We are coming up on our fourth week of homeschooling, and I’m pleased (and maybe a little surprised) to report that things are still going well. Some days are definitely better than others in terms of everyone’s interest level and how much we actually manage to get done, but overall it’s been . . . well, fun. I’m learning what things work well (activities that involve him physically doing something) and what don’t (me blathering about a subject while he sits and fidgets/half-listens), and I’m slowly finding a sort of groove in terms of our daily schedule.

We’re still using weekly themes, but if I run out of related ideas, I don’t sweat it. Last week he picked rain as our learning topic, and by Wednesday everyone was bored of rain-focused activities (“CLOUDS: OUR CUMULUS FRIENDS!”) so we just did other stuff. No big deal.

A few of our recent projects:


Fishing for paper fish, counting his “catch”, sorting by color, practicing addition and subtraction (“A giant shark ate two of your fish, so now how many do you have left?”). Plus, both kids hitting each other with wooden dowels, getting tangled up in string, etc.


Making guesses as to whether an object (toy, Lego, spoon, whatever) would sink or float, then testing it out by dropping it into a tupperware filled with water.


Creating short words with individual letters.


Making patterns, guessing what shape needs to go next, etc.


For dinosaur week, I buried some paper dinosaur bones in a bowl filled with dry beans, which he excavated (“I AM A DINOSAUR SCIENTIST!”), then re-assembled.


Also for dinosaur week, we cut sponges into the shapes of dinosaur feet, stamped them on paper, then he made up a story about the footprints which I wrote on the whiteboard. We decided to make the story into a play and acted it out out for JB, with Riley playing the part of Triceratops. You’ll have to excuse the costume department for the superdorky hat.


The whiteboard’s been really handy for doing all kinds of things. Here we were discussing the relative characteristics of meat eating vs. plant eating dinosaurs. Scientific illustrations courtesy of someone who can’t draw worth a damn so shut up.

A couple of books I’ve been using quite a bit are this one for reading lessons, and this workbook which Riley mostly does on his own. I try and mix in some educational outings here and there, like last week when we talked about rain water in streams and rivers and ended up visiting a salmon hatchery.

Some of you have asked if I plan to homeschool long term, and the answer at the moment is no. Really, we’re only homeschooling because we decided not to start him in kindergarten this year and I didn’t want to just pull him from preschool without having some kind of plan for learning at home. I did a lot of fretting over his age, you know, trying to decide whether to hold him back (he turned 5 on the cutoff date), and I now feel pretty confident that what we’re doing is a fantastic alternative. He gets the extra year to mature a bit emotionally, and in the meantime, we have this opportunity to spend time together and make school into something enjoyable.

I feel so lucky to have the chance to do this. And wow, I just can’t get over how strange it is to say that. Me: homeschooling. Man.

Lastly, for no real reason other than to share a little piece of a child’s pure over-the-top joy with you, here’s a video JB took of he and Riley setting off a rocket together.

Rocket Launch Sept2010 from J_Bravo on Vimeo.


39 Responses to “School daze”

  1. 6512 and growing on September 26th, 2010 3:18 pm

    You sound so casual about it all, but clearly it takes a lot of prep to put together such stimulating and fun days.

    What a gift this year will be for all of you.

  2. Locusts and Wild Honey on September 26th, 2010 3:35 pm

    Rocket launching? Dinosaur hats? How does one enroll in this magical school?!

    I AM SOLD.

    PS: Does it matter that I already have a Masters degree? It was just in Creative Writing. Shouldn’t really count…

  3. lucidkim on September 26th, 2010 3:41 pm

    I’m impressed on so many levels. What you’re doing is a lot of work/prep even before you work with him – and all the detail you’re doing is amazing. And to have him spell words with letters? I’m sure there are first graders who would have trouble with that. He’s a little rocket scientist already. And his enthusiasm for all of it makes me smile. Yay you!

  4. Steph Auteri on September 26th, 2010 3:50 pm

    I am LOVING your homeschool updates. The lessons and activities you’ve been creating sound WAY more effective than anything used in the public schools I attended. My inner child is living vicariously through these blog posts.

  5. Jenny on September 26th, 2010 4:01 pm

    It looks like you are doing a fantastic job!

    Your story about dinosaur footprints makes me think of another story. When my twin sisters were probably 3 or 4, they used markers to color on our upstairs hallway carpet. When my mom saw it, she was about to blow a gasket and asked them what they were thinking. They very calmly and sweetly said they were making dinosaur tracks and were very clearly proud of their work. After that, my mom had to leave the room to laugh at the whole thing :)

  6. Victoria on September 26th, 2010 4:16 pm

    I kinda want to be homeschooled by you too!

