Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Fall 2015 School Plans


(Oh, btw, we live in Kansas now. We're so happy to be living in not-Texas. We're also expecting #4 in December. We're happy about that too.)

Short version: we're still homeschooling and Hans is in 2nd grade and Gretchen is preschool-age. Martin is still mischievous (and we love him dearly ;-D).

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Long version: for those who, like me, get some sort of thrill out of reading the why's and wherefore's of curriculum choices and such.

Hans turned 7 over the summer and is in 2nd grade. He is my reader and philosopher and generally prefers the humanities to anything else :-). Give him a book on history or science to read, and he's engrossed. Or give him super heroes :-P. He's really into super heroes too. Agh. He is definitely a first child when in comes to dictating how imaginary play should happen among siblings ;-).

Gretchen will be 5 at the beginning of October and is in grade level I-don't-know-what-to-call-her. And this is why homeschooling is cool. Because it doesn't matter what grade or non-grade she's in and we'll just keep carrying-on, thankyouverymuch. She's sort of in kindergarten and sort of in preschool, though honestly, I've done so little formal schooling with her. But somehow we're over half way through phonics and most of the way done with a kindergarten math book set. And she knows how to handwrite. She picks up a lot of stuff herself. And we'll just see how much more schooling gets done this year.

I'm hoping to be done with phonics and the math book (which is really basic - like all K math should be!) before Baby is born in December. We could do this at a leisurely pace, and whether or not it gets done mainly depends on me remembering to do work with her :-D. But she also gets a lot of "trickle-down effect" in learning from participating in some of Hans' school, at her own choosing, and from plenty of oral reading.

I actually have a lot of thoughts on preschool and kindergarten and how it can look SO different for different children and still net similar results, and why we chose different "types" of preschool/kindergarten work for Hans and Gretchen, based on their own styles of learning and our own life circumstances, and the pros and cons of both approaches. I might type that up into a separate post on preschool. . .

Martin turned 2 in June and cracks us up with his mischief. The kids call him "Trouble," and it's a very accurate moniker. In Hans' spelling today, we were discussing homophones, and I asked Hans to give me two sentences, one with the word "no" and one with the word "know." Without hesitation he blurted out "No, Martin!" as his first sentence. Yep, that about sums Martin up. Haha. He's cost us more in gray hairs and doctor's and chiropractor bills than the other two, and keeps us on our toes. He's also such a good cuddler and finally weaned (per Mommy's initiation) recently. He's been our most prolific early talker and cracks us up with what he comes up with to say. He is a very enthusiastic casual user of the large porcelain object, and we're hoping to yank diapers before too long.

But back to school. . . We took May off from school while Mommy packed and threw up. Then our house closed in late May and as part of our move transition, since our house sold so quickly, the kids and I spent 6 weeks in Oklahoma in limbo, while Adrian stayed back in Houston finishing up his summer job. So we got a little ahead in school. Whee! We only did math, spelling, geography, catechism, and zoology over the summer, though, to keep it light (and not every subject every day), and so I could leave some of our books in storage and not haul them all to Oklahoma :-D. We then took July off from school, and dove back in the first week of August after a few weeks of settling into Kansas life.

Right now an ideal school day for us looks like:

Start around 8:30 or 9:00.

History first. We're doing Veritas again and delving into Ancient Greece and Rome, mixed in chronologically with Bible events. Fun stuff. We review our history timeline song, do some readings from the week's particular history topic (this week is on Homer and Greek Mythology; we just did the division of Israel), and Hans might do a worksheet or we'll all do a project together.

Geography next. We're using Classical Conversations geography table again as our backbone, for Hans to do each week. We don't do CC and never have, but I still love some things about their curriculum. One thing I like is how simple their geography grammar is to incorporate. The link above has a simple video that explains how to use the table - which is just a laminated folded map with geography locations to learn and trace each week.

We're doing cycle 2 geography this year, which focuses mainly on Europe and works well into our Greece and Rome study, because of similar geography. Last year the cycle 1 table fit in perfectly with our Ancient Egypt Veritas study initially, but the towards the end of the year it deviated some, which is fine for the most part, as I'm just trying to give exposure to major geographical features. Gretchen is just getting basic exposure to the globe and maps and such, nothing formal. She loves tracing, so has been doing some tracing of maps.

Also, we still have our set of 6 Geopuzzles, and try to pull those out periodically. We've been mainly focusing on the Europe one, but mix it up and do different ones also.

Math after geography. We're still using Singapore math and Hans should be done with the level 2 books in the next few weeks (note to self: order the next books!). I love how simple Singapore is, without extra fluff. But still does a great job teaching a solid set of topics and I LOVE how many word problems they incorporate seamlessly, so it's not the "extra hard, scary type of problem."

We use the U.S. editions of the books, because we don't live in Singapore and therefore don't use metric primarily (but the U.S. does incorporate plenty of metric units into the books too). And we're not using the alternate editions written for the U.S. - the Standards edition and the Common Core edition - because I don't trust curricula that are arbitrarily written to conform to national standards. Ha! If the U.S. edition isn't broke, don't fix it!

