A Week in Our Homeschool

Here is another guest post at Learning a Latte in which I outlined a week of school in September 2010.  We have since changed a few things, but this is still how our week generally goes.

EDITED

It looks like the blog that had our guest post is no longer available. Here is the article that was posted there.

What is classical education?

If I could only read one book on homeschooling, it would be The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, which outlines a systematic approach to home education based on history, literature, and science.  As it happens, I’ve read many books on homeschooling, including titles by John Holt, Rebecca Rupp, Cathy Duffy, Mary Pride, Mary Griffith, and Oliver DeMille.  The two reasons why I favor The Well-Trained Mind above all others are that it gives a detailed outline of a classical model of education and it gives explicit instructions on how to implement a classical education at home.  Although I gained some helpful ideas while reading other homeschooling books, I found that many of them fell short when it came to practicalities.

Because classical education divides a child’s education into three major periods of development, it works with the child’s current abilities.

Grammar Stage (grades 1 – 4) is a time for the student to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, grammar, and arithmetic (among others).  Young children have an amazing capacity for memorization, so this is also an excellent time to incorporate the memorization of poems, quotes, and facts.  Rather than getting into deep analysis of historical events or stories, a Grammar Stage student focuses on being able to determine what happened.  Grammar Stage builds the skills needed for the upper years of learning, so it serves as a foundation period.

Logic Stage (grades 5 – 8) is a time for the student to hone his critical thinking skills as he asks deeper questions about why historical events occurred or why a character in a work of literature acted a certain way.  The student applies logic to all of the subjects he studies, including analyzing literature and learning the scientific method.

Rhetoric Stage (grades 9 – 12) is a time for the student to deepen her reasoning skills and articulate her unique views about historical events, literary works, and scientific ideas.  The skills learned in Grammar Stage and the ordered thought learned in Logic Stage equip the more mature Rhetoric Stage student to engage in “the great conversation” of great thinkers.

At each stage of study, the student works through a four-year pattern of history, starting with ancient times and ending with the modern age.  Because the student is concurrently exposed to history and literature in the same chronological order for three different cycles, he is better able to make connections between various civilizations, literary works, and historical events and people.  Time becomes more ordered in the student’s mind as she is able to place key ideas in their proper place in our world’s past.

One focus of our homeschool is to gain a familiarity with our world’s rich history so that we can better understand where humanity is and where it’s headed.  In order to achieve such intimacy, we take a chronological survey of world history and read classic works of literature from each major time period and civilization.  We accept that it is impossible to cover absolutely everything so we tend to cover the civilizations, events, and stories that have had the greatest impact on our current world.  We reserve the right to go off on tangents and enjoy ourselves.  And we do.  🙂

A Day in the Life of a Classically Homeschooling Family

Now that I’ve given a brief overview of classical education, I thought it would be helpful to tell you what a typical day looks like at our house.  I have five children (all girls) ages 10, 8, 5 (almost 6), 3 (almost 4), and 2 years old.  Because their different ages and abilities don’t allow me to combine them in skill subjects (math, grammar, etc.) and because I am the only adult helping them with their schoolwork, I have chosen to use some programs that are not listed in The Well-Trained Mind.  I have no qualms about doing so because one of the great benefits of homeschooling is to be able to tailor things to suit your family!

Math in the Morning

Our day starts after the kids wake up, (sometimes) get dressed, and eat breakfast.  Our first subject is math.  They each retrieve their math books and pencil boxes from their workboxes (a bankers box that holds everything they need for the week for all of their individual subjects), and they sit down to work at the dining room table.  I sit at the table with them and usually do a very short lesson with my 3-year-old while my 2-year-old colors, runs around, or plays with some toys nearby.  I help the older girls when they have questions.

