Thursday, February 20, 2014

A day in our life

I've always enjoyed reading other people's "typical homeschool day" posts, and since we're now pretty settled in a happy routine, I thought I'd write one of my own. This is what happened on a day when we had no fixed commitments outside the house, but the morning portion, in any case, would be more or less the same, regardless of the day. On days when we have afternoon activities, though, we do make sure to get Quran done before we leave the house. Math happens maybe twice a week, on average.

7:30 - everyone wakes up, wanders upstairs, and the girls (Basbusa, 5.5, and Kunafa, 3) eat their Breakfast, Part 1 (toast and marmalade - it's a multi-stage meal, these days!)

8:00 - the girls head downstairs to build a fort out of cushions and blankets, and play in it with flashlights, for about an hour. (Let's call that engineering and teamwork.)

9:00 - I call them upstairs for Breakfast, Part 2 (strawberry smoothies), and then we move to our Project Room, which is where we do most of our homeschooling. Kunafa wants to "play chess," which means me following her very complicated instructions for which pieces go where, how they move, and how they can be traded from person to person. She runs off to borrow Baba's chess set, while I remind Basbusa that she mentioned yesterday that she wanted to learn a new design on her Rainbow Loom. She's all excited about it, so I get her a laptop, show her how to use Google to search for "Rainbow Loom videos," and leave her to her own explorations. Kunafa and I "play chess" for about 15 minutes, and then I read her some picture books. (So, I guess that was technology and research skills for Basbusa, and, hmmm, game design and literacy for Kunafa? I also consider all this Rainbow Looming as part of Basbusa's project work. Her interest in sewing has lately expanded to include some crochet and this rainbow-loom work, but it all seems related.)

9:30 - Basbusa has chosen a design, and gotten the elastic bands all set up, but needs some help understanding how to loop them. So I ask Kunafa to play by herself for a while (she chooses to climb in and out of our new loft a zillion times in different ways, usually using me as part of her stairs, so let's say that's P.E. and problem-solving). Then I sit with Basbusa for a full hour while she tries to figure out what the lady in the video is doing. It really is pretty complicated! But eventually, with some suggestions from me about which of the umpteen little elastic bands each step in the video might be referring to, she gets the hang of it. (So, that covered a whole bunch of fine motor skills, following complex instructions, a whole lot of perseverance, and some design and creativity).

10:30 - Basbusa still hasn't finished the bracelet, but her concentration is pretty much shot, and anyway it's time for Breakfast, Part 3 (whole-wheat crepes, this time). So she and Kunafa tidy up a bit, and they eat their crepes while I read them some chapters from our current Read-Aloud. Then I send them downstairs to get dressed to go outside, since it's a beautiful day.

11:30 - we head out for a walk, for about an hour (so, P.E. and nature study, I suppose).

12:30 - The girls go off to play in their fort again, while I make pizza for lunch.

1:30-2:30 - The girls play in the fort and in the project room for about an hour.

2:30 - I round them up for Quran (which takes 15 minutes for Basbusa, and about 5 for Kunafa. Basbusa is up to Surat el Inshira7, and Basbusa is working on Surat el Ma3oun. For Basbusa, this time includes Arabic reading as well as hifz, because I have her figure out for herself what the day's new ayah says.) Then a super-quick math lesson for Basbusa (Lesson 66 from RightStart level A, which I'm hoping to finish up before the new baby arrives in May, insha'Allah). Kunafa played with play-doh while Basbusa and I did math.

3:00 - we head out to the library, the craft store (Basbusa is almost out of those little elastic bands for the loom), and the thrift store.

4:30 - home again, and the girls are free for the rest of the day, while I get dinner. Basbusa chooses to
watch a "Signing Time" video after dinner, and although I'm usually 1000% anti-screen-time, she does seem to be interested in learning ASL lately. So she watches while I clean the dishes, and she teaches me the new signs that I "didn't have a chance" to see.

So, for Basbusa, today included engineering, teamwork, technology, research, design, fine motor skills, patience and perseverance, PE and nature outdoors, Quran, Arabic, math, and ASL. Oh, and she also read maybe ten picture books, and half of two different chapter books (I didn't mention her reading explicitly in the schedule above, because Basbusa spends so much time with her nose stuck in a book that it doesn't even cross my mind to notice it any more.) I think that sounds like a good combination of learning for a Kindergartener. Kunafa got most of the same, which is pretty good for a preschooler.