English is level 2 Shurley English for Hans. Hans really does well with this curriculum, and I like the structure of it. It's not overwhelming so far. I know Shurley has a reputation of being "rigorous," but so far (we did Level 1 last year and are one week 6 of level 2 this year) I feel like it's been very step-by-step doable for us. He's come a long way on his willingness and ability to express thoughts in written sentence form (the child has never had trouble verbally expressing himself!), and has learned a good deal about classifying sentences for part of speech, etc. And Martin loves the Jingles CD with all the rhymes for definitions and begs for "Tingles" whenever he sees me get it out.

After English we sometimes break for a snack and some play time. We live across the street from a park, so sometimes we go over there if it's nice, or just play in our backyard, which is awesome because it isn't overrun with fire ants and is not a swamp. Kansasforthewin.

Hans often just wants to plow through subjects, though, so we often do Spelling next without a break. We've taken a rather unusual, non-coordinated path to spelling. Hans was reading fluently before he was 5, but we delayed and delayed formal spelling with him, contrary to the advice of all the experts, who say you don't want to do that and want to start spelling at completion of phonics, so "bad spelling habits" aren't formed.

But Hans is Hans and we really felt like this was right for him. He is one who WANTS to spell correctly and would always ask how to spell something correctly, so bad habits weren't forming ;-). Plus, he was reading constantly, often at high grade levels, so was constantly exposed to great vocabulary and proper spelling. I toyed with starting him in spelling last year, but we felt like the school work he was doing at the time was enough of a "stretch" for him in terms of handwriting commitment. Until recently he has seen any kind of letter formation writing activity as a mild form of torture. :-D He's come a long way in his attention span and his willingness to do extra writing in the past 6 months, and now spelling is not a stress and he is doing great with it! He was NOT ready before, and now he is. That's why I love homeschooling. Plus, the funny thing is that the spelling curriculum we're using, The Grammar of Spelling by Logos Press, starts at 2nd grade level anyway, so I guess it all worked out. ha!

Next we do Catechism, using Catechism for Young Children. Last year we keyed questions and answers into a free online flashcard program called Anki, and then used Anki to keep up on review and cycling through everything evenly and introducing new material. That was fine, but honestly, I'm enjoying just doing it the "old-fashioned" way right now, by asking them questions and answers (and corresponding Bible memory verses) straight from our little 'ole catechism book. While we were without a computer in Oklahoma for the summer, we reverted back to not using Anki, and I'm liking it.

At this point, school is usually done for the morning. Unless we catch a grasshopper and the kids stare at it and shriek in delight for a solid hour or something. But usually, done.

In the afternoon, while Martin naps Hans and Gretchen either read quietly together or apart or play in the basement together. After naps and snack, a few times a week we read from our Zoology 1 book about flying creatures. Sometimes Gretchen listens in, but usually it's Hans and I reading alone. We are pretty casual with science, and I like that. I'm just trying to interest the kids in various aspects of science and nature at this age. With our botany book, we were really consistent with keeping up with botany journals and stuff, and we haven't been as much this time. It's a lot easier to sketch a flower than a hopping grasshopper, let's just say :-P. Plus, I feel like the botany book had a lot more journaling ideas. We have snatched many random opportunities to watch/study/catch insects while outside, but haven't journaled about them much.

We have really enjoyed the Apologia elementary books we've done. (We did botany last year, before the Zoology 1 book) The books are so accessible and conversational, but are packed with great science. Most elementary science books are PAINFUL to read because of how random the topics are arranged, but I love how Apologia takes a topic and studies it in detail, at an appropriate and accessible level.

I'm trying to decide if we're going to deviate and do the astronomy book next (we will finish Zoology 1 sometime in the fall, probably - we're starting and stopping at odd times of the year) or if we'll go straight into Zoology 2 on swimming creatures. But before either Apologia option, I told the kids after we finished the Zoology book we'd do a 10-week cycle for anatomy again. A few years ago when Hans was preschool age, we used the My Body book to make life-size body posters for Hans and Gretchen, as we studied each of the body systems (at simple, age-appropriate levels - a few great books to supplement are The Human Body or First Human Body Encyclopedia), and since then they've been asking me when we get to do it again. Martin will love to participate this time - fun!

Adrian also recently started teaching piano lessons to both Hans and Gretchen - recorder too for Gretchen because she was interested! So on most school days, they have short lessons with him when he gets home from school. Also at bedtime, Adrian reads out loud to them. The kids had a ton of fun reading up on Greek myths with Adrian (he  read them D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and also just finished Black Ships Before Troy). They are now reading The Lost Princess by George MacDonald. Gretchen is more excited about the latter than Hans is ;-).

And that's how our school year is looking so far. Ideal days almost never happen, so this is just a rough mock-up of how a day is SUPPOSED to go ;-). Ha! I make a high priority of doing history, math, English, and spelling virtually every day, and geography most days. Catechism usually happens 3-5 days a week, and zoology is anywhere from 1-4 days a week. And after our new baby arrives around Christmas, things will have to be even more creative to get school done.

So because I'm a curriculum nerd, I would love to know what others are using in homeschooling :-). I love all the options out there today, and hearing what other families find works for them, even if very different from my own choices. So please share!