September 06, 2006

First Day of Home School

Some moms eagerly anticipate the first day of school because they can hardly wait to get rid of their kids for a portion of each day. I was up at 3:30 a.m., unable to sleep because I was so excited to start our first day of home schooling! I had wanted to do some things to make the day extra special, but a busy weekend left me tired and unmotivated to be creative. When I awoke at 2:30 and couldn't get back to sleep after nearly an hour of tossing and turning, I decided to just get up and do something productive. Even though it was Labor Day, I had already planned that THIS would be our First Home School Day for the year. Since we had been unable to consistently do any school activities during the summer (with the exception of Tobin's reading lessons, which were coming along well), I decided I would take the wee early morning hours to put some time and effort into making our kickoff something to remember.

I logged onto the Sonlight forums, one of my favorite places to spend computer time, and did a search for first day of school activities. There were lots of fun ideas, but I had to find something that didn't require too much preparation, using only materials already in my home. After reading one mother's tradition (she thought it was a German thing), I decided to make card stock cones with a handle and stuff them with some school goodies. I had purchased new crayons for 10 cents a box at the office store, so I labeled one for Tobin and one for Charis and put those plus two sharpened new pencils and an eraser plus a piece of chocolate in each of their cones. I stamped simple little cards--Charis's said "1st grade" on the outside, and Tobin's said "1st day." I wrote notes to each of them, saying how proud I was of them and how we were going to have such a fun year of learning and playing together.

The kids slept in (for once), not waking until close to 8 a.m. You'd have thought it was Christmas! Charis burst onto the scene, all a-twitter over her new goodies. Tobin was delighted to get more crayons, and they both eagerly attacked their chocolate (with my permission). We read their cards together, and Charis just kept squeezing me and thanking me for the cones, which were also a hit (the two discovered they also can double as a horn or make a pretty nifty hat). Charis even asked if I would do the same thing for her on the first day of her 2nd grade year! I was so delighted by THEIR delight--how something so simple could make such an impression.

Another great idea I got was to have the kids hold a sign saying it was the first day of home school and take their pictures. Charis then came up with a good idea--she thought we should measure and weigh all the kids! So we did, and that was part of our math lesson. :-) In case you're wondering, here are the stats:

Arden--35 pounds, 38 inches
Tobin--37 pounds, 40 3/4 inches
Charis--34 pounds, 44 inches

Since Ted obviously had the day off work, he made us a special oatmeal breakfast. We usually don't have oatmeal during the week because of time, and once again, that little something special went a long ways. Charis asked if we could have oatmeal on the first day of 2nd grade, too!

We read our Bible story at the breakfast table, and then we moved into the school room. I'll go ahead and give a breakdown of our day, but I promise I won't do this every time I post about our home school days!

* Explained verse for the week, Proverbs 4:20-21: "Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully." Worked on memorizing it plus memorizing the following: "Attentiveness: I listen with my eyes, ears, and heart." This was the first verse in last year's schedule that we used, and I decided it was a great one to start the year with, particularly since I now have Tobin as an "official" student, and listening is not one of his strengths! (You may recognize that Proverbs 4 is part of our blog address...there's a reason for that! It was fitting that in our daily Bible reading schedule, which takes us through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year, we were supposed to read Proverbs 3-4!)

* Prayer time--prayed for the B family, missionaries in Alaska; also committed our home schooling year to God.

* Big kids decorated their notebook covers, stamping their names and being creative with crayons, stencils, and stickers. Arden decided he wanted in on the action, so he decorated a piece of scrap paper.

* "Math time"--today consisted of weighing and measuring each child. Also, Tobin and Charis each updated one of our two perpetual calendars, which hadn't been updated since June!!

* Handwriting and workbook time--Charis did a practice handwriting page, focusing on the capital letters V and W. Meanwhile, Tobin and I did a couple of pages from his counting workbook. We punched out numbers 1-10, and he placed them in the correct locations to show how many animals were in each pen at the zoo. He also finished a practice page he had started awhile ago, which gave him practice writing numerals 6-10.

* Phonics--Charis and I read through two pages in her Phonics Pathways book, reviewing the last concept she learned, the ending sounds -tch and -ch and when to use which digraph.

* Sonlight reading--we are using a theme schedule this year, plugging in some materials that we used last year and supplementing with extras from the library. (I love the hold feature on the web site so I can request books and pick them up all at once!) This week's theme: Machines and Transportation. We brainstormed lists for both, writing the kids' ideas on the board, and then began our reading, which covered concepts from science and social studies and included selections from classic children's literature. We finished in roughly 40 minutes.

* Recess time (30 minutes)--also time for Mom to make phone calls or check email as needed!

* Reading time--this half-hour block will allow me time for fun reading with the kids, games, or artwork. Today I read the story of Tootle while the kids colored a picture of the train from the Little Golden Books web site.

* Almost forgot to put a popsicle stick in our cup...we're going to keep track of how many days of school we have and bundle each set of 10 sticks. When we get to Day 100, we'll have a party! Charis selected a pink popsicle stick to symbolize our first day of school.

* School's over! Tobin is the lunch helper this week, so he helped us get the table ready for lunch.

It seems strange to have school completely finished by lunch, even with taking a half-hour break! When I think that if Charis really were in a first grade classroom, she would be there for about 6-7 hours each Actually, she'd just be entering kindergarten this year because of her age. So I'm not sweating the fact that we're not spending a lot of hours on school work. As we get back into the swing of things, there will be actual math workbook pages and tests, and I'll add dictation to her phonics lessons. Last year we sometimes skipped math, handwriting, or phonics in favor of completing the Sonlight reading. This year, we'll reverse it, since we've already "been there, done that" with the Sonlight materials--I'll be a stickler on the three "Rs" but will allow Charis to do something else if she doesn't want to stick around for some of the Sonlight stories. Tobin, however, seems to be super excited about getting to be in on everything, and since he wasn't quite ready for some of the materials last year, I know he'll get a lot more out of them this time around. We're getting enough extra stuff from the library that I think Charis will still be challenged within each theme, and of course I'll let her read to her heart's content, something she wants alone time to do every day anyway!

So, there you have it. Our first day of school. It was tons of fun...though I did lie down for a three-hour nap in the afternoon since Ted was home and since I had been awake for so long after an unexpectedly early start to my day!

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