My 8-year-old is usually the first up (and the first done with school).  She is in third grade and uses Christian Light Education’s math program.  She is a perfectionist, so the gentle nature of CLE math suits her very well.  My 5-year-old is usually the next one to get started.  She is in first grade (well, according to her October birthday she’d be starting kindergarten this year, but she is well beyond that work level).  My 5-year-old uses Math Mammoth, which engages and challenges her.  She loves the “puzzle corners”.  The youngest two are generally up by this point so I tend to hover back and forth between the kitchen, dining room, and laundry room while I get them breakfast, change the baby’s diaper, start some laundry, etc.  If my oldest isn’t up, yet, I’ll run upstairs to wake her.  After she eats, my 10-year-old joins us in the dining room with her Math Mammoth book.  She deals with ADD, so she sits on an exercise ball and squeezes a water snake while she works through her math pages for the day.  Sometimes she sits under the table.

Math Mammoth and CLE are both worktext math programs, which means the complete lessons and instructions are in the same book as the practice problems.  Worktexts allow all of my children to do math at the same time, rather than forcing me to figure out a way to do an individual math lesson with each of them.

Other Morning Subjects

Once we’re done with math, I do a preschool time with the youngest three.  We’re using Hewitt Homeschool’s Preschool Plus, which is a program that incorporates classic children’s stories with assorted activities.  Today we read Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who.  For an activity we made megaphones, which they used to chant “we are here” and “yopp.”  I later regretted the megaphone idea.  😉

After making sure the younger three had time with mom, I go back to the dining room to check on the older two, who have (hopefully) kept working on other individual subjects.  My 10-year-old is currently working through:

My 8-year-old is currently working through:

  • Christian Light Education’s reading and language arts programs for third grade
  • a set of handwriting pages I printed for her using StartWrite software
  • a set of spelling practice pages I made for her listing spelling rules and words from All About Spelling
  • a science program I wrote for her using Usborne books
  • and music flash cards.

At this point I try to get my (highly distractible) 5-year-old to read an easy book, do a bit of handwriting, or complete some other skills-based activity.  I just ordered Phonics Road for her, so we will probably insert that here.

Spelling

Because our spelling program, All About Spelling by Marie Rippel, requires me to work with each child one-on-one, I take a turn with each of the older three once a week.  My 8-year-old has her spelling turn on Monday, my 10-year-old has Tuesdays, and my 5-year-old has Wednesdays.  They all get extra practice pages during the week.  I love the methodical structure of All About Spelling and its use of spelling rules.  The girls memorize the spelling rules as part of their spelling lessons, and reciting the rules helps them remember how to spell a word correctly when they are writing later.  I used the rules and spelling words to create copywork spelling pages.

Morning Break and Literature

By this time we are usually ready for a break.  We clean up our individual lesson books, have a snack, and tidy up the kitchen (which I’ll admit usually still has breakfast dishes and cereal boxes lying around).  Once the kitchen is clean I do literature with my 8-year-old and 5-year-old using Classical House of Learning Literature: Ancient Times, which I wrote for them using the reading list in The Well-Trained Mind.  After reading a story or part of a longer work, we do an activity.  My 10-year-old will sometimes sit in on these if she is done with all of her work.

Memory Work and Lunch

While we get ready for lunch, we sing our geography songs, recite our poems, sing our Latin songs, and sing our cultural literacy songs.  It’s very sweet to hear my littlest ones lisp their way through the poems and songs.

Afternoon Group Work

Once we’re finished eating and get the kitchen cleaned up again, we move on to do our group subjects, which we divide by the day of the week.

Art, History, and Songs on Mondays

I usually have the kids work on an art or craft project related to the lesson while I read a chapter from The Story of the World, Vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer.  This year we’ve also been using lessons from Art in Story by Marianne Saccardi, which is an art history program for elementary school.  This week I showed them pictures of Egyptian pyramids, and they made pyramids using sugar cubes and corn syrup (reduced with water and vinegar to make edible glue).  I also read a library book about building pyramids.  We always do the map activity from The Story of the World activity book.  Sometimes we do the review questions, narrations (summary of what they learned), and coloring pages.  On Mondays we also learn a new cultural literacy song (we’re working in alphabetical order through A Joyful Noise from the Core Knowledge Foundation).

