Homeschooling

As of January 2013, we are experimenting with following a kindergarten curriculum. It is Learningpathways.com and it is free and very fun and hands-on. Everything is done as a game or a craft. There are a fair amount of online games and very short videos as well which can be used strategically. The structure of the curriculum is mainly for me. The kids just float along having fun. Well, they have fun if they can stop hitting each other, fighting over toys, tearing up the materials, breaking random objects, falling out of chairs and generally demanding things. We often do have fun and generally the misbehavior is not related to not wanting to do the activities. It is simply related to being 4-years-old and “spirited” as they used to say.

We have been doing a recap of the alphabet, starting with some fun whole alphabet things like making an alphabet caterpillar on the wall and taping the alphabet to the floor and singing the song while stepping on the letters. We’ve been doing pre-math stuff that basically involves matching things that are the same or share an attribute or linking a number of dots to the same number of objects and do forth.

We are doing a science unit involving the senses. So far we have done sight and we’ll do taste next week. Sight involved making a poster about eyes, making paper telescopes, playing blindfold crawling tag, reviewing colors with two color games and reading story books highlighting eye and color. Taste will involve fun taste matching and making variously seasoned popcorn.

We are also doing a unit on “community helpers”, i.e. the types of professionals that kids often see on the street or on errands. This seemed helpful because my kids ask about police and such fairly often. We made a poster about police, including lots of women police officers, and police cars that can be seen in both of the countries we spend a lot of time in. We also printed out and made great police headband hats, that from the front really give the impression of a police hat and were much loved. The kids also got blank “tickets” to give out when someone is bad. Once my husband and I got ticketed for arguing. We did some myth busting: No, police officers don’t shoot people. No one is allowed to shoot people, even police officers. If police officers shoot people they get in trouble. (Miscarriages of justice are beyond the scope of this course.) It is the job of the police to keep us safe. Sometimes if Papa drives to fast, the police might get mad at him and Papa might not like that but it is actually good because that makes him drive better and that keeps us safe.

Outside the curriculum, bedtime story time has turned into a chance to talk about Romani heritage over the past few nights. Shaye herself wanted to read a somewhat adult picture book on Romani culture and history. I paraphrased it. Some of the history is a bit too intense for this age, even given my belief that children should be treated as intelligent and capable of understanding complex issues, if explained in age-appropriate language. She then chose a kids’ story book about a Romani boy. The book includes some badly behaved police, as it happens, which naturally led back to issues of what police are allowed to do. Shaye actually remembers a few words of Romani from the language lessons she had last year and remembers her Romani teacher/babysitter fondly. And she is already asking tough questions. She wanted to know why the people in one of pictures in the history book looked really sick and were stuck inside a fence. It was a picture from a WWII concentration camp. I explained that some police and soldiers, who were very bad and doing things they weren’t allowed to do, put the people in there and they didn’t give them food and the people got really sick. I reassured her that the bad people went to jail when the good police and soldiers had a fight with them and won. She was still scared, so I reassured her that this was all a long time ago and such things don’t happen here and now, which left me feeling uneasy and slightly dishonest, given that while concentration camps aren’t happening here and now, plenty of bad thing are happening to Roma and it won’t be long before that becomes unavoidable… not to mention the fact that the bad people who put the Roma in concentration camps, mostly went unpunished.

It may seem unwise that I don’t simply refuse to discuss the harsh stuff with such young children. The problem is that with Shaye and the way she asks question after question, avoiding the harsh stuff would mean not touching even out police and community helpers or having books about Roma around. And much more than this will be in our faces all too soon in any event, simply because the issues are so raw in the Czech Republic.

—–

October 2012

Alright, it’s official. We’re homeschooling at least for now. Shaye does go to a “children’s club” two days a week but that is really just social time and it is more like good quality daycare. So, the rest of the time we are doing real preschool at home. That looks something like this:

6:00 – Mama better get up or she’ll be sorry.
7:00 – Kids wake up, morning routine and breakfast
8:00 – Reading aloud
8:30 – Singing, action rhymes, circle games, some practicing colors, numbers, etc.
9:00 – Basic phonics, sight words, book making
9:30 – Snack, break and “computer time” with Shaye’s handheld game system that is her reward for good behavior during “school”
10:00 – 12;00 – Outside time, crafts, cooking in no particular order and depending on weather, needs, etc.

My big accomplishment so far is making kid-friendly recipes that Shaye can help read and I can illustrate for her. Eventually, I’ll upload an illustrated version, but in the meantime anyone is welcome to try illustrating them or letting kids do their own illustrating. The main point to these recipes is that they are in a format and language that are easy for preschool kids to grasp. We cooked both of these today.

Coffee Cake Kid Version

Pumpkin Pudding Kid Version

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