Friday, September 12, 2014

2014-2015 School Curriculum

It's been a while since I've posted about our "Academy" activities.  So, I will briefly summarize.  Last April, we completed last year's curriculum about 2 weeks before the latest addition to our family.  We then spent the next 4 months enjoying living life together.  This summer was a summer of refreshment, renewed relationships, and joy.  The children did a little bit of school on the days were home and had the time.  But mostly, we played with friends, we played at the parks, we went swimming, and we did a lot of traveling.

But now here we are, at it again, about 4 weeks into our 3rd official year of homeschooling.   Much of last year our school time was a struggle with one of my children. So I spent a good amount of time in prayer and reflection and brainstormed with this child about how we can make our learning time together a more positive and enjoyable experience.  Thankfully, it looks like we have found a good rhythm for our days that should work for all of us.

Here are the players involved this year:
Big E- Grade 2, Age 7
Lil E- Grade K, Age 5
D- PreK, Age 2.9
M- 4 months

Here's the breakdown of our routine: 
* Note: This is more of a routine than a strict schedule
8:45-9:00        Group Time (Bible and Prayer time, Calendar Songs)
9:00-9:45        Lil E and Momma work together (reading, spelling, memory verses, LA, phonics)
                       Big E helps D with his curriculum and reads to him
9:45-10:30     Big E and Momma work together (reading, spelling memory verses, LA, misc.)
                       Lil E and D play together
10:30-11:00   Break and Snack
11:00-12:00  "Study Hall" (The Es work on their independent work, Math, Handwriting, Science)
12:00-1:00     Lunch
1:00-2:00       History/Read-Alouds/Additional Group Electives

I can not begin to tell you how wonderful this new routine has been for our family.  This way each child gets my undivided attention for the subjects they need my help with.  I am able to limit most of my hands-on time with the children to the morning hours, freeing me up to do chores, dinner, and other things in the afternoon.  Also, this allows them to have more breaks and free play during the day.  It gives both of the older children the opportunity to help and work with their younger brother.  And we have also found out that Big E works better later in the day.  This has decreased the number of arguments tremendously!  So, it seems to be a win-win for everyone.

Curriculum:



Big E:

History/Geography/Core- Sonlight Core C - World History Part 2 (Fall of the Roman Empire to Modern Times)
LA- Sonlight Grade 4/5
Science- Sonlight C
Math- Math U See Gamma
Handwriting- Handwriting without Tears Grade 3 Cursive
Supplementals: Explode the Code 7, Wordly Wise B
Unit Studies/Lapbooks: on various topics, including Knights/Castles, Vikings, Middle Ages, Renaissance


Lil E:

History/Geography/Core- Sonlight Core A- Intro to World Cultures and History
LA- Sonlight Grade 1
Science- Misc.
Math- Math U See Primer/Alpha
Handwriting- Handwriting without Tears Grade 1 
Supplementals: Explode the Code
Unit Studies/Lapbooks: on various topics mostly related to books we read (ex. My Father's Dragon)


D:
Sonlight PreK3/4 Books
Confessions of a Homeschooler Letter of the Week
PreK2 Toddler 1+1+1=1 Curriculum
Kumon Tracing, Puzzles, Crafts, Coloring, Sticker and Paste

(He does 5 activities plus 1 book each day.)

Enrichment Supplementals:
Hymn Practice - from Simplycharlottemason.com
Nature Study- using "The Nature Connection" as our guide
Art Appreciation- from amblesideonline.org
Music Appreciation- from amblesideonline.org

We are also participating in a local Co-op this year.  Big E just joined Cub Scouts and Lil E is continuing with Ballet classes.  We still try to go on as many field trips as possible and are always looking for extra activities available around the area.

And all of this while caring for this little sweetie as well.



I am hopeful that this will be a great year for all of us.  With each year I gain a little more confidence and am better able to discern which activities are necessary and which are not.  I am also learning to relax more and find more joy in the process.  Though, I still think I have a long way to go and a lot to learn.  This whole year I will continue to evaluate how things are going, because I sense we might need to switch up our curriculum next year.  But we will see!  

Here's to a great 2014-2015!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2013-2014 Curriculum

Once again, I find myself writing about our homeschooling curriculum goals well into our school year. In fact, we are almost two-thirds of the way through our plan. So, I guess this post will serve as more of a record of what we have done than a plan for what we hope to do.

This year Big E is 6 and in “first grade.” Lil E is 4 and in PreK 4. D is now 2. We have had a few struggles this year in a few areas, so we have been tweaking a few things in order to achieve optimal work efficiency paired with joyful hearts by all. Thankfully, the beauty of homeschooling is that when things aren’t working we have the freedom to change them.

