Back to School {The First Week}

In my Back to School – Planning post I talked a little about what we were doing for the year and how we were fitting it all in. In this post I’d like to just recap our week. I’m not always good about doing this weekly but the first week is always important to me, even if I’m finally finished writing about it 3 weeks later! It is my way of scrapbooking digitally our year and there is just something indescribably special about the first week. The kids are excited for what’s to come. I’m excited for what’s to come. Everything is ripe with possibility even as we stumble through getting the daily rhythm down.

So how was our first week?

Math and Art were our biggest hits for the week.

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For math we’ve switched to Khan Academy this year for our oldest son. His dad started using it to sharpen his own Algebra skills over the summer and Gabe started sitting down beside him and helping him work out problems. He absolutely loves it. Khan is self-paced, independent, and FREE! We had already been using Khan for history, science, art, and math supplementation (they have great videos and now they’ve teamed up with the guys who do Crash Course whom my kids LOVE and we use for history and science) so this was a natural carryover for him. Since Gabe is already a year ahead in math, using Khan will give him the independence to move ahead at his own pace. He may end up doing two years in one this year and be into Algebra by year’s end. We also allowed the other kids to try it since Khan does have math all the way down to an early elementary level, but we found after a few days of trying that they still preferred their Teaching Textbooks for math.

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Although Teaching Textbooks is very pricey, I LOVE their program. It is set up tutorial-style so each kid is completely 100% taught on the computer without me. It is great for auditory and visual learners or for those that need someone to sit with them step by step through each problem. It does automatic grading and my kids love it. That is enough for me to spend the hefty price tag. Plus, we discovered that the book is actually just a repeat of what they are already doing during the lessons and a needless piece so we’ve eliminated that this year and gave each kid their own spiral notebook to use for working out math problems. That saves us $30 for each program. And you can use them with more than one child so we are only buying one year at a time and by next year won’t have to buy any. While the 2nd and 3rd grader are doing their math independently on the computer, it frees me up to work with Ivy and Eli with their Pre-K math and phonics.

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Art was also well received this week. Mainly, because we actually did it! Every year I have these great intentions for art and music and every year life gets in the way and then they get bumped for the more “important” subjects that are required. So this year I decided no more. Creativity is a must for me to flourish and it is extremely important for my ten year old girl as well. This year we bought everyone their own sketch pad and we labeled them all pretty and are keeping them organized in an inexpensive tote from Michael’s. For the two littles, I used a primary composition notebook and  covered it in pretty scrapbook paper and then laminated the covers to keep them sturdy for the whole year. This allowed them to be cheaper (twenty five cents back to school sale!) and keeps them accessible for their age range.

Our first week of art we read the Drawing Rules in Drawing in Color and talked about how their is no wrong way to draw. We read ish and Dot, which the littles especially loved and imitated immediately in their notebooks. Our first assignment was to draw whatever we liked. Each child shared their picture and everyone said one thing they really liked about each picture as well as one thing they would like to improve upon for the year. The kids did not want the afternoon to end and it has inspired Lily to check out several drawing books at the library and she has been practicing every night. This year we will be focused on learning to draw animals in pencil using a combination of youtube tutorials and Drawing Animals in Nature with Lee Hammond . This will mesh very well with our zoology science course.

Zoology, unfortunately, started off a little rocky. I was so excited to start the lesson with a great hands-on, visible way for them to understand the concept of classification through classifying legos. This ended up with mostly fighting over said legos and Norah ended up teething and crying for a huge chunk of our time. It was a bit of a letdown for me because I have such huge expectations for this year’s zoology lineup. Our second week fared way better after a trip to Fontenelle Forest to pick up our Vertebrate/Invertebrate Educator’s Trunk and the kids got to handle and feel all kinds of bones and animal skins. My favorite was the owl skull and bobcat skull. After examining everything, the older two got to dip into their first experiment and the littles played an online classification game, all was right again in our science world.

