How I Did Homeschooling (Part 1 – In the Beginning…)

DSC00627Right now, I am kind of stuck, trying not to move too much so that a sprained muscle in my leg can heal. This time of enforced rest is a good time for me to write about how I homeschooled #3, not just for sharing but more so for myself so that I will not forget the precious memories. I normally cannot find a good period of quiet time that I can focus on such writing.

The beginning is always the hardest, they say. I found this to be true with homeschooling. I read blogs, I surfed and researched. I admired all the Unit Studies thought up and all the materials made up by other homeschooling mothers. In the end, I felt overwhelmed because I knew that I would never have the time, the resources nor the artistic talents to create all these stuff. Print out giant hearts to stick on the floor so that the kid can jump from heart to heart as only one tiny part of a Valentine’s Day Unit Study? That sounded like a lot of preparation work for 5 minutes of jumping and materials under-utilised. And….what was the point of that activity?? I tried joining a community. The idea was great : we could share resources! In reality, it did not work for me because I felt that I could never come up with resources worthy to be shared with these creative people (that was why I needed help, right?) and the resources were never quite what I needed.

This was why homeschooling never took off with me for #1 and #2 even though I really wanted to homeschool them. I just didn’t know how and I felt overwhelmed.

Then a friend’s advice became my lightbulb moment : Just focus on the 3Rs. So I could forget about creating and printing all kinds of creative stuff, buy copious amount of materials for “sensorial experience” and art & craft, or think up fun and interesting activities for unit studies? That really liberated me! The truth is, I really do not like Unit Studies. I am a bit of a Type A, OCD, control freak, so I would really like to know systematically, where the curriculum is headed. I like objectives and goals and the plans that will meet those objectives and goals. I find it pointless, for instance, to do a Unit Study on Valentine’s Day year after year. Why is this Valentine’s Day so important that it has to take up an entire month of Unit Study to do, and why is this day so important that the study recurs year after year?

The other thing that gave me the courage and freedom to start was knowing that school was always there, so if all else failed, the kid could still go to school. I might not be a good homeschool teacher, but I knew I was a good “coach” at home, so I was confident that with school, I could still coach at home and make sure the kid was ready for primary school.

DSC00370So, just the 3Rs. That was an easy enough goal. The planner in me immediately started planning. Just simple, attainable goals, and simple doable things to do. #3 was 3 year old at that time, so I broke things down (my modus operandi to tackling any task is : Divide & Conquer!).

3 Year Old

English Reading
The goal was only to teach all the phonics and alphabets.
1. I would start with teaching him phonics, using The Reading Lesson that I used for teaching #2 how to read.
2. I needed to teach him the alphabets of course, but I would teach in conjunction with The Reading Lessons. In other words, the alphabets would be introduced in the sequence set out by The Reading Lesson.
3. There are 52 weeks in a year, so 2 weeks for each alphabet, give and take some holidays and slack days.
4. There would be a lot of book reading but that was something we always did so no extra effort.

Chinese Reading
I only had the Siwukuaidu and planned to use it to teach #3 to read Chinese. Since there were 6 books in the series, I roughly figured I would target to finish 2 books a year, completing all 6 books before he went to Primary school. Each book had 10 lessons, so that made up 20 lessons a year. Not so daunting.

Again, I was already reading a lot of Chinese book to him, so it was no extra effort to include that in the list of To-dos.

English wRiting
1. First of all, we would just do some pre-writing skill thing that I could print out off from the internet. You know, tracing lines, tracing shapes, that kind of stuff.
2. As part of the learning of alphabets, he would do some alphabet tracing.

Chinese wRiting
Chinese wRiting is in a class of it own! I knew from the start that it would not be a good thing to force it on a young child. So I basically held off wRiting and just focused on Reading. However, I figured pre-writing activities would still be good if I could come up with it.

Maths. Thanks to teachers friends who gave me useful tips about all maths concepts and teaching of maths (the right way vs the wrong way), I kind of had an idea of what should be done to inculcate maths sense and build a good foundation. I already knew about the CPA approach that is central for Singapore’s Primary school maths curriculum, so I decided to follow this approach. #3 would have a lot of concrete manipulatives to play with while picking up maths sense.

4 Year Old

English Reading
-Blend Phonics sound to start reading

Chinese Reading
– continue building up word bank with Siwukuaidu and continue to read books

– Simple Addition & Subtraction, Shapes and patterns

5 Year Old & 6 Year Old

At that time, the only thought was : we would see how #3 progressed before deciding. One step at a time. To be Primary School ready, I only had to make sure he could read English fairly well, could read Chinese fairly well, could do Hanyu Pinyin, and simple Addition, Subtraction, shapes and Patterns for maths. Not difficult goals to attain in 4 years.

And that was it! No need to agonise month after month over what Unit Studies to do next, what to include in the Unit Studies, and how to create all the stuff to make the Unit Studies interesting.

Over time, I developed a kind of SOP, some standard activities that I would do for every alphabet, every Chinese character, so that it would just repeat and I didn’t really have to think up new and different stuff all the time. I relied a great deal on free resources on the internet because I did not want schooling to be costly. I avoided buying workbooks because I wanted learning to be more on the hands-on, interactive, fun side at that age, and not so worksheet driven. Sometimes, I made my own stuff to print. However, limited by the lack of sophisticated graphic software – I was unwilling to pay for the software – what I made was really simple stuff. I did invest in maths manipulatives and stationery and some art& craft materials. A laminator and roller cutter were the best buy. Daiso was my materials heaven because of the variety and the price.  Oh, I liked Melissa and Doug too.

In case you are a mother thinking of homeschooling your preschooler and are feeling overwhelmed and lost like I was, I hope this helped you. In the next post, I will write in detail about the things that we did and perhaps share some of the printables (if I can still find them).

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