Our 2009/2010 Homeschool Plans (2nd and Kinder)

This year, Sweetie will be in 2nd grade and Buddy will be in kindergarten. I didn’t do as much formal schooling as I would have liked last year. I was a little too Unschoolish for my comfort level so I vow to hold myself more accountable. I’ve created a perfect planner book to help me achieve this goal.

Our Homeschool Plans

I’ve also decided to give Sue Patrick’s Workbox System a try. Here’s a picture of our workboxes – I opted to go with eight per child (mostly due to space constraints). I found the perfect shelving system at Costco… I bought two (just $18.99 each) and stacked one atop the other. Previously, the boxes were just sitting on the floor and the disarray/chaos really annoyed me.

Sweetie and I put labels on her boxes (History, Math, Writing, Reading, Mandarin, Geography, Science, and Art & Music). I plan to put picture labels on Buddy’s boxes but we were out of color ink so that will come later.

We also use a notebook system as described in The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. I’ve modified it slightly to better suit us, however. Essentially, the binders are color coded – red for Sweetie and blue for Buddy. I bought binders for each year through fourth grade because I wanted them to all match and I was concerned that Avery may discontinue the style. I’m excessively orderly that way.

Here is a breakdown of the binders we use:

Preschool / Kinder – 1 binder for all work
Sciences (Life, Earth, Physical & Chemical) – 4 binders
History (Ancients, Medieval Times, Early Modern & Modern) – 4 binders
Book of Centuries
50 States / Geography
Mandarin (Sweetie only)

Language Arts

My goals for the year and the tools I will use to achieve them are very similar to last year. For the most part, I really like the curriculum I chose – I just need to hold myself more accountable. In other words, I need to plan each week in advance and then stick to it… rather than do lessons randomly.

For Sweetie:

  • Reading: Starting with 30 min – we’ll work up to 60 min of independent reading daily by January.
  • Grammar & Writing: Integrated through science and history … copywork, letters to family and friends, creative writing activities, etc. Our goal this year is to write more regularly (a little everyday, in fact). I’ve also decided to use Learning Language Arts Through Literature to help assure I do not omit anything.
  • Handwriting: She’ll continue to practice cursive letters with a Practice Power book that has a write on-wipe off surface. Most of her daily work will be done in manuscript but as she becomes comfortable with cursive, I’ll request that she apply her skill.
  • Spelling: I didn’t even open the program I had intended to use last year so I’ve opted not to bother with it this year. My plan instead is to have her write 5x each the words she misspells in her daily writing (max. 5 words).
  • Math: Sweetie continues to excel in math. She has very few lessons left in Singapore 2B; my hope is to begin 3A within a month or so. Throughout the week, I will also incorporate more games and manipulatives. She’ll also continue to do math lessons (at least once a week) in Mandarin.
  • Physical Education: She’ll continue with her study of Taekwondo. She’ll be testing for her brown belt in November (vacations and schedule conflicts pushed testing out a little farther than I had anticipated). We’ll also continue to incorporate running, swimming and cycling throughout the year. She has expressed interest in doing a triathlon and running in more races. Our goal is to do a 5K together in December.
  • Mandarin Chinese: Last year, I had planned to rely solely on Mango Languages but soon after the school year was underway, we came across a Mandarin Immersion class. Sweetie will be continuing with this class (twice a week for 3 hrs) as well as working with a tutor (when she returns from China). I’d also like to use Live Mocha and/or Mango Languages more regularly to practice.

For Buddy:

  • Handwriting: He loves copywork! We’ll thereby continue to integrate lessons at least 3x a week.
  • Reading: He can recognize all his letters and knows the sounds of most. We’ll thereby begin using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Upon completing the lessons, we’ll thereafter use the Now I’m Reading! series by Nora Gaydos.
  • Math: We’ll continue to practice simple addition and subtraction with manipulatives (his plastic animals, Hot Wheels, etc.). I also want to introduce him to the Singapore style and will potentially begin with 1A in the fall.
  • Music: Buddy will continue to take piano lessons with Janellybean.
  • Physical Education: He is also studying Taekwondo. He is doing quite well and is a presently a Tiny Tiger green belt.

Art & Music History

We’ll be using Harmony Art Mom’s Art & Music Appreciation :: Grade Two curriculum. We’ll also continue to use Themes to Remember.

Science

Originally, we followed the 4-year rotation of science outlined in The Well-Trained Mind. However, in the midst of the year the kids expressed their interest to learn about the earth rather than continue with life sciences. Therefore, our science units this year will be: Space, Dinosaurs, and the Human Body. Last year we covered: Plants, Animals (vertebrates & invertebrates), Ecology (particularly marine & forest ecosystems), and Geology.

Nature Study

We will continue weekly incorporating Letterboxing / Geocaching when possible.

