Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Homeschool Days


Well, it has been one year since my last post.
So I guess it's time to say something.
I wanted to write a little about how we do school these days- mostly for my own sake, since I assume I will not remember in 6 months, let alone when Louise is 8 and I'm wondering what on earth we used to do for second graders.

We are eclectic homeschoolers- which means that I don't adhere to any specific philosophy of education. I love much of Charlotte Mason (like short lessons, nature study, narrations and copywork), but find a lot of it to be tedious or out of date. For example, I like letting my kids read fact-books and  picture-books, although Ms. Mason disapproved of both.
Classical Education doesn't generally sit well with me, although our favorite curriculum (Story of the World) is by Susan Wise Bauer- the classical education Queen.
So anyway.
Here's what we do.

Every morning we start with breakfast. Travis makes breakfast while I read from the Book of Mormon aloud. During breakfast we also do our current scripture memory verse, because I use a notecard with the verse on it as my bookmark in the Scriptures. We don't read a lot, maybe 10 verses most days. Then we talk about it or the schedule for the day.

After breakfast we move into Morning Tasks and Daily Devotional.
The kids are in charge of completing their own Morning Tasks. For Grey and Micah (age 8) that includes:
Getting Dressed
Brushing Hair and Teeth
Reading Scriptures (illustrated story, not the actual Word)
Practicing Piano

August (age 5) is supposed to get dressed (he almost never does), brush his hair and teeth (he's middling at this), and help unload the dishwasher (he can do this, but usually it's so slow that Travis takes over.)
I generally allow for about an hour for this to get done, during which time I look at our schedule and decide what needs to be done that day, clean up breakfast and read to August and Louise.

Then we start Daily Devotional and Second Breakfast. The kids usually all eat a bowl of cereal while we do DD.
We start with our Hymn for the month, and a morning prayer (unless we already said it when Travis left for work).

Daily Devotional includes the following:
Monthly Hymn. Hymns don't usually last an actual month. We just start and stop when we are done with them. We sing the first verse every day for a week, and the first and second every day for the second week and so on. If the hymn has 4 verses, it does actually take us a month.  I have a playlist of all the hymns we've learned and I play it on the kitchen speakers when it's time for everyone to gather for DD.

New poem from our current poet of study.  Usually a poet lasts about 6 weeks. We don't analyze the poem.  I just read it aloud while everyone closes their eyes, and then everyone has a turn telling how the poem made them feel or what they imagined happening. Our only goal is to be exposed to good poetry and delight in it.

Recite our current memory-poem. We either listen to a recording of the poem, recite it together, or I recite it line by line (and they repeat), depending on how well we know it. When everyone knows it without help, the poem moves into our Poetry Review folder and we start a new poem.

Review 2-3 memory poems and 2-3 memory scriptures. Grey and Micah take turns leading the poetry and leading the scriptures. The scriptures are on 5x8 notecards and the poetry is in a folder, and whoever is leading just reads the next few poems/scriptures aloud and the rest of us try to recite it along with him. This helps us retain what we've learned.

Read a Fable. I have a book of short animal fables. They're usually only a page long. I will read one, and then August tries to tell it back to me. One of the older boys will get to fill in any gaps that August missed, and then the other boy will tell me what he thinks the moral of the story is. I try not to correct them, even when their morals are totally wrong! I just let them form their own thoughts about it and discuss it with each other.

Picture Study or Handwriting or Art Lesson: We rotate through the following, usually doing a picture study on Monday/Wednesday and Handwriting Tuesday/Thursday (or so) and an art lesson on Friday.
Picture Study: We have one artist that we study for a while (a month, six weeks?) and on Picture Study days we generally just look at and discuss of piece of his/her art. Sometimes I also read aloud a book or story about the artist.
Handwriting: The kids have cursive workbooks which they love and they each do 2-3 pages, depending on how long it takes them to work. I read a book aloud while they do, either a fairy tale, a chapter from a read aloud, or a picture book from the library.  They write for as long as I read.
Art Lesson: We have a few art-lesson books, so generally I give a short instruction and then let them work until they're done.

On Friday's we have Sweetened Condensed Daily Devotional, which means that we generally do a Hymn, our current memory-poem and scripture and then art. Then the kids are free until our Nature Group meets in the afternoon. (So yes, we only "do school" 4 days a week.)

On Monday-Thursday the kids disperse again for about 15 minutes, and then we start school.
I try to have them write something every day, do math, and narration. Then, usually 1-2 other "subjects" and after lunch we try to do something fun.



Core Subjects:
Reading: We don't have any reading lessons or Language Arts, really. We do copywork, and discuss the grammar of the sentences they are copying, but we don't do spelling or anything. The kids read for pleasure all day and I read aloud to them constantly. So that's that. The best way to improve at reading when you're 8 is to enjoy it.

Writing: I mean physically writing, not creative writing. For this, I try to have them write 1-3 sentences a day. That's it! They usually do a science, history or scripture copywork. For example, on Monday they wrote "Clovis united all the barbarians into one tribe, the Franks." and today (Wednesday) they wrote, "He made a new set of laws, a new capital city, and made everyone be a Christian." And yesterday they wrote "Christ is like a mother hen that protects us underneath her wings." And they wrote Thank You cards for their birthday gifts.

Math: We are really liking Miquon Math. It's fairly easy, but building steadily in difficulty. I usually have the kids do 2-3 pages in their workbooks and we discuss it and check their work. It takes less than 15 minutes, but they do a little every day.

