How I homeschool Little Bun (my haphazard teaching) + the educational approach I take
Let me preface this with: I did not want to do this. I was a reluctant homeschooler, and I did not spend hours thinking about how great it would be to teach my own kids at home. I basically did it because of you know what hitting us in 2020. That was the year he was supposed to start Grade One and it all went to hell.
We are now going onto year 2, possibly year 5 by the time MAYBE he will be able to go back to school, and I am resigned to my fate as a Reluctant Homeschooler. It is not easy during this time to do this, as a work-from-home (WFH) parent (my partner is also in school full-time at home), and I have zero training, let alone inclination.
THE BACKGROUND ON LITTLE BUN’S EDUCATION
Luckily, I was gifted with a child who is pretty self-sufficient and independent. To give you some background/context, I was always doing flash cards and words with him as a baby with pictures, talking incessantly, and reading books all the time to him, along with playing with numbers. He picked up stuff pretty quickly and asked for more (at no point whatsoever, have I ever had to force him to do anything; this is all led by him and what he found interesting as learning subjects). Sometimes I felt like I was talking to a wall because I felt like I got no reaction or understanding from him, but he was indeed absorbing everything. I was in despair because by age 2 he still wasn’t really speaking. He was making baby noises to us, and gesturing but no actual words came out. I was stressing a little, and everyone told me it was fine. Still, I stressed.
Example: I picked these number cards up at a thrift store and he loved making numbers out of them as a child
Then it just exploded overnight, and he started saying his letters and could spell out words for my parents, and by age 2.5 or so, he was spelling small words like DOG, MOON, COW, and so on. Turns out, kids who learn multiple languages, speak later. So.. he was just trying to form his baby brain to figure out what language to use and speak with which parent, and he doesn’t really mix us now.
From there it sort of snowballed. by age 3, he was reading baby books independently, you know the Goodnight Moon level, and by age 5 he was into bigger books. Now he does chapter books, and he reads pretty darn quickly. He can finish a 50 page chapter book in about 1-2 hours, and I sit and ask him questions on what happened in the book, and he can give me real details and actual bits and pieces of it, which means he truly read it.
I will say that I have said a number of times to him in the past, that I do not care that he can read, I care that he can read AND UNDERSTAND what is going on. I tell him that I can read anything in Italian but I have no clue what they are saying, so there is ZERO benefit in reading quickly and not understanding a word. I think it stuck with him because he reads carefully now.
WHERE HE IS AT
As it stands, he is currently at Grade 4 learning, when he is supposed to be halfway through Grade 2. Homeschooling has excellent advantages because he really learns a lot with one-on-one help (I mean two parents, hanging out at home, teaching him individually? AMAZING.), and he is a great learner who is very curious and a wonderfully smart boy who enjoys working hard and learning new things. By the time he reaches the start of Grade 3 “officially” in September, I’d wager he will be starting Grade 5.
I am a bit concerned we are going too fast, in the sense that by the time he hits “real” Grade 5 or whenever he goes back to school, he is in Grade 9 or something and things will be all topsy-turvy. It’s my fear that we get on this homeschool train and then we can’t really disembark!!!! Again, I am stressing probably for no good reason but I also don’t want to be so far ahead that things suck at school.
WHAT I DO FOR CORE BOOKS/RESOURCES
I tried to ask for resources/ activity sheets and the like from the schools near us, but if we are not in their school system, I cannot gain access to it. Great. Instead, I am a homeschool parent who is on her own because I am also teaching in English and the materials here are all French, and I have to figure it out on my own.
I ended up finding these books online – Canadian Curriculum – and they come in all the grades. They are based on Canada’s general schooling system (and I am surprised yet not surprised that the school board has not come up with similar materials for teachers, let alone homeschool parents), and it covers a range of topics from English to Math to Social Studies.
