September 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes - the school edition

Hmmmmm, let's see if I can actually keep these *quick*…A glimpse into our adventures of our third year of homeschooling.

1. At first I was going to start school towards the end of September to give us time to settle in with the new baby. But the baby's awesome and the kids were squirrly and annoying with a lack of schedule so then I said the end of August. But the end of August was still crazy hot awesomeness that the sun kept us from doing anything even remotely work/school/other than play related. Soooo then I was going to start the day after Labor Day but then the kids found out I bought ice cream bars for the first day and they demanded to start earlier. So August 28th we woke up and said, "let's start school today!" Except, Lola sucked that day and I had to move her to the nursery which meant I had to move Levi into a big boy bed, OH and I fell major while running, oh and Mike was out of town. Sure, why not rip the bandaid off all at once (except not the bandaid covering my gaping wound). The first day we mostly just snuggled and read books (not really snuggling, more like pushing kids off me because I had a baby, um, nursing, and yelling at kids for climbing all over each other) and did like a math page or something. By the second day I kicked my booty into gear and by day 6 (today) we're up and running.

Not pictured: my glass of wine.

2. After much discernment we decided to enroll the big kids in Classical Conversations. It's a program, geared to support homeschooling parents who go by the Classical Method of education and the kids meet once a week for a few hours and I follow up at home. You can read more about it *here* but in a nutshell the classical method follows the Trivium of learning, which breaks learning up into three stages: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. The grammar stage is from ages 4-4th grade and focuses on memorization at its core. It lays the foundation in the brain before students are able to understand what the concepts are actually about. The dialectic stage goes from 4th-6th grade and focuses on the "why?" of the concepts memorized in the previous stage. This is the period when students start to think more analytically, otherwise known as the "logic stage." The rhetoric stage is from 7-12th grade and build on the first two stages. This is when the student will be able to critically think about such topics, fluently and eloquently derive written and oral arguments to defend an opinion about them, and dive deeper into concepts.

The subjects covered will be bible passage memory work, latin, math concepts, grammar concepts, timeline of the world, history, science, fine arts, music, and group presentations (every week). Since Avila and Max are in the same grammar stage of learning, they will be in the same class doing the same material. I just follow up at home with the memory work and add in my own Reading, Math, Handwriting, Religion and I'm also doing Spelling and Language Arts at their respective grade levels. And my goal is to suck it up and do lots of read-a-louds.

Watching The Wizard of Oz after reading the book this summer…

3. Avila, age 6. Here's a snapshot of her curriculum for the year:

Math: Singapore Math (2nd grade)
Language Arts: First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease (Level 2)
Spelling: All About Spelling (Level 1) *finally pulled the trigger on this after not liking our spelling from last year
Reading: Read Alouds and her reading to me. She's currently at like a college age reading level or something. Or at the very least she makes me look like a sucky reader.
Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears (Level 3 - Cursive) and Keyboarding Without Tears
Religion: Faith and Life Series. Liturgiucal Year stuff thrown in (Advent, Feast Days, Sacraments, etc)

4. And here's Max's (age 4):
The tricky thing about age 4 is whether to do formal curriculum or not. I think it depends on each child. I would never push anything on Max at this point (except for coloring/writing randomly in a notebook and listening to read alouds) but he was eager to do his own school. His takes about 20-30 min a day, if that.

Math: Singapore Math (Kindergarten)
Reading: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons/BOB Books
Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears (pre-writing books)

5. Our schedule looks something like this: get it done when we can. Because we also have this snugglish baby to love on:

Seriously though, I think we would all rather cozy up to her than do math but you gotta do what you gotta do. Soemtimes we get started right away when she goes down for her nap (around 9am) and bust everything out by 11 when she's up again to eat. Sometimes we don't start until 1pm and go until about 3-4. Sometimes it takes 20 minute spurts throughout the day. Sometimes Max goes first, sometimes Avila, sometimes both at the same time. And sometimes Levi joins in and other times the big kids swap watching/playing with him. Routine is important but so is understanding that the natural rhythms of life are going to change based on the season of life we are in. That's the beauty of homeschooling: family always comes first. It's not about checking off the education boxes and getting everything on the TO DO list done. Some days we go full board and get a ton accomplished. Other days it's a struggle to get a read aloud in. But there is balance and, for the most part, peace, and above all we realize that education is a value and a privilege that we get to have. It is something to foster our growth as rational and virtuous people and the fruits will be found not only in the cultivation of our minds but also our hearts and souls.

6. What I don't do: A LOT. I don't do fancy lesson plans. I don't do big crazy art projects. I don't create things myself. I try not to don't over schedule my day. I don't do busy work (unless it's to get the kids out of my hair…but in that case usually kicking them outside for "recess" and locking the door does the trick). I don't do complicated. And I don't do stress. My motto: KEEP IT SIMPLE. It's not that those other things are bad; we're just not in the state of life to do them. Simplicity, paring down to the bare essentials, is what allows us to have mostly stress free days and a mostly joy-filled schooling experience. When I try to bite off more than WE can chew (unless it's chocolate) then everyone fails and we are all grumpy. And grumpy with 4 kids is so not fun.

Here's Avila reading to me while I'm nursing - multitasking at its finest. Max joins in sometimes. He gets a read aloud. I get to hear her reading. She gets the joy of reading to other people. And Levi is probably off unrolling some toilet paper or something.

7. How being a teacher by trade messes with being a homeschooling mom….I often get the phrase: "Oh, you can homeschool because you were a teacher!" It's well intentioned and, from the outside, looks like it has a lot of merit. But actually my teaching background (I taught Special Education PreK and Third Grade) is a hinderance of sorts. When starting out three years ago I tried to set up our homeschool "classroom" much like a regular school classroom: bulletin boards, morning notebooks, and on and on. For some families this works. For us, it tooootally didn't. I just had it in my head that school had to look a certain way and kids were supposed to do certain things. After a lot of trial and error (and throwing away hours of work on said bulletin boards) I told myself that I'm a mom first and a teacher second. That, because we are moms (and dads) and not simply because I had a certificate, we were all born to teach our children. In fact we do this everyday! We teach them to be kind and gracious and whatever else and we mold them into the people we want them to be. THIS was the attitude I needed in our homeschooling journey. After that big revelation I realized that by listening to my (motherly) intuition I can create the type of school day and school life that best fits our family and helps us to achieve our bigger goals in life - education only being a piece of that puzzle. Of course there's more to it than what I can write in a not-so-quick take, but there you go.

At the end of the day this is what it's all about. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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