Happy Back-to-Homeschool from the McGaugh Academy! Today marked the official start of Katie’s Kindergarten year, although we started working on some of the curriculum this past weekend (overachievers!) I must admit. I felt we needed to take the time to find out where in the texts Katie should actually begin and to build up evidence of her existing skill sets, since we’ve been doing K work prior to this year. Getting some work done over the weekend also means a greater sense of calm during this busy week: we have extracurriculars and also an annual check-up for Mr. Eric.

Since our online pacing/lesson plan guide through River Springs won’t be available to us until this Friday, we were turned loose to design this week entirely on our own. Hurrah! Lesson planning is my great hobby and passion, so that worked for me. In fact, I love the feeling of freedom to start the school year that way.

Before I share more about what we’re doing, here are a few of the Back-to-Homeschool pictures we took to commemorate the start of Katie’s Kindergarten year:

Katie, with all of her books for this year

Apples for the teacher?

Where do you go to school, Katie? McGaugh Academy!

So our normal schedule (for the past couple weeks and even before that) goes something like this:

5:25 AM: I get up and run/bike/lift weights

6:15 AM: Kiss Bill goodbye, make tea, find something that needs to be done and do it

6:30-7:00 AM: Katie gets up, and we have about an hour until Eric gets up at 7:45-8:00AM. Normally, we read… We’ve been using that time to read The Chronicles of Narnia lately. Today, and likely for awhile, we will use the hour to make progress one-on-one in her school work.

8:00 AM: Breakfast!

8:30 to 11:45 AM: Calendar time, school work (often involving differentiated or same assignments for pre-school Eric), recess, art, extracurriculars (tomorrow they both have gymnastics at the same time), enrichment

12:00 PM: Lunch/free play/free learning

By 1:30 PM: Reading followed by a nap for Eric.

During Eric’s afternoon nap, which is variable in its length, Katie and I have one-on-one time. Last year, we applied this time to her work, to her enrichment, to our individual hobbies in the same room, to our mutual reading, and to domestic arts (she often helps with dinner prep or sometimes we sew). I hope to keep this time as free and evolving as it has always been, but it is also prime time to get some schooling done.

We eat dinner anywhere from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, though it has been closer to 6:00PM on our summer schedule.

Bedtime is 8:00 PM, though there is much reading and singing involved so they really aren’t asleep until closer to 8:45 PM.

We did get quite a bit done on our first official day of school today! Katie started off with an “All About Me” project, and we used one of her pictures from yesterday’s photo session that I had printed out. I also ran a sight word diagnostic on her: she knows far many more words than I even thought she knew, and we were only using one list. Through all of our activities today, she was reading instructions and sentences. The key is to build up evidence of her reading ability this week. I knew she was taking off with it this summer (after starting reading short words last spring), but even I did not know how far she had gone… What is funny is that I was able to narrow in on the appropriate chapter in math for her this weekend fairly quickly (Chapter 5, graphing). She has done work in later chapters, but I want to make sure graphing (which she has also done last year) is very solid for her since it is the basis for much of higher level math. So here I am, an English teacher, and I am surprised by my own diagnostic tools—hm. I am feeling some stress about this. Review is good—and our basic issue is that her penmanship (she can make all of her letters, but we’re working on clarity and spacing) is still catching up with all that she can read and answer—but I do not want to keep her in content review beyond August. So, I feel a pressing need to figure out the sweet spot for her in our curriculum.

We had a big language arts work session today. She read aloud, and we worked through some basic worksheets in our Amish books to build evidence of skills. She likes that I read from Prince Caspian when she has to color things.

As we work through that, I also want to keep our school creative and thematically-driven. I noticed that all of our lit books take place in different countries or regions of the United States. As I pondered what I could do with that, I started thinking about our imaginary worlds that we have loved so much: the world of Harry Potter and the world of Narnia. I wanted a theme that would give me versatility with respect to River Springs curriculum and our personal study of The Chronicles of Narnia this year. I decided to use an “Around the World” theme and decorated our dining room door with the theme printed out and cut to look like clouds, along with colored paper and maps: of the world, of Narnia, and our own Marauder’s Map of Hogwarts we made during our reading of all the Harry Potter books last summer.

Katie made a “Kindergarten Passport” today in one of her composition books. I am thinking we will fill it up with cultural studies/ideas/keepsakes/recipes from the countries we visit with each of the seventeen lit books this year, as well as our own trips to Narnia and Hogwarts.

To keep with our theme, I thought about what we would use to travel the world. Since we live in Temecula, we obviously need to use hot air balloons. I mean, right??

Eric loved our craft today: I had pre-cut pieces to make paper hot air balloons and yarn to attach the basket. We made them for all four of us and attached them to our “theme door.”

After more math work and calendar time (counting, moon phase, season, months, days of the week, question of the day, quote to memorize for the week), we took a break with another project:


The kiddos worked on making a papier-mâché hot air balloon. We have to let it dry tonight, and we hope to be able to paint it when we return from gymnastics tomorrow. We’ll attach a small real basket. To add in some science, we reviewed how it is that a hot air balloon rises.

Katie also worked on a “school words” booklet today, as well as the “an” word family booklet, both from Enchanted Learning (online). She said she loves making her own books.

Then Katie helped me to braid the challah:

This bread is sheer math. Each batch of dough makes two loaves, so she uses the cutter to cut the dough in half. Then she has to cut each half into thirds. After that, she knows how to pull them gently into ropes so she can braid them.

My diligent bread maker.

After his nap, Eric rejoined us to make applesauce:

He was laughing and smiling while putting the apple chunks into our pot.

We made a very old-fashioned kind of meal tonight, including a baked cabbage recipe from my Uncle Eric’s Mennonite cookbook. When he passed, a few of his cookbooks came to me, along with some serving pieces and a setting of his china. All of these objects are used at special times in our house and very much a part of our traditions and lore…yet, I had not yet cooked out of his Mennonite cookbook. As I have mentioned, I am identifying strongly with my Amish heritage right now, for a variety of reasons, and so I took it into my head a few nights ago that I really ought to work my way through much of his cookbook (I do have a Lancaster County cookbook myself, which I have used). Katie helped me to prepare the cabbage, which was really good—but then again, I really love cabbage so I am quite biased—and using Uncle Eric’s cookbook to do it led to this incredible feeling of connection.

So it was a busy, productive day. I felt heartened that, even with all the direct teaching, diagnostics, and worksheet practice, and booklet making, we still had time to put our own flair on it….we still had time for our kinds of projects and enrichment, still had time to play, still had time to prepare mind and heart nourishing food, still had time to do laundry. I do wish we had had more reading in Prince Caspian today, and we also didn’t have as much downtime in the evening (cuddles, free play, an episode of Caillou, a dance party) as I prefer.

Tomorrow I hope to calm it down a bit: math and English before gymnastics; painting the hot balloon and looking at and identifying cloud types (I thought this would fit well with our hot air balloon travel) for art and science in the afternoon. Katie and I both need to use Eric’s nap time tomorrow to cuddle and read from our novel, and I am missing my cross-stitching time.

The start of school for a teacher is both exhilarating and intense as we think about the work we need to do for the whole year. It is fun work—work I truly, deeply love and work that is my essence—and for me it is hard to slow down sometimes. I have this desire to prep everything right now to have it ready to go, and I just can’t do that. Nor should I—since I have to be flexible to head where my student needs to go.

Above all, though, I am so thankful to be her teacher. This morning after breakfast, she was working on language arts at the table and Eric and I started the challah dough. We talked about how much we would miss her being with us if she were at a public school and how cozy it felt all to be together working on different tasks.

Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow!