i suppose the title of this post is a bit misleading. with the exception of ty, there aren't really any school days for the rest of the kids. but there are PLENTY of learning days (365 days a year of it, in fact).
letter of the month activities (which i know has been non-existent for over 6 months...i blame the printer!). and then there's the whole homeschool or traditional school decision to make for emma since she'll be turning 5 next year. there are a lot of things to consider, but i will save that for another post.
but we have decided with certainty that we will not be enrolling emma (and most likely the rest of the kiddos) in preschool. she seems to be thriving with her current learning environment at home, and for us, we feel preschool would not serve any additional educational "advantage" for her. additionally, our little neck of the woods provides a lot of learning opportunities for the kids from the nature centers, the cleveland metroparks, museums, libraries, the city's learn through play programs, and local events around town (ingenuity fest, sparx city hop, etc.).
we make this a top priority and it is part of our daily activity, not just "school-time." there is not one day where there is no reading involved. some days we only read 3 or 4 times. other days we read up to 6 maybe 7 times in a day. reading is such a great springboard for teaching and learning about pretty much everything. at this point reading material will range from gibson's-attention-span books, like the big red barn, to more-words-than-pictures books, like the chronicle of narnia series. i also try to incorporate bible reading time from our family bible. even gibson will sit through a section of that and is very familiar with the book, differentiating a regular book from the family bible. i've also started emma on very simple reading exercises using the sight word booklets found here, and i plan on writing out each word of her monthly memory verse on little cards to see if she can put them in order (with a reference of the verse to go off of).
we do a variety of number recognition and counting activities. baking and putting away clean silverware have been excellent opportunities for this, but in regards to "school-time" i've printed out and laminated number cards for her to put in order and sort the appropriate amount of shells. she blazed through this activity the first time she did it so i only bring it out once in a while. i think maybe i'll add on more numbers (maybe 5 at a time?) and see how it goes.
although reading (not to be limited to books, but can include signs, labels, etc.) is probably the best way to introduce literacy, i have made a word match folder for emma to do during her designated "school-time." she has really enjoyed this activity, and will often request it even if i had planned on skipping it for the day. right now i have about 3.5 pages of words, but i'd like to add more once she really masters the current set of words.
writing down thoughts and the events of the day has been a big part of my life. although i don't keep a paper journal anymore, i have found that this blog has served as my own personal journal. i remember even as young as 2nd grade, keeping a special diary, recording my thoughts and ideas as a way to process the events of the day. i felt this was something special and important that i'd like to pass on to my own kids, so emma and i created a special journal for her to "record" some of her own ideas. i picked up a simple composition notebook, which we personalized by decoupaging the cover with some of emma's drawings. at this point, there is obviously no writing involved, just pictures. sometimes i suggest a topic for her to draw about, though i leave it up to her to decide whether or not she'll use it (even though the control-freak part of me wants her to use the idea). i'm sure that in the future there will be a transition point where writing will be involved in the journaling process, but right now my main goal is for her to enjoy the activity and provide her with a tool to express her thoughts, ideas and feelings.
i just started this and our current topic for the couple of weeks has been about farms and farm life (which intentionally coincided with our bob evans farm festival trip and our apple picking adventure). activities that will help reinforce the current study will vary but might include "field trips," lapbooks, baking, reading (of course!), scavenger hunts, and various crafts. topical studies will obviously not be limited to the designated "school-time," but some of the crafts, activities and/or lapbooks will be reserved for that time. i'm not sure how long i want to stretch topical studies yet, though it will probably be a minimum of 2 weeks. right now, our topic study has been stretched out a lot longer than i had anticipated since we don't have a working printer at home to complete some of the lessons and activities i had planned.
i really like being able participate with my kids in the whole learning process, and i think that as long as it is an enjoyable experience for both parties i don't see any reason to stop doing what we're doing.