    Also? Rocket video? SO HAPPY!

  7. sparkyd on September 26th, 2010 4:53 pm

    I just had to chime in and say that you totally CAN draw and are clearly very creative in general (no surprise there) because all this stuff is awesome. Your boys are lucky to have you.

  8. Deb on September 26th, 2010 5:19 pm

    Good Job, Dude.

  9. Jill on September 26th, 2010 5:57 pm

    Very neat! Was looking at Oriental Trading’s school stuff the other day and was thinking about your homeschooling adventure. Love the posts :)

  10. queermom on September 26th, 2010 6:01 pm

    Wow, it looks like you’re all having a great time.

    I highly agree with your choice in using ‘100 easy lessons…’. It is a fantastic book! i’ve used Engelmann’s Direct Instruction programs – as well as that book to teach many kids to read – including many with autism and a range of learning disabilities.

  11. sooboo on September 26th, 2010 6:22 pm

    I don’t have kids and I am enjoying these home school posts. I love that you are teaching Riley that school is an interesting place to investigate the mysteries of the world.

  12. Nichole on September 26th, 2010 6:48 pm

    Sink or Float was a big hit at our house, too. And dino bean excavation? Brilliant.

  13. Nicole on September 26th, 2010 7:30 pm

    Wow, I am seriously impressed! You are really putting a lot of effort into this.

  14. kalisa on September 26th, 2010 8:00 pm

    I was actually going to ask if the books you were using had stencils. I thought the dinosaur drawings were outstanding.

  15. Angella on September 26th, 2010 8:22 pm

    I love that this is working for you guys.

    I’m not sure if it’s the same in the States but in Canada, Kindergarten is not “mandatory”. Some people I know use that year to homeschool before unleashing their kids on First Grade. :)

  16. Erin on September 26th, 2010 8:34 pm

    I agree with Angella. Based on what I’ve seen the kids doing in Kindergarten these days, Riley might just be ready for 1st grade next year.

    Our daughter is turning 4 this week and we are thinking of starting her in Kindergarten next year (if she tests in) because I don’t want her to be bored like her big bro is.

    Great job on the school projects and if you think those are bad drawings of dinosaurs, you should come play Pictionary with me someday. You’d go home thinking you are quite talented.

  17. Maria on September 26th, 2010 8:35 pm

    This has been really inspiring to read. I don’t have any plans to home school AT ALL but it’s made me think of ways to structure some of our free afternoons and weekends with fun activities.

    I bought those BOB books and they’re incredible. My son read one of them in front of my inlaws last weekend and their heads just about popped off with amazement. So that was cool.

    I love love love Dylan in the top corner of that picture. We also have a Couch Percher.

  18. agirlandaboy on September 26th, 2010 10:13 pm
  19. Scott Dierdorf on September 26th, 2010 11:24 pm

    Sweet Jebus, woman! Where do you find the time to prep all of that stuff? I am officially starting to feel like a Bad Parent over here.

  20. Deanna on September 27th, 2010 4:08 am

    If you watch the intros to the wonderpets in slo mo or pause it frequently you get all KINDS of cute art ideas (based on the theme of the animal they are saving).
    Wish you could find a place to write about homeschooling daily. I would read that for sure!

    PS: have you seen this site? http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/print-k/make-pk-dots.htm There are several. Type something -words, names, etc – and it generates a writing worksheet with lines and dotted letters (or not) for the little ones to copy.

  21. Karl on September 27th, 2010 4:35 am

    Really loved the rocket video — model rockets are wonderful teaching tools in many different ways.

    Just a word from my (fairly extensive) experience, though: chasing and trying to catch a landing rocket is the #2 killer of rockets. (#1 is trees. #3 is probably too-large engines.) JB got lucky this time. Don’t chase ’em, just watch them all the way down.

  22. AmyinMotown on September 27th, 2010 5:40 am

    This is making me want to homeschool. And if you knew me, you’d know that is nothing short of shocking.
    We sent my daughter to K last year although she turned five the day after the cutoff in our state. She did great and I don’t regret our decision; she can totally handle the academics but she is having some behavior problems in first grade that are clearly from her being young for her year. I really like seeing what you’re doing and think it’s a great solution.

