There are things about school this year that are going so well even I can’t believe it!!! Normally by half way through the year I feel a little bit like we are losing track, always a little bit off the pace. This year I made a mental effort to stop worrying about what “everyone else” was doing and to concentrate on what we wanted to do for school. Not everything has to be perfect, we are getting a flavor of the world. We don’t have to have preplanned packages or perfect outings lined up every other day of the week. This year I decided to take the things that we want to do for school, that often get neglected, you know those topics that make you feel like you are losing traction and I am concentrating on getting them done.
- The Story of the World: We added the activity books to our curriculum… Oh they are so brilliant and bring the story alive!!! Every chapter has a mapping exercise, a couple of comprehension questions, some book suggestions and coloring pages. But the fun is in the projects and I don’t have to think them up!!! My grade 6 student is loving them to bits and his history has been brought alive for all of us. History isn’t just a story it is a lifestyle!!! Suddenly we have a whole team of archaeologists excavating in the garden and strange ingredients added to the shopping list for ancient bites to eat. I have used the materials for all our grades history, not just the grades that are reading the story of the world… we grabbed some viking fun and ancient egyptians for my lower grades as well. These books are simply brilliant!!!
- Geography Songs: Sing Around the World: 33 Fun Songs, Lyrics, Landmarks, Maps (Larry Troxel, Kathy Troxel): I know everybody loves them, every body blogs about them… And I know they are good. Well we don’t go driving enough for me to remember to play them in the car and we usually start the year enthusiastically and color in about three pages and then forget about it. Believe it or not coloring is just not big around here!!! But I added a new dimension: Smart Kids Picture Atlas (Roger Priddy) is brilliant, it has a couple of paragraphs about each country in the world. Interesting facts, bright colorful pictures, how to say hello in the local language… A couple of my kids are doing Geography Songs this year: I read about a country, they find it on their map and color it, then we greet each other and move on to the next one. It has really been fun. And there has been no quitting!!!
- Science Lab Partners: My kids, like most kids, love science experiments… And I am guessing that like most mothers I just don’t get round to doing them… I can’t always want to!!! Even with the brilliant science kits we use, I still can’t be bothered to scurry around looking for bits and pieces that we need, I can easily forget to buy a soda bottle for weeks at a time. I used to have an intensive week of science every couple of weeks and catch up… but this year we are schooling straight through without a break… So what to do about science? Well I teamed my kids up with a lab partner and we are winning. They take turns, the older kids do a week or two and then the younger guys. And one week they do a section of their science experiments and the next week they do their partners science… So they get to do double science and my kids think that’s a win, win!!! There is a hidden reward here… they are learning to work together and it isn’t always easy!!! They are learning to battle through their differences in order to get the experiment done. Yup, they are learning a whole lot more than science – a definite Win, Win!!!
- Poetry: Now we love and adore poetry, it is one of our favorite school topics… but as I said in our previous post on scheduling, if it isn’t scheduled everyday then we just don’t get round to it. But Thursday is my laundry, mental health, take a break from the world day… and nothing is as good for mental health as the great outdoors. So everyone knows that on Thursdays I will head outdoors and read their week’s poetry whatever the weather… it is a weekly event: rain or shine, blizzard or heatwave… out we go and find a spot in the garden for a poetry reading session… we all look forward to it. Our favorite poetry book this year is definitely poems by James Stevenson… fun, fun, visual poems from a poet with a very different view of the world!!!
- Music Appreciation: I have always put off learning about famous musicians because I thought we needed a special program or I might miss something. Turns out that anything I do is better than nothing. So on Mondays which are always a particularly bad day for getting going we have been listening to a new peace of music or a new musician and sometimes we read about it and sometimes we just listen and have it in the background for the morning’s school. It occurs to me that there are certain pieces of music that my kids should know, Vivaldi’s for Seasons and Peter and the Wolf… to name a few… think about it and more than a few pieces come to mind. Really I don’t need a special program, I just need to hit the play button. If you are looking for more and sometimes I am, then head straight over to Classics for Kids… They have podcasts that we listen to as well as great printables, it really is a fabulous site.
- Spelling: I will tell you a secret about spelling, if your kids read a lot they will learn to spell. My first child is called “Spellcheck” for a reason, he could always spell anything. I cannot say the same for his siblings… and for some of them you have never seen such appalling spellers in your life!!! But after many years they do start to just get it… I know you don’t believe it but it is true!!! That being said we use spelling power and we all love it. One book for everyone, and everyone is at their own level. Lots of fun ways for them to practice their skills and they never have to learn more than three words on a given day… And because everyone is doing the same program we can do it together and they ask for it, beg for it!!! Nothing like a bit of competition to see who can get fewer errors in their list for the week.
- Mapwork and Timelines: There is only one way to do this… on the day. Which is why it is a weak point and falls by the way!!! I am always so impressed with homeschool classrooms with busy annotated maps on the walls. As I do the reading for history my kids write a few notes in their history journal and pop their sticker in with the notes. As for map work… I was trying to fill it all in on a blank wipeable map… it wasn’t working!!! Every time someone wanted to write on their map they would smear something else and not only was it hard to remember to do it, but it was causing wild, frustrated gnashing of teeth. So I bought extra paper maps for the geography song book from Sonlight ($3. well spent) and we are making an “Atlas” on a map as we go for each child and this map will just slide into their journal at the end of the year when we file it. So far it is working and dare I say becoming a habit. We will have to see if we can sustain it!!!
- School Starts and Ends: The hardest part for me is starting… I really, really want to get up in the morning and potter around on the internet for an undisclosed period of time, and it always leads to disaster!!! It takes all my self-control to bypass my laptop and to get things going. But the rewards are great, if we start then we tend to finish and there is plenty of time for me to potter on the internet in the afternoon. So for me more than anyone else… School first. It works, I know it and once I have begun I love it.
I always, always intend to finish school by lunchtime and very often we don’t. But this year I stopped answering questions after lunch. If a book isn’t finished and they haven’t shown it to me it just goes back on the shelf and start fresh the next day. Really I turn a blind eye!!! After a whole morning of school a page of anything can take hours to achieve and first thing in the morning when you are fresh it is so easy!!!
The father person inspired this when he returned home from the office at the end of the day, week after week, to find us still at the kitchen table with piles of books. Madness – he declared. “Finish by lunch and you Pass.” Don’t finish by lunch that’s a Fail.” It is enough motivation for my kids to know that they are passing or failing. Anyone who has passed by the end of the week and has shown me their assignments done, gets Friday night screen time.
Just because my kids are home schooled doesn’t mean they can’t get a taste of failure, once in a while. I am not talking about misunderstood work or work that needs help. I am talking about your regular “I am dawdling, reading half a book, having a quick snack and so on kind of work. When we were at school and we didn’t complete something, the teacher never sat with us until dinner time and then waited the whole of the next day or three to get the assignment done. If it wasn’t done we failed… and I tell you it didn’t happen too often!!! Many of my students do a mad scrabble to finish on their own in the afternoon, particularly on a Friday afternoon. We all know the work can be done!!! They are rewarded for finishing timeously and that has been enough of a pull for most of them to make every effort to finish. It has really helped them to know that enough is enough for the day, really. I think we all look forward to our free afternoons and lounging around with library books and frantic play!!!
And the Se7en + 1th Thing…
That’s us… Almost halfway through the school year and going surprisingly strong!!! Who knew how many topics on the good intention list could actually make it onto the done list!!!