We are several weeks into the new school year and the five of us have just about settled into our daily rhythm, praise the Lord! It always takes several long weeks to iron everything out when trying on a new schedule, you know? We are homeschooling part time, which may sound strange when seated next to traditional schooling methods, but it fits our needs well and gives me ample opportunities to do lessons at home with the kids (which all of us really enjoy!). I am going to share some of them in this space with you from time to time, to give those of you who are homeschooling, or considering a similar kind of schooling, ideas to try, in addition to some practical ways to incorporate holistic learning methods into your lessons.
The first lesson I am going to share is the reading lesson Stella and I do together each week. She is 6 years old, in first grade, and as of right now, does not read on her own. We do letter work, cursive, and sight words, but that’s about as far as we’ve gone with her reading lessons, and we feel it’s right where she needs to be. Because of this, I do the reading aloud with her by my side. Reading is the basis of so many of our lessons, almost every one in fact; it’s a wonderful way to tap into multiple subject areas when learning and creates beautiful imagery for what we are learning about. It is extremely important for me to instill a love of books here at home, and being a former English teacher it’s simply how I do my best teaching.
With this specific reading lesson, I focus on chapter books while cozied up in our book nook. Because our targets or goals are listening, gathering information, word recognition, and imagining, she lays with me and I read out loud, giving space to talk about character development, plot progression, and the overarching themes. She does not know that she is learning these things, but I do, and that’s all that matters. As I read I’ll ask simple questions here and there like:
- “How do you think that made her/him feel?”
- “What if that happened to you one day?”
- “What do you think the next chapter is going to be about?”
- “What else do you know about stars?”
- “Who does this character remind you of?”
- Why do you think he/she did that?”
- “What would you have done if you were him/her?”
Once we are finished with a chapter, I’ll put on music and we do our art lesson that corresponds with what we’ve just read. I have a Waldorf playlist we enjoy, you can find that here. I always do my art alongside Stella, guiding the way with additional questioning if the moment lends itself to further explore. It’s important that the questioning process is both organic, simple, and inviting. Hammering away with questions is not an authentic way to assess one’s reading comprehension, but reading a few pages and tossing in a leading question or two is great. My goal as the reader and teacher is to make sure I storytell with enthusiasm, while making sure Stella knows what’s going on plot-wise. Because there are little to no pictures in our books for these lessons, it’s important to gently stop and check-in every now and again to see if she can line things up and make verbal notes of certain details. Just make sure that the questioning is conversational and doesn’t feel like you are quizzing for a correct answer. Nothing kills reading like over-questioning, so leave plenty of room to soak up the book first and foremost!
With our art lessons, we focus on plot summaries and ideas or issues we felt were important in that specific chapter. When I taught 4th grade ESL years ago, I did a very similar activity where my students would sum up a short chapter with a one or two sentences, along with a corresponding picture on the page. For this reading lesson we do the same. Writing gives Stella practice with her letters, in addition to her being able to take a lot of information and reduce it down to a summary. The picture(s) that go along with the summary is a way to infuse creativity and art into what we’ve just read, thereby adding our own visuals like we are making a book of our own. Adding art is a visual component of storytelling and learning that gives the learner time to stop and process what she has just heard, while engaging in a hands on activity. If you end up not even chatting about the book but talk about what’s for supper, that’s fine too. Connection is important here, and fostering a love of learning is the ultimate goal.
While music is playing, and perhaps a candle lit or cup of tea nearby, Stella and I work on our art. As the facilitator, I kindly share my picture and summary sentence with her, giving her the opportunity to write and paint accordingly. If she wants to do the same picture(s) and sentence as I, it’s welcome it. Eventually we will branch out and do more independent work, but seeing how young children at this age thrives on imitation, it’s best that I lead the way and give her a comfortable path to follow.
Here is a list of classics Stella and I have put together for our reading lessons together this year:
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
- Little House On the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton
That is basically it! We read a chapter, write a short summery, create a picture, and repeat! The whole lesson usually takes about an hour per chapter, but because it’s broken up into two components it goes by rather fast. Because we never do back-to-back lessons during the week, each full book could easily take awhile to complete, so make sure the chapter book you have chosen is not too long or complex. You could easily combine two chapters and do a summery of them as well. I hope this offers you a bit of inspiration for your homeschooling lessons, and if you have any questions or additional ideas, be sure to leave those in the comments below!