunday, January 24, 2016

Our Daily Routines (and Non-Routines!) in Homeschooling

We've had an amazing week of Mother Goose Time activities and I can't wait to share them with you! It always makes it extra exciting when I'm excited about the subject matter (Going on Safari) and it truly helps my students (my own children in this case) get excited as well. This week I'm going to write about something that Mother Goose Time has asked me to expand upon, which is routines and transitions. Because of where we are in life, which is Tiny B weaning from her feeding tube, our routines mean everything to us.

When I taught elementary school, the schedule was extremely important, particularly when I taught sixth grade and we would shuffle the students between our rooms depending on their learning level. I couldn't excuse my students late or it would affect the other teachers. I was constantly looking at the clock and that image is burned into my mind. In my mind's eye, when I think about those years, I picture myself trying to race the clock, and always finding ways with my coworkers to get in as much subject matter as possible in the shortest amount of time. I had the objectives that I was tasked to teach that year right alongside my planner, and each box in my planner had the objective that I  wanted to teach and the time that was required to teach it. The schools in which I taught were very high-performing and the expectations from administrators and parents were high as well. By the time that standardized testing was to take place, you better believe that all of us teachers had taught every objective repeatedly. Of course there was fun....Oh, how I loved my students and the subject matter. Of course there was enjoyment. What sweet memories I have of being a huge figure in the lives of my dear students. But to be effective as a teacher who is going to teach every single objective, you needed to be on a schedule and understand those standards like the back of your hand. If you are or were a public school teacher in the state of California (or most likely most states), you know what I am talking about and I am sure that you are nodding your head in agreement. Schedule, routine, everything in the classroom. I write this so that you can see just where it is that I come from, and how I have to drastically change my viewpoint every single day, and that this is very hard for me.

Sweet B weaned from her feeding tube in the end of July, but we are still continually working on those eating skills, introducing her to new foods, and I spend a large portion of my day counting her calories and logging them in a journal (this will not be forever, thank goodness!) Strong B is three years-old and he attends preschool two days a week for three hours a day. We build our Monday through Friday routines around Tiny B's therapies, tumbling class, Strong B's preschool schedule, and my bible study on Thursdays.

Sweet B is in transitional kindergarten this year and I am going through an amazing public charter homeschool in our area which is incredibly popular (seriously most of the moms whom I hang around with send their children to this particular school). You have the option of sending them none, one, or two days a week and homeschooling them the rest of the time. In transitional kinder you only have the option of half a day once a week, so this is what we do.

You can choose your own curriculum with the school's approval or do their curriculum. Mother Goose Time contacted me this summer and asked me to write for them as they were particularly interested in hearing about Tiny B's experiences. It started with a blogger who contacted me about it, and I will forever be grateful. I prayed and prayed and prayed and finally God showed me through a few situations that yes, indeed I was to go with the Mother Goose Time curriculum, and the charter school is behind me 100 percent and thinks it is amazing when I show them the materials. 

It has been a huge answer to a prayer that I didn't even know I had.

It has allowed me to really focus on Tiny B's true needs...Does she need to learn how to fully read today or does she need to learn how to eat and enjoy food? Does she need to know all of her numbers up to one hundred today, or does she need to have joy and remain stress-free so that we can keep her migraines at bay as much as possible? The answers are very clear to me....Mother Goose Time teaches the preschool/transitional kinder/kindergarten objectives beautifully, and believe me, Tiny B is learning them and will go to kindergarten very prepared (she is so very smart!) but Mother Goose Time has allowed me to do three lessons a day or no lessons for three days...It is all in my mama gut, how fast I want to approach things.

I believe that all parents do this; we naturally structure our time based on our children's needs. We listen to our guts.

We school in the morning. We school at night after dinner. We school on the weekends. And sometimes/many times, we forget schooling and go on an adventure mid-week where there is no mention of letters/addition/subtraction or we talk about subject matter the entire time. Tiny B and Strong B are thriving in this environment and a big reason is because I am following their cues.

But you can see why this routine or sometimes lack of routine often causes a war in my former teacher brain. My brain says, "But you need to do the same amount of school every single day and check off each objective as you teach it and give her formal assessments to measure if she is learning the subject matter!" But then my heart tells my brain, "She is five. She is in transitional kindergarten. Most kids don't even go to transitional kindergarten. Mother Goose Time has already done the work for you in scheduling how you are going to teach the objectives and ensure that you get them taught. Relax. Enjoy. It's not going to be like this forever. You've gone through the ringer for five years with prematurity/health/feeding tube/other issues that most parents don't face with children so young."

Every parent at our charter homeschool answers to an educational specialist who helps to guide them. Mine calls this year "The Gift Year." It's the gift of learning to eat and being free from the tube and the gift of time and the gift of spending so much non-stressful time with my children. I don't write much about Tiny B's health concerns on this blog because I'm choosing to respect her story (even though it is amazing and I want to tell everyone just how far she has come!) and I don't know how much she'll want to share eventually (this is the main reason...because something in my heart tells me at this point to not share too much). But please know that she is amazing and if you met her you'd be shocked at her start in life...Strong B is amazing as well and I just want to savor every moment with this sweet boy...

So for this year we are enjoying our non-routines as much as we can. Soon will come a time when I will have those objectives out and I'll be checking them off and I'll be stressing I'm sure, but for now, I'll savor the non-routines.

I'll leave you with pictures from our week doing Mother Goose Time activities. I'd tell you the times that we did them, but honestly, I can't remember, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

We learned about rhinos, made our horns, and charged imaginary beasts in our "safari" (backyard).

We made lion manes and worked on strengthening our fine motor skills and then exercised our loud roaring voices.

They read their recipe card and used the pictures and numbers to direct them in the steps to make a giraffe out of a tortilla.

They became part of a story as I read the text and they flipped over pictures that described a beautiful story about why a small animal is made exactly the way that they are. (It actually made me tear up a bit).

They worked on a rhino puzzle in their jammies. That's actually the best way to work on a puzzle, right?

We made our own giraffes exactly how we wanted to make them with only a small amount of guidance. (These kinds of projects are my favorite!)

We spent time counting spots on a giraffe in a fun little game which also had us extend it to using addition and subtraction. We used some really high-level thinking skills here!

Oh, there's so many more pictures I could share, but I'll close with the last two pictures. They're zebras done by each of my kids. I love being given the opportunity to allow each of my kids to learn and grow in a way that suits their individuality. 

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

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