Thursday, May 28, 2009

Overheard from the garden

The queen helped Daddy put tomatoes in, and came to me with a very serious face saying "We planted lots of tomatoes. Daddy's favorite is "better boys," but my favorite is the "girly girls".

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Asking for Tips

We will be going to Washington D.C. this fall (husband has a conference there), and I am realizing I need to start thinking about the things we want to do on our trip, so I am looking for advice. Anyone want to tell me the "must see" sites, keeping in mind I will be toting 4 kids around by myself most of the time? I have not been to D.C. since 6th grade, and the things I remember are the Smithsonian (Dorothy's ruby red slippers!), the botanical gardens (what amazing orchids!), and the fact that the rotunda was being restored and we could not tour the capitol building. Oh, and my dad refused to wait in line to take me to the top of the Washington Monument, which was the one thing I really wanted to do. So, those of you who have been more recently, what advice can you give? And is it worth it to try to get a tour of the White House (realizing I may have waited too late to get that one to happen)?

Finally Gardening

A few weeks ago my husband and the kids put in the first of the garden, planting chard, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, squash, peppers and tomatoes. Then, it rained for a week, and the garden ended up a massive mud pit. Thankfully, it looks like most of the plants sprouted, though we have not spotted any broccoli yet (of course, since this is the first year we planted broccoli, none of us knows what the sprouts look like :) So, yesterday came phase 2: corn. Here is the corn patch all tilled and ready for seeds.

The crocodile hunter plants his watermelon seeds (harvested from last years watermelon he grew from a seed from a grocery store melon none of us believed would sprout!)
The baby spent her time sampling the dirt.

The queen preferred raking.

And the best part, here is the little princess carefully placing corn in the rows daddy prepared, and following along behind her is the baby, carefully picking out the seeds and eating them!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Working Out a New Routine

Anyone with children knows there is no such thing as a definite schedule! Naps are constantly changing, lessons and commitments come and go, and you have to learn to bend with the the season of life you are currently living. That said, having a structure to the day is important, and something my kids thrive on when I manage to be diligent and create that structure for them.
To that end, since all of our "regularly scheduled programming" has suddenly changed, I am taking a fresh look at how and when we accomplish our learning. While I love much of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, I do not agree with the idea of lots of little subjects in 10-15 minute lessons. That is too all involving for me, too complicated to keep moving, and does not allow for us to dig deeply into a subject. I tend to lean towards longer blocks of time, and am learning to allow those blocks of time to float through the day, without always tying them to a definite hour. So, taking the concept of lesson blocks (a waldorf term), the principle of multum non multa and some suggestions from an old curriculum guide for Classical Conversations, I have come up with a flexible schedule for us to follow. I did include target times to help me focus, but I also realize that many of those times will have to shift. I am trying to maintain my consistent wake time and bedtime, and currently have a set workout schedule with a trainer, and of course piano, karate and gymnastics are all fixed. Around those peg times, I want to fit in 3 or 4 lesson blocks. Traditionally a Waldorf lesson block is longer than an hour, but I think we are going to work in one hour time chunks in the morning, then allow for longer blocks of time in the afternoon for pursuing history and science.

6:30 - mom up, start laundry, breakfast, morning prayers
7:00 - kids up, dressed, chores, breakfast, prayers and lives of saints
8:00 - 3 days/week - leave for my workout
2 days/week - introduce new memory work, go outside, or start 1st lesson block earlier

9:30 - home, shower, girls play with the baby, crocodile hunter begins Latin
10:00 - 1st lesson block - Math - everyone will work on math, I will begin by teaching the littlest, and slowly dismiss the younger ones to play, moving my way up to the oldest
11:00 - teatime - I have decided to shift this to morning snack time, because our afternoons have gotten busy with outside lessons - this also allows the baby to get an early lunch so she can go down for a nap midday - during this time we will cover poetry, composer study and picture study on a rotating basis
12:00 - 2nd lesson block - Language Arts - this will be the time we cover copywork, spelling, and writing
1:00 - lunch time - listen to CD's - Story of the World or Shakespeare plays
on days we have errands, this is also the time they are to gather what they need for their classes and make sure they are appropriately dressed
2:00 - 3rd lesson block - this will be History or Science, we will alternate which one we cover

3:00 - 6:00 we run errands and the kids have lessons

3 days/week
3:00-4:00 - outside time - naptime for the Queen
4:00 - 4th lesson block - this will be for projects, literature, reading aloud, whatever needs to get done, followed by free time and independent reading

7:00 - dinner - time with Daddy, reading together, evening prayers

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2009-2010 Plans for 3rd Grade

I am having a hard time grasping that the little princess could be in 3rd grade already! A rough outline of what she will be studying is below.