Narration: "Narration" is a funny subject and everyone I talk to does it differently. I'm realizing it may be one of the most important things we do! Eventually the kids will type their own, but for now they dictate. The way we do it is this: The big boys each have a Google Doc called "Micah's Narration" and "Grey's Narration."
Everyday they have to narrate two subjects to me. Their subjects are: personal scripture study, history, science, journal, and books. I just ask them to tell me what they want to remember about a given topic, and type down everything they say.
They usually narrate their scripture story from the day, and one other thing. I'll ask them to do history or science the day after we study it together, or I'll ask for a journal entry after something exciting happens (like their recent baptisms) or a book entry if I know they just finished a book they enjoyed.
They don't think of it as a test, but a record of the things they've learned. They love seeing how long their documents are getting. They're funny and insightful.
I can't type as fast as they speak, so they'll stop and re-read what I've written while I catch up and then they'll tell me things they forgot.
I ask them questions like, "What happened next?" "Do you remember what her name was?" or "Why do you think he did that?" which can help them think of what else to say, but I don't ask questions like "What were the four barbarian tribes called?"
I want it to be more of a big-juicy conversation and less like a quiz.

 Those are the subjects we study every day (that we have school)! These are the other things I put on our Weekly To-Do List (not all of these things go on the list every week. Just some combination of things.)



History:
History Chapter- I read a chapter aloud from our history curriculum, Story of the World. The kids know they're expected to narrate it back to me, so they pay attention- but they're usually working on a craft while I read.
History Copywork- This is when they write 1-2 sentences and illustrate it, like I shared before.
History Craft- I am pretty picky about crafts. For example, they need to be very open-ended, and require very little from me. So we aren't making salt-dough maps or something I have to prepare or supervise.
But today the kids made gargoyles from air-dry clay (because we read about cathedrals). Other crafts we've done include making cardboard viking ships, bamboo Chinese scrolls, Japanese woodblocks (out of foam)
History Dinner- About once a month the kids and I will plan a meal around what we are studying. Sushi, or figs, or roasted pig. I try not to be TOO crazy about it.
History Library Books- Whatever our study unit is, I get about 30-50 books from the library on the topic. The kids read a lot of them on their own, but I also make an effort to read 1-2 aloud a week (like when they're doing handwriting)

OR

Science:
We don't usually do science and history the same week. Or month. Or semester.
Usually we do History for 6 weeks, focusing on a period of time (obviously now we are learning about Medieval France) and then do science for 6 weeks, focusing on a subject like "Biomes" or "The Human Body."  So we do all the same things for science as for history.
Science Narrations, copywork, library books, crafts/ experiments and field trips.

In fairness, I think there is a lot of overlap in Science and history. While learning about the plague, we've been discussing germs and medicine. While learning about the solar system, we studied Galileo and Copernicus.

Creative Writing: Usually this is connected to what we are doing during the week, and I try to find opportunities to have the kids write stories or poems. Ballads when we read Beowulf, Haikus when we studied Japan, etc. (The purpose of Creative Writing IS NOT to teach grammar. It is to teach kids that what they think is valuable and worth sharing.)

Mapmaking: I really enjoyed Mapmaking with Children, which taught me that kids need to understand that maps represent places before they can actually understand world maps. So most of our mapmaking is actually just MAKING MAPS of our house (for treasure hunts), of the trip to Piano Lessons, or building things out of blocks and making a map of it to recreate.
Occasionally we find places on the globe that we've discussed for history.

Scriptures / Come, Follow Me: On Saturday or Sunday, Travis and the kids play videogames or watch a movie together and I plan out 4-6 CFM lessons. We usually have one together during Sunday Dinner, one for Family Night on Monday and then the rest are part of our school week. The kids usually do 1-2 copywork sentences about it. I'll ask them "What do you want to say for Scripture Journal?" and they'll say "Jesus had twelve apostles to help him teach and heal" for example. I write that on a white board and they copy it into their Copywork Journals.

Nature Study: I am terrible at this. Mostly it's just identifying birds and trees on our hikes, but occasionally we do a lesson from Exploring Nature With Children or we track the moon or weather for the week.

Poetry Teatime: Easily our favorite thing to do every week, and my kids don't believe it's school! I sometimes make a treat, but I also often just slice apples and put out bowls of peanut butter for dipping. Everyone takes turns reading poems aloud that they like. August and Louise pick out poems they want us to read for them.

Games: I actually write games on our to-do list for the week, or we run out of time for games- but games are a great way to learn. We often play games on Friday or in the afternoons after the kids are done with school, but their friends aren't home yet.


Every morning while the kids do their Morning Tasks, I write down what I want to accomplish on a white board.
Today, I wrote:

Math
Narration
History Journal
Laundry/Bathroom (boys jobs)
Gargoyles / The Duke and the Peasant (the project we did, and the book I read aloud while they worked)
Evergreens (nature study)

We finished the first three tasks and Daily Devotional by noon. We had lunch and I read a chapter of our family Read-Aloud book (just started Half-Magic). Then when Louise took a nap the kids made Gargoyles and I read a library book.
Everyone was outside playing by 1pm.

They haven't finished their chores yet, but I think we'll do it tonight and we haven't studied Evergreens yet, but we are going to drive up into the Mountains for a half hour before dinner. (So right now, as soon as I finish this blogpost.)

School is ever-changing for us, and we've been really great about school for a few months. Our current routine is productive and yet really relaxed and provides  lots of time to play and create.

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