Back in March I shared our memory work plans for our homeschool morning recitation time, and I had really intended to make that a regular monthly post. Somehow, though, the next couple of months sneaked up on me, and those posts never happened. I decided to try and pick back up now that we are about to start a new school term. I know many homeschoolers who also start back up in mid-summer, so perhaps it will help some of you out as try and wrap up your planning during a holiday week!
I decided to add an extra song into our recitation time this term. I have so many songs that I still want to introduce to my children while they are young, and I just don’t remember to do that unless it is part of our school day.
I chose most of these selections back in the winter before we began our new school year. If I had it to do over again, I might try harder to choose more patriotic themed memory work to go with the Independence Day holiday. Maybe next year I will remember to do that if I know we are going to be schooling in July. But at least I had a general outline planned to save myself the time and energy during break! I hope this little outline of our July memory work helps you as you plan for your own homeschool recitation time.
This week was break week in our homeschool. Can I get a “holla” from all the homeschool mommas reading this? 😉 Let’s face it, as much as we love homeschooling our kids, it is not all sunshine and roses. Some days it’s just plain hard! The discipline to keep showing up and guiding our children through the work of learning is hard to cultivate, both in ourselves and in them. So it is good to take a break sometimes and step back to breathe, rest and re-evaluate how everything is going.
We just finished Term 1 of AmblesideOnline Year 2, so it was high time for a break after plugging along for 12 weeks without stopping. The funny thing was that this week, my kids acted like they didn’t even know what to do with themselves half the time. They are so accustomed to our normal daily routine on week days that not having that same structure left them wondering what to do. Even my 2 year old was asking for school! I take this as a good sign that our daily rhythm is working well for our family and that it is providing what they need to get their days off to a good start!
At the same time, though, I needed a break to recuperate, reevaluate and reorganize before plunging ahead into the next term. And I feel like I have accomplished that this week. Here’s how:
The first thing I did after we finished school last Friday was to put all the school book in the homeschool cupboard, just as they were, and shut the doors. Then I proceeded to spend the next three days not even thinking about homeschool stuff. I didn’t plan or prep anything. I didn’t clean up anything other than to just shove it in the cupboard out of sight. I just let myself clear my head and not worry about what was done or what was coming up. It was lovely!
On Tuesday of break week, I finally sat down with my son to go through his Year 2 Term 1 exam questions. AmblesideOnline has these exams already all set up for us, so all I had to do what print off the questions! Then we sat on the couch and he told me as much as he could remember from different books, did a few oral math problems, recited some memory work, etc. It was pretty quick and painless. The important thing about these exams is that they give me a chance to look at some weak spots in my teaching. It is not so much about grading my student as it is grading myself. If he didn’t remember very much of his Spanish vocabulary or know a term we were supposed to have studied in Geography, it is not because he was not trying. (I can tell when he is just trying to get out of doing the work of narration or recall!) It shows me that we did not spend enough time in those areas to let him make the connections with the material. So I know that I need to shore up those subjects next term.
Finally, on Wednesday, I sat down with all my school planning resources and got to work planning for the next term. Creating new memory work pages for April was first on the docket. Then I wrote out lesson plans for the first week of the next term. I printed out new math worksheets and the next month’s set of nature study lesson plans. Finally, when all the planning was finished, I set about the un-glamorous task of cleaning out and reorganizing the homeschool cupboard. I don’t know how these spaces get so cluttered so quickly, but it had become quite a mess! I sorted and tossed and filed and rearranged…I even sharpened all the colored pencils! Hours later, I finally had a neat and tidy home for all our school books and supplies once more, and I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders.
After that work was done, I was free to enjoy the rest of our break week catching up on other tasks around the house and online. Today we had a family fun day, since my husband is off from work for Good Friday. We let the kids use up some Toys R Us gift cards that they were saving before that store goes out of business. Then we explored the Cool Springs Galleria mall because I had not found the time to wander over there yet. We ended with lunch at a Chinese buffet, and we all came home happy, full and sleepy! I know to some people it doesn’t sound that exciting, but for us, it was just right.
That’s what break week looked like here in our neck of the woods. I’d love to hear what you do in your homeschool during breaks! Leave me a comment and tell me something you love to use your breaks for!
After I wrote my scheduling posts, I remembered that I had also wanted to write a little about what we are using for curriculum this year. We have made a few additions this year that are really helpful, so I wanted to talk about those a bit now that we have been using these materials for a little while.
The Curriculum Core:
As is clear from previous posts, we use AmblesideOnline for the core of our curriculum. The subjects that are fully covered under AO’s curriculum are as follows: Bible, History, Literature, Artist Study, Composer Study, and Geography. What I love about AO is that it is all laid out for what me as to what books to read and when. It is so much more than a booklist. Using AO actually has taught me more about Charlotte Mason education while I am immersed in doing it on the day-to-day basis.