Orthodox Studies:
Old Testament history - this will fall under our history portfolio and ancient history studies
Lives of the Saints

Ray's exercises
Strayer/Upton Book 1
Math on the Level

the focus of this year will be multiplication and division

English Studies:
SWR spelling
copywork from lives of the saints
Lively Language Lessons for grammar instruction
progym - I don't think she is ready to start CW Aesop, so I was excited to see that Classical Writing has developed a primer. I think we are going to try that out and see how it goes. It may be overkill, or it may allow us to drop other things, I am going to order it so I can get a better feel for whether it will be the right thing for us this year.

Tanglewood Tales

Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt - using the plans a created last year but put on hold - I will post these in the next week or so
D'Aulaires Greek Myths
Ancient History Portfolio Junior

We are going to focus on Africa and the Middle East this year, using ideas from Serendipity.

Apologia Botany

And again, she will continue pursuing piano lessons, gymnastics, and CM style composer and artist studies. In looking back over our plans, I am excited to say that I have no big purchases to make this year! I already have all of the core books we will be using, a large selection of supplemental reading for both science and history, and much of Kindergarten will be home created items. I know there will be fun books along the way I will want to buy, but it is good to know that most of my curriculum is already sitting on my shelf, and the school budget can be used for extra-curricular activities and "fun stuff".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009-2010 Plans for 5th Grade

Here is what is shaping up for the crocodile hunter this year. He will be in 5th grade, and while there are still some unknowns (we may be in a co-op that will change/add some elements), this is what I am looking at planning out. Again, much of this follows the Latin Centered Curriculum, though we are continuing with more of a four year history cycle and are back around to Ancient history again this year.

Orthodox Studies:
Young Folks Josephus
The Christians - this is a wonderful series - I have the first 7 books, they are beautiful, informational, fascinating reading, and a very balanced perspective no matter your denomination. I am planning to let him read the first 3 volumes at his own pace. If you have the financial ability to support this project, I encourage you to order from them, these books are well worth the cost.
readings from the Prologue from Ohrid

I will continue using a combination of the exercises in Ray's Arithmetic, Math on the Level, and possibly Singapore Math. Since this is the area in which I feel the least confidence, I need to be open to some flexibility. I love the way things are laid out in Math on the Level, but it is nice to have a workbook to fall back on when things get crazy.
Update 6/5: I am planning to drop Singapore, and use the exercises in Strayer/Upton Book 2

I am not sure if we will continue with Lively Latin Book 2, but I don't think we are ready for something like Henle. I need to do a bit more research here.

English Studies:
Copywork from lives of the saints
Spelling - we probably need to continue with SWR spelling lists, he is a decent speller, but could use some work still

Black Ships before Troy
Wanderings of Odysseus
In Search of a Homeland - if we get that far :)

Famous Men of Greece
Famous Men of Rome
Ancient History Portfolio

Apologia Botany

So that is the core of our studies, and of course we will continue with CM style composer and artist studies and piano lessons.

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009-2010 Plans for Kindergarten

Part of me feels terribly behind, as I am only just now beginning to think about the next school year. Another part of me feels guilty spending time planning for next year when there is so much left to complete this year! But, planning for the next school year invigorates me, it encourages me to press on when the spring begins to drag, it gives me a focus, something to strive towards. I am especially excited/terrified that I will be adding a student this year - the Queen will begin Kindergarten this fall, and while I am really looking forward to teaching Kindergarten again - I am definitely nervous about having three to homeschool (I know, I know, all you mom's with 6 + kids are laughing at me now :). So, I am going to post a basic outline of my tentative plans for Kindergarten next year, recognizing that usually means everything will completely change several times before the fall! As usual, much of my planning comes from Latin Centered Curriculum, with a little CM and Waldorf thrown in for good measure. I will post plans for the other two over the next week.

