Friday, January 1, 2010

Back from hiatus

Well, that was a longer break than I anticipated. Life got in the way -- Nugget moved into a more gross motor phase and just didn't have the motivation to sit down to activities, and I became pregnant with our second child and got quite sick.

But we're starting a new year, I'm in my third trimester and feeling much better, and Nugget is back to her more mental self. So my husband and I decided that if we're going to get a routine of homeschooling going, we should do it before #2 (Sprout) comes along.

During my hiatus, I've done a lot of reading and thinking about how we want to homeschool Nugget. A few days ago, my husband and I sat down so that we could get on the same page and figure out our next steps. We can't afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on materials that will only be used once or twice per child -- even if that is cheaper than a Montessori school. So we're planning on investing in a few choice materials, and trying to find ways to make others and incorporate the rest into everyday life. We're also going to stray a bit more into traditional schooling methods, because Nugget really seems to like worksheets. And Waldorf.... although I'm going to pick and choose some activities from some inspiring blogs, I don't think Waldorf as an educational methodology really fits us.

So our next step was to set up a space for school materials. After vacillating between the playroom and dining room, we settled on the unused breakfast nook. It's not the coziest space, but we got a colorful rug and I'll put up some sheer curtains to soften things a bit. We moved Nugget's easel in, as well as a temporary shelf (it's not big enough to hold two trays side-by-side) and temporary table (this one is too tall for her to use comfortably).

As soon as we'd moved some furniture in, Nugget plopped in the middle of the rug and started asking for Montessori activities. Hee. I'd tucked everything away months ago, but I was able to pull out a few old hits for her to get started with.

- Flower arranging. This is probably her favorite, although it usually degenerates into sharing the flowers with various people and stuffed friends. Carebears apparently particularly like flowers. I got the vases from a former Montessori teacher and the flowers at Ikea.

- Clothespins. Nugget removes the lid of the box and places clothespins around the edges. She didn't choose to do this activity.

- Beads. Simply stack beads on the dowel. I'd intended for her to replicate patterns, but she isn't quite there yet. Right now, it's just fun to stack randomly.

That evening, I went through my homeschooling materials to set up a few more activities.

- Puzzle. Nugget has done the summer and fall versions, but this winter one was new to her. Over the summer, puzzles were her favorite thing and she'd blow through them. Now, though, she has little interest and they take her a lot longer. The novelty of this one got her to do it once (with a lot of help), but she hasn't picked it up again.

- Pouring. So traditionally Montessori! The pitchers and small stones are also from the former teacher. Nugget has gone back to this a few times, pouring back and forth a time or two and then returning it.

- Shape game. I bought a few books that are filled with math and language arts games, because Nugget LOVES the idea of playing games together (although she's not at the point where she can follow directions for board games). In this game, I gave her the pictures one at a time to sort onto their correct sheet. I was quite surprised -- the last time we'd done shapes, she hadn't comprehended the square/rectangle difference. This time she had no problems at all. After one round of her sorting shapes, I had her run the game while I sorted. I might have made a few... mistakes, which she got a kick out of pointing out to me.

- Worksheets. Nugget does love her worksheets. Since she has little interest in drawing, her skills in pencil/crayon control are pretty poor. So the worksheets are a good way to get her to practice. We did some where she had to draw lines between matching items (for fine motor control -- I know she can match), as well as some math (identifying "1", both as a value and as a number) and some language arts (beginning sounds). She blew through all of them with no problems at all.

The onus is now on me to keep up the motivation to put out new activities each evening. Nugget is quite interested in "doing school", but I've had a hard time pushing myself to do something about it. Hopefully I can turn this into a habit before life -- in the form of Sprout's arrival -- gets in the way again.

How about some concrete goals?

- Continue along general Montessori path for language arts and math daily
- New or altered practical life activity as interest wanes; at least every few days
- New worksheets whenever previous have been completed; at least one fine motor, one math, one language arts
- Craft project twice a week (Wed/Fri?)
- Science twice a week (Tue/Thu?)
- Geography/culture once a week (Mon?)

That seems doable. Spreading it out means I won't feel as lost each evening trying to come up with something new. And it leaves us a lot of time/flexibility for following her interests and lead. At this age, I don't want our day to be focused around school, but rather focus school around her interests.

I'll try to update here regularly, to keep myself accountable for how it's going and note how we've had to alter the plan to fit reality.

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