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Ever wondered what homeschooling looks like in our family? Here’s a peak into what we’ve been up to since ringing in the New Year. Since this is the first post of its kind, I’ll include a bit more detail about our usual daily routine. Just make sure you scroll to the end to find out about some of our more exciting learning adventures since they don’t quite fit into a “usual day”. 😉
A Graceful Start
This semester began much like fall of 2017–with me landing on my rear. Literally. There’s just something about that first day back to school that makes me miss my step, aparently. Or maybe it has something to do with fuzzy socks on a carpeted staircase at dark-thirty in the morning. At least I wear shoes to go down my stairs now.
At any rate, once I’ve picked myself up off of the floor at the bottom of the staircase and limped into the kitchen to make coffee, our day moves along fairly smoothly: from quiet time for the parents, to breakfast and Proverbs as a family, then to chores and personal Bible time for the kiddos (while Mama gets her homeschool game face on).
My boys have enjoyed listening to The Jesus Storybook Bible and the free dramatized audio bible available from Faith Comes by Hearing. In the past few months, C-age-8 has begun to read about a chapter a day from the New Testament in his own bible, so the transition from bible listening to bible reading is going pretty smoothly so far!
Then there’s this lovely thing called Morning Time. A dear local mommy friend who’s a little further down the road of motherhood than I am turned me onto this idea several years ago.
“Do things together as a family first! Then split up to do independent work. That way you’re not having to corral everyone back together multiple times throughout the day and you can start with things you value and enjoy most. Like prayer, music, poetry, a fun read-aloud…”
I latched on to this idea and went searching the interwebs, eventually finding further inspiration from Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket podcast and resources (and she has a new book available on the topic if you’re interested!).
That groundwork having been laid and tested over the past couple of years, we usually start out our school day with lighting a candle, going over our calendar and plans for the day, prayer, singing a hymn, reciting from our memory work binder, poetry reading, and currently reading aloud from Story of the World Volume 2 and a children’s adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress.
This week, I’ve also re-attached our Preschool Prodigies Music lessons as well as 5-10 minutes of Spanish to our Morning Time routine. I tried to shorten Morning Time by moving these things to the afternoon, but found that they simply didn’t get done!
Confession: there have been many days in the past quarter that I have skipped Morning Time to dive right into math because we were just short on time, but I have been finding lately that when life has gotten heavy and my energy reserves are running thin, starting the day with Morning Time ministers to my soul, helping me to take a deep breath, enjoy the time with my kids, and humbly move forward with my heart more focused on the Lord.
Turns out biblical truth and delightful learning are a great way to start the day.
The Three R’s
Moving on to math, D-age-6 finished Right Start Math Level B in February and has moved on to Level C after a well-earned week of playing math games.
My older son, C-age-8, is half way through Level D, currently working on mastering multiplication facts and applying them to solving area problems.
As for me, I’m learning to read ahead in our math books and plan our lessons accordingly. This subject has been the hardest for me to keep to short lessons. Partly because my kids just take longer than expected, and partly because the lessons sometimes require two days rather than the one day suggested by the book (or more realistically speaking, the one day expected by their mother).
I started out last semester working with a timer, keeping our math lessons to 20-30 minutes. That worked well until I stopped using the timer (oops). This quarter, I still haven’t been using the timer so much, but I am learning to repent of the pride that drives me to want to push my kids further and faster.
I’m teaching my kids, not a lesson. This is not a race. Our math curriculum itself is built upon understanding and enjoying math, not racing through to the next thing. Embrace the time it takes to grow.
When I keep things in perspective, it’s a lot easier to see how much work is reasonable for a given day (it’s a lot less than what I used to think!).
For language arts, we’re continuing to work through First Language Lessons levels 1 and 2. My oldest could have been into level 3 by now, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after level 1, so we stalled out for a year. That means his brother is only one book behind him. Oh, well! They’re both learning and enjoying their lessons on basic grammar, poetry, story and art narration, copywork, and dictation for my oldest now in level 2. I love that this curriculum has been a gentle introduction for me to these classical methods of teaching.
