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basket of books
Our Morning Basket

It’s our first day of homeschool pre-k!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been so busy preparing for our homeschool year that I haven’t spent as much one-on-one time with the kids as I’d have liked.

“Sorry, mommy can’t read with you right now, she’s too busy planning how she’s going to read with you during homeschool.”

*cue facepalm*

Here’s the funny thing about homeschooling (when we’re doing it right) — it’s just life.

Sure, we might make an effort to include a few formal lessons or to provide educational resources to support learning.

But at the heart of things, at least for our family, “school” is about exploring curiosity, finding joy, and learning skills and knowledge that help us become better, happier people.

(Did I just write a homeschool mission statement? BAM. ✊💪)

First Day of Homeschool Pre-k

I felt a little silly looking back on our first day of homeschool pre-k at the end of the day.

Because it was just a normal day.

Sure, I broke out a math book and attempted a phonics lesson.

But other than that, we were just doing the things we already love:

  • we read books
  • we played games
  • we did a craft
  • we went hiking
  • we played
  • we baked together
  • we listened to awesome music
  • we talked and asked questions

Of course, I had thought pretty carefully about the the books and questions and games that I suggested.

Yes, I had a weekly theme, a word of the day, and some big-picture learning goals.

But the activities themselves? They were things we already enjoy.

And that’s why I’m giving myself an A+ for my first official day as a homeschool mom.

Because we made learning happen as part of our regular daily lives.

Because we were intentional and thoughtful about the activities we engaged in, and because I let my daughter dictate the pace and the activities.

(More or less. I have a limit to how many rounds of “Sneaky Snacky Squirrel” I can play.)

Letting Go of the Checklist

As a confessed Type-A overachiever, I can get pretty attached to my checklists.

failed branch-weaving craft on the first day of homeschool pre-k
Not all our homeschool crafts are Pinterest-worthy

I won’t lie, it took a supreme act of will to flip the checklist over when my daughter decided she’d rather play with friends than continue with a maddeningly-frustrating “branch-weaving craft.”

(I didn’t say all our homeschool moments were beautiful. #truth)

I just kept reminding myself why I was doing this.

  • To spend more time with my kids
  • To make the most of the 18-ish years we get with our kids before they leave the nest
  • To provide my children with a rich, joyful educational experience
  • To instill a love of learning and exploration in my kids
  • To enjoy lovely moments as a family

Nowhere on this list is there anything about “complete five phonics lessons by the end of the week.”

The Nitty Gritty: Our First Day of Homeschool Pre-k

To that end, here’s how our first day of homeschool pre-k went.

Some activities went better than expected.

Several activities were scrapped in favor of playtime.

A few activities were flops.

Even so, I think we had a pretty great day.

Morning Basket

I laid out a math-inquiry activity from our Torchlight Pre-K curriculum. My daughter jumped right into tracing the number cards while I made breakfast.

number tracing activity on the first day of homeschool pre-k

I had planned to make a healthy breakfast cookie recipe together, but my daughter wasn’t interested in baking, so I did it myself while she played.

(And I wasn’t frustrated at all when she then refused to eat these delicious carrot cookies or the homemade applesauce I’d made that morning. 🙄)

But then we read a bunch of books over breakfast (Torchlight). I also read a short historical excerpt about George Washington from What Your Preschooler Needs To Know, because it’s the 4th of July this week.

Pre-K Homeschool Playlist

Music is SUCH an important part of our day. We use it to re-set our mornings and to set the tone for our activities.

I made a playlist for this week, and they included some fun patriotic songs, as well as the recommended weekly song from Torchlight. I also have a few Spanish songs we like to sing in the morning, and I rotate these.

When it’s time to sit down to breakfast (which is also when we read our Morning Basket books), I just hit play on this playlist. This has been a fantastic tool all week long — as soon as the first song starts playing, my kids settle down and pay attention.

We listen to the first three songs on this playlist and sing-along. Then, the playlist transitions to some softer piano music, and that’s my cue to start reading our books for the day.

Morning Work

My daughter asked to play a game after breakfast, and Torchlight had a few recommended games for this week, including a daytime/night-time printable as well as The Life On Earth Matching Game by eeBoo.

Torchlight Pre-K Daytime Nighttime Matching Game -  first day of homeschool pre-k
Torchlight Pre-K Daytime/Night-time Matching Game

(Then we played a few endless rounds of The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel game, at her request.)

I know my daughter loves games, so it was great to have a few prepared and ready that were in line with my goals this week.

Normally, when my daughter asks to play a game, I’d put my daughter off by saying I was too busy, or by only playing one or two rounds. But I’ve carved out this time to “do school,” and I fully embrace the idea of gameschooling.

It’s amazing how much easier it was to sit there during the 87th round of Dinosaur Escape, just by shifting the mindset from “keep them occupied until bedtime” to “learn cooperation and build connection through board games.”

