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!
jessie - it’s so perfect and simple, which I am coming to realize is best! I was wondering what, if anything, you do for Theo’s age? My son is 3 1/2 and at first I was thinking “I need to teach him this and that…” and now I know that a love of learning is what really needs to be taught. Do you try to follow anything for him? Are there certain skills you are trying to get to? xo
Heather - I’m also curious about pre-school age lessons, and your thoughts on traditional preschool you might share. My son is 3.5 and I’m thinking of “home preschool” if there is such a thing.
Elizabeth - I love this so much! My little one is only 18 months and I am soaking up where we are right now. But I also love storing away little ideas and stories like this for when she’s older.Thank you for sharing.
Stephanie - You should totally add The Boxcar Children to your list. I feel like the language the author uses in the first book would be right up your alley!
admin - Stephanie, I have not read that series, believe it or not! I’ll have to look into it, thank you for the suggestion! x Amanda
laura - this is so lovely!! i am working on doing similar things wit my little one who is 4. i love reading with my 8 y/o daughter also. it’s such a great way to bond and really see what’s in their little minds!
admin - Laura, it really is one of my favorite ways to bond together. It’s important for our relationship just as much, if not more, education-wise. x Amanda
Ludmila - Thanks for sharing, Amanda. I so much enjoy this way of exploring books, both fiction and non fiction.
When you read with Stella, do you discuss that this is actually a lesson? Or do you just read and the art part comes naturally?
admin - Ludmila, you are welcome! A little bit of both. She knows it’s a reading lesson, but because it is not rigid and our conversation is more organic, the process flows naturally into art. I am really open with what we discuss, making sure she enjoys listening first and foremost. The questioning stems from there! x Amanda
Yolanda - Hi- I love your blog! I’m curious about the Waldorf playlist as the link you put in doesn’t seem to work;) I’d love to give it a listen!
admin - Yolanda, it should work as long as you have Spotify! Let me know if that helps 🙂 xx Amanda
Jennifer - What does homeschooling part-time look like? Does she go to school part of the week and stay home the rest? Curious because I’ve never heard of this option!
admin - Jennifer, they go to school several days per week and stay home several days per week. Some days are shorter than others, too! x Amanda
Ashley - Our 7th month old is named Harriet, but my husband and I have never read Harriet the Spy (and that’s not why we chose her name)! But I guess we have to now, huh? 🙂
admin - Ashley, Harriet! I LOVE that precious name. x Amanda
Tamra - I was homeschooled until college. My absolute favorite memories were when my mom did Five in a Row with me. It sounds similar to what you’re doing, I would look into it even just for suggestions for books (Ping, How to Make an Apple Pie, Madeleine, A Pair of Red Clogs were favorites.) I feel like it instilled a lifelong love of literature, all the books we went through are still so special to me. It was so intrinsically motivating for me, the stories created an interest to learn more and also such a broad knowledge on the books topics. I also adored anything hands-on and art centered because it felt like the books were coming to life in a way. She will remember these times for her whole life! A love of literature and learning is invaluable!
admin - Tamra, I really loved reading this and looking into your suggestions, thank you for sharing! The intrinsic motivation that homeschooling can provide is so very special, you are so right. It’s one of the main reasons I love doing what we do. x Amanda
Heather - I have felt such a tug at my heart to homeschool my children but have not simply out of fear (I’m trying hard to work through it!)….these detailed posts are a good encouragement. Thank you for continuing to share your life and heart.
admin - Heather, thank you dear one…I am glad this post was able to give you some direction and encouragement! x Amanda
Naomi - All of those books are so sweet! When I was teaching (Stella’s age) before babies, I would feel so sad when conducting reading comprehension, wishing there were more time to do it like this and give them a better chance of getting things right, and to fall in love with reading more. Thank you for sharing 🙂 Also (& sorry if you’ve already mentioned this), how do you do these special one-on-one lessons with two other little ones around? xx
admin - Naomi, usually the boys are in the same room playing or crafting when we do lessons, but not always. I try and take advantage of time when Andrew is home, when the boys nap, or when they are really engaged in something. There is never a perfectly quiet time to do a lesson, so we all just kind of go with it! x Amanda
Lara - I love your book list for reading with Stella. Some great ones on there! Have you heard of Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley? My 4 year old daughter and I are reading through that one right now. It’s sweet stories about a little girl who lives in a tiny English village in the 1920s. Your narration/illustration process is wonderful – reminds me of some of Charlotte Mason’s philosophies which I love! Thanks for sharing your routine, Amanda. I always love a peek into things like this.
Rochelle - Yes! My girls have all enjoyed Milly-Molly-Mandy at that age. I’m reading Raggety Ann with my 3 & 5 year old girls. Sweet times. Also, adore Charlotte Mason. We homeschool following her philosophy.
Erica J - Hello there fellow Kansas City friend!
I am curious to know if you would ever consider sharing more about the sources you relied on when you began your journey with homeschooling? Maybe you already have…and if so, can you please tell me where to find it. I am sure that having had a career in education helped immensely, especially with knowing what you want to weave within your children’s educational experience, as well as what you don’t. I have a disabled toddler with a new baby on the way and it has become abundantly clear that the traditional educational experience will not accommodate for both of my children. Knowing that our disabled daughter will receive the “HomeBound” experience due to her fragile medical condition, I have been seriously considering providing the same educational experience for our littlest one on the way. As a researcher, I am starting the process of gathering sources early on so that I can feel prepared and confident in the direction that I decide to take our homeschooling adventures. I would greatly appreciate any advice you may have to offer.