The flaws in this book, are that they do not give extra resources or help online for things like history. I am googling on YouTube, but I feel like they should have supplementary materials or even books I can pick up to read more about Indigenous Peoples with Little Bun so that he isn’t just answering questions in a vacuum and he gets what is going on.
Another flaw is that some of the exercises are not clearly worded. Even I got confused of what they were asking, but I suppose that is par for the course if the books are not edited and then reviewed by someone (like me) who is reading it for the first time. Little Bun is also reading these books alone and following instructions while I am at work at my desk, so he sometimes needs help deciphering what they really want, as he has never been in a schooling system before.
The other book series I found was – BrainQuest – but they are American, and I will say while they make learning a lot more fun in these books, with a little map that you can fill in with stickers as you go on your “learning quest”, I find that their questions are vey easy. They are more interesting to be sure, but they are 50% easier than in the Curriculum books, and they are VERY American based, so a lot of the history stuff about the U.S. is irrelevant to us, but still helpful as an exercise to go through. I do like that the entire book is full colour (I mean it’s really cute), and Little Bun enjoys them.
BrainQuest also has in-between grade books which were meant for summer, but are interesting for me anyway, to put in between grades, as Little Bun goes up pretty quickly. They call them – Summer Brain Quest – … They start with Grade 1 topics, and slowly transition into Grade 2. I have started buying them for the grades now, because we are advancing so quickly that I am getting concerned that we will end up too far ahead. Or whatever. I panic about a lot.
EXAMS / TESTS
I wish I had grade school exams/tests that are issued by the province so I can test where he is at and if we need to run back and redo some sections. I am also surprise we do not have standardized aptitude testing, to be honest. So, I don’t do this. I just give him questions, answers, and there are no exams or tests, but this is not great because he will never get that discipline to understand what a Quiz is, and what studying for something means. I may have to make up my own and set a time limit like in school.
I am of the hands off kind. He has to learn to be independent. I will definitely find videos and things to help supplement, and we watch them together, but for the most part, I want him to handle his own learning and for me to be there to help him find solutions and answers, but not to feed them to him.
He has a WorkBook chart he has to do daily. Weekends are off. We don’t get summers off. He only gets a break around the holidays for a week, but once I gave him a week off around Christmas, he told me when he started on Workbook again that he disliked having time off because it was so hard to get back into the swing of things and start working again. He would have preferred to NOT stop Workbook and to just keep going even during the holidays, or maybe have a day off or so.
His chart looks like this:
He regulates himself by checking each day what pages have to be done, and colouring them in.
Right now, the chart has changed to:
- SOCIAL STUDIES – also includes HISTORY and GEOGRAPHY
He has a lot of pages to do a day, but he also gets distracted, wanders around, etc. So .. really, this brings him right to lunch time more or less, as he starts at 8 in the morning. If he plays too much, then it goes after his Quiet Time (13:00 – 15:00), until sometimes even 19:00 when he finally finishes the pages.
I am trying very hard to get him to do his own self-regulation on the pages, because he has to learn how to manage his own schedule and discipline himself. We spend the day, gently reminding him:
Are your pages done? You know how salty you get when you don’t finish before lunch!
In between meetings I check in on him and ask if I can help him. Sometimes it’s showing him a new way of looking at the problem, like what happened today.
If the question asks “Who has 300 less than Sam”, who has 443 and it looks like there is no number on the page that is exactly 143 to match up to the question, it’s time to reason out whether you did your math incorrectly. Was Sam’s a correct answer? If yes, go back and recheck all of your answers for each person until you find one that is correct. (Spoiler alert, Adam had 143 not 133, so he found the error.)
He is pretty good at checking off his pages, and even working until 19:00 even though I give him the option to do the pages tomorrow, meaning he has the pages left from TODAY to finish PLUS tomorrow, and I explain that the snowball effect of leaving pages until the weekend, becomes insurmountable. I refuse to let him slide on this, and he knows that when I say it, I mean it, and he will spend the weekend doing pages if that is what he chooses.
