When I got the increasingly rare wild hare to do a blog post, I was feeling a lot perkier and energetic than I am now. So this may not be as extensive a post as I'd imagined. We'll see...
We started school today. I know, it's August 10, and we've never really been year-round homeschoolers. I mean, we have been in my mind, but between one day camp and another - and often one play date or other scheduled fun any other - there have been so few empty weeks in our summers that formal school never really happened. Then there was 2020. (I have a feeling we'll be seeing phrases like that a Lot in years to come!)
Anyway, although we've "schooled" roughly half of the summer thus far, we have taken the last two weeks off for day camps (one at TRFC, and then local ones at dance and taekwondo). I took (nearly) full advantage of that time for planning, purchasing, and printing. (I should add praying to that list, but I won't lie: it was light. Not non-existent, but it needs to be better. Note to self.)
Today we dove in to our new school year with a soft-start on some of our new curriculum.
Back for Another Year:
Only a few months ago, I implemented a "Whiteboard Scheduling System" that continues to work beautifully.
Tauna (of ProverbialHomemaker.com, not to mention a personal friend!) has been very big on "Loop Scheduling" for quite a while, and my system is definitely a close relative. Even a sibling. But even her paper-based schedules seemed a little too formal and unsustainable for me. Look, my kids can't keep track of a pencil. A schedule on paper is just one more thing that is never where it's supposed to be. Bookkeeping that won't happen. Still, they were at the back of my head, and finally what shook out is this "Command Center" thing that just... works.
- Writing Strands (Master Books)
- Typing (typing.com)
- Spelling-U-See (Demme Learning)
- Self-directed creative writing, mostly comic book style
- Cursive (forgot who, just a basic workbook)
- Handwriting Without Tears, first cursive book. (She calls it Handwriting with Lots of Tears. I don't care. It seems to work.)
- Low-key creative writing, comic style and other lightly guided options
- Typing (typing.com)
- Handwriting Without Tears
We have enjoyed Life of Fred math over most of the kids' school career. However, I've found it difficult to consider it a "full" math curriculum. Its minimalist approach to practice problems has seemed far too light-weight, while the books themselves are short enough that we advance beyond what the kid is really ready for too quickly.
So, we spent a year or two using Masterbooks Math for the older two, while Lucy finally used up that A Beka 1st grade math book we've had around since James was 6.
This approach had plenty of problems of its own, most especially for Grace who took a particular dislike to the Masterbooks curriculum. Also, James has aged out of it.
Finally, I decided that I'm probably using Life of Fred wrong. (Hmm, maybe I should have read the parent notes a little more carefully!)
So, we're trying again, with a little more intentionality.
This is the plan.
The girls will do roughly two chapters of Fred 1x1 with me each week. On the days we don't do a chapter, they will use worksheets generated at TheMathWorksheetSite.com that practice facts and concepts that are in the same general range as the book they're studying. We won't go nuts with these: usually there will be well under a dozen practice problems per day.
And when we get to the end of a Fred book where I don't feel they've really mastered the concepts - we'll go back! For instance, I estimate that when Lucy finishes "Goldfish," we will want to return to "Edgewood" for review. Grace may reach the end of "Honey" or maybe "Ice Cream" before going back a book or two for review. We'll work through books much faster the second time through.
That may not be exactly how it works out, but that's my current plan.
I also hope to intentionally add math games at least once or twice a week.
James, on the other hand, should be nearly done with the elementary series based on what he studied last year - but he never went through them! So we're starting this year with an accelerated trip through books H through M. He is being "bribed" to go quickly, so that I don't get a bunch of "But MOM, I already did a chapter today. That's all the math I Have to do, right?!" - when he's deep in review of basic multiplication!
I am hoping he can be done by November, but I could be way off. There may be more covered in Fred than I think, and he might not be able to pull off 5+ chapters a week. We'll see. Again, flexibility is the name of the game here.
After he completes the Fred review, the working plan is to try a public school curriculum called Envision Math 2.0, Accelerated 7th Grade. I was gifted these books (and several others for the same level) by a school teacher friend, and James and I finally identified this one as the most likely candidate. Again, I Hope that we'll get there by November. We might not.
Brand New This Year
ScienceWe've been woefully light in our science studies over the past several years. We tried a secular online curriculum called "Science Mysteries," and always enjoyed the projects. The secular nature didn't bother me - much - because I am pretty secure in my own Creationist understanding and quite willing to interject when needed.
After a couple of hours (low estimate) of poking around, I decided on another online program called Crosswired Science. (Honesty time: I was on the fence between them and a textbook based option when they offered to give it to me for $20/year instead of $100!) But, I'm hopeful. This one is explicitly Christian, and also explicitly multi-age. And it is built on a spiral - topics are revisited after a year or two - and with the underlying philosophy that science is all related (cross-wired), such that learning about a bird's feathers helps illuminate fluid dynamics as well as biology and the more you know about subject A the more you can funnel into subject B. I like that concept.
Of all the new stuff I've chosen to add this year, this is the one I am least confident about. I am very fearful that we (I) will bog down after a month or two. We'll get to a place where it's expecting a lot from the kids in terms of hands-on experiments and other projects. They'll resist. I'll feel like I'd rather go to the dentist than dissect something. (They will too.) We won't have materials on hand for some project or another. It won't feel like we can move forward until we do. And it will slowly fade away...
But maybe it won't. While they offer lesson plans and projects and material that could easily consume more than an hour a day, I think it will be reasonably customizable. They even offer a calendar that supports you using it as a supplement (1 or 2 days a week) instead of an overwhelming, all-consuming anchor on your day.
So like I said... hopeful!
Anyway, we quit with Spelling-U-See in the middle of last year after one too many break-downs and just took a break.
This year I decided to try All About Spelling, a heavily phonics-based "Orton-Gillingham" compliant program that seems to work heavily with flashcards and other manipulables.
I definitely don't understand this program well yet. It's not even in the same ballpark as Spelling-U-See. I think it is going to take a fair amount of 1x1 instructor time, which could be a drag, especially as I'm using it for Lucy as well. (I Really don't know if Lucy might be on that spectrum too. But SUS was a struggle for her at least partially because it was Mostly independent and I didn't get involved as much as I needed to.)
I'm not going to say much more about it at the moment, because I don't even know what I don't know. But I am hopefully optimistic we can make some forward progress not just in spelling but in confidence about spelling (and thus writing) this year.
SO... today was day 1.
But, I adjusted. I set up the video she was supposed to watch - with attached quiz - on the second laptop and sent her to her room.