Nature Time

child walking on a log in the woods

Monday was a national holiday here in Guatemala — i.e., no scheduled activities. I used the empty day as an excuse to front-load some science lessons for the week.

We’re using Exploring Science for pre-k, and our lesson this week is about observation.

After briefly talking about what the word “observe” meant, I broached the idea of going on a hike. I had originally planned on just going for a “five senses” walk around the neighborhood, but hey, we’re homeschoolers now, which means we get to mix things up when we want, right?

As we drove to the trail (just ten minutes away), we talked about using our five senses to observe, and we practiced observing things as we drove.

Nature Journaling

I beefed up our weekly hike by adding a nature journal and a pair of binoculars to the walk. I was fully prepared to let the nature journal go, but the kids seemed to really enjoy their “big-kid” journal.

children writing in journal in the woods for the first day of homeschool pre-k

The trail we visit is close to the house, and we go several times a month. I loved that by only making a few tweaks to our routine — by simply being intentional about the questions I asked as we walked through the woods — I was able to turn this fun, family activity into “school.”

As we walked, we paused to see what we could hear. As we trudged through a muddy patch, we talked about the smell. We touched a prickly vine, rough bark, a velvety leaf. And of course, we looked and looked — for jaguars in their caves, mostly (which led to a further discussion about nocturnal animals, which happens to be part of our Torchlight theme this week. LEARNING NINJA WOO-CHAW!).

Love Ninja gif

Lunch & Books

After an hour and a half of trudging through the Guatemalan jungle, we were all pretty tired. Over lunch, we read a few books (BookShark) and talked about our hike.

We are using BookShark very loosely in conjunction with our other curricula, mainly because we already own it. They do a good job of providing some longer read-alouds (compared to Torchlight), and the subject matter is more challenging.

Each day, I read one or two selections from BookShark’s daily checklist, and I totally don’t stress if we don’t get to something — it’s really just a way to add some great stories to our repertoire that we might not normally include. We don’t have access to a library here so I have to create our own book lists, and these resources help.

Quiet Play

After lunch, the baby went down for a nap, and my older daughter got to play with her Marble Run, a toy she’s not allowed to play with while her sister is awake due to the small parts. (I totally count this as STEM work, by the way.)

Then, she played with her toys while I got some work done.

To my mind, this quiet, independent play is just as important (if not more) than the lessons we do together.

Math & Phonics

child completing The Good and The Beautiful Kindergarten math lesson on first day of homeschool pre-k
Math Lesson – Bar Graphs on Day 1 of Pre-K!

After quiet time, we were ready to come back together for more formal lessons. Our lesson from TG&TB took about fifteen minutes (and she was getting squirmy by the end), but I absolutely adore how this program is structured.

Just to be clear, we are secular homeschoolers and this curriculum is from a religious company. However, I have not found the religious references to be intrusive or overwhelming in any way. It’s just math, with pretty pictures and stories attached (at least, so far).

After math, we played with a Smart Logic game, at her request.

Then we came back together for our phonics lesson from All About Reading. She liked the funny “splat” game, but struggled to maintain attention for the rest of the lesson, so I let it drop. There’s always tomorrow, and she’s only four.

We wrapped up lessons for the day by playing our handbells and watching a video from Prodigies Music. I won’t lie, attention was getting pretty thin by this point, but the lesson was only six minutes long — and yet despite the minimal attention span, by the end of the video, she had figured out how to play in rhythm with the video.

Outside Play

The kids went outside with Dad, who was home from work because of the holiday. They had a mission to find a special branch for a craft activity, but other than that, this was unstructured time.

Daily unstructured outdoor play is a huge priority for us.

Crafts and Playtime with Friends

We attempted to make “Y-Branch” weavings (with limited success), and then the kids got to play in the driveway until dinner time with some new neighbors that just moved in.

First Day of Homeschool Pre-K: In Summary…

This was just another day — we ate, we cooked, we read, we played, we went outside. And we still checked off a full day’s worth of learning activities. It was all about being intentional about the activities that were available to the kids and making sure these activities linked together in a casual, relaxed way.

First day of homeschool pre-k, by the numbers:

  • Outside time: three hours
  • Formal table work: about forty-five minutes
  • Books read: 9? I lost count
  • Musical genres listened to: classical, traditional folk songs, Spanish nursery rhymes, rock and roll
  • Word of the day: “observe”
  • Theme of the week: “habitats” and “nocturnal animals”
  • Meals eaten as a family: three
  • Number of tantrums: none
  • Number of hours I had to myself to work: three

Don’t get me wrong — there were still terse words, a broken dishwasher to deal with, and a baby who likes to steal pieces from the board game at the exact wrong moment.

It’s life.

But I really, really love this life we’re creating together.

How do you incorporate learning in your home?

Do you homeschool? How did your first day of homeschool pre-k go? Or maybe your kids attend traditional school, but you incorporate learning into your daily rhythm differently — how does this look in your home?

Share in the comments below, or shoot me a message at [email protected].

You’ve got this, mama.

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