Another great thing about AmblesideOnline is that it has links to free online versions of such a huge number of the books and resources because so many of them are in the public domain. So it is a very budget-friendly curriculum if you are in need of that. For us, the last two years we have actually bought all of the print books we needed for school for right around $100 just by buying used copies. That is still a lot less than most boxed curricula out there, even with the added cost a few other supplements! And that brings me to those extras…
We have been using the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) for a couple of years now. It is a free curriculum from the UK available online to download and print. Being free to access, you might think it would not be very high quality, but we have been very happy with the results so far. It teaches arithmetic in a way that helps children understand why and how numbers function, instead of only teaching rote. It also has a good blend of logic, problem solving and mental math. MEP is not flashy, and the printing of materials is a bit of a job at the beginning of the year. But the skills my son is learning are so valuable that I have zero complaints about MEP thus far!
We started my son out learning cursive using ABeka handwriting books, and we are still slowly working our way through the first one. ABeka moved WAY too fast in cursive for us at the beginning, and handwriting became a real pain point in our homeschool for a while. We slowed down a great deal and even took long breaks from doing any work on writing at times. Now it is no longer an issue, but I still only require a few lines of simple handwriting practice from my son each day. We are starting to incorporate some quotes from our Ambleside Year 2 books, as well, but when I do that he still only writes one short sentence a day.
Nature Study is still something we are learning how to do well and consistently at this point. It was one of the things that dropped from our schedule most often last year. I decided that in 2018 we would start using Lynn Seddon’s wonderful guide, Exploring Nature with Children. It is such a lovely resource, and I fully expect us to reuse it again and again over the next few years. Right now we are using the curriculum sparingly, mainly noting the subject for us to observe each week and using perhaps one extension activity to help us give attention to whatever that is for the week. It is helping us have more structured nature study time, and I feel like I have more motivation to get to it each week. If you are struggling to incorporate nature study regularly in your homeschool, I highly recommend Exploring Nature with Children!
Another subject I needed more consistency and structure to implement was foreign language. Even though I know a lot of Spanish grammar and vocabulary myself, I did not know how to actually teach it. So this year we began using Song School Spanish from Classical Academic Press, and it has been a big hit! Both of the kids look forward to our 5-10 minute daily Spanish lesson, and I have heard our 2-year-old singing the songs while playing on more than one occasion! One word of caution to Charlotte Mason homeschoolers…Song School Spanish does include some exercises in which the student is supposed to read and write words in Spanish. Charlotte Mason strongly recommended against children seeing words in a foreign language before they were fluently reading their own language. This is not a problem for us because my son IS a very fluent reader, but if your child is not reading well in English, you would have to adjust many of the activities in this book.
My son LOVES doing art and drawing, but I was at a loss of where to begin when it comes to formal lessons. Although I would love to put him in a class with an art teacher some day, that just isn’t practical for us yet. So this year we started using Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks as a guide. I admit that I was highly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information presented in the book before she even gets to the first lesson! But after I got over that initial “shock” I decided to just dive in and start following some of the opening warm-ups and teaching the basic elements of drawing as she presents them. We only do one brief session each week, so we have not gotten very far. We will see how it goes throughout the year!
Although I know solfege and the Kodaly handsigns myself, this was another highly neglected part of our homeschool last year. I have taught children’s choirs and used solfa singing as presented in the curricula, but I did not know how to present it at home. Enter the sweet and helpful Heather and her Children of the Open Air Solfa lesson videos on YouTube! Each week we sit down and sing a little song and practice our hand signs and solfege along with Heather (and her adorable kids!) It is quick and painless for all of us, and again, it is something even the 2-year-old loves to do!
Don’t know what Swedish Drill is? Neither did I until I found Dawn Duran’s tutorials on the Afterthoughts blog! Essentially, it is an exercise practice that involves teaching good posture, following directions (training the habit of attention!) and using various muscle groups. Last year we did Swedish Drill nearly every day. This year we have been doing it weekly so far, but I think we may add it back in as a daily activity again soon. I need to teach the kids a few more new moves and make some cards for me to call out drills so I’m not always thinking on my feet and leaving something out. I really have appreciated Dawn’s work on creating video tutorials with her kids doing some of the moves. And now she has even created a complete open and go resource called Swedish Drill Revisited to help us implement Swedish Drill effectively in our homeschool! I really NEED to get my hands on this one!
So, there you have it! A complete run-down of what curricula we are using in our homeschool in 2018. Are you using any of the same things this year? I’d love to hear what you fellow classical Charlotte Mason moms (and dads!) are using to help you teach this year!