Music and Geography on Tuesdays

For music we are finishing up The Story of the Orchestra, which we have all really enjoyed.  Once we complete that book, we will move on to Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory and then The New Nine-Note Recorder Method: Easy Music for Beginners by Penny Gardner.  Rainbow Resource has very inexpensive recorders, so I purchased one for each of the girls in a fun selection of colors.  Rather than going through the Audio Memory Geography book in the order they’ve set, we choose a region of the world that ties in with our history studies.  The songs we’ve learned this year so far are “The Middle East”, “Northern Africa” (their favorite), and “Equatorial Africa”.

Writing on Wednesdays

We use Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons from the Institute for the Excellence in Writing.  This is one of our longer lessons of the week, so that’s all I schedule for Wednesdays.  This week the girls created an outline from a paragraph about ziggurats (Sumerian pyramid-shaped temples).  After brainstorming some strong verbs, quality adjectives, and adverbs, the girls wrote paragraphs from their outlines.

Poetry, Latin, and History of Science on Thursdays

We learn a new poem from Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization from the Institute for Excellence in Writing and do two chapters from Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press on Thursdays.  Once we complete Song School Latin we will start Latin for Children A.  We also read a chapter from The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim and we sometimes do a science activity from the lesson book.

Free Day Fridays

Fridays are our free days.  The kids only have reading on Fridays and I don’t schedule any group lessons.  We use Fridays to make up any work that we didn’t finish earlier in the week.  Scheduling a four-day school week helps us absorb life’s unexpected events.  For example, yesterday I had to end school early so that I could process and place the 80 trees and shrubs that arrived for our landscaping.  Knowing that we could make things up on Friday reduced my stress.  I also try to run my errands on Fridays so that I don’t have to go out on other days.

Scheduling and Organization

To help with scheduling and recordkeeping I use a software program called Edu-Track Home School.  At the end of each week I grade the previous week’s work, enter it into the computer, and print out the next week’s lesson schedule for each student.  I clip the schedule to the front of their workboxes and load the boxes with what they will need for that week.  Something that really helped with planning this year was to buy all of our craft, art, and science supplies up front and then organize them into gallon-sized zipper bags as kits.  We’ve actually been doing our activities because we have the supplies immediately available. 🙂

I hope I’ve helped you better understand what classical homeschooling can look like and that this information helps you decide what direction to take in your own homeschool.  I’d be happy to answer further questions about our homeschool or my literature program at classicalhouseoflearning@gmail.com.

Laura Lund

Classically Homeschooling Mom of Five

Author of Classical House of Learning Literature

classicalhouseoflearning@gmail.com

www.classicalhouseoflearning.com

 

 

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About Laura

I've been homeschooling since 2005. I have six children (born 2000 - 2012). We are eclectic in our approach with a bit more Well-Trained Mind philosophy over anything else.
This entry was posted in General Homeschool. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Week in Our Homeschool

  1. Rachelle says:

    This is so helpful. I have been reading many of your posts and looking over your literature curriculum and am so grateful for all the effort you have put into creating and sharing all you have. I am just embarking on the homeschool journey with four girls, ages five and under. I have been consumed with reading about different philosophies/ approaches and researching curriculum and I have been drawn to many of the things that seem to have worked well for your family. I had already ordered the Phonics Road, planned on using The Story of the World when my children are a little older as well as others you mentioned but I am most thrilled to have found the curriculum you created. I think it will be perfect when they are a little older. I have one question- do you just continue with the four year cycle each year even if one of the younger children will begin their study of history in one of the later eras (for example: a daughter beginning first grade might start in the early modern era because that is where you are with the older children)? It just seems like it would be too much to cover different eras with different children even though I like the idea of having them start at the beginning. Thank you again!

    • Laura says:

      I just have the younger ones join us wherever we’re at in our history cycle. 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found my blog helpful. 🙂

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