One of the biggest things we have recently tweaked is arrangement of our school room. We have now given the Es their own desk. This provides them with individual space to work which has enabled less distractions and greater focus. The only problem with this is that D feels a little left out and often wants to sit in my lap so he can be closer to his siblings.



Schedule:
Again, I try to have us start by 9:00. That usually gives us enough time to complete our morning chores and get ready for the day. Our goal is to finish our desk work before noon, though that doesn’t always happen for Big E. We usually spend the hour after lunch or before bed doing our read-alouds.

Group Time:
Group Calendar and Bible time wasn’t working for us anymore for a couple of reasons. Mostly, it was just taking up too much time and I didn’t feel that it was super important. Another factor, is that the children are at different levels of Spiritual understanding, doing different memory verses. So making them sit quietly while the other was reciting their memory verses or while I was reading separate Bible passages was just a battle I have chosen not to fight. We tried using individualized Calendar Notebooks but that didn’t work either. Again, it was taking too much time. So, basically, I condensed the Calendar aspect of group time onto individualized one page sheets. Filling out their calendar is usually the first thing they do when they open their drawers.

Occasionally, when I can manage to get all children ready to start school at the same time, we will start with the singing of a hymn (I found a great hymn teaching plan from simplycharlottemason.com and we are working our way through 6 this year) and a Prayercast video, which highlights a country in the world and specific prayer requests for that country. I really wish we made more time for group devotions and prayers. Maybe I will start trying to incorporate that in again.

Workbox Time
Next we move onto our workboxes/drawers.

E’s drawers usually contain the following: Math, Science, Explode the Code (phonics), Creative Expression (some sort of writing or grammar assignment), Handwriting or Copywork, Bible Devotional, Memory Verse, Geography, and Lapbook/Notebooking Assignments.

Lil E’s drawers usually contain: Phonics (Get Ready for the Code), Develping the Early Learner, Math, Handwriting, a language arts activity, Memory Verse, Bible Devotion, a Kumon workbook (cutting, pasting, mazes, number games), 100 Lessons to Teach your Child to Read, and an educational game.

Reading Time:
This continues to be a big bulk of our curriculum. We all go to the living room, snuggle into each other on the couch and read. This usually happens either after lunch or before bed. Sometimes it happens in the afternoon. Sometimes we are all together, sometimes it is just me with one child.

Field Trips:
One day a week I try to reserve for field trips. I did great in the fall, but with the warmer weather we have been staying in a bit more. So far we have been visited, the Worcester Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Eric Carle Museum, the Adirondack Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, Ward’s Berry Farm, the Museum of Science, the Mystic Aquarium, Fruitlands Museum, Semetic Museum of Harvard, apple picking at several local farms, Roger Williams Zoo, a Children’s Chamber Music concert, the American Textile History Museum, Amazement Square, Ocean Explorium, and a performance of the Nutcracker performed by the Providence Festival Ballet.



We have two more ballets scheduled and many more field trips opportunities coming up, including a Lego Race Car Building class at MIT.

Other: This year I wanted to incorporate more supplemental enrichment opportunities and study of the arts. So, I started following the suggested artist and composer studies by amblesideonline.org. This year we are studying the artists John Singleton Copley, Edouard Manet, and The Hudson River School. The composers we will cover include: Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Mark O’ Conner and Stravinksy. I have kept it really simple this year. About once a week I will listen to a recording of music by the focused composer and listen during breakfast or lunch. That’s it. For artists, about once a week (or less) I will show them one of their pieces of artwork and we will discuss what we see. I also try to give a little background about each composer and artist and try to find at least one book from the library that teaches us a little about the composer or artist.

Big E has also started taking piano lessons from me. Lil E has recently start ballet classes.

They have also been taking America Sign Language classes from a local high school homeschool student. These have been great for them, though we don’t practice enough at home.

We also just joined a local homeschool Co-op. So once a week we go spend time with other homeschoolers learning about various topics. We have only attended one meeting so we are still waiting to see if this will be a good fit for our family and schooling long term.

D's Curriculum:
Since he is only 2, I don't demand anything from him. I do set up 5-6 different learning activities for him. Some are based on the letter of the week that Lil' E is studying. Others are just fun educational toys. Some involved fine motor skill practice and some are Montessori based ideas. All I attempt to require is that we clean up one activity before he starts another one. (But that is difficult to do while working simultaneously with the other two.) He is now (as of Jan. 2014) 27 months old and starting to show more interest in participating in these activities. So, that is very exciting.







Lil' E's Curriculum:

I have been pleasantly surprised by how well Lil E has done this year with her school work. I wasn’t sure if she was really ready for the program we selected for her, but she has been rising to the occasion.