Now that we are almost a month into our second “official” year of using AmblesideOnline, I feel like we are really getting into the groove. Not that I don’t still have a lot to learn about teaching and living in a more Charlotte Mason-esque way! We certainly have not arrived! I do feel, however, that I have a handle on the flow of the academic portion of our school day, and that is a welcome change from last year. Many days I felt scattered, and I often could not remember what I was supposed to be doing from one day to the next.
Now, it could be partly that we were in the midst of pretty major upheaval all of last year, as opposed to feeling fairly settled here at the start of 2018. Another difference this year is that I have a much more mature, less destructive two-and-a-half year old along for the ride, than the high need 20 month old I had at the beginning of last year! But I honestly think that one of the biggest factor in my ability to juggle all the various subjects and moving parts is that I have a much better schedule this year!
Why I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:
This year I wanted to be more intentional about short lessons and varying the subjects to stick to the idea of “a change is as good as a rest.” But with so many moving parts (i.e.-some subjects daily, some bi-weekly, some only weekly) I was unsure how to make sure I got everything in the right place. Last year we tried looping some subjects, but inevitably, there was always one or more that got left off or skipped somehow. And some lessons seemed to get drawn out much longer than need be because of frustration or dawdling (I’m looking at you, Math!) I knew I needed a set schedule for Every. Single. Subject. And I knew I needed to use a timetable to keep us on track.
How I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:
Step 1: First I listed out all the subjects, noting which are weekly and which are daily. Some of the subjects on the weekly list could be done more frequently, such as Swedish Drill and Solfege and Poetry. For us at this time, however, dividing them up with the weekly subject is working better.
Recitation (this is where we do our memory work)
Ambleside Readings and Narrations
History and Tales
Swedish Drill Practice
Step 2: Figure out how many of each type of AO Reading there are typically in a week.
History and Tales: 3 (We are skipping Trial and Triumph at this time, so there would be 4 here if you are including it.
Natural History: 2
Literature: 3 (although these are frequently long and need to be divided over 2 days)
Since this makes an average total of 10 readings in a week, it works out nicely for us to have 2 spots in our daily schedule for AO books and narration. I also plugged in 2 of the weekly subjects each day. With 4 additional daily subjects, I now know I need 8 total time slots in my timetable.
Because the rest of my planning process gets a bit more detailed, and this post is already long enough, I will continue with the rest of my steps in a new post tomorrow. Until then, I hope these beginning steps are helpful to anyone just starting out with scheduling with AmblesideOnline Year 2!
Welcome to the second post in my Goals for Growth series! Last week, I wrote about my goals for developing stronger relationships. Today, I want to share my 2018 goals for personal growth.
In the area of my physical health my overall goal is to get in better shape so that I can have more energy and strength so that I can better serve my family now and in the long term. Since my pregnancy with my daughter three years ago, I have had very little energy and strength. I have largely neglected my physical health, at least in terms of getting the exercise and intentional movement I need on a daily basis. I am not a highly athletic person naturally, anyway, and since it has been a long time since I have asked my body to move in many different ways, I am intentionally starting small and being very gentle with myself. My action steps to achieve this goal are as follows: complete the Foundational 5+ course from Fit2B, exercise at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week (also using routines from Fit2B), and go outside for 30 minutes every day for fresh air and sunshine.
My second goal is the area of physical health is to break my addiction to sugar. I have struggled with craving sweets for a long time, even though I know that sugar depletes my immune system and causes blood sugar spikes and drops that contribute to bad mood swings. My first line of attack in this sugar addiction battle is going to be following the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake, starting January 8th.
Tied closely to my physical health battles, my spiritual health is going to be of paramount importance to the rest of my growth. Recently I have realized that the scripts that run through my head are normally pretty negative. This negativity spills out into every other area of my life. My goal in 2018 is to exchange those negative thoughts with the truth of Scripture. This will increase my joy and gratitude and decrease my anxiety and discontent. My action steps to accomplish this goal include waking early each morning to spend time alone studying the Word and praying before the rest of my family gets up. I will also be writing down at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.
My goals in this area are not really new but more of a continuation of what I am already doing. My goals for my personal education in 2018 are to continue bettering myself through wide reading and learning new skills. I want to always be learning and growing my understanding of the world, of God and of other people. I never want to stagnate and stop using my mind or lose my sense of wonder at the marvels of creation. As I mentioned in my last Reading Report of 2017, I am joining the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Of course, I also have other books that I want to read that are not on that list, and I am hoping to complete at least 30 titles this year. As for learning new skills, I am planning to study some basic drawing and watercolor techniques. I want to practice at least once a week, as well as using what I learn in my nature journal entries each week.
I will be back in a few days with the last post in my goals series, all about my professional goals for 2018. In the meantime, tell me about your personal growth goals for this coming year. What are you going to be doing to improve your spiritual, physical and mental health?