History

We are continuing with the 4-year rotation outlined in The Well-Trained Mind. We haven’t quite finished the first volume, The Ancients but should within a few weeks. We’ll then proceed on with Medieval Times. We will also incorporate more copywork from History Scribe and/or Smooth Stones Academy.

Library

We go to the library once a week to check out books related to our current studies in science and history. The kids also check out a few books ‘just for fun’. There is also a quiet study area that we’ll take advantage of between extracurricular activities so that we can avoid going home and going back out again.

Educational Goals for My Children

saw this on a homeschool blog I follow, Mt. Hope Chronicles, and had to share here:


How to Be a Human Being,
Capable of Living a Rich Life:



Be curious. About everything.


Read. Read. Read.


Help the underdog.


Entertain thoughts.


Set goals.


Observe nature.


Have compassion.


Discuss ideas.


Do hard things.


Create:


Build. Paint. Plant. Draw. Sing. Bake. Play an instrument.


Care for your body.


Follow through.


Appreciate beauty.


Ask questions.


Take responsibility.


Eat good food.


Play hard.


Plant a garden.


Try new things.


Share with others.


Manage your personal finances. Well.


Solve problems.


Plan for the future.


Keep house. Well.


Prepare for emergencies.


Nurture relationships.


Travel.


Give of yourself.


Value truth.


Keep your word.


Smell the flowers.


Pick up after yourself.


Use time wisely.


Encourage others.


Laugh. A lot.


Brave storms.


Cultivate a spirit of gratitude.


Find passion for life.




What would you add?

Change of Direction – Mid Year Review

When I first started homeschooling, I devoured print and online materials about teaching styles, approaches to education at home, and curriculum. Along the way, I came across the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and soon thereafter, The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Bauer. I was immediately drawn to the style of Charlotte Mason – her blend of practices includes narration and copywork, nature study, fine arts, languages, real-life applications, and a Literature based curriculum instead of textbooks. I knew this was how I wanted to educate my children. When I discovered The Well-Trained Mind, I suddenly had a plan – a road map that would lead us along our homeschooling journey.

I spent hours devising our Master Plan. Planning. Listing the subjects and skills I wanted my children to be exposed to and eventually master. I began a list of curriculum and books that I would use as resources. I noted programs and certification opportunities that I wanted my children to take advantage of as we progressed (Junior Ranger Programs, Scouts, 4H, Roots & Shoots, etc.).

One of the most exciting components of the Well-Trained Mind was the 4-year cycle. To me, this was the perfect way to approach science and history. It provided me with an open-ended calendar or planning template. I thereafter created a cycle for nature study as well. Keeping in mind that I wanted to be flexible – allowing the children’s interests and questions direct us in our studies. History
Our history study is going slowly – we explore each culture / country as it is introduced in The Story of the World extensively before we move on to the next chapter. Life has also gotten into the way. We have frequently neglected history, set aside our study of the ancients as we have focused on other subjects. We are renewing focus this week. I hope to finish the text by June – assuming that we’ll go faster as the book revisits regions.

Nature Study
Though I am fastidious about taking advantage of teachable moments and imparting nature knowledge to the kiddos as opportunities present themselves, I haven’t been approaching nature study in any organized manner whatsoever. I need to do better. I can do better.

Science
We’ve spent most of this school year focusing on life sciences. Throughout the summer, we focused on plants. In the fall, we began an extensive look at the animal kingdom beginning with vertebrate animals and most recently invertebrates. In doing so, we have integrated ecology studies learning about forest ecosystems and most recently, ocean ecosystems: open ocean (sunlight, twilight & midnight zones), coral reefs, kelp forests, rocky shores, sandy beaches and estuaries(eel beds, mudflats & salt marshes).

Over the past month or so, the kiddos have been asking more and more questions about the earth. What are the names of the planets? How are rocks made? How does a volcano erupt? What happened to the dinosaurs? What is it like on the other planets? Do animals live on other planets? Their interest and curiousity about geology has grown. Last week Sweetie asked me, “When are we going to learn about the earth? I am tired of animals.”

I had originally intended on spending the winter and spring on the human body and additional ecology studies. However, I can not delay their interest any longer. I need to take advantage of their passion and follow their direction. I feel strongly this is just what Charlotte Mason would have advised. Allowing the children’s interests to direct our learning. We’re thereby going to jump to earth sciences with the new year. I’ll keep you posted of developments as we proceed.

Our 2008/09 School Plans

It seems everyone is planning out the upcoming school year. I actually enjoy the process and get excited about all the activities I hope to incorporate over the year. This year, Sweetie will technically be in 1st grade and Buddy will be an official preschooler.

We have been using a blend of approaches but mostly Classical and Charlotte Mason. As a teacher, I am comfortable creating my own materials and pulling things together from a variety of sources. Other than an idea of what topics we want to cover over the course of the year – where I want each of my children to be academically – I don’t follow a specific plan.


