Well hello there! It’s been a while!
I took a break from a lot of things to regroup and stay on track with our Summer homeschooling. And now it is August! I just cannot believe how fast that went!
We took off the month of June for outdoor fun in the sun and lots of playing. We eased back into schooling the first two weeks of July before taking a week off for our church’s Vacation Bible School. Then, we jumped right back in with a little bit heavier schedule. And here we are in August with an almost-back-to-normal school day. The schooling through the Summer went exceptionally well; I tried not to expect perfection or too much focus from the kiddos, and I think that helped. 😉
Last year, we dabbled in the Ambleside Online curriculum. I love how they lay everything out online and that it is heavy on the reading (group, individual, and LOTS of classics). This Summer, we completely immersed ourselves in the Ambleside curriculum and will continue that into the rest of the school year.
Ambleside is a Charlotte Mason-based curriculum (not completely Charlotte Mason, but they pull a lot from her principles and ideas for most of their curriculum). It relies a lot of books for the material. Many of the books are old, which is what I love. Obviously, some of the history and science have to be supplemented with more current things, but all of the children’s individual reading is older books. There aren’t any dumbed-down books. A lot of what my girls have been reading the months before Ambleside were books with no substance. I am sure they were enjoyable stories, but they weren’t challenging. And I was having to look over A LOT more of their modern choices because of content (boy/girl stuff, name-calling, witchcraft, etc). After becoming frustrated with a silly comic book that included a very sensual picture of a female character (thankfully Iris saw it before the younger kiddos and brought me the book), I decided I would “push” the older books more. For any school or free reading, I am selective on their choices. I still let them choose – but I give them the selection from which to choose. 🙂 Sure, it’s a little sneaky, but we are avoiding a lot of the less-challenging books and offering more books with morals and characters to model themselves after.
I thought it was maybe a bit silly at first to limit what they read. I mean, why not just let them read if they are WILLING to read? BUT, I kept coming back to that verse in I Corinthians 10:23 – “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Just because they are reading books doesn’t mean those books are benefiting them. I wanted to be able to say what they’re reading was helping them read better or BE better. No offense to the author but Dear Dumb Diary isn’t really the kind of book I’d be proud to say my girls read (though they have…).
With that verse in mind, I have noticed a lot more of what we should be reading and trying to stick with it. (By the way, that verse is quite convicting for myself….not everything I read is beneficial either, and I have to be just as selective with MY reading!)
So, here we are in our school routine, and I think we have a handle on good books. Iris is reading The Borrowers for her free read; Lily is tackling The Peterkin Papers. Both books have bigger words than they are used to in their reading, but they both seem to be understanding and enjoying the stories! Addy and I are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble together; it is set back in early American times, and the words are definitely a challenge for her to understand. I am doing all the reading (she still struggles, but I wanted her to get a lot of these stories in!), but I have her narrate every few paragraphs so that I know she is following well.
Speaking of Narration – that’s a new(er) thing for us. I am very intentional about having the kids narrate because then I am completely aware of whether or not they are following/listening. If they can’t tell the story back to me, then we re-read it. This goes for all subjects – history, science, Shakespeare, Bible, and so on. I don’t want to be reading and no one listening! 🙂
For what we’re covering this year, I have Addy doing mostly Year 1 from Ambleside. She is moving along quickly, so we may be able to move up to Year 2 before the end of the school year. BUT, I am not pushing it. I am more concerned with her understanding and absorbing the info than just checking off the boxes! She is working through Level 1 in her math curriculum as well, and she is doing great – really catching on quickly! Iris and Lily are completing Year 4 with Ambleside. Iris is technically 5th grade, but Year 4 has many “heavy” books, and I don’t want to move her to Year 5 before she has a firm grasp on the older language used in the books. They are both doing Level 4 in their math curriculum as well, but I suspect they will whiz through that and both move to Level 5 before Spring! Again, though, not pushing it – understanding is much more important than a certain level. (I should mention – Year 4 with Ambleside includes Plutarch….having no clue who Plutarch was up until last year, I am not yet ready to dive into that his works. Perhaps in January we can revisit that and start reading. For now, Shakespeare and all the other subjects are keeping us quite busy!)
Below is our lineup for subjects we are covering. I have marked in parentheses the different looping groups they are in. I have looped several of the subjects because we just don’t need to cover new ground every single day in every single subject. Reviewing them every day might be fine, but some days we have a large project in another subject and we miss other subjects….and that is ok!
(And for those not familiar with “looping”, it is just taking a certain number of subjects and rotating them, rather than try and teach every subject every day. We don’t get to each subject every day in the loop, but we get to it each week however many times we get through the loop. I know some moms create the loop so they touch on some subjects more times than others in the same loop – like ordering Spelling, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Spelling, Literature…3 times of spelling for 1 of grammar, writing and literature – but I think the 1:1 ratio is good for us now.)
In the morning, as a group, we have these items in a basket to complete together (I call it Morning Time….real creative, eh?):
- Bible – story/passage/topic
- Character Study/Review
- Verse Memorization
- Hymn Study (morning basket loop)
- Picture Study (morning basket loop)
- Composer Study(morning basket loop)
- Map Drills (morning basket loop)
- Poetry – Recite/Review
Hymn, picture, composer, and map drills are rotated in on a loop. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes together with the Morning Time…so whichever of those four is rotated in for the day is probably the only one we will get to in order to complete the rest of the list. And we don’t cover a whole Shakespeare story, just a few pages to read and narrate. Shakespeare is heavy, and I don’t want to overwhelm the kids (or myself!!).