  23. Janet Pfaff on September 27th, 2010 6:36 am

    I’m a just retired kindergarten teacher (and 1-3) and what you are doing looks great ! Your son is very lucky.

  24. Aviva (omyc.wordpress.com) on September 27th, 2010 6:39 am

    My son is in a pre-school program but I appreciate your sharing your wonderful, creative ideas for our time together. You deserve a lot of credit, both for coming up with such fun, engaging, age-appropriate learning activities AND for having the wisdom to be adaptable to your children’s level of interest. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with other parents.

  25. Melissa on September 27th, 2010 7:20 am

    You are doing such an amazing job homeschooling! I love the updates!

    You’re very humble about how much you’ve done to get yourself working from home and how capable you are with this great undertaking…but damn, girl, you should be very proud.

    Riley’s sense of wonder (this is monster huge, it’s blowing my mind) is so awesome! What a great kid.
    For what it’s worth, especially with boys, I think waiting to start school is rarely a bad idea. Just based on my experiences with middle schoolers. Those that were just a little bit older were more successful…it’s amazing what a difference even 6 months makes, even when they’re 12.

  26. Marci on September 27th, 2010 7:44 am

    your dino drawings rock!

  27. Amy on September 27th, 2010 7:59 am

    Psh, you can totally draw (I draw for a living, so I know what I’m talking about.) LOVE the rocket video!!!

  28. JD on September 27th, 2010 8:37 am

    “…I’m learning what things work well (activities that involve him physically doing something) and what don’t (me blathering about a subject while he sits and fidgets/half-listens)…”


    I speak as a male who surely would have been drugged into a mindless pulp for ADHD, had they Ritalin available in the early 1970’s… and as a Dad whose son suffered through ~11 years of public ‘schooling’ before finally finding a program/groove that fits who he is. Son is thriving. But what a cost.

    Mom, you’re on the only sane path; keep on doing exactly what you’re doing right now. Do not send your boys to today’s public schools. Ever. They’ll only poison their brilliant souls in the name of conformity.

    Smart, high-energy boys MUST have kinethetic, hands-on INVOLVEMENT or they’ll surely fail, in abject bored-out-of-their-gourd misery. Droning blather = Tune Out, Fidget and Dream of Elsewhere.

    Your young men can -and will- harness their energy and apply it well, but it’ll be on their own terms, not those of the droning Authority at the front of the room.

    What you’re doing today is priceless; you’re giving them the chance to find out that learning is FUN and well worth its frustrations. Well done!

  29. joaaanna on September 27th, 2010 9:25 am

    I just love, love, love that video! Favorite part: “Let’s go show Mom!”

  30. KateB on September 27th, 2010 9:46 am

    As a teacher with her Masters in Elementary Education and a current kindergartener who is not being nearly as challenged as Riley, I wanted to let you know that I am most impressed. Looks great!!!

    Another cool website that has a lot of ideas and art projects on many subjects is: notimeforflashcards.com I use it with my boys all the time.

    Keep up the GREAT work!!!

  31. thejunebug on September 27th, 2010 10:20 am

    How awesome! What a great compromise. :) That triceratops does remind me of a unicorn you drew once upon a time, though… ;)

    Props to JB and Riley on the rocket launch! They were so pleased with themselves, it cracked me up.

  32. Gretchen on September 27th, 2010 2:36 pm

    Will you home school me? I may be in my 30s and long past the teachable age, but you make it look SOOOOOO fun!

  33. AmandaJo on September 27th, 2010 3:58 pm

    Dude. You rock so goddamn hard. And YAY JB! YAY RILEY!

  34. Laura on September 27th, 2010 5:42 pm

    You’re doing a great job and all, but I have to wonder if witches, ducks, churches, small rocks, and lead were on your sink or float list?

  35. lindsay on September 28th, 2010 12:02 pm

    I can’t get over his writing skills…and I think I understand that Kindercare is responsible for some of it. Makes me less nervous about being a working mother down the road.

  36. B on September 28th, 2010 3:36 pm

    is this homeschooling or is this just doing what a stay at home mom does?

  37. Linda on September 28th, 2010 4:04 pm

    Dear B: I don’t know, is that an honest question or are you just trying to be a dick?

  38. d on September 29th, 2010 6:02 pm

    Just came across this site for kids that teaches abc’s and reading and thought you might be interested http://www.starfall.com/

  39. Becky on October 4th, 2010 10:00 am

    I am REALLY impressed! I love the projects that you’ve been coming up with. I might have to try the excavating dinosaur bones thing with my son – what a fun idea!

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