In the week after young Jack's birth, I was doing the full time Daddy thing and had the opportunity to start the homeschooling year out with our two oldest (ages 5 and 6). Knowing that we had a baby due in early September, we hadn't really got going prior to this, and being tied up with baby things, we hadn't done a great deal of thinking about it either. So this represented a simultaneous launch of the new school year and planning session of what we're going to do differently from last year.
First off, here's the new schedule that we worked up:
Morning Read Alouds:
Religion - a short saint's life, story from the bible, or lesson from Faith & Life Book 1 (from Ignatius Press)
Math: Julie (5) is pretty good at math, while Eleanor (6) struggle a bit more, so they're effectively at the same point. Both spend 15-30min on a workbook page. After this week's experience I decided to ditch last year's Modern Curriculum Press workbooks and ordered the first book of Miquon Math from Key Curriculum Press. (Recommended by Opinionated Homeschooler, whose family knows a bit about math.)
Handwriting/Spelling/Grammar: The three are currently all rolled into one. Current format is each girl gets a sheet of lined paper. (We picked up some K and 1 size handwriting paper at a teachers' supply store.) I ask each girl for a topic and then write out a sentence to be copied. We discuss what makes the sentence a complete sentence, any any tricky spelling rules which the sentence illustrates. Then each one copies out her sentence carefully for handwriting practice, and illustrates it with a picture. Picture drawing goes on for a while, so this is a 30-60min block.
One or both girls take a turn at practicing reading while the other is still coloring and writing. (It's especially important to keep the elder away while the younger is reading, because otherwise miss first grade wants to butt in and do all the reading herself.)
Julia (K) is finishing Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Eleanor (1) is working through selected short stories and Beverly Cleary's The Mouse And The Motorcycle. (more on that in a minute)
Closing Read Alouds:
Selections from 2-3 different books so that each of History, Literature and Science are covered at least 3 times a week.
Last week we were covering the first couple chapters of E. H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World and stories from Tales From Near And Far for history.
We read from After The Dinosaurs (about pre-historic mammals -- it's a Golden Book from the early 90s, but I can't seem to find it online) for science.
And we read a few Grimms fairy tales and the first couple chapters of Stuart Little for literature.
One of the big issues I found myself bumping up against in both reading and real alouds is age. The two "in school" are 5 and 6.5, and we've got little miss 2.5 running around and wanting to be involved too. (She works on her alphabet coloring book during writing practice.) This gets tricky because while the eldest had hit an age where she really enjoys things like detailed science picture books and Gombrich's Little History, but the younger two are left pretty cold by these. Being energetic little girls, when the younger two are bored, crazy things tend to happen. And the eldest is still young enough that when crazy things happen, she wants to go join in. (Sending the younger two off to play doesn't work well either, as then the eldest wants to go going them.) So balancing the interests of all three girls without things exploding into chaos is very tricky -- and sometimes frustrating.
The other tricky thing about age is finding good stuff for Eleanor (age 6.5) to read. Over the last year her reading has become quite good -- probably something like a 4th grade level so far as I can tell from what she can read. However, her interests and experiences are still very much those of a six year old. So much of the things available to read at a level that stretches her simply aren't that interesting to her. After a couple of false starts, we're currently trying The Mouse And The Motorcycle, which has the benefit of being about an animal and a piece of machinery, two things generally dear to Eleanor's heart.
It does, however, underline for me that there's a limited virtue (other than bragging rights at gatherings with other parents) to a child that young reading far beyond his or her age level. By age eight or nine, there are a wide variety of books written for a general audience that will be interesting, but at age six there's a lot that just doesn't hold her attention (and that she wouldn't understand at all even if she did spent the time to read it) even if she could theoretically read it. So while we're trying to make sure that she keeps reading stuff that's at the outer edge of her abilities for practice, she's mostly reading much easier picture books which are more at her interest level. If you can't get your child to take off on reading level until a year or two later, it seems to me like it's nothing much to stress about. Sure, if you could somehow get your seven year old to read War and Peace you could annoy numerous other parents at social gatherings by talking endlessly about it, but the seven year old would get basically nothing from the experience.