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We kicked off our first week of history by diving into Columbus and the Age of Exploration. The younger ones listened to me read from A Child’s History of the World, which I just adore, while they happily constructed ships out of our magformers. They colored and notebooked and then finished off their time playing an online game about Christopher Columbus.

The older two are doing history with daddy again this year. He is a huge history buff and has a wonderful conversational Socratic method style of teaching that our kids just love. They are watching the Crash Course World History and US History videos in conjunction with their reading and then join me on another day of the week for fun history where we get to watch the Horrible History videos, watch fun songs and do map work. Favorite song of the week: Fifty Nifty United States. I learned this song in fifth grade and it has stayed with me to this day. I am giddy passing it on to my children. They are song nerds in the same way I am. Okay, maybe I’m a bit more of a song nerd but they really do love this song. This has been our constant car-schooling anthem for the past couple of weeks to go with our geography study for the year.

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I’ve been most impressed with Ivy this week. Being 5 and “officially” starting kindergarten, I wasn’t sure how involved she’d be for the multi-age taught subjects like history, science, and geography. We always have stuff planned for the littles but beyond their basic 3 R’s in the morning, we don’t require them to do school. They are free to play or watch an educational video. But she’s stuck with us through much more then I thought she would. She played the Columbus history game like her older siblings, she’s colored history sheets while listening to the stories and she’s even picked up on the Latin we’ve been studying. And her coloring has taken a dramatic turn for the better since school has started. I perceive that she will show the most overall growth this year.

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Latin was by far the most unexpected successful subject of the week. We discovered Classical Academic Press by accident last year through their sister site HeadAdventureland.com which is full of fun, free latin videos!!! (Check out our fave…The Three Little Pigs!) The older two have totally resonated with the DVD chants in the Latin for Children, Primer A. They love doing the activities and discussing everything with their dad over coffee. And the younger 2-4, depending on if the two littles join us, are throughougly enjoying SongSchool Latin. It is SO kid-friendly and fun that the kids can’t wait to do Latin and have told all their friends they should too. Even I have awoken in the middle of the night with a catchy Latin song stuck in my head. Makes me want to check out their SongSchool Latin Spanish.

I also enjoyed doing Bible with the littles this week. We read out of Vos’s Child’s Story Bible starting again at the beginning. And I was once again captivated by the way she conversationally draws the little ones into the story while simultaneously weaving Christ’s redemption story in from the very beginning pages of Genesis. This is by far the BEST story Bible I’ve ever read. The children sat and listened spellbound and asked for more when I was done. Can’t ask for more than that!

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Some other fun highlights of our first week…

The girls temporarily dying their hair purple and pink.

Enjoying playing golf during recess time.

Building nanoblocks during free time.

Watching caterpillars emerge as butterflies!

Taking care of pet toads.

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I’m so excited to see how the rest of our year unfolds.

How was your first week of school?

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Back to School – The Plan {2014-2015}

It’s time again. Everybody is posting first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook. Although I missed that deadline by 3 weeks (as I usually do with getting pictures up on Facebook…still have a whole summer’s worth of albums to put up), I did manage to take a first-day-of-school picture. Maybe sometime soon it will get to Facebook. Maybe…

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I’m ready and not ready to start all at the same time. I’ve spent the last month cramming to get everything done (we’ve switched doing all our lesson planning to OneNote but that is a post for another time) and still am a bit behind.

All in all though, I’m pretty happy with our schedule and our curriculum scope and sequence for the year. After running it for a few weeks it needs some minor adjustments, but overall we did good. The major goal I am setting for myself this year is to get up earlier and more consistently. Last year with having a newborn and being up most nights, I didn’t do very well at all with getting up at a consistent time. We still had a great year and accomplished a lot but I always felt like we were running behind all the time. Mainly, because we were running behind all the time. With Norah past the one year mark this school year, my nights are a bit more regular.

