Monday, November 12, 2007

changing homeschooling gears

The time has come (the walrus said) to make some changes. Homeschooling has changed for us this year. I don't know if it's adding another child to the mix, or pregnancy and the addition of midwife appointments to our schedule, or Maria's changing workload and the addition of vision therapy to our schedule....but school is not fun. Somewhere in the last few months I turned into Fascist Mom, dragging unwilling kids through a list of assignments, just trying to "get it done" in between loads of laundry and dishes. I can't even remember the last time we did anything fun, much less anything fun *and* educational. It's all become drudge, plug, plug, plug away during the week and then exhausted Mom tries to recoup and catch up on housework all weekend. I like our curriculum, I really do. But it's not been the best fit for my hands-on learners. And the stress of trying to keep up with the syllabus is getting to me, especially with this baby's birth looming in May.

When we first started homeschooling, I tried putting together my own curriculum for a while, and it was a bust. I tried to put in too much. Every cool resource I saw I wanted to use, and keeping up with my self-imposed lesson plans was harder than keeping up with someone else's. So now....I'm going to try something different. Something that's less than a lesson plan but more like a sequence of events. Instead of having this list of stuff that needs to be completed in 5th grade grammar, I'll have a list of grammar goals to be met over the course of their education before high school, written loosely with plenty of time for the child to work at their own pace and for life to happen around us. I am also switching to materials more suited to my kids and easier for me to use but still based on Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. The morning work looks something like this...

Reading/Phonics/Spelling- We have Teach Your Child to Read in 100 EZ lessons, though I'm thinking about switching to something different for Jack. Once about a third of the way into the book, start the Explode the Code series. When this series is completed, start Phonetic Zoo for spelling. They also have reading time assigned after lunch.

Grammar- Once working well in Explode the Code, start First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, a pair of books with three years worth of oral grammar exercises. Begin the Easy Grammar workbooks and hopefully finish in time to start 9th grade. We will also still memorize poetry from Harp and Laurel Wreath.

Writing- Handwriting without Tears, copywork, narration and dictation, and then finally composition exercises, mostly related to history and religion reading. Maria is also learning to type.

Math- We'll continue with Saxon. I researched other programs, but although Saxon drives me batty sometimes I still think it's got the best long-term track record.
Since we school year round, we skip a big chunk of review in the beginning of the books.

Religion- This will largely still follow the course laid out in MODG...memorizing the St. Joe's catechism, reading Faith and Life and stories of the saints, the Bible, etc. The kids enjoyed all these things.

Art/Music Appreciation- We will use Seton's Art books which are a combination of art appreciation and applied technique, depending on which year you are on. We also use Mommy, It's a Renoir in the early grades. Music is pretty loose, mostly selections used in the car. I'm hoping to get a piano in the spring and start piano lessons as well.

Latin- We will continue to study this pretty much as outlined in MODG. It's a slow, manageable pace. Starting around third grade, we work through English From the Roots Up flashcards, then Prima Latina, Latin Christiana I and II, aiming to finish LC II in time for starting Henle in high school.

All of this takes about 3 hours of morning work for Maria and I, about half that for Kain. I start with half an hour or so working with Jack, and then work with Kain while Maria works on her own, and then working with Maria for what she needs. We do not do it all everyday. We try to hit math every day, and religion, and the rest falls in as time allows. Then we will take a long break for lunch, rest, chores for mom...

So, are you still with me? In the's the fun part...I have a rotation of four days.

A.- Nature walk with guides and journals. I want this day to happen weekly, even if it means losing one of the other days below in busy weeks.

B.- History- We are starting a chronological study with Story of the World, a series we've used before and loved. The first day will be doing the Story of the World reading together, doing any maps and coloring sheets, Maria will read the related material from Kingfisher History Encyclopedia on her own while Kain and I do related library read-alouds. Kain will do a narration from the Story of the World while Maria will outline what she reads in Kingfisher. Then Maria will read from a related library book. Maria will also work on a timeline.

C.- Science or Geography- We will work on science projects of interest, whatever strikes our fancy. The kids wanted to do something with "animals", could they be any more vague? So, we are working our way through Kingfisher's First Animal Encyclopedia and making a big classification display on the wall with photocopied and colored pictures. We will bring home related animal books and videos from the library as well. After the animal project, I'm thinking maybe a human anatomy unit with "My Temple of the Holy Spirit" from CHC, and then planting projects from "Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots"...but those are just ideas. Maria is also working with her monthly Young Scientist kits and loves those. We will also work through Catholic Heritage Curricula's geography projects, Tour a Continent and Tour a Country, and a study of Arkansas history. Again, this is all over the next few years, not just this year!

D.- History- On this day we will do a hands-on history project from the Story of the World Activity Book and continue with our library reading. Maybe the occasional related library video as well.

We are also going to make time for our favorite thing, liturgical year projects, and the above mentioned afternoons will get the boot for a day or two to make room for celebrating various seasons and feasts. I am in the process of putting together the materials for this Advent unit study, and this will take a good couple of afternoons a week during the Advent and Christmas season. The kids will also work on their Blue Knights/Little Women materials on these days.

So there we are. It looks like a lot, but remember, this is over several years! And the beauty of it all is that there's no deadline. There's no "finish this stack of books by June". We will be able to work at a pace that keeps things sane, taking off days for fun field trips and weeks to enjoy the new baby. On slower-paced weeks we can be more productive at home and on crazier weeks we will do what we can do and Mom will *not* have a nervous breakdown. When each school year starts, we will keep going where we left off. When we hit high school with Maria...well, who knows what will happen then? At this point I imagine we will enroll her with MODG and have her follow the syllabi for their high school courses.


Cheryl said...

We're going to be changing gears soon too. I haven't decided what we'll do in December yet, but I'm thinking about trying SOTW in January. I hope your plans go well.

rebecca said...

If you're going to study Arkansas history, you need to get to know Dexter's Discoveries, at Fun and educational! (I'm a certified Arkansas History Teacher Trainer, and a former homeschooler.)

Denise said...

Best wishes for some better and more relaxed schooling days ahead. Keep in touch with us!

Denise in Ohio

Barb said...

well I hope you keep in touch!! esp. when that baby gets here you know...all the best to you, the kids are young and you really cannot go wrong, God Bless.

JoAnna said...

Melanie, I'm sure you'll all enjoy the break from the usual. We all need to mix things up once and a while. I'll be slowing down substantially as the birth of this baby approaches. I'm going to be relaxed homeschooling until probably the next "schoolyear" or so.

See ya on DYOCC, etc.!

4 and a half weeks and counting,

Wendy in VA (now in MD) said...

Sounds good! We *love* the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading here - it has worked wonders for my auditory boys. :o)