Saturday, June 11, 2011

Planning Phase I

Although our school doesn't start until September, I've been bitten by the planning bug. There is so much to think about. Boy will be in what is traditionally considered third grade, and we're going to ramp it up.

More narrations

He's going to narrate more, both orally and written. I'm going to prepare passages for him, a la Charlotte Mason, so he has a chance to study it carefully. No more just "tell me about what you just read" or "tell me all you remember about this passage". This is going to be not only more organized, but systematic. I'm using the book When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper to guide me in this process. If I get stuck, I always have CM's own writings to go back to.

Thoughtful copywork and dictations

We're not only going to pay attention to penmanship and punctuation as usual, but to grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and capitalization. I'm going to sit right next to him and instruct him, paying attention as he's writing. As for dictation, all the more challenging words and names are going to be written out on our whiteboard beforehand. He's going to study the passage first, then I will proceed to dictate to him, clause by clause, pausing at the commas. I'm going to borrow Writing With Ease: The Complete Writer text to see if I'll be needing more hand-holding, but with When Children Love to Learn and The Well Trained Mind I should have enough to work with when it comes to writing. I think.

Memory work

I have not done nearly as much in this area as I would have liked. Boy has hardly memorized anything this past year, and I think it's my fault. Memorization takes time, and frankly, I'm the check off the list and go do the next thing kind of person. There are memorization sections in Primary Language Lessons already, I will just take my time and go through these slower and just repeat. I will use Living Memory as my guide in what to choose for copywork so as to aid Boy in memorizing these. We will chant Math, Spelling, and Grammar rules, as well as Spanish conjugations.

More, deeper Spanish

Speaking of Spanish, we are going to take Spanish to the next level. Not only are we going to listen and watch Spanish or play on the computer with Muzzy, but we are going to learn basic grammar and practice Spanish half hour twice a week. I'm also going to strive to read to Boy in Spanish and have him practice reading.

History that continues to spark the imagination

Instead of SOTW, which we have enjoyed so far, we're going to listen to Mara Pratt's American History Stories on Librivox. We also have the books, our spines, which Boy will read for extra comprehension. We're going to enjoy the year doing 3D Interactive Maps and exploring the different Native American peoples and customs with Tools of Native Americans. We're going to delight in the stories and pictures of American Story: 100 True Tales of American History, and add living books to round out our studies. Boy is going to narrate orally and on paper and write down facts, including dates, in his notebooking pages. The Complete Book of US History will be on standby to give him written activities, mapwork, and additional information should he need it. An illustrative timeline will show him where we are in History. I'm excited, as this is my first year planning History without an actual curriculum.

More time-saving, efficient Science

We continue the excellent critical thinking and inquiry tradition with a new science curriculum this year: Singapore's My Pals Are Here! Science 3/4. After much thought, I decided to hold off on Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding 3-5 and focus on reviewing some concepts and building more writing into the program. As much as I love BFSU, and I still love BFSU, I haven't been able to do a good job of having Boy write much about his lessons. With a new baby in tow, I need something with built in writing (workbooks), but that doesn't stultify the mind or sacrifice the critical think I so crave in science especially. The plan is to continue with BFSU 3-5 after being done with the MPH books - Diversity, Cycles, Systems, Energy, and Interactions. I think I may try to combine BFSU with the workbooks of Singapore MPH 5/6. be continued..

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Third Year Coming Together - History

The last three weeks I spent a great time with my mom, who lives in Aruba. She's been such an inspiration to me for her commitment and dedication to my development and education. She was always and continues to be a born teacher, and I strive to emulate her in this regard.

As she got wheeled away and I realized our time together this year was over, I knew I would have to focus on my plans for the coming Fall. So much has happened in the last month that it was a whirlwind, and to say I haven't had a lot of time to think about Fall is an understatement.

Finally, the time is here. Being all gung ho and trying to hold myself back 5 years ago when Boy was only two, I started putting hours into planning and got to Third Year (my fancy, Harry Potter inspired way of saying Third Grade). I can hardly believe Third Year is.. here. I'm grateful for all the work I put in before. All I had to do was tweak and change some to American History, as I choose to go that path instead of SOTW 3.

The reason I'm not going with SOTW 3 is so I can focus on (and learn!) American History. The following are the resources I'm going with for History:

American History Stories by Mara Pratt, Volumes I-IV (spine)
The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong (co-spine)
DK Smithsonian Children's Encyclopedia of American History

and lots of living books!

For projects and activities, we're doing

Interactive 3D Maps: American History
Complete Book of US History
Tools of Native Americans

The plan is to listen to Librivox' American History Stories (Volumes 1 and 2 are available I believe), then have Boy read the chapter as well. They are relatively short chapters that lend themselves well to digestion and narration. Afterwards, I will have Boy write down important names, dates, places, and events. We'll discuss and read the appropriate section in the Encyclopedia, and Boy can narrate orally. These are part of Day 1's activities.

Day 2 should consist of a corresponding American Story passage, Interactive 3D Maps project, an activity from Tools of Native Americans, and the corresponding section in Complete Book of US History. If no activity, Boy can write down his narration and/or do a dictation.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Over the the past three years that I've been homeschooling I've had many stresses, moments of doubt, guilt, and midnight worries. As human nature dictates, I've neglected to emphasize the glorious, the happy, the laughter, the hugs, the cuddles, the amazing realization of your child's understanding. You can see the door opening in their minds, their connections forming, the glee in their eyes, the pride of accomplishment. I wouldn't want to miss this. I like my job.

My job is to guide, teach, and prepare my children for life. Many days I feel like I'm not making any progress, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. I see glimpses of triumph, snatches of time that elucidate real thinking and character building. I talk to Boy's teachers and they all have only good things to say about him. I must be doing something right.

As I pour over my planning for next year, I realize that the goal of a worthy education is not only attainment and success, but enjoyment. If we don't enjoy the process, it's quickly forgotten and discarded. However, if we learn in an environment of trust, familiarity and love, you can bet the learning will stick and remain much longer and be processed at a deeper level.

As I struggle to tweak this and that for Boy, I see him as he is and accept him for who he is. Yes, he's an energetic boy who's easily distracted and frustrating to teach on some days, but he is who he is. It's my job to work with him and not against him. Yes, he needs to learn to sit and do his work, but it's my job to prepare the environment and make it easier for him to do so. My main job? Enjoy myself. The more I enjoy myself, the more I want to do this, and the better my children's education will be as a result.