After the group time, the boys will go play or find something to do, while the 3 girls together will do Loop #1, Loop #2, and Dailies:
- Nature Study (Loop #1)
- Geography (Loop #1)
- Science (Loop #1)
- History (Loop #1)
- Biography (Loop #1)
- Spelling (Loop #2)
- Grammar (Loop #2)
- Writing (Loop #2)
- Literature (Loop #2)
- Math – done individually, with my help as they need it (daily)
- Copywork – Iris and Lily typically have larger portions to copy than Addy (daily)
For Loops 1 and 2, we spend about 30 minutes on each loop. Whatever subjects we cover (one, two, or all!) during that time is fine. Wherever we stop is where we pick up the next day. So, if we only cover nature study one day in the 30 minutes, then the following day we start up with geography and carry on. The second 30 minute loop time on the first day might be able to cover spelling, grammar, and writing; so, the following day (when we start geography in loop 1), we would start at literature for loop 2’s session. Does that make sense??
Math and Copywork are daily items, so I did not loop them. I want them to learn/review math concepts every day, as well as become excellent in handwriting. And the time spent on those two subjects just depends on the math lesson – whether new or review – and how long the copywork is. I usually have the girls copy the same passage/poem for the week (4 days at least).
After all the morning subjects and loops are done, the kids all have free time. They can play outside, inside, have a snack (if we didn’t work one in already), or finish up any work they didn’t get to while we worked all morning. Lunch follows free time. Then nap time for the boys. I am hoping to work in a regular walk after lunch….but we haven’t gotten that far. Usually I get super lazy after we eat!
While the boys nap, I have the girls work on some independent Afternoon items (that require little or no attention from me, so I can read or do housework or work on the following week’s schedule):
- Typing – Iris and Lily are using a free website (https://www.typing.com/) and are loving it. I haven’t been consistent with every day lessons on there, but now that it is August and we are back into a full day’s schedule, it will become a daily afternoon lesson.
- Foreign Language – I am still figuring this one out. I like the free site DuoLingo but have not been disciplined enough to work it into the schedule. I would like all 3 girls to work on this each afternoon together. They are all very curious about speaking Spanish, since it is a part of their heritage. 🙂 I think they mostly just want to impress their Hispanic grandparents with some skills.
- Free Read – these are the books I mentioned above, the ones they choose from a selection I give them. They can get through these as fast as they want, but I require them to at least read a chapter a day. And I have them narrate the chapter to me, even though I probably shouldn’t. I just want them to be in the habit of sharing what they read, so they understand the story.
- Drawing/Handicraft – I have a list of handicrafts for them to choose from (soap carving, crochet, and a bunch more I found online!), and the plan is to incorporate the craftiness a few times a week. For drawing, it will usually fall on the days we do nature study. We typically draw whatever nature item/creature we are checking out; I search for a YouTube video on how to draw it, and we follow along. It has been pretty fun so far! I may or may not have my own Nature Journal that I draw in as well. 😉
At least once a week, after the boys are up from nap, we have a Tea Time. I was not sure how apt they would be to have tea in the afternoon, but all five kids seemingly love it! They ask for different flavors of tea, and we even do it English-style with cream and honey. Unless it is a flavor that would not go well with cream in it. But, we all get tea cups and saucers, a snack of some sort, and we sit together to eat and drink while I read some poetry (usually A Child’s Garden of Verses) or our group read-aloud book. We started The Water Babies but got off track and stopped reading it after just a few chapters (though I would like to eventually go back to it!). Now we are reading Old Yeller. I LOVE this book. I remember reading it once or twice as a child and then seeing the movie. We are only on the second chapter because our reading times have been rather short due to rambunctious boys, but we are all enjoying the story. The boys especially enjoyed the part when Little Arliss ran naked from the drinking water pool to the house! They laughed so hard at that part!
I am excited to work in the last couple items (handicraft, spanish, etc) and be “officially” into our school year. At first, coordinating the subjects into a decent schedule seemed overwhelming…and then it WAS overwhelming when I tried to use other people’s plans and schedules. Even though I know our home is different from every other homeschooling home, I still felt like I needed someone else’s plan. I finally gave up that idea and worked up my own plan. And so far, it is working! Go figure – our plan working best for our family. Haha! Also, I am not following each subject exactly as Ambleside shows. I have the same subjects but we adjust them to the best way for us to incorporate and learn them. Some, for us, will be a lot less in-depth than for other Ambleside families, while we may choose to go more in-depth for other subjects. But I know we are still giving the kids a very rich curriculum, much richer than what I know of the public schooling atmosphere. (I am not knocking the public school, but homeschooling allows us to get more involved in each subject when we want/need to…and we don’t have a classroom of 30 students. We just have a lot more flexibility for my kids’ learning styles, and I am so grateful!)
At some point I would love to have some pictures of our morning basket or of the kids doing a nature study or something, but I haven’t been very great with the camera lately. If I don’t try and do EVERYTHING, I feel a lot less stressed. So, if I don’t get pics on here that is ok. But, my goal is to eventually post some, to give you an idea of how our day works for us!
And I plan to share a bit more on loop scheduling and bullet journaling (this is a newer item for me, but I am LOVING it), details on working through our morning basket as a group, and many other things. I am feeling inspired and motivated to get back into blogging. It will probably be a lot less about food things and much more about homeschool. I have really fallen away from my uptightness with food, but that is a whole other post for a different day. For now, I am just rejoicing in our plan for homeschool and the start to a brand new year!!!