Sunday, April 30, 2017

Education and Such: Curriculum

Yikes. I read through my last post and it was such rushed, train-of-thought style writing! This is what happens when I try to frantically record things in my free time.
Ah, remember the days of naptimes for all?
Those were the days when I could occasionally put together a well-worded sentence and crank out 5 blog posts a week. Although, maybe you noticed. This is my FIFTH blog post this week. Basically I haven't written in three years but I'm currently feeling motivated to write down things so I don't forget.
Yesterday I took pictures of all of our school books, so I thought I would share them and what sort of work we do every day.

First, here is our loop schedule (and an example of our daily to-do list):

The every day tasks (at the top) are the things we do daily (duh).
The tasks at the bottom are rotated through. We usually get through the whole list in about 4 days.

So, under The Arts, for example, I have listed Music Study, Shakespeare, and Picture Study
That means, every time we get to The Arts in our rotation, we do whichever of those is next. We don't do Music one day, Shakespeare the next, etc. We usually study The Arts once or twice a week. (Like how I'm making The Arts a proper noun? Me too.) That means that, really, we're only doing each of those tasks about twice a month.

For The Arts (now I'm just saying it to amuse myself!), we use Shakespeare Stories for kids which are Shakespeare's plays written as children's novels to help them familiarize themselves with the names and stories, etc. We also read Shakespeare's poetry on occasion, but here's the real thing: I don't love Shakespeare, so I'm not that into reading his poems. We listen to the podcast Classics for Kids to learn about famous composers, and then listen to the music by said composer (thanks Amazon Prime Music) throughout the month. We read chapters about artists from the book Vincent's Starry Night for artist study, and have ordered (but don't actually have yet) several picture study packets from Simply Charlotte Mason.

Earlier this year, Grey and Micah learned their address as part of "geography," and next year we will probably study more about different parts of the world- but as of right now, we are still trying to understand maps. 
We checked out this book and workbook from the boys' school, called Legends and Leagues. It has been really fun and helpful for the boys to learn about maps.
I have also ordered (but have not received and therefore cannot give a review of) these Pin it! Maps. We also read SO MANY books, as you might have guessed. So whenever we read about a place besides where we live (so basically with all books- since very few take place in Utah), we look up the place on our globe.

I have invented my own category of school work. Some other names for it might be Creative Writing, or (if you're Charlotte Mason) Narration. I like Storytelling, because I feel like it is more accurate to what we do. The boys aren't doing a lot of creative writing because their physical writing ability doesn't allow for much, but they do have a great desire to express themselves and tell stories. Charlotte Mason gives Narration great importance and I struggled to teach my kids to do what I thought Narration was: to summarize what they see or read.
Guess who hates it? That's right. Five year old boys. Our conversations went like this:

Me: Okay, can you tell me what's happening, so I know you're understanding what we read?
Grey: Louis is in the bathtub instead of a bed.
Me: Okay. That's the last sentence that I read. What else has happened since you summarized.
Grey: I don't know.
Me: Louis got a job, right?
Grey: Yes.
Me: What's his job?
Grey: Playing the trumpet.
Me: Playing the trumpet where?

And that would just go on and on and be terrible for all. So instead, I give the boys opportunities to tell stories without trying coax anything out of them. We might talk about it, which helps them remember various things, but there's no hinting, "And what kind of boat was it? And do you remember why that's important?" The greatest trick for my specific children has been to remove myself from the process. I give them my phone and ask them to record themselves telling a story and then bring it back to me. I then write down what they say in the video and they have a story that they "wrote."
Currently, the boys are each compiling a book of Fairy Tales as told by them. We read a story together and complete an art project for it. They are responsible for writing down the title of the story and one line from the text. Then I transcribe their version for us to reread forever.
This idea was taken from Brave Writer, which is not really a "curriculum," so much as a collection of ideas to teach your child how to express themselves. I really like it and have used many of her tips- however, I'm not sure that I would pay for it! We got it for free through the boys school.

Poetry Teatime:
This is another idea from Brave Writer, although something that we actually did occasionally before I read it in her book. About once a week (Tuesday Teatimes!) we try to have a poetry tea party. We gather a bunch of poetry books, snacks, and fancy hats and sit around and read poetry together while sipping (basically) sugar water.