We decided to use Sonlight’s Core P4/5 for the bulk of her reading. She still has a fairly short attention span, but she has grown in leaps and bounds in her ability to listen and comprehend what is being read to her. She loves the Developing the Early Learner books and usually does those eagerly.

Since she was starting to get a grip on basic letter awareness and phonics I thought we would take a gamble on trying Sonlight’s K Language Arts. It is basically a letter of the week program with phonics practice, beginning reading, hand writing, copywork, and creative writing assignments. She has well exceeded my expectations! I thought we would have to abandon our plan only a month or so into it, but she has done wonderful. She is actually reading simple sentences and has been able to keep up with the beginning readers according to their schedule. We have been doing additional phonics/reading work with the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons.

She loves math, so I decided to go ahead and start her on the Math-U-See Primer. At times it has become too difficult for her. When that has happened, we have taken a break and used simple K level math books we purchase at the dollar stores. Then we have pulled out MUS again when she has shown more interest or capability. We take it very slowly and rarely even complete one page worth of assignments in a day. I think she enjoys having a math book like her big brother, so we are sticking with it, very slowly, for now.

For handwriting we are using Handwriting without Tears, the K level (orange book).

As part of the Sonlight LA program, we have been utilizing the optional Get Set for the Code books. They are the precursor of the Explode the Code series. I thought she could use the additional letter/phonics practice. She seems to enjoy these as well.

We continue to work with many of the Kumon books, including mazes, uppercase and lowercase, number games, cutting, pasting, and easy crafts.

I usually try to put one puzzle or fun educational hands on game in her drawers as well.


 
Big E's Curriculum:

We have continued to be very happy with Sonlight’s curriculum. So this year we chose to use Sonlight’s Core B with Grade 2 Readers. The History focus has been the beginning of time until the fall of the Roman Empire. We have especially enjoyed exploring Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece and are looking forward to Ancient Rome. I continue appreciate how well laid out it all is. It doesn't require much preparation from me, but I know he is receiving a well-balanced and thoughtful curriculum with a literature focus. We have especially enjoyed many of the Read Alouds, including Charlotte’s Web, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and Mountain Born.

For handwriting we continued with Handwriting Without Tears "Printing Power." I think this handwriting is coming along pretty good. He has mostly completed this book so I am focusing more on additional copywork exercises (memory verses, additional scripture verses, or hymns).



For science, we decided to purchase Sonlight’s Core B program. Big E loves all things Science related, so he has read through most of the books already and is often discussing random facts with me throughout the day. Having him work through the worksheets they provided has been a good exercise for him to how to read a bit more critically in order to find the correct answers. My husband has been doing the hands-on experiments with him on the weekends. It has been great to have my husband involved in the education process as well. They really enjoy their time

For Math we have continued to Math-U-See. So far he has completed the Alpha level and is flying through the Beta level. We will continue with math over the summer. We have no specific goals on what he learns but are allowing him to learn at his pace. We move quickly through the concepts he understands and slow the pace down when he needs more practice.

For additional supplementals, Big E is using several Kumon Workbooks, including cutting, mazes, coloring (neither of my children like to color), and drawing.

Big E has turned in a very advanced reader. He is often found reading books in his spare time. He is currently reading through the Boxcar Children’s Series. I am trying to convince him there are other great books to be read as well, but he seems determined to read all 150 or so books in the series (and he’s about half way there already).


For spelling, we have continued to use Explode the Code as suggested by Sonlight. Again, he seems to do really well with this subject. But he still struggles with some words when he is writing freely. But most of those words are ones we haven’t discussed yet. Big E is doing much better with the writing assignments given by Sonlight. I am pleased with the way he has grown in this area and is more willing to engage in the activity.

For Geography, we are trying our hand at having him learn how to draw the continents by memory. The first half of the year we focused on drawing the great circles, and roughly placing the continents in their correct locations. From there we have moved on to drawing Australia. It is still in the tracing phase of learning. He has attempted it a few times without tracing it, but I think he needs a bit more practice.

Personal Reflection:
In a nutshell, that is our curriculum. I am thankful to see in black and white what we have already accomplished this year. It gives me confidence to continue to move forward through this year and begin planning for next year.

At times I continue to debate if our choices of curriculum are what is best for our family. I think we will stay on this path again for next year, though I am curious how to handle multiple children in multiple cores. Next year D will be 3 and we will begin to do more focused educational activities with him as well. But I need to stay focused on today’s responsibilities, trusting that God will provide a clear path for us in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Homeschooling is a wild, crazy, fun, challenging, endeavor…. And one I am thankful to be undertaking. I know that I am not capable of doing any of this on my own strength… but only by His. So, it is by His grace that we will walk through the rest of today, tomorrow, and the day after that.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Week of School

Last week we started our 2013-2014 school year. Today I'm just going to post a few pictures from the past few days of school.  Later, I hope to post about our curriculum choices for the year. I think it will be a great year.

