I wanted to check in and report on what we’ve been doing so far. I have six children, but the oldest (14) attends public school and the youngest (2) doesn’t do school work. In this post, “older two” means my twelve-year-old and and nine-year-old while “younger two” means my seven-year-old and six-year-old.
With an active toddler, I’ve found that our day flows best if we have a more relaxed morning. The children do copywork, individual reading (various subjects), projects (Scratch programming, creative writing, etc.), Latin, or other things they can work on without intensive help from me. I use this morning time to work with my six-year-old on her occupational therapy exercises (motor delays) and Handwriting without Tears. I also read picture books (history, literature, library books, and fun) with her and my toddler. Occasionally the older children listen in. After the toddler goes down for his nap, we do math and any other subjects that are difficult to work on while he’s awake.
I am really loving my modified approach. I’ve chosen to use Human Odyssey Vol. 1 as our main spine this year. We’ve read through The Story of the World Vol. 1 multiple times (great resource), but I enjoy having a different perspective this year. I read aloud from Human Odyssey and The Story of Science in the late morning while the children do jigsaw puzzles or other quiet activities. We discuss what we read and mark any new cultures on our laminated Sonlight wall map (ours is the old black-and-white style from when we did Core K).
I bought each child a History Portfolio (classic for the older two and junior for the younger two). We’ve started filling the pages this week. The Teacher Guide has suggested ways to fill the note booking pages, but it’s very easily customizable. My twelve-year-old has a two-page spread with quotes from creation myths (In the Beginning by Virginia Hamilton) on one page and scientific theories about the beginning of the universe on the other page.
At the beginning of last week, I went to the library and filled my bag with books that correspond to our current history chapters. Each week I choose a few to read aloud and leave the rest for the children to read (or not). Last week we read The First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein. Then I taped up some brown packing paper and had the children make their own “cave art.” I’d like to do simple history-themed activities every couple of weeks or as inspiration hits me.
I bought fancy journals and gel pens for copywork, and I’ve been shocked by how much the children have enjoyed them. My reluctant-writer nine-year-old spent a couple of hours copying Shel Silverstein poems on our first day of school. Then she wrote a few original poems and copied them carefully into her copywork journal.
My six-year-old worked on drawing the animals in Draw Write Now rather than copying the words. That plastic golf ball is something her occupational therapist taught us to use in order to give her a better pencil grip.
I’m still ramping up to a full workload, but my intent is for writing assignments to include various forms across all subjects. The History Portfolios give a great place to highlight history narrations as well as literature narrations that fit into the historical topic (i.e. myths, legends, epic stories, etc.).
Reading and Literature
In addition to history, every morning I read aloud from a literature selection. I read In the Beginning by Virginia Hamilton (selected stories) during our first week. This week I’ve been reading from Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers. It is a nice introduction to Egyptian themes for when we hit Egypt in a couple of weeks. The children are also listening to Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid on audiobook (not a great read aloud, IMO, but a fun book nonetheless).
Each child has chosen a novel to read in addition to books tied to our history studies. My twelve-year-old is reading A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, my nine-year-old is reading The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White, my seven-year-old is reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, and I’m reading Bunnicula by James Howe to my six-year-old. As they read, they mark potential copywork passages with sticky note flags.
Phonics and Spelling
I’m taking the older three through Phonics Road 3 as a group. The older two have done it already, but it’s the first time for the seven-year-old. It starts with a great review of phonics rules using simple words before progressing to more complicated words.
My six-year-old is moving more slowly through Phonics Road 1. She also reads I See Sam books and works on Hooked on Phonics on my iPad.
I’m doing a mix of Phonics Road, Michael Clay Thompson, and Growing with Grammar. Everyone will work through Growing with Grammar’s Digging Into Diagramming. However, I will first introduce grammar ideas to the younger two with Grammar Island by Michael Clay Thompson.
While my toddler naps, we have group math time. First, each child works through the various work texts (Christian Light Education and Math Mammoth, depending on the child). I go around the room, helping whomever needs help. Then we play a Right Start Math Card Game all together.
This semester we are watching Cosmos and discussing the episodes. I also grabbed library topics on evolution and astronomy. We will ramp up to doing formal narrations. For now we are watching, reading, and discussing. There are some field trips that I’d like to take as well.
My twelve-year-old is working through Getting Started with Latin, which we started toward the end of the last school year. The younger ones couldn’t keep up, so she’s doing it alone. She will be starting a French class in two weeks and she began working through DuoLingo’s French course today.
The three younger children will be starting art classes in two weeks.
All four children will be starting musical theater classes in two weeks.
I founded a homeschool group with some other homeschool mom friends that will start next week. We have themes for each time we meet (history and games, science and art/music, literature and cooking/crafts, etc.) with moms assigned to lead activities for the older group (9 -12), middle group (4 – 8), and youngest group (3 and younger). The group will be partly educational with history projects, science activities, literature discussions, and field trips and partly social with games, parties, just-for-fun activities, and communal lunch time.
I will probably tweak things as we go, but right now these is working very well! I’m less stressed than I was last year when I had the children more separated and I had specific things to work on tied to the day rather than a list of ideas for the week. Switching our mornings to be more relaxed and our afternoons to be more structured has also made a big difference.