So far, he doesn’t leave the pages for the next day, but sometimes he does them then complains a little which brings me to Lecture #2 of #129,102,024, where I ask him to look deep inside himself and review the day. Did he maybe, get distracted with other things? Stuffies? Was he not focused? What happened today that he couldn’t get pages done versus other days?
Sometimes he agrees it is because he got distracted, and this helps him bring the responsibility back to him and his choices of what he decided to focus on instead of doing his work.
Other times, he tells me that he couldn’t get the answer no matter how hard he tried. I tell him that I am here for these sticky situations (he doesn’t like asking for help, also because I am quite militant about not asking me unless in dire need), and I tell him that asking me for help is not the issue. It’s if he expects me to do his work for him. I do not mind helping him brainstorm, find solutions and get to the answer but I won’t feed it to him. He is slowly learning the subtlety. Then at night, after I am done work, I review his pages, and we talk about his answers in detail. Sometimes his answers disappoint me, and I tell him so (we do not sugarcoat here, but we are not mean), and I tell him I expected a longer, more thoughtful answer than what he gave, and I give an example of what I mean and why I expected it. This is all part of learning.
Everything we do is a learning opportunity.
We went sledding the other day, and the snow was crunching. I immediately recognized it as igloo-worthy snow, and told him they used saws to cut out blocks of this kind of harder, compact snow, to build snow blocks for their igloo. The next day, my partner was reading a page with him on igloos, and he googled a video to watch together on how an igloo was made.
Together, it cements – the snow he saw and Mommy saying it was igloo-ready, and the book he was reading about what the Inuit do with Daddy, and then the video on how it was done. Technology is a marvel for teaching these days, to be honest.
We are also trying to not let him just google everything (I KNOW I KNOW… THAT IS THE SKILL TO HAVE), but to try and figure it out from his book pages on his own, or to try and find the word in his dictionary instead of asking me (and he can ask for clarification later), to then finally, asking us to help him find a resource to learn more about it. We want him to have the research portion, and unfortunately, we can’t take him to the library to learn the Dewey Decimal system and then finding the books during this time, so we are doing our best in other ways.
Even storybooks we read at night, if there is something interesting in there, like how the loneliest whale in the world sings at a different tone, I explained different tones, we searched up on the internet the actual sound of this whale listened to in super fast speed and normal speed, and then we talked about causes as to WHY the whale sings at a different tone. One of them is that the whale might be deaf. As Little Bun is not deaf (though sometimes I wonder lol..), I explain to him that deaf people have two situations – they were born deaf, or they became deaf later. This is why some deaf people can seem like they are not deaf at all, whereas others, it is clear. We then searched up a video of a born-deaf woman speaking to her father trying to pronounce words she had never heard.
All of this is a longwinded example to show how whenever we came across something, we went off on that tangent to see where it brought us. If it brought up more questions, I was happy because it led him to explore other areas and tangents.
Some books that are great for this are:
- Usborne Flip Flap Books (this one is his favourite)
- 100 Things Books (they are really interesting, ranging from a wide variety of topics)
.. and books like this that talk about open-ended questions that you can then debate and show different sides of like – Big Thinkers and Philosophy for Kids. He really likes this book because it is giving him questions that we can debate or talk over. I give him a question, he answers it, and I try to give him examples where maybe what he thought was right “ALL STEALING IS BAD”, can turn into a grey area when they stole because they were on the verge of death.
So that’s the basic overview of how we are teaching him. He does half with Mommy, and some parts with Daddy, and we insert teaching moments (more me than my partner) in everything we do.
I think you’re doing an awesome job homeschooling your son. As a teacher here are some other resources I’ve used: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ , BrainpopJr and Brainpop have kid-friendly videos on different subjects, Epicbooks has all sorts of online readers too, BookCreator is a great epic for kids to make e-books. Most of these services do cost a bit of money though. Tumblebooks (great read alouds – free) Have fun!