The teacher within me has developed a weekly plan (shown above) of what subjects I teach on Monday, what subjects we do on Tuesday, etc. It gives me an idea of what to accomplish each week, however, I have discovered that I rarely follow this schedule. In this way, we are Unschoolers – taking it day by day. We do what we feel like doing. We study what is of interest at the moment. We go with the flow.
For Sweetie:

  • Reading: We’ll continue to use Teaching Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It finally clicked this summer. She can read most 3-letter words now and is beginning to sound out longer words. We are also using the Now I’m Reading! series by Nora Gaydos. She is motivated to read all of the mini-books on her own and has nearly finished Level 1.
  • Poetry: New this year is also a new poem each week. My hope is to begin with copywork and then progress to memorizing the poem by weeks end.
  • Grammar & Writing: Integrated through science and history … copywork, letters to family and friends, creative writing activities, etc. We really enjoy the Draw Write Now! series of books – we have all 8 – and I select pages that relate to our studies in science and history. I work in grammar skills as she does these assignments. We also play MadLibs frequently and she is able to define verb, adverb, noun and adjective.
  • Handwriting: She’ll continue to practice cursive letters with a Practice Power book that has a write on-wipe off surface. Continued practice with alphabet sheets from LearningPage.com and copywork printed out at Zaner-Bloser online. Most of her daily work is done in block script. Once she is comfortable with cursive, I’ll request that she apply her skill.

  • Spelling: We didn’t do spelling last year. I thought I would give the Spelling Workout program a try this year. We’ll also take words from our reading to incorporate science and social studies.
  • Math: Math is her strong area. She can do multiple digit addition with carrying. She also can do multiple digit subtraction but can not yet borrow. She can tell time and does well adding/subtracting money. She is beginning multiplication and division. She has very few lessons left in Singapore 1B, then we’ll work through 2A and 2B. We didn’t use the workbooks with 1A and 1B but we plan to with level 2. Between each text, we’ll take a week or two to practice skills and before we advance to the next level. Throughout the week, I also try to incorporate as many games and manipulatives as possible.
  • Physical Education: She’ll continue with her study of Taekwondo. She may also continue with Ballet and/or Tap – depending on her interest later in the year. We’ll also continue to incorporate running, swimming and cycling throughout the year.
  • Chinese: We’ll pick up where we left off on Mango Languages and do a lesson a week (we’ve mastered only the first 2 lessons). Ideally, I’d like to do the online lesson on Monday so we can have the week to practice the vocabulary. I can then make up little activities to enhance the lesson (bingo, matching sheets, etc.).
  • Sign Language: When Sweetie was little, we did a lot of signing. We love the Signing Time DVDs which we borrow from the library. Another homeschool mom is teaching an American Sign Language class this fall and Sweetie has expressed interest, so we’ll give that a try.

For Buddy:
He has been saying, “I want to do schoolwork, too.” So he’ll be focusing on learning the alphabet, using letteroftheweek.com and occasionally alphabet pages from First-School. We will also introduce computer skills (use of the mouse) on occasion. One of my favorite learning sites is Starfall.

  • Handwriting: He’ll begin to practice block letters with a Practice Power book that has a write on-wipe off surface. Continued practice with alphabet sheets from LearningPage.com
  • Math: We’ll continue to practice simple addition and subtraction with manipulatives (his plastic animals, Hot Wheels, etc.).
  • Physical Education: He has expressed interest in also studying Taekwondo. He has participated in one class (for fun) and did well. As a result, we will register him in September when the Dojo begins offering classes for 4 year olds. Though he isn’t yet 4, he will be allowed to participate since he has watched his sister for 2 years and understands what is expected. We’ll also continue to incorporate running, swimming and cycling throughout the year.


Although I plan the rest of the subjects specifically for Sweetie, I try to include Buddy as much as possible.

  • Art: It was nice last year to have artist of the month to focus on, so I randomly picked 9 more artists to study. We discovered last year that we are most likely to do art when it ties into another subject so I did my best to also incorporate the art of ancient cultures.
  • Music: I really want to incorporate music into our curriculum. I have thereby randomly picked 9 composers to study, using materials from Classical Magic and Classics for Kids, among other resources. I also play to buy a few instruments and begin introducing them to reading music. I played clarinet 5th – 12th grade so I am familiar with the basics. As they progress and express interest, I’ll seek out other avenues, as this is the area I am least comfortable.
  • Science: Science is a natural part of life around here. This year, we will begin to follow the 4-year rotation of science outlined in The Well-Trained Mind. This year is life science. We spent much of the summer focused on plants, fall will be devoted to animals, winter on the human body, and spring will be on ecology. As I am a former elementary science teacher, I have a significant library of activities and materials. I will thereby pull things together as we go along. One of my favorite resources is Ranger Rick Nature Scope activity books. We’ll also continue with our Outdoor Hour Challenges each week.
  • History: We are continuing with the 4-year rotation outlined in The Well-Trained Mind. I recently purchased all 4 volumes of The Story of the World along with the accompanying activity guides. This years focus is on The Ancients. We will also use History Pockets Ancient Civilizations and copywork from History Scribe and/or Smooth Stones Academy.
  • Library: We go to the library once a week to check out books related to our current studies in science and history. The kids also check out a few books ‘just for fun’. There are comfy giant bears to cuddle upon to read. There is also a quiet study area that we’ll take advantage of between activities so that we can avoid going home and going back out again.