Orthodox Studies:
Garden of Theotokos - I am planning to use the book of creation, the 12 days of Christmas and the Lent to Pentecost units from this program with her
various Lives of the Saints story books
Children's Bible Reader - OT stories

I am creating a set of Orthodox phonics cards and copywork to use with her (see side bar for link to phonics cards)

We will focus on Aesop's Fables, Mother Goose Rhymes, Nursery Tales, and Charlotte's Web. I plan to do lots of reading aloud, and hopefully gradually begin doing narrations.

We will create a book of numbers Waldorf style, review basic shapes, and will introduce addition and subtraction using Math on the Level ideas and Waldorf story telling as she is ready

the older ones will be doing botany, so I am planning to use the Flower Fairy Alphabet with her, to correlate with our phonics studies, along with some fun read aloud units corresponding to the seasons

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Enjoy this, you know not if you pass this way again"

I wanted to share this post, because it expresses so eloquently what I and I am sure many others sometimes feel, when in the back of our minds we know there probably will not be another. It applies to so much more than just giving birth though, I think we must approach every day, every moment with our families, babies, children and loved ones this way, for we know not if we pass this way again.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Choosing Curriculum

Ah, the time has come once again to turn thoughts to planning. I must say, this is the part of homeschooling I love, and hate, the most. I love to look over books, spend hours flipping through curriculum catalogs, going to the curriculum fair and seeing all the fun "stuff". My problem, of course, is that like most homeschoolers, I am a curriculum junkie, and I have to be careful not the buy everything that looks good. So, how does one choose? Sometimes I long for the days when I was homeschooled, when the only curriculum shopping my mom did was order a bunch of textbooks from Abeka, Saxon or Bob Jones. Well, okay, not really - but you know what I mean. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming to try to narrow down the choices, to not get sidetracked by the shiny new curriculum just out, the latest buzz on the curriculum boards.

So, how do I go about it? Well, to start, I think it is really important to know yourself and your kids. Homeschooling takes a lot of self-discipline. It's hard to get up every day and not get sidetracked by all the other things going on - it's hard to be disciplined enough to make school happen (and I say this with all humility as one who so often fails). So, don't make it harder by choosing something you know you won't stick with. If you are not a crafty person, don't pick a curriculum that requires lots of lapbooking. If you hate reading aloud, don't go with a living books curriculum that will require you to spend most of your school day reading aloud to your little ones (though, I must say, typing that makes me cringe, because I don't care how much you hate to read, every kid should be read to every day!). If you hate fill in the blanks, quizzes and worksheets, don't pick a traditional textbook approach. All that seems like common sense, but actually following through with that can be hard. How easily tempted I am by programs that I know are simply not practical for me to implement in my home life with my kids. What works for the mother of one will not work for the mother of 4, (or 10!).

Second, know your kids. This takes more time. Often we have a general notion of how our kids prefer to learn. Some are very hands on, others just want a book to read and figure it out themselves. Little ones need us to be more involved and engaging as we teach them. Older children need to slowly learn how to take over some of the responsibility in learning. The longer you teach them, the easier it will be to see what works for them. My caveat here is, the child does NOT run the show. Your kids are not going to like everything you select. They will not like every subject. They don't all like to read at first. But, life it tough, and sometimes we have to do things we don't like, and that is a good lesson for them to learn :) So, while I take my kids interests and abilities into consideration, there are some non-negotiables. They will take Latin, because I know it is important for them to learn. They will read good quality literature, because I am not comforted by the statement "well, at least they are reading", a quote parents use to justify allowing their children to read mind numbing, silly books which only further discourage their desire or ability to read the more challenging books. But in general, I consider each of my kids, and try to plan things I know will excite both them and me.

My point is, don't set yourself up for failure. Don't choose a curriculum that you cannot implement realistically in your situation, no matter how great it sounds. Don't be frustrated if it takes a few years to figure out what is going to work in your home. Don't let someone convince you a program is perfect for you just because it is perfect for them. Don't allow yourself to be constantly changing course, when you find something that works - stick with it!

May Showers, and finally, May flowers

Well, after a full week of nothing but rain, the sun is back, and while I was beginning to feel like a drowned rat, the flowers obviously enjoyed it, all my roses are blooming!