Friday, December 13, 2013

K4 Update... as Requested :)

Hello friends, accidental visitors, and faithful readers... which I probably have none of because it's been so long since I blogged that it wasn't even in my browsing history anymore. Yikes.

Siblings, Friends, and "Classmates"
Several friends have asked me to post a little update on our school year-- what's working, what's not, what it looks like, etc.  So, between bites and sips of my lunch (the first time I've sat down all day) I'll try to crank this out. :)  Here is my loose "road map,"as posted several months ago.

I. love.  homeschooling.

Wow.  I can't believe how much I love it.  There are days when I feel myself teetering on the brink of a mental breakdown, yes... possibly days when I've fallen over INTO that chasm, truth be told, but that doesn't change how much I love it. I loved teaching before, and naturally tend to fall into it, and now that it's my own child whom I'm watching "get it," it's even more fun.  I love the classical approach.  I love teaching by asking questions.  I love guiding her to learn to work alone.  I love incorporating academic learning into real life easily because I'm aware of all she's learning academically.  I love having dozens of opportunities to discuss the Gospel, the Bible and her soul every day.  I love watching my children become friends and playmates because they are together every day.

Our basic curriculum outline:
Phonics- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Math- Saxon Math K 
All Grammar-  Classical Conversations (this teaches kids nuts & bolts "facts" of history, English grammar, Latin, science, math and the fine arts)
Handwriting- Cursive First
World History- The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages:(Vol. 2) 
Science- Herbs Coloring Book

I am super chill this year with school in general.  By SC state law Eowyn doesn't have to even enroll in school until 1st grade, which for her would be in 2016 (Sept birthday), so I'm mainly trying to get in the swing of things for my own sake as well as hers.  We also have two toddler boys running around our house, potty training, playdates, and sickness regularly disrupting our "routines."   I am taking the advice of Susan Wise Bauer (author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home), who recommends focusing on basically math & phonics the first year you homeschool, along with plenty of reading (both aloud and independently if your kids are readers).  She then recommends adding another subject or two the next year (or semester if you're really doing awesome), rather than trying to tackle everything all at once and getting so burned out that you give up on homeschooling.  Only try to juggle two things instead of 10?  I'll take it!
Weekly Story Time at our Local Library ("Mo Willems" Day)

Our weekly schedule loosely resembles this:  Classical Conversations co-op on Monday mornings, which includes fine arts & science; Tuesday- "full" homeschool morning (1 hour); Wednesday- ballet (1 hr) & library story time (30 min), Thursday- BSF Bible Study (super quality kids' program there); Friday- "full" morning Friday or Saturday. We often fit in a reading lesson, history chapter, math or science activity, or some motor-skill work on non-full days.  I also LOVE the approach that's explained in the CC book, of just assigning 10-20 min independent work to kids per subject, and training them to occupy themselves.  So in line with what little kids are actually capable of doing!

Classical Conversations-  I am very impressed with it... I LOVE how customizable it is, how low stress it is, and how much the responsibility is on the PARENTS, without compromising quality or accountability.  I love that we go once a week and that motivates both me and Eowyn to press on when we don't feel like it... that she sees she's not alone in having parents who expect her to do __, and that she has a chance to function in a classroom setting.  The "presentations" she has to give ever week (basically show & tell) are genius.  She is already, at age 4, learning to be a public speaker, to take her audience into account... that is not exactly what most preschool programs focus on!  Most of all I love that I am with her every step of the way.  Maybe it's because I'm still in the nursing-babies phase, but it literally hurts my heart to think of her being away from me for long periods of time.  You just never know what kind of creeps and messed up people are out there.  They'll have to go out on their own soon enough, and I want them to be strong and ready when they do!!!  So I love that I'm with her to help her learn to navigate right now.  We listen to the CDs in the car and that's about all we do for CC, along with checking out books and DVDs that dovetail with our science, history and fine arts as much as I can. Honestly for science we do more with biology-- our herb coloring book (we touch, taste, smell, pick the actual herbs we color); we read about various animals & go to the zoo; she helps me in the garden; and I want to eventually get Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, because then I will have arrived at True Hippy Parent status. ;D  No-- actually because I make a lot of our "medicine" from dried herbs and herbal essential oils it's very natural for her to start learning herbs now, and it just seems kids love biology at this age!