How Will We Begin?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my goals and expectations for homeschooling. I actually spent some time coming up with a schedule that alloted a specific amount of time for math, reading and writing each day as well as an hour for theme studies (social studies 2x a week and science 2x a week), nature walks, and picture studies (Charlotte Mason approach to fine arts). Looking back on it, I realized it was too constrictive and would take away from what was most desirable about homeschooling, flexibility.

Through my research, I have discovered that there are probably as many different approaches and styles to homeschooling, as there are those that choose to undertake the responsibility themselves. In other words, I know that I can do whatever works for us and that what we do will most assuredly evolve and change over time. As a teacher, it will be difficult to change my approach… difficult to not schedule specific time for each subject.

However, I know that we all learn best when we are hungry for knowledge… when something has excited us and we want to know more. I’ve therefore decided to let my children lead the way… while I sprinkle the 3Rs daily.

I am very intrigued by the Charlotte Mason philosophy. While some of her ideas don’t necessarily fit with our lifestyle, we already incorporate others. Some of her ideas that I will be integrating into our studies include:

NARRATION
Narration is the process of telling back what has been learned or read. Narrations are usually done orally, but as the child grows older (around age 12) and his writing skills increase, the narrations can be written as well. Narration can also be accomplished creatively: painting, drawing, sculpting, play-acting, etc. I definately want to do more of this… so frequently when I finish a story or book, I close it and set it aside. I am now going to make a more conscious effort to ask the kiddos to give me a narration of what they have heard.

NATURE WALKS & NOTEBOOKS
In spite of often rainy, inclement weather, we will go out once-a-week for an official Nature Walk, allowing the children to experience and observe the natural environment firsthand. We will each have a notebook or artist sketchbook in which we may draw plants, wildlife or any other natural object found in its natural setting. These nature journals can also include nature-related poetry, prose, detailed descriptions, weather notes, Latin names, etc.

DAILY WALKS
In addition to the weekly Nature Walks, we will continue to take our daily walk in the evening with Daddy for fun and fresh air, no matter what the weather.

ART APPRECIATION/PICTURE STUDY
Bring the child into direct contact with the best art. Choose one artist at a time; six paintings per artist; study one painting per week. Allow the child to look at the work of art intently for a period of time (maybe five minutes). Have her take in every detail. Then take the picture away and have her narrate (tell back) what she’s seen in the picture. I love this! I never had the opportunity to study art (with the exception of one art class I took in high school).

JOURNALING
There’s great value in keeping a personal journal, encouraging reflection and descriptive writing. Record activities, thoughts and feelings, favorite sayings, personal mottoes, favorite poems, etc.Couldn’t agree more… why else would I be blogging? 🙂

COPYWORK & DICTATION
Daily copywork provides on-going practice for handwriting, spelling, grammar, etc. Keep a notebook specifically for copying noteworthy poems, prose, quotes, etc. Especially for the younger kids, it is a great way to practice writing without having to do tedious pages of a single letter. A great resource I was introduced to by a homeschooling friend is Draw Write Now. DD has already done 2 pages! After reading the book Stellaluna, I asked if she would like to do the page about bats and she jumped up with enthusiasm! The next day, she asked if she could do one at bedtime rather than color in her color books (as she usually does at bedtime).

BOOK OF THE CENTURIES
A Book of the Centuries is a glorified homemade timeline; usually a notebook containing one or two pages per century. As children learn historical facts, they make notes in their book on the appropriate century’s page about famous people, important events, inventions, wars, battles, etc. I love this idea, too! Even if I choose to later enroll my children in public school, I know this is something we will continue to do as it will enable them to see the big picture and see how events impact one another.

FREE-TIME HANDICRAFTS
My hope is to finish daily academics in the morning, allowing the afternoon hours for free time to pursue crafts and other leisure activities or areas of personal interest. Of course, some academics will also take place in the evening as we enjoy reading aloud to the children or sharing stories of our childhood with them before they go to sleep. This is important for DDs favorite activity is doing craft projects and if you recall, “Scrapbooking, Knitting, Stitching and Painting” are the things she wants to learn most.