We also have enjoyed these free copywork resources from Simply Charlotte Mason this quarter. They include scripture, poems, and hymns.
Overlapping a bit of reading and language arts, C-age-8 reads aloud to me from McGuffey’s second reader about once a week, narrates the story to me, and then says and spells the words listed at the end of the lesson. D-age-6 is reading aloud to me almost daily from McGuffey’s pictorial primer in order to continue progressively practicing his budding reading skills (we used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to start the process). I use these readers because they’re progressive, they use older English so that we’re starting out in the direction of classic literature, and because they were hand-me-downs (read: free).
Any further discussion of reading blends into everything else we’re learning: history, literature, nature/science. C-age-8 has recently finished The Tale of Desperaux, The Secret Garden (with some guided discussion on the ideologies presented), Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Great Brain, Julie of the Wolves, The Little Prince, Because of Winn Dixie, and The Burgess Animal Book, among most of the books in the Boxcar Children series (these are free reads). I can hardly keep up for record-keeping purposes! Nathaniel decided to give him a more challenging read to slow things down a bit: G. A. Henty’s For the Temple, historical fiction covering the Roman sacking of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD. We just covered this event and the diaspora in Story of the World, so he’s got some points of connection with it already. He’s also reading a chapter a day in Seabird by Holling C. Holling for geography and natural history. I ask for him to narrate, or tell back in his own words, what he has read on days when I’m paying attention. Admittedly, there have been several days (weeks perhaps?) in the past quarter that I have been too busy to ask for a narration for every bit of school reading!
D-age-6 has recently enjoyed moving from Frog and Toad readers to The Boxcar Children and Amelia Bedelia books. He’s enjoying reading more fluently for himself, but soon I think he’ll be ready for more assigned books. I think Whinnie the Pooh is in order next. We’ve read it aloud many times over, so I think he’ll be delighted to read it for himself!
Learning from Life
This section could be a post all its own, so I’ll try to let pictures do most of the talking with a few extra words here and there for things not pictured.
We enjoyed a Little House book club party with a local Charlotte Mason group.
Exploring historic Ft. Smith after mama read True Grit.
New strategy games: Risk, Battleship, Ticket to Ride
We took in a stray German Shepherd dog that followed me home last fall–right after the 500th anniversary of Luther posting of his 95 theses, so naturally we named him Luther. C-age-8 had almost full responsibility for feeding him each day. There was plenty of character development in caring for a dog, and even more when we decided he needed a family who could care for him even better. It was hard to let go of Luther since he had been a part of our family for three months and had in that time doubled in size and made it through the coldest winter we’ve had in years. It was hard to let go, but we all learned a lot and are thankful for the part we had to play as a doggy foster family.
Hiking in 20 degree weather to see this 95 foot waterfall when it was mostly frozen. Petit Jean State Park.
Bird poster and Calendar of Firsts helping us to learn to pay attention and take note!
Gardening, listening to classical music, watching the ants in our ant farm.
Our four-day backpacking trip on a 24-mile section of the Ouachita Trail in the Winding Stair Mountains of eastern Oklahoma.
Field trips to animal shelters and to learn about hippotherapy (that’s with horses).
Ice and roller skating and get-togethers with our Schole Sisters group–watercolors, poetry and tea, fish feeding and nature walk.
Homeschooling through Chaos
The past two months have been a bit crazy. There were many times I said to my husband, “I just don’t think we can do school next week with all we have going on.” He gently encouraged me to try. And we did. We kept going through sickness (though we did take a week off when it was really bad), a job change and consequent change of insurance and all other such things, two grandmothers in the hospital, a car wreck, among other things. I think I would have given up somewhere along the way, so I’m thankful for my husband’s gentle encouragement to just keep going. Like I said above, our scripture and praise-filled Morning Times were a balm to my soul during a such a hectic season.
I suppose in terms of the average school year, we should be wrapping things up in about two months. We plan to keep going with our current routine, and we’ve got some fun activities planned with our homeschool group, including Field Day which my husband and I coordinate. Should be a fun spring!
How about you? What’s up in your homeschool world?