our "sentence game"
Phonics-  100 Easy Lessons is what my mom used and it's working fairly well for us, though I supplement it because E seems to need it.  She stresses herself out blending sounds sometimes so I often "scaffold" her-- sounding the words out with her-- and make free use of extrinsic motivation (also known as bribery).  We have done a raisin or fruit snack for each word read, and now she can earn a quarter for each lesson she completes (working to buy a Barbie doll!)  I bought the Bob Books (Set 1) on consignment for a few bucks and she enjoys practicing in those. I made our own word family card game (Ex. __an written on a large index card, with letters m, c, p, f etc on small cards so she can change them and read each new word) and sight word cards (names of our family members, common words like a, and, the) and we often make our own sentences with those so she can gain confidence & fluency. She also has some books on tape (yes old-school cassettes) and often "reads" along with those.  If you haven't read The Read-Aloud Handbook, get it... it's so super encouraging for just how much you can let slide and as long as you are reading to them/surrounding them with books, THEY WILL BE FINE!!!  And it has a great section of book summaries.  I think we'll be set to finish the 100 Easy Lessons by next school year's start (K5), because I plan to go through the summer with it, which will have her reading on a 2nd grade level.

Math- I am a die-hard Saxon fan as I learned great with it myself.  It's a no-frills program that works well for us, mostly because I am not afraid to combine or skip lessons as needed (NOBODY NEEDS TO DO ALL THE PROBLEMS), and I am used to making my own simple manipulatives (preK teacher to the core).  I use our pocket calendar and Dollar Tree items as counters.  Even with us only doing math twice a week, we are flying through the book, which is great at only introducing one concept a day and reviewing often; we have been doing a lot of these concepts for the past year and a half informally (I didn't even mean to-- we just did) so it's very doable for us to combine 2-3 lessons.  I have Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards as well as a magnetized pattern block set Ryan brought back from Prague that I often "assign" her for 10-20 minutes (shower time!!), Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock, Dollar Tree number workbooks, and a jar of buttons of all shapes, sizes & colors which I'll give her to sort.  I always put them away just before she's had enough of them so she thinks they're grand fun when we get them out!  We have Duplos and hardwood blocks to play with, and a pool & water table set up in the summer (my mom has Tinkertoys & Lincoln Logs) so they get a lot of incidental math play that way too.

He's learning from the best... at least he thinks so
Handwriting-  as she has not had much interest in penmanship we have not done much letter writing; mostly we've done the numerals. I made a saltbox and she traces letters & numbers in there, and I have a fun little wipe-off tracing game for her to practice pen strokes.  I think in the new year I'll make some sensory bags with hair gel & shaving cream and let her use those too.  I printed off and laminated some cursive handwriting tracing & practice sheets off a website to make your own, so we use those with whiteboard markers.  She also regularly does watercolor in coloring books or paints crafts, all to strengthen her hands.  We don't do all this daily... just here and there, and at her own pace.  At this point she really needs a lot of tracing & dot-to-dot work; copying is beyond her right now.

Bible- We use the materials listed in my previous post, and right now are really enjoying our Jesse Tree as a guide for our morning devotions!  
budding ballerina

PE-  She gets 1 hour of ballet/tap each week, and I make SURE they go outside daily if at all possible.  I notice with her that I generally have to push her a little bit to be active.  She'll do my work out videos and even go running with me (key phrase). At the park she'd rather me push her on the swings for an hour instead of running and climbing.  Unless there are other little ones to play with, that is. She is SUCH a people-person. Liam, well... I usually find him on top of structures that should make me faint.

Speaking of which, I can tell that Liam is going to be raring to write and read VERY soon.  He already begs and pleads ("I wite? I wite!") to get to write along with Eowyn and usually gets to hold a little white board (thank you, dollar tree) and doodle proudly while I work with her, or he colors on our easel.  He loves books and singing and tries to do ballet moves... I plan to keep him home another year and then enroll him in the same mothers-morning-out church preK program Eowyn did for K3 the following year, and then start CC in K4 in 2016... but we'll see.  :)

Any questions you have, please ask!

"I wite? Peeees??"
Did I mention climbing?