Friday, September 9, 2016

How We Do School

We don't have an actual school space so we use the corner of the living room, where baby can play on the floor nearby.  Sometimes the girls like to pretend they have real desks though.
 This week Juliana and Adalyn happily donned princess and Minnie Mouse backpacks and headed off to school together. Juliana is starting her last year of Chinese kindergarten. She technically graduated kindergarten last year with the rest of her class, but since she's not yet old enough to start primary school we wanted her to go another year.

We first talked to the school about this in April. They said ask again in July. We asked in July; they said ask again on the next to last day. That day they said come back after school is finished. Then come back on the first day of school, September 1. But that day all the leaders were gone at meetings so on Monday, finally, Kevin went with Juliana and was able to talk to the principal who said, “Okay, she can start today.”
Ready to head to school.  We take Juliana on bike or both the girls in our little electric cart. (Look at those jackets! We officially survived summer!)
Kindergarten in China lasts for three years, starting at 3 years old. Each class stays together with the same classmates and teachers for all three years. This year Juliana will repeating the oldest grade. She has new classmates and teachers, who seem very nice. It will be a transition, since most of her old friends have moved on to primary school, but fortunately she is already familiar with the school and they with her. While most kindergarteners attend from 8am-5:30pm, we pick up Juliana at noon so she can do home school and have down time in the afternoon.

Adalyn is starting her first year of preschool! She is going two mornings a week to a small school held in an apartment with only about 12-15 other kids. The teachers are very nice and speak a little bit of English, and it's a laid-back, play-based environment. On her first day, Adalyn headed straight for the toys with barely a goodbye. She is pretty pleased about being big enough to go to school like Juliana. Her school is about 25 minutes away, so we'll be spending a lot of time carting back and forth, but fortunately it is in the same direction as Juliana's school.

We plan for Adalyn to start kindergarten next year, so I think this will be good preparation. I don't feel like academics are necessary at this stage, but it will be helpful for her to be in a Chinese environment and around other kids her age. She hasn't been very interested in speaking Chinese lately, so I think this will be motivating.

In the afternoons, after rest/nap time, we will be continuing with home-school. Juliana did “early kindergarten” last year and now will be doing K/1. You don't have to worry too much about grade distinction in home-school, which is convenient with two late-September babies who are right at the cut-off. I think our home-school will look a lot like last year.

Adalyn joins us for songs, talking about the calendar and weather, and practicing a Bible memory verse. She usually stays around to listen to our FIAR read-aloud book, if it's not too long. We've been doing Five in a Row for 1.5 years. Each week or two we do a unit focusing on a different children's book. We read the book aloud each day and do language arts, social studies, science, and art activities related to the book. Next year we'll probably move on to something with a little more structure, but I have really liked this for early grades. It is very gentle and experiential.

For instance, this week we are starting with a book called The Salamander Room. We'll learn some about salamanders, talk about animal habitats and go on a nature hunt, make and decorate salt dough salamanders and create a little habitat diorama. Juliana will dictate her own imaginative story about having an animal live in her room and paint a picture to go along with it. As we go along we generally examine the artwork in the book, talk about different basic literary elements, and talk about some of the interactions in the book.
The girls collected nature items to make habitats for their salt dough salamanders

Juliana also does Math U See and All About Reading. She likes the games but is less enthusiastic about the practice required. I like both the curriculums pretty well and plan to continue on with these in the future. Adalyn likes playing with math blocks and doing the reading games.

I am planning to do a little bit of a “Letter of the Week” curriculum with Adalyn this year too. It has some letter recognition, pre-writing skills, cutting and sorting activities, patterns, and that of thing. We'll see how much we actually do. Sometimes Adalyn likes to have some work to do along with Juliana, but sometimes she just wants to play.
Some days school goes well and feels inspirational. Other days it is pulling teeth to get absolutely anywhere and we spend 40 minutes trying to get through a few math pages. So, pretty normal. It is a lot harder to get Juliana to focus when she has already been in a school setting all morning, but kindergarten is great for her Chinese development and social needs.

Overall I enjoy home schooling but I also really enjoy sending my kids off to school sometimes.  We'll see what the future will look like, but right now I'm glad that we can take part in both worlds!

One year + one week down, 18 or so years to go... 
[fade off to me quietly screaming in the background]

No comments: