Boat-school on Pablo

I am not a teacher, but I am homeschooling Salty.

Here’s the full school program:

  • 5 minutes drill
  • 20 minutes learning/practicing to read
  • 20 minutes learning to write
  • 20 minutes learning maths

7 days a week, from roughly 7h30 to 8h30 – with my morning coffee.

That’s it. I find it overly simple. I love it. My goal is to make school short and efficient. To be clear, I don’t mean school should be boring. I honestly admire all efforts pre-school teachers are putting into making the days of their minis ludic and creative. However, Salty spends no more than 7h every week at school, which differs a lot from other kids in Québec. In that optic, I really don’t feel guilty about having a very academic approach.

I was inspired a lot by Kate Laird book’s “Homeschooling Teacher” to build Sally’s short and to the point school program, which focus on learning a max of thing OUT of school.

5 MINUTES OF DRILL

To teach numbers, I tried some (awesome!) pictograms on the wall. Number 6 to name only this one, was made of sausages, which rhymes in french with the number six. “Six saussices”. I found that funny, hilarious and brilliant!

Salty NEVER learned her number six with my so brilliant drawing. On my side, I learned that she learns better with drill rather than tricks. Maybe Mateo will be different and enjoy the sausages.

We have a box with cards. We split the numbers, letters, or school material to learn in different stacks. Every day I ask the cards in the stack of the day. Cards known promptly are sent in a stack that will be asked in a week, cards known but that took a some time to recall are sent in a stack that will be asked in 3-4 days and cards with the wrong answers are asked over and over until she gives the good answer, then sent in the stack for the next day.

It looks boring. But Salty loves the cards, and the fact that the box containing the card is pink. And it’s most time much less than 5 minutes.

Dont ask me to make leafs crafting with sands and glitters to fill in a shape of the number 6. I have no doubt that after a crafting, some play dough and other nice activity to reproduce that number, she would have start to get it. It seems so much more fun and ludic, right? However, we cover in 5 minutes a whole bunch of numbers or alphabet, that she will get in less than a week. 5 minutes : It is just the time it takes to get the material out for the crafting.

She learns more, faster. She saves time that allows her to make her own creative activities later in the day. We all win.

Learning social behaviours about sharing, building on other’s ideas, construction, creativity and that walking on a lego does hurt a lot.

20 MINUTES OF LEARNING TO READ

I felt teaching to read was THE biggest assignement I had as a teacher. I didn’t want to mess with it so I got a all-included method called “Teach your children to read in 100 lessons”. They use a special alphabet called DISTAR in which every words end up being pronunced in a regular way. For instance, in the DISTAR alphabet, the letters you don’t pronounce are much smaller. The kid knows easily not to read them, thus he has an easier time to read, yet he gets use to the good ortograph. It worked great with Salty.

We chose to teach Sally in English first instead of French only because that method only existed in English. We started in August. To this date, she is now at an early second grader reader. Once the 100 lessons over, we just practiced reading through our kid novels and science books to develop fluidity and a bit of stamina. I waited 2 month and started right away to use the method of the DISTAR for French this time. I used their principle and created new “letters symbols” for French-only sounds. She read her first text in French on the second day.

The DISTAR alphabet helps to learn reading and converts perfectly to the regular alphabet.

20 MINUTES LEARNING TO WRITE

There is no real goal to teach Salty to write at 5 years old (now 6!). She just loves it and always pretended to write. Because she handles her pencil like a sword, I decided to teach her cursive right away. Some studies shows it confuses children because they read in script and write in cursive. Other shows that teaching script first slows down a lot the learning curve to learn cursive. Who’s right? All I know is that cursive is faster when comes the time to take notes, and it is clearly not more complicated to learn the letter z in script then learning to make a heart shape. I decided Salty had the willingness and dexterity to learn cursive. We got an easy pre-made method as well, “Handwriting Without Tears”. Of course, that method was not showing the letters in the same order Salty was learning them for reading purpose. She started to read the letter A, M and S. She started by writing L, E and T. I wondered if it would be harder. It was not. She is now able to write a word that I spell in cursive and we practice by writing letters to friend or family. She choose the idea, I convert them in concrete and simple sentences where I spell every letters, not words.

When I think of it, it was great to teach her in cursive. She now writes in cursive AND in script. Why? Of course she learned her alphabet in script and always reproduced letters in script first. And since everything happening at school is not as fun, she practice script when school is over and cursive at school. Best of both word I guess.

*Note that Salty is able to write letters. She can try to write a word she hears, but it will be her phonetic understanding. Ex: Skool, Haws (house), coocy (cookie). She’s 6. Who can blame her. 🙂

Handwriting without tears, cursive version separates the letters into groups that uses the same movements.

20 MINUTES OF MATHS

I was not so bad at math! Until I became terrible. But that happened in mid High School, so I have time in front of me before I feel inadequate at teaching math. Still, I looked at many ways of teaching Math : I needed to bound a lot with HOW they teach it. The order, the exercices, the philosophy. I decided to go with Singapore Maths. Their idea is to always start with concrete application first, then pictogram, and finish by teachingin an abstract way. That means that until Salty doesn’t grasp perfectly that 3 bananas on the table put together with th 2 other bananas on the counter now makes 5 altogether, we don’t switch to teaching 2+3=5, which would be the final abstract way. I must admit that it works very well so far with Salty. A bonus is that whenever we switch from concrete to pictogram or from pictogram to abstract, I instantly see if Salty really did understand completely or not. It allows me to stop, create more exercices, and really follow her rhythm. I don’t mind what pace she learn, really. The goal for me is that she just keep learning, even if it’s a slow progress. She is already ahead of what is needed at 6 years old anyway, so no rush!

We use blocks of wood Sam made before we left Canada, smurfs or any other material for the concrete part.
He disappeared 2 hours in the friends basement during a lunch and came back with the blocks for school. A small 30$ saved. And the scent of wood reminds us the time back home where Sam was always in his workshop.

And that’s over! Time for breakfast.

All that goes in the ‘sit in class’ is here. Boring? Too academic? Well…it’s 8h30 in the morning. We did school at the peak of her energy and focus. We have no other kid (yet) to slow down her pace, if 10+2 is a given, move on. For little time invested, we got a LOT of results.

And then what? Well, she has her whole day to play, play and play. She has her whole day to discover, experiment, and to do what kids should do : play even more.

*Obviously, there’s more, the school of life. But that will be another post.

Sense of humour : a good skill at life definitely not learned at school. Another good reason to keep formal school short.

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