Saturday, September 19, 2015

On Homeschooling Plans and Planning: What We're Doing this Year

I planned to start our school year the day after Labor Day this year since that's when all the neighbor kids began, but it turned out that we had doctors appointments all that morning, and then the next day was our co-op orientation all morning, so we began our homeschool year on a random Thursday with more of a fizzle than a bang.  I don't have any cute 'first day of school' pictures of the kids with chalkboard signs decrying their current passions and adorable handwriting but I do have an entirely too long post detailing our school plans with the added benefit of two weeks of actually implementing those plans so I can even tell you how they're going.  

Before we get to that though, I'd like everyone to admire my newly organized homeschool bookshelf.  Last year I had a basket that I put all of the notebooks and floppy things and too-tall-for-our-shelves books in, that sat on one of my skinnier shelves and was pulled out each morning, which meant that it was always in the way and our books were constantly being rummaged through and shoved to the bottom of the pile.  Well, no more!  This summer I took everything out of the bookcase and rearranged the height of the shelves to make more sense and repurposed these magazine coloring book holders into our school boxes instead.

They're glorious.  They keep everything so organized and non-rumpled and they've made our mornings run so much more smoothly.  I can't believe I didn't think of this solution sooner.

As you can see, this year we've added Henry to the school mix for some light Kindergarten work since the State of Virginia says that I have to.  We're continuing to use Ambleside Online with Year 0 for Henry and Year Two for David because it's both wonderful and free.  I don't like to make many changes to the book lists, but I do look to Celeste for her advice on Catholic-ing it up a bit.  She also helped me decide to switch the Y2 and Y3 natural history readings since we were going to be covering some of the Y3 readings in our co-op this year (and I was panicking that everything was completely ruined because clearly if you can't do everything exactly in order you probably shouldn't do anything at all, right?).  If you email her AO questions she will very sweetly reply even though that's probably what the message boards are for, which is good for those of us who are intimidated by message boards and have no idea if they're using them properly so they don't risk it :)

So what does all of that look like exactly?

Second Grade:  

Bible, History, Geography, Natural History/Science, Literature and Poetry readings are all straight from the Ambleside Online Y2 schedule (with the exception of the switched natural history readings from Y3 and minus Trial and Triumph which I had reservations about).  I read these aloud to David and he narrates them back to me.  Then we do mapwork or make entries in his timeline afterward depending on the subject.

For Phonics we're finishing up All About Reading Level 3 and then I think we're going to....just stop there?  I haven't quite decided if it would be worth it to continue on and do the next level or not.  I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on the subject, or what to do next once your kids are reading pretty fluently.

For Math we switched over to MEP (Year 2) after reading some good reviews on the Charlotte Mason message boards ( I do read them, I just don't do scary things like ask them questions) and's free so that was really appealing to me too.  I printed everything out and organized it using folders and so far so good.

For Copywork I broke down and bought a copybook from Simply Charlotte Mason.  I always feel like I should just make my own copywork and I'm being lazy and wasteful not doing it myself, but in the end I thought it would be better to have something easy and done that I don't have to think about all the time.  Homeschooling's hard enough with babies and toddlers running around without having extra weekly decisions to make.

We're starting Spanish this year in our co-op so we'll be working on that at home as well--the author of the book (recommended by Simply Charlotte Mason) runs the co-op so I'm feeling pretty confident in my ability to do it despite my complete lack of foreign language skills.

We're also doing Picture Study (Van Eyck) and Composer Study (Chopin) with our new co-op as well so those differ from the Ambleside Online rotation too.

David's "Table of History" from Laurie Bestavater's, The Living Page except much longer and not actually a table.
The timeline idea is from Celeste and can be found here, I have a strong and irrational aversion to binders so I made this and had it spiral bound instead of using a binder.  She has lots of  excellent thoughts on time tools that can be found here as well.
David's nature notebook.  A mushroom with a spider.  We are amazing at this Charlotte Mason stuff.


For the most part, we're using lots of good picture books from Ambleside Online's Y0 book list with an emphasis on Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter and Mother Goose.    

For Math we're using MEP (the Reception Year) which he really loves so far.  And lots of playing with all our math manipulatives.  This boy is obsessed with Cuisinaire rods.

For Phonics, we're finishing up our trip down The Alphabet Path from Elizabeth Foss's site and once we complete that little adventure we'll move on to All About Reading Level 1 and just move through at his pace.

And for Copywork, again, I broke down and bought a handwriting book.  I'd also like to get him a little chalkboard to do some extra practice on.

Henry's Alphabet Book.  Very fancy.

Now I've made a few also very fancy charts and lists in order to pull all of this together.  The first is our loose schedule.  Right now we start at eight, right after the baby goes down for her morning nap and then proceed through in time chunks rather than by a set time schedule.  I'll probably tweak this a bit in the next couple of weeks once we see how everything flows.  Right now, Henry hangs out for our morning basket time for as long as he can manage and then goes to play until it's time for David's break and his one on one time.  He does a bit of copywork and then alternates with either a math or reading lesson followed by a story just for him.  

To keep organized I also made a weekly checklist that I had spiral bound.  I did this last year as well and it was wonderful.  For whatever reason, I couldn't get my mind around scheduling using Ambleside Online until I saw the checklists Celeste had made similar to these (so, I guess what I'm saying is that you really need to poke around her site if you are still having trouble envisioning how to implement all of this in your own homeschool--she's a pro).

I took the weekly schedules found on the Ambleside Online site and put them in the front of my book, along with a yearly calendar and a book list page for each of the boys and one for family read alouds to keep track of the free reads we do.

Then I made a blank checklist for each week.  Before we start school each week, I flip to the weekly schedule sheet and fill in which readings we need to do, and we just move to the next lesson in their math, phonics, Spanish and handwriting books as we complete them.  Easy.

I organized my checklist into morning basket, daily, and weekly work sections.  I really like the flexibility the checklist provides while also keeping me accountable.  It's easy to see if I'm dropping the ball on anything--like say, doing calendar work or memorizing a poem or learning a hymn for instance.....not that those boxes haven't been checked once yet in our first two weeks of school.........

This year I also left a blank page between each week to give myself more room for note taking and ideas which I hope will keep the random scrap papers and post-it notes to a minimum.

So far the year has been going much better than I had dared to hope it could.  Henry has turned out to be a delight to teach and David has been, well maybe not a delight but really very good all things considered and he never pouts when it's time to stop listening to Shakespeare and do some math.......

I think our co-op is going to be really fun and I'm glad I decided to try it out.  If nothing else, the other moms are definitely encouraging and there are days when I really need that encouragement.  Oh, are there days.  All in all though, I think it's shaping up to be a pretty good year.

I hope :)
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