A shift in the homeschool rhythm

I have been homeschooling my children for 14 years. This year I am beginning my fifteenth year, and it seems odd to be where I am in this journey. We began homeschooling the year our two oldest children were supposed to enter sixth grade and the youngest three (at that time) were 5, 4 and 2, respectively.  That five year old is now a sophomore in college, the four year old is a now college freshman, and the two year old is my only high school student left at home. This year I will have Gladys Mae (my high school student), Little Princess (fourth grade), ‘Lil Adventurer (Kindegarten/ First grade), and Curious George (Pre-K, nothing formal) in our home school.

I like using a primarily Charlotte Mason approach to my homeschooling. It took many years for me to find out how I really preferred to teach, what my philosophy of education is, and how my children learn most effectively. The truth is that some of those things change from year to year and from child to child…and thus I must be somewhat flexible. Gladys Mae will be taking chemistry, analytical literature, essay writing, and Spanish outside the home. In addition, she will participating in a local Co-Op where she will get some geography, screenwriting, art and drama.  This means we will be working on history, math and language arts at home, as well as all the extras I like to incorporate. And it is the extras that I love so much about Charlotte Mason’s approach.

I use the Ambleside Online schedules to help plan my year. In fact, Little Princess will be following most of the year three reading schedule. (The years do not match to grades. I am not sure why.) I do not do everything they recommend, nor do I teach all subjects Charlotte Mason taught. She was more ambitious than I, and she did not have children of her own, which completely explains how she had time to do all the things she did.  I do, however, like to incorporate a few things that I believe make my children’s education  richer. The last few years have been so busy that we dropped much of what we had done in years past. This year, I am adding some things back in.

Art study.  We will be studying three artists this year–one per twelve week term: Fra Angelico, Diego Velazquez, and Edgar Degas. we have actually studied Degas in the past, but this time around we are using different pictures.  We will do art study one day per week-just a few minutes at a time. We take two weeks to study each painting. I actually made three art study books–one for each of the girls and myself–at the local Office Pros.Our pictures are all printed and ready to be studied, drawn, discussed, and observed. (Can you guess the artist of the picture below?)

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Composer Study. Each artist also has a composer that belongs in that same time period. This year, instead of trying to buy CDs (there is no money for that!), I searched out links on the internet and saved them in a folder in my browser. We will study a particular work by listening to it at least twice in the two-week period. My guess is that I will be sneaky and play the pieces while the kids do other things in the kitchen. There is nothing like the background sneak attack of learning. Our composers this year are Hildegard von Bingen, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and selected Children’s Classics.  I am sincerely hoping to be able to attend the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Concerts for Young People on October 29 to supplement my children’s exposure to classical music.  (We will see if funds allow.)

Shakespeare. Oh, yes, the Bard.  In years past, I had enough strong readers that we could read aloud the plays and keep the parts separate. This year, with one strong reader, one adequate reader, and two non-readers, I had to get a little creative. Those of us who can read will have  copy of Shakespeare in front of them. (Why, yes, I DO have three complete copies of Shakespeare’s works, why do you ask?)  I found yet more internet links where the plays are acted out in radio theater. Each act (with a few notable exceptions) takes about 30-40 minutes, and oddly enough, each of the plays this year have five acts. (Perhaps that was his thing–I have never looked or payed attention!)  We will be going through six plays this year. The first week I will read aloud the Lamb’s version, which is basically a prose synopsis written for younger readers. Once the kids have the gist of the story line, we will spend the next five weeks listening to (and reading along for those of us who are able) the play being acted out. I have never done it this way, and I am hoping that this adaptation will be beneficial for all of us.

Plutarch. Plutarch?? Yes, Plutarch, historian of ancient Rome.  We will be studying three of his lives: Amelius Paulus, Timoleon, and Crassus. If you want to impress a college admissions counselor, or even an English professor, mention that your child has read Plutarch. Ambleside breaks each life down into twelve readings, so we do one reading per week–usually very short–and discuss that portion. This is history, citizenship, critical thinking and literature all in one.

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As you can see, each of these can be done once per week.  It sounds so do-able. Of course, at some point in the year, life will get crazy, we will get behind, and there will come a cram session to get it all in. But right now the year is a baby full of possibilities, and I am excited about all the wonderful learning experiences that await my children!

Little Princess will be following the Ambleside rotation for her literature, history, natural science, biography and geography this year. We will be doing Apologia’s astronomy first semester and botany second semester for science. She will also be taking Latin for Children, primer A . We are using this instead of a grammar curriculum as I have seen it work much more effectively for grammar comprehension. She will also be using Math-U-See for math. I plan to have her learn the states in the United States this year, and she will be working on some map drills to facilitate that learning.  Some of her books are on the Kindle for the first time this year– a free download sure beats buying a book! I did purchase her poetry for the Kindle–it will be easy to incorporate a reading if we have to be on the go, which we will this year!  Add in her piano and the classes she will be taking at co-op, and she will have a very full year. (My charts are below…you can see where I was hurried in my typing. No matter–I know what it is supposed to say, even if the spelling is very off!)

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‘Lil Adventurer will be learning to read this year. We tried to begin last year, but he was not ready. Star Child worked with him all through last year and this summer, helping him to learn his ABC’s. He is ready now to learn their sounds and then put those together in our phonics lessons. I plan to use the tried and true Sing, Spell, Read and Write curriculum. It has worked four times in a row now, and I love it. He is motivated. He said he wants to learn how to read so he can study his AWANA book by himself. He finished his first book last year, so I am fairly confident he will do the same again this year. He is also very interested in math, and we will continue working on number and place value recognition as well as basic addition and subtraction math facts.  He will listen in to Little Princess’s history, and I will probably have him do some drawing narrations for me.  Science is still very much all about observation. We will continue to make use of our field guides and Google to learn about and identify the creatures he finds. And of course, we will continue to read good books aloud to the children. Little Princess and I are working our way through the Anne of Green Gables series. I think I will begin the boys on the Ralph Moody Little Britches series. I think they will like that.

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I have even revamped some of my bookkeeping systems. I made myself two binders–one for each half of the year. I modeled the one page after Ann Voskamp’s planner page. I had to tweak it in order to make it work for me, but I am very grateful for her resource and ideas!  It has my daily schedule and must do’s on it–even my menus for the day so I can plan ahead for my THM meals and snacks. (I even marked them S, E, and FP) . The other page I made to help me keep track of assignments and grades. (And yes, I used pink card stock–and yellow, and blue–because I like change now and again.) Gladys Mae will have a lot of assignments that will be spur-of-the moment as we read our history. (Oh, that looks interesting…I want you to research that and write a few paragraphs for me. Or, this would make a good opinion piece. Please write me an essay about….) The problem for me has always been where to record this stuff….I HATE tracking it all down at the end of the semester. My planner takes care of that for me!   Even if I get behind in my bookkeeping on my other forms, I will at least have  the grade there in my planner. I even have space to write down what the boys did that day.  Now why didn’t I think of that before?

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I have made my copies of the ten hymns we will learn this year. I have my Bible reading record pages in my binder (well, at least since 2009–we have actually read the whole Bible at least once, but a few years ago I went through my old End of Year reports and charted what we had read that I had actually recorded. Now I know what we need to read and can keep track of it!)  I even have copies of the college calendars of my three college students (mustn’t forget that the Handy Man still has a semester left!)  so I know when their breaks are.   In short, I am ready to begin a new school year. Good thing, too, as it starts on Monday!

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