I mentioned yesterday that we’re starting school on Monday. It’s a little early, but I think we’re all ready for some more structure. Last year I tried to do a six weeks on, two weeks off schedule. I liked the theory, but it didn’t work out incredibly well in practice. This year we’re going to see about six weeks on, one week off. I think that break is important, but two weeks was too much. The 6/1 routine will allow us to take a long break around Thanksgiving and Christmas if we want, and then the month of July off before we start again next year. I’ve been working for the last month on getting everything together and, equally important, organized! I think things are in good shape, but we’ll see how it works out as we go along.
Just for fun, I thought I’d share a preview of my plans for the school year. Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. I’m hoping at the end of the year I can look back and see how reality compared to the plans.
One area we’re really stepping up this year is language arts. Because reading and handwriting were such struggles for Evan last year, I didn’t even try to add in things like grammar or composition. We did a little spelling, but even there we were limited. But his reading has really taken off, and I’d guess he’s at least at grade level. Nathan is also doing very well and can handle early reader books. So for language arts we’re planning on literature (books that I’ll read aloud), independent reading for Evan (during rest time), phonics practice for Nathan and independent reading as possible, handwriting for both of them, grammar using First Language Lessons, composition using Writing with Ease, and spelling using All About Spelling. Literature should be really fun this year, as we’re getting into the Middle Ages. Do you know what that means? Shakespeare! We have excellent children’s adaptations of a number of his plays, and I’m so looking forward to reading them. We also get Robin Hood and King Arthur and British and Norse mythology and folktales. Definitely a good year.
For math, we’ll be using Miquon combined with Xtra Math. Saxon was driving us crazy, and we’ll go back to it around 4th grade when the structure changes a little. Miquon is what my mom used for the first few years for each of us. I think it’s a better fit for the way the boys learn — a lot of problem-solving and learning to recognize the relationships between numbers and why they work the way they do. It’s more focused on those dynamics than on drill. I think that’s very useful for learning concepts, but I do also want the kids to know their math facts solidly. That’s where Xtra Math comes in. It’s a free online program that drills them in math facts, tracking their progress and adjusting difficulty as they get better. We’ll see how this year goes, but I think the combination will work well.
For history we’re continuing with Story of the World, and we’ll go from the fall of Rome to the beginning of the Renaissance. Ancients was fun, but I’m really looking forward to this year and next. We may have to build some catapults and trebuchets, and take field trips to Sherwood Forest Faire and the Renaissance festivals.
We’re also going to get serious about geography this year. I have a CD of geography songs that are obnoxiously catchy, and the kids mostly know them from last year. This year we’re going to really work at connecting the songs to the maps. I think by the time we get into more modern history, they’ll have a pretty good grasp of where things are.
We’ve got a fair bit of memory work lined up for this year, and we’ll see how it goes. I’d like them to finish memorizing the catechism for children, and of course they’ll have their AWANA books. I’ve also chosen some selections for Evan to memorize, mostly from Shakespeare. If it proves to be overly ambitious we’ll cut back, but I think Evan and possibly Nathan will be up for it.
The boys have been fascinated by the concept of Greek and Latin root words, so I went ahead and got English From the Roots Up. We’ll cover two or three Greek or Latin words each week, including their meanings and some English words they’re used in. If they stay interested we’ll stick with it, and if not we’ll put it away for the time being.
For P.E., we have tae kwon do twice and week and I’m planning for us to resume our mornings walks/bike rides. We were up to two miles a day before it got horribly hot and humid. Now I think we’ll start with one mile a day so we can get back home before it gets too miserable outside, and we’ll add distance as the weather improves in the fall.
I’m really excited about science this year: I’m not teaching it! Since Aaron has such a short commute now he has more time with the family in the evenings, and I asked him to consider teaching astronomy and earth science. He agreed, and I think he’ll do a terrific job.
It may not be a very exciting photos, but here’s the result of my organization attempts. The bottom shelf is the kids’ materials: a binder for each child, stacking trays with their math and handwriting books (they don’t stand up well on shelves), and paper with a box of coloring implements for each child. Above that is more paper (writing, drawing, and construction), coloring books, stickers, and extra crayons. The next shelf up is mine — various reference books for me, and some random supplies. Above that are other assorted materials: math manipulatives, flash cards, educational games, notepads, index cards, curricula not currently in use, etc. On the floor we’ve got extra reams of paper, random craft supplies (in the copy paper box), and my “daily use” box (the green thing). The door shelves contain pencils, rulers, markers, erasers, markers, thumbtacks, yarn, stencils, and any number of random small supplies.