And just like that we are back in school. We usually begin our school year round about now. When the weather starts to cool down for us, we kind of slide into it. Most of our kids cannot remember a time when we weren’t homeschooling; they were born long after our homechooling journey began. Back-To-School is really just a lifestyle of learning that continues in and out of the seasons, rather than a dramatic difference between time spent doing nothing one day and piles of work the next. To be honest our days look just the same… when we are in school or out of school and the time that our children spend working on their own new discoveries is their work… the difference is really where their inspiration comes from. During school time, we read our way through the Sonlight Curriculum and that becomes the basis of their inspiration and when we aren’t in the school season, whatever else they are reading becomes their main inspiration.
There is one dramatic change in our home school this year in that we have quietly shifted from a school where most students were learning to read to one where they are reading to learn. At the beginning of last year we had three very competent readers, the rest were somewhere in the range of “non-reader to beginner-reader.” That has all changed. Last year I really focused on practising reading with each child every single day no matter what, and no matter how little, consistency was the key. Some children were generally happy to power their way through their school readers and others only read till-slips. Confidence and ability don’t always align themselves as you might expect, with ages and stages, but everyone’s reading improved dramatically.
The first week of school tends to be a series of meetings as folk figure out what exactly they really want to pursue. Final decisions are made on which books we will order for school and mostly we just carry on right where we left off. Well actually, right where we eventually fizzled out during the summer, when life tends to just move outdoors. So we are back in school and good to go, full of enthusiasm for new projects and new plans…
Se7en + 1 Things we are Looking Forward to This Year.
- Memorising: I know, what sort of a homeschool is this, where we have never made a concentrated effort for an expended period of time to learn things off by heart. Well, we are conquering that this year – a bible verse of the week, a poem of the week and so on. The list of things to memorise and learn together has grown each week… and we have been conquering it. The results are lovely… when a small child quotes a poem, in context, in conversation… and rattles off an entire verse for the joy of it, then you can be sure it will be something that will stick and will stay with them for an extended period of time.
- Cooking: Cooking has always been a major part of our schooling. Last year we signed up to a few of the Yuppie Chef Cooking School Classes, and there are quite a few new courses up on their site. Not to mention right now there is a se7en week free “cooking with kids” email program on their site. Sign up, and enjoy. We did!!!
- Mapping: I was looking for a creative approach to map work that was suitable for all ages to enjoy and do together. I like that this book starts really simply, and then incrementally builds up to bigger projects. I am looking forward to working through this book with our gang – I think it is going to be a lot of fun for all of us.
- Listening: I noticed last year that while my kids love me reading aloud to them, they weren’t that good at listening to other folk reading or lecturing, and it is a skill that will stand them in good stead. So we have begun to listen to audible books and we are listening to this epic right now – it is long and very descriptive and really quite incredible – I am very glad that I am not reading it out loud… because it is hours and hours worth of book… but whenever we find ourselves at the table drawing or whatever, then I pop it on to listen. We also have a couple of podcasts that we have started listening to, they are a lot of fun and we should have done this ages ago. We definitely need to post a list of the podcasts we are listening to.
- Watching: This year in our South African Studies we really want to learn more about our National Parks… and we plan to virtually visit them. To this end we have been watching Siyaya… it is a TV program and I never remember to watch, but you can buy the set. A group of youngsters tour the National parks of South Africa with an older ranger called Oompie. They have many adventures and learn heaps, our kids have been loving it. We have never intentionally included “watching” to our school before – it is a whole new thing for us.
- Current Affairs: For years we have dabbled in current affairs, we have tried this and that, we have explored all sorts of options and we finally have some resources that are really working for us. I want our kids to be part of the world and to know the current news – but it isn’t that easy to do, most news has to be filtered significantly before we can let our kids dive in and enjoy it. We seem to have got the news right so far this year, only one of our children asked, “Who is Princess Charlotte?” at dinner last night… he was immediately informed by se7en siblings.
- Exploring: We have a very cool project, that we have already begun… it involves hiking, so everybody is on board. We have chosen a spot to study on the mountain, to photograph, to sketch, to explore – to see how it changes through the seasons. Each month we have looked at a different aspect of the area… the animals, the plants, the weather and so on. It is going to be fun and it is going to require a lot of sandwiches!!!
- Birding: I confess I know almost nothing about birds – it is shocking really for all our “getting outdoors efforts” I really should have worked harder at getting know our bird-life… the feeder is filled, the bird bath cleaned out and we are ready to discover just who is tweeting what in the hedge.
And the se7en + 1th:
This post clearly shows that even though we appear to be old hands at homeschooling, and we slide in and out of our school year without too much strain or effort, that there are always new things to learn and discover and new things to try and explore. I definitely don’t add to our repertoire every year… where we try new things, other activities will fall away. I am firm believer in the fact that children need hours of free play – that is their work, in order to learn to love learning with a passion and to pursue their own interests with enthusiasm.
I realised as I wrote this post that some of these points deserve their own blog posts… so I have popped them onto the list of potential posts. Now would be a good time to ask any homeschooling questions that you might have… I have a few lined up already and I will have an “Asked and Answered” post in the next week or two. Looking forward to it in fact.