If you look closely at my loop schedule, you'll notice I don't have a History lesson on there. Currently, the extent of our History lesson is listening to the audiobooks for Story of the World. We listen to it all the time in the car, and it's very interesting and even I am learning so much! The boys definitely absorb a lot, too. The book is read by an overly-enthusiastic narrator, who - let's be totally honest- sometimes sounds slightly drunk because he's being so dramatic in his storytelling. And it is, as the title suggests, the history of the world told in stories.
Each chapter is a different topic in chronological order, including religious stories and folk tales of different parts of the world. We've currently been listening to the stories of Rome. Beginning with the legend of Romulus and Remus, past Julius Ceasar, Ceasar Augustus, Constantine, etc with a chapter focusing on Gladiators, another Chapter focusing on Rome Gods, and another on Roman architecture.
We also have an accompanying activity book and if there is a topic of special interest to my kids, we will do an activity or color the maps for the chapter.
I think it would be super boring and tedious to read aloud to the boys myself since we already read so many other books, so the audiobooks have totally been worth it to me.

There are so many Handwriting curriculums out there, but we have liked these Handwriting without Tears books. They are great for learning the formation and pattern of writing letters. However, they're also just boring workbooks and my kids are not that interested in workbooks (nor are they generally helpful). So the things that they like best are when they write actual letters and send them in the mail. Even letters started to get too difficult, though. My kids want to say so much more than they have the actual patience to write. So Thank You cards! I bought a few packs of basic cards with envelopes for the boys and they write lots of little notes to people for their handwriting work. I also have them keep a journal or log where they are required to write a single sentence about something we did. For example, Grey wrote about our recent trip to Vernal, "We saw petroglyphs and dinosaur bones." That's all. But I try to incorporate handwriting into lots of other tasks (like copywork with their Fairy Tale Narrations as mentioned above.)

When the boys were learning to read, we would do a chapter of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons a few times a week. It was awesome and totally worked! At about lesson 80, it clicked for my kids and we stopped using that book and started just reading. Now they read me a story every day for their reading work. Books like Frog and Toad or Mercy Watson are our favorites.

For math we've been using the Math-U-See program. I like it, since it's very hands-on and one-on-one. I loved math in school (to an extent) and I like the patterns of numbers and shapes, but it's very visual for me. I like quilting, because it's so mathematical! But if I am just handed abstract numbers, I flounder. I like the way that this program is set up to help kids identify the real-life attributes of numbers (as opposed to understanding them abstractly.)
Below is a picture of the boys' box of math manipulatives and some example pages of work that they're currently doing.
We also play lots of math games. We have Sum Swamp, which my kids love and also play lots of dice and card games. We used our Montessori hundred number board all the time earlier in the year when the boys were learning number recognition and patterns, but it hasn't been used in a while now. I have my eye on a few various games to learn about telling time and using money, but we're not quite there yet.

We actually haven't done any spelling work besides just reading a lot and learning some sight words, but I picked up these Explode the Code workbooks from the boys' school this week. So far, they're really into it and it's teaching them things that I never actually said like "AEIOU are vowels."
Again, I don't love workbooks, but my kids sometimes like them. As long as it's not a chore for me to force them to sit down and fill out their busywork, I'm okay with it...

Hands On:
The last topic on my loop schedule is called "Hands on," which is only because I couldn't think of another name for it. It includes things that I hate, like science experiments! Okay. They're not so bad. But my kids want to do a science experiment every dang day. Some, like dissecting owl pellets, take many hours! We seriously spent about 3 hours dissecting an owl pellet, cleaning the bones, identifying them, and rebuilding Vole skeletons. 
Other "hands on" projects, like the sea shell set below, are much easier and don't actually include any work on my part. Pictured below is a Sea Creatures Discovery Kit that we checked out from the school. We checked out one about fossils last week, and it included plaster of paris and a small plastic dinosaur for us to make our own fossils. 

Nature Journaling is also included in the hands-on section, because it's always a huge fight. My kids love nature and want to learn and record things about the world around them. But they, like their mother before them, are not that into trying to draw the things they see around them. The inevitable imperfections of such a task are really stressful. So we started just gluing in pictures from the internet and then writing down things that we learned! Now Nature Journaling is totally fun. It might not look as fancy or be a precious heirloom, but that's okay.

Whoa, you guys. I did not think I was going to be able to actually finish this super long post. But I did! And now I have a record of all the things that we do every day!

1 comment:

MARCIE said...

You have amazing tools for teaching! Including yourself!