These are the precious children I get to spend my days with.



Big E is now 6 and in "First" Grade:




Learning how to draw a map of the world by memory.  So far he's learned the five major circles, the Prime Meridian, and Africa.


Making a lapbook of leaf rubbings and tree identifications


Lil E is now in Pre-K 4:


She is enjoying all her "work"

She is making progress with her phonics and letter identification

D is now almost 2... so he is just along for the ride in "Tot School":



Dot Painting the letter B worksheet

Putting pipe cleaners in a strainer

Lauri Shape sorter/pegs

Stickers... really, whatever keeps him busy and happy

Exercise Break... a little children's yoga:



Sweetest Moment: 

The Es decided to help D with a rubbing project they thought he should do.  



Saturday, June 15, 2013

End of School Year

Yesterday we finished our first "official" year of homeschooling. In working on our report for the school system, I have been encouraged to see how much Big E learned during his Kindergarten year and how far he progressed in so many different academic areas.  He has been exposed to the history and culture of the world, mastered simple math skills, become a confident reader, allowed his inquisitive mind to be the catalyst of much science learning, and expanded his writing skills.  It has been fun to learn alongside him and it has been satisfying to see his growth.  One year down... only 12 more to go!


Little E has also completed her school year of PreK3.  She loves math, has begun to get a handle on her alphabet, and is in the early stages of sounding out words.


There have been many opportunities for growth and character development for all of us through the past 9 months.  I am thankful for the time we have had together as a family and look forward to the summer fun we hope to have.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

School Room revisted

We recently reworked the school storage in our school room.  I am thrilled with the results.  I can more easily view and access our items.  I have increased our storage space and it has a more aesthetically pleasing appeal.

So, here is a little tour of our school room.


Above is our new storage unit.  Crafting supplies and manipulatives are on the top row.  Curriculum and workbooks are on the next row. The lower three shelves will be dedicated to educational toys.

The shelf on the left holds a few easily accessible educational toys that I plan on rotating out.  It also holds D's toys, Duplos, wooden building blocks, and our train set.  I like to keep building/creative type toys downstairs.


Welcome to my office.  This is my corner of the room.  I wish I had a more drawer space (one drawer just doesn't cut it).... but it is nice to have my office/work space in the school room with the children.  Not that it happens very often, but occasionally they will all be occupied and I can quickly pull up some additional resources on my computer (videos, answers to questions, music, etc.).


This is the schooling portion of the room.  The drawers hold the Es school work. Each child has a drawer stack.  We roughly use Sue Patrick's Workbox system.  Though, I think I need to tweak the way we use it soon.  I store the daily read-alouds, Bible, and memory verses in the crate on top of the drawers.  The bulletin board houses the calendar, house rules, and reminders about how the proper use of our tongues.  Most of the school work occurs at the table you see.  However, Big E has started doing some of his work at our kitchen table, in order to help him stay focused and prevent distraction from his siblings.  The middle drawers of the table hold crayons, stickers, and our small white boards. The upper small drawers on either side hold the Es pencil bags filled with essential school supplies and a notebook.  On the wall above and behind the school table is our magnetic strip used for displaying school work and crafts.

So that's it.  It is neat to see how our room has developed and changed over the years.  It is so nice to have a dedicated space to do our school in.  The room is technically the dining room of the house, but we have another space we use as our dining room.  I love that the room is attached to the kitchen so I can easily work in the kitchen to prepare snacks or lunch while the children are working.  We use the room during "non-school" hours.  I often find the Es drawing in their notebooks, building with one of our building toys, or playing with an educational toy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Voluntary School Times

I love it when my children enjoy their school work so much that they volunteer to do it at non-school hours.  One night at dinner we were talking about their new curriculum and they both ran to get their books to start working on them.

Big E just received a new Math curriculum.  In January, we decided to start with Math-U-See's Primer level.  We zipped through the first 9 lessons in one week.  I often find him using his MUS manipulative blocks to build buildings and such.  So fun!



Lil E recent started with the Kumon Uppercase workbook.  I think it feels like "big school" to her.


And what is the little guy up to these days during school time?..... Lots of trouble!  Sometimes I convince him to play with stickers.... though that only lasts a few minutes.  Toddlers make homeschooling interesting!





Sunday, December 2, 2012

Memory Verse Songs

Each week part of our homeschool curriculum includes a new memory verse. The children have been learning them through music.  It has been sweet to hear them both sing the songs in the mornings and while we are in the car.  It has been especially sweet to hear Elizabeth learn and sing alongside Ephraim, despite her speech deficiencies.  These are the kinds of moments that make homeschooling special, fun, and encouraging.

video