A new school year is almost upon us. We begin our new adventure on August 1st and we’re all a bit excited. Here’s a peek into our upcoming year…
Morning Time is really only the first 30 minutes of our day (after that we start to lose the attention of the little ones). We begin it at breakfast with our prayers and our read-alouds and then it transitions to morning time table work as I clean up the kitchen. I hesitate to list all of our morning time activities because it looks like a massive load, but it really isn’t (some topics only take a few minutes to cover!).
In the past we’ve always kept a family memory work notebook, but this year, in addition to that, I’ve also made Joey and William their own Morning Time notebooks. Andrew and Katie each have a folder with a copy of the Good Morning Dear Jesus prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, their character chart and a hundreds number chart. Andrew’s also has a copy of Charlotte Mason’s Formidable List of Attainments.
Joey and William’s books each contain a reading log and their daily “map”, as well as sections for memory work, hymns, art appreciation, music appreciation, drawing, map drill, physics, and bird study (our herb studies are recorded in our nature journals and their president studies will be recorded on a collection of Presidential “collector cards” that they’ll be making after each lesson).
I was inspired by a friend in my local Charlotte Mason group to create a nature nook. Our nook is on the top shelf of our manipulative/toy shelves, just under the window. We hung the hummingbird feeder right outside the window and at some point we’ll replace our broken bird feeder. I filled a bag with our nature study guides, magnifying glasses, binoculars, art supplies and clipboards. It’s all in a bag so it’s portable…we can just grab it and head out the door. We also have a small microscope and a treasure box for lucky nature finds (I think there are a few pressed flowers and sand-dollars in there right now).
Each child also has an individual bag with watercolors, colored pencils and a nature notebook. Joey and William each have a nature notebook in there to use for their herb studies. (We’re continuing with our herbal studies using A Kid’s Herbal Book, Shanleya’s Quest, the Herbal Fairies over at learningherbs.com and the lovely Wildcraft! game.) We’re waiting for these precious pocket pads to arrive for us to tote with us on our daily nature walks around the neighborhood. This year we plan to participate in the Texas Nature Challenge again, which was full of nature study opportunities last year.
Math: This year will be an adventure in Math. We’re going a bit off-road. We’ve tried multiple math programs and each of them has been a disaster. For Joey, at least. William has done well with Saxon, but I was at a turning point with him, debating about whether to move him into Saxon 3 Intermediate or Singapore. In the end, the thought of spending so much more money on another math program was enough to send me desperately searching for a better answer. After reading Richele Baburina’s Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching and watching the companion DVD, I am inspired to try Charlotte Mason’s methods so we’re all going to switch to CM style math using Ray’s Arithmetic and the Strayer-Upton math books. For geometry, we’ll be using Paper Sloyd and for Outdoor Geography, we’ll be using Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography and Long’s Home Geography for Primary Grades. Joey and William both have a spiral with grid paper for their work (although much of the younger years will be spent doing math orally). We’re still continuing with Life of Fred (see my Morning Time list), Bedtime Math, and our math book basket, as well.
Paths of Exploration:
I wanted to try a boxed curriculum this year for a little break from planning detailed plans each week. After much searching, reading, and thinking, I finally decided on GeoMatter’s Paths of Exploration. We’ll be covering American explorers this year. It’s a CM style curriculum with daily copywork/dictation, readers, read-alouds, word study, geography, and writing lessons. It incorporates nature studies and drawing lessons as well as practical life skills like cooking and navigation skills.
The Homegrown Preschooler: Katie and Andrew will be following A Year of Playing Skillfully in addition to their math and phonics lessons.
Sonlight Readers: Joey will be using Sonlight Readers 4/5 and William will be using Sonlight Readers 3. While I’m not a huge fan of comprehension questions and we rely mostly on narration, I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to read and keep up with each child. It makes it hard to be sure they are comprehending well if I haven’t read what they are reading…so to train them in good narrations, we’ll be using the readers (Sonlight’s reading lists are always full of little gems!) along with the comprehension guides so that I can be sure they are properly narrating and comprehending. Hopefully a year of good narration habits will build a foundation for next year so that we can choose our own book list.
Rosetta Stone: Joey shows an aptitude and an interest in learning a foreign language so he will be using the Spanish version of Rosetta Stone this year as an independent study.
Hoffman Academy: Both Joey and William will continue their piano lessons with Hoffman Academy.
All About Spelling: Joey is almost finished with Level 6 and he really wants to finish out the program so a few times a week, we’ll continue on our AAS journey.
IEW Geography Based Writing Lessons, Fix It Grammar Book 2, and Elementary Diagramming Worktext: When I first told Joey we were going to switch and use Paths of Exploration for our grammar and writing lessons, he was devastated. This kid loves language…everything about it from writing to diagramming sentences. He asked if he could continue with his Fix It Grammar and some diagramming. Who am I to say no to that?! Also, when he and I saw the Geography Based Writing Lessons in the IEW catalog, we were excited to think of how well that would dovetail to the POE lessons, so we added it in. If he finds himself overwhelmed, we’ll either drop his portion of the POE writing/grammar lessons or we’ll scale back on how quickly we’re covering the IEW lessons.
Cheerful Cursive and Typing Instructor for Kids: William will be slowly working his way through the Cheerful Cursive book and he’ll also practice typing at least once a week.
Our Classroom: Since October 2014, we have had our schoolroom out in the back with Daxson’s office, but it’s been a bit impractical. It’s a small room out there and since we were all confined to that tiny space together, it was hard for the big kids to concentrate while the little ones had a hard time playing quietly for extended periods of time. So I moved us back into the house. The schoolroom took over the playroom, booting the toys to various other places such as the living room and bedrooms (and still a few shelves of toys remain in the schoolroom). I tried my best to make our schoolroom look like just another room in the house, but doggone it, it’s just in my blood to make a schoolroom look like a schoolroom. At least no one will be confused as to which room is which.
We squeezed one of the bookcases from the schoolroom into our dining room (and Alphie somehow made it out of the giveaway pile and onto the book shelf!), but ended up leaving the bookcase full of history and science books out in the office suite. We moved a couch out there, so it makes a nice cozy spot to go hang out and read.
It’s nice having a little table for the little ones to work at and when their attention wanders, they can play just around the corner in the living room without disturbing the big kids. Also, Pappy provided a beautiful sensory table for Andrew and Katie and it’s just outside the schoolroom window. Andrew is already in love with his table and the opportunities are endless. Pappy even included a light box, which allows the light to shine through transparent items placed on top. All beautifully constructed with precision and attention to detail.
Schedules and checklists: I work much better with a written plan as do the boys. Last year we tried the spiral notebook method of keeping up with assignments, but the truth is, I rarely remembered to fill them out each evening and by the time school started, I was frantically scribbling away in their notebooks. I’m much better at thinking about the week as a whole, so this year we’re going back to a checklist that I fill in at the beginning of the week. Subjects that need to have their day’s work completed before moving on (such as math) will be filled in on a daily basis. I tweak our schedules as we go to help them fit us more comfortably, so by the end of the first week, this may all change (already after filling in the boys’ schedules for the first week, I’ve realized they need a little tweaking).
I also included a year-at-a-glance calendar for myself that highlights important feast days that we like to celebrate throughout the year.