We didn't get in as many picture books as I usually do with Kunafa, and we didn't spend as much time outdoors as I would like. That's a problem I've been trying to solve for a while... hopefully it will be easier once the weather warms up a bit, insha'Allah.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Homeschool Progress: Basbusa, 5.5 years old

Last year, I wrote a post about what level Basbusa had reached when she turned four, just as we started homeschooling , covering the main academic and social areas that I cared about. I had forgotten all about that post, and when I came across it just now, I was surprised by how much my thinking has changed after only a year and a half! Nowadays, it would never cross my mind to break down her learning into such rigid segments. 

All the same, though, when I thought about what I would say now, given the same list of prompts, it was exciting to see how much Basbusa has grown. So, just for the record, here's what the new update would be, half a year into what-would-have-been-Kindergarten:
  • Favorite Interests: Reading still tops the list, for sure. She also spends hours intensely involved in fabric arts of various kinds - she's very interested in sewing, has learned how to crochet a chain, and has figured out several different patterns on her rainbow loom.
  • Quran: working on Surat al Tin, al7amdulillah. Surat al Bayyina took FOREVER - over three months, I think - but al7amdulillah we both learned a lot about how to make hifz easier for her during the process.
  • Reading: Our main difficulty now is that she's pretty much read every chapter book in the English language whose content is age-appropriate. I'm having to hunt high and low for stories that don't focus on social situations that are just way beyond the experience of a five-year-old. Al7amdulillah, it's a good problem to have, but I'm really starting to wonder what she's going to read for the next two years. It seems like most of the rest of the books on my "to be read later" list are really aimed at nine- or ten-year-olds. Recently, for example, she enjoyed Kate DiCamillo's "Tale of Despereaux," and David Elliot's "Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle." What we need is a whole lot more books like the "Daisy Dawson" series and the "Iggy and Me" series, but they don't seem to exist. 
  • Writing: She can write a whole bunch of short words and names without help, but is only starting to get into the idea that she can use invented spelling to communicate. She seems to think  that a word is either one she "knows" or one she "doesn't know," and doesn't usually spontaneously take a guess at how to put it together. I think she'll get there soon, though, insha'Allah. She still uses all capital letters, so I've recently offered her one or two invitations like copying out her favorite poems, for example, just to raise her awareness that not everything is always capitalized :) 
  • Art: Interestingly, she isn't drawing anywhere near as much as she did as a toddler and preschooler. The pictures she does draw tend to be quite similar to each other (with the most frequent being a cat or a girl with pigtails). She's adding more detail each time, though, and creating backgrounds for the figures. She now cares about color, and the items she includes in her scenes are more in proportion these days. But at the same time, she has recently started copying some illustrations from book covers, capturing even the facial expressions almost perfectly. She's up for painting occasionally, but doesn't usually turn to it unless her attention is caught by seeing someone else at work. She builds very competently with the glue gun, using all sorts of materials. As I said above, though, she spends a lot of time on fiber arts.
  • Arabic: al7amdulillah, she's gotten the hang of reading in Arabic, although she goes slowly. It's been a big help to her hifz, al7amdulillah, now that she can remember what the word or ayah looks like, as well as what it sounds like.
  • Motor Skills: She's very brave in the gym these days (although still not a dare-devil!). She loves jumping from bed to bed, adored her first set of swimming lessons, very much enjoys ice skating, and loves her gymnastics class. 
  • Social Skills: She has pretty-close friendships with maybe five other girls her own age, and gets along very well with both older and younger kids in our various homeschool groups. She is steadily becoming more comfortable and confident talking to adults, whether she knows them or not, and is starting to get the hang of how to integrate herself into a game that other kids are already in the middle of. 
  • Science: Still haven't found a topic that really catches her attention. She's interested in things that impact her directly - for example, she cares about which foods do or don't have good nutritional value, since that affects whether or not I'll be likely to let her eat them; she's interested in how germs work when she has a cold, and in how teeth work when she has to go to the dentist. But she hasn't latched on to any particular topic for its own sake yet.
  • Math: We're almost finished with RightStart Level A, and I'm just delighted by how comfortable she is with numbers. Love this curriculum. 
So, al7amdulillah, things are going well! Things go most smoothly, and most satisfyingly for both of us, when I keep the morning hours protected for project work, Quran, books and occasional math lessons, and we don't head out for activities until the afternoon. There are so many fun things going on, though, that it's always a question of priority-juggling!