Hard to believe we are finishing up the second week of school. After eight years of homeschooling the grades, and I guess more years if you count in the last kindergarten year, I have come to a few conclusions regarding scheduling that could be helpful to other parents:
1. Schedule your school year and have your blocks cover LESS time than the weeks of school you have available. For instance, if you have 35 weeks for school, plan blocks for 32 weeks. This way, you can take advantage of being a homeschooler and go visit places around you, go to neighborhood farms, or whatever it is in your area that you would like to visit and do during the school year and not feel guilty about “losing days”. This is not as big an issue in grades 1-5, as these experiences work into the curriculum and there is less “bookwork”, but I think it does become more of an issue in the upper grades.
2. Schedule your starting date carefully. For quite a while when my oldest was little, we always started after Labor Day. Then I adjusted and started when the children in our neighborhood were starting . This year, our start date was around then. One child in the grades was enthusiastic to go back and the other child was decidedly not. So, you may not make everyone happy, but I feel like this year we could have started a few weeks after we actually did.
Six Year Old Kindergarten – It is so much fun having a little kindergartner in the house! We have worked with the stories of St. Herman of Alaska, St. Mary and this coming week St. Aidan as part of our family religious life. We have had a very long circle with foot plays, fingerplays,, and songs based upon the them of the garden, especially sunflowers and insects. I have taken the story of “Hans and the Beautiful Flower” and modified it for our season and geographic area and told it with silk marionettes, with wooden figures, and without props. We have baked, painted, made seasonal crafts, and modeled with beeswax. Kindergarteners,, at least mine, are such willing helpers around the house too, so all the cleaning and sweeping is part of our daily lives and tasks. Our little guy is just naturally counting forwards and backwards as part of life, and picking out letters and sounds by himself. So, I think when we get to first grade next fall it will be a fun year. I already have an idea for a theme for first grade circulating in my head! Other than that, he is busy playing and being active.
Fifth Grade – We started this year with a good, solid rhythm. We have two opening verses, several tongue twisters and then math games with either bean bags, a ball or copper rods, along with a botany verse and sometimes a tie-in with grammar. Then we normally review math, cursive writing and/or some spelling, and have a brief break for a read-aloud . These past few weeks we have read Holling C. Holling’s “Tree in the Trail” and “Paddle to the Sea” and got acquainted with maps of the United States… Then we have a little verse for beginning our main lesson and we have been diving into botany. Our first week of botany felt a little unsettled and rather lukewarm, but this second week focusing on fungi and moving into algae has been very good. We had a mushroom hunt and have been doing drawing, wet on wet painting, and clay modeling of mushrooms. We have practiced quite a bit of shaded drawing. Next week we have a field trip planned to a local garden, and I hope to keep things active the rest of this block. I have more to say on this block since it is our second time through the material, and I hope to write a post on this topic.
Eighth Grade – Our eighth grader was not ready to go back to school, so rather an unenthusiastic first week…although the work itself has been fine. Our eighth grader really enjoys geometry and geometric constructions, but I am still really thinking about this Platonic Solids block. One of the main pieces of this block that I learned in a workshop from our local Waldorf School is the transformation in clay from one Platonic Solid to another. Both my daughter and I found this rather daunting and difficult. Constructing these solids through the construction of paper nets and making models was more successful, and I think working with dowels and beeswax would be another way to approach this, although neither of these approaches has the fluidity of transforming one solid to another. We tied each element into one of the elemental forces (air, wind, water, fire and finally the cosmic force) and into where it generally appears in nature, but it all still felt rather flat to me. The resources we used including “Making Math Meaningful”; “Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time” and the little book “Platonic Solids” by Sutton, plus my notes and experiences from the workshop I attended. We moved into Loci toward the end of this week – constructing curves from straight lines, such as the Parabola, etc. “Making Math Meaningful” was helpful in this endeavor, although sometimes I find their instructions less than clear for non-mathematician me.
We have also been reviewing math, doing vocabulary, and reading “Across Five Aprils” and digging into literary analysis of this book. We have also spent some extra time discussing some life skills – great conversation skills and personal finance. I had grand plans to do World Geography for two afternoons a week to tie all the geography we have been doing since fifth grade together, but that hasn’t come together. I will see if we can get that started next week.
We have been doing some handwork in the afternoons, and busy in general with horses, 4H, and swimming.
Hope you all have had a good start to your school year!