This year is a big adjustment for us schedule-wise in that it is MUCH more structured. I’ve always been a very relaxed homeschooler. I loved that we could start school at 10ish, be done whenever-ish and follow lots of rabbit trails, especially in history and science. But this year I have an official junior-higher going into seventh grade, a fifth grader, a third grader, a second grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, and a toddler. To say my life is full is an understatement. Somehow I need to move my seventh grader into more challenging work to prepare for high school, which is really just around the corner, while also making the time to spend with my kindergartner who is just ripe for learning to read. But I also need to give extra time to my two middles, third and second graders, who still need more teacher-to-student time as they are transitioning into independent readers. I need to keep my preschooler busy and out of trouble and my one year old just learned this week (yeah me!) to climb chairs. I see impending disaster in my future with that one.

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So this year hubby and I sat down and brainstormed like crazy pasting and copying subject time slots until everything that we wanted to do meshed with everything that we needed to do. This was no small task. This is the most packed, structured schedule we’ve ever been on. I’m not going to lie, the day before school started I was trying not to have a mini panic attack at the thought of sticking to a schedule. Just ask my husband. I am NOT good at following schedules. I just love to make them. I adore planning for them. And they always seem so ripe with promise every year. And then I immediately deviate and forget I even made one. I like my rabbit trails and interest-led learning that takes place and I’m not sure if there is any room for that this year.

But I also know that more important than my need to have fun and go off on learning tangents, is the need my kids have for structure. The need I have for structure. There are too many of them and only one of me. They all need my time and each of them is equally important. So a structured schedule it is. And even though there is a small part of me that cringes at using a clock and a timer, the bigger part of me loved that we got to all our stuff and started on time every day.

Here is what we are learning this year.

MathTeaching Textooks (2nd, 3rd, 5th) and Khan Academy (7th)

Phonics – Bob Books, Starfall, YouTube (Pre-K)

Literature – list varies for each child (All)

GrammarFirst Language Lessons (2nd, 3rd) and Rod & Staff English (5th)

SpellingRod & Staff Spelling (2nd), Abeka Spelling 2 (3rd Grade)

WritingBasher’s Creative Writing and Writing with Skill (5th and 7th)

CursiveKumon Cursive: Letters and Kumon Cursive: Words (2nd, 3rd)

LatinSongschool Latin (2nd, 3rd) and Latin for Children, Primer A (5th, 7th)

SpanishRosetta Stone 1 & 2 (5th and 7th)

History – Age of Exploration and Early American History (All)

Geography – United States & Capitals (All)

Science – Zoology (All) and History of Science (5th & 7th)

ArtTechnique: Drawing in Color and Drawing Animals in Nature (All)

Art – Appreciation: Baroque, Romantic, NeoClassical, Pre-Raphaelite

Music – Theory: Basher’s Music: Hit the Right Note (All)

Music – Appreciation: SQUILT Technique with Baroque, Romantic, and Classical styles; Composer Studies

BibleChronological Study Bible (5th, 7th), Child’s Story Bible (K, 2nd, 3rd), Awana (All)

PhilosophyLittle History of Philosophy (5th, 7th)

LogicArgument Builder (7th)

Physical Education – Aerobics & Weights (Girls), Boxing & Weights (Boys)

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I am hoping to write a separate post for an in-depth look at each subject. That may or may not happen. I can’t promise anything. I always have way more blog posts floating around in my head than I ever get the time to sit down and write. But I can give you a glimpse into our year and our week. I’ve uploaded my Relational Subject Comparison 2014-2015 for the year to give you a small taste of what we are going to be studying for each of the 36 weeks.

History is the peg we hang our year on. It is the rudder that is driving everything else. We follow a chronological 4-year history cycle and literature, geography, art, music, and sometimes science are all, somehow, related to what we are studying for history. So this year I created the above 36 Week comparison sheet and wrote the key historical peg we’d be studying then, during my planning, I used that to determine which week we read or mapped or did what activity that correlated in a different subject. It makes the year flow better and allows me to pre-plan some rabbit trails without overburdening our schedule down. I can use this as a quick-glance guide for each week’s planning to remind me during the nitty gritty weekly planning, especially for pre-requesting library books. This style of planning also helps us to cement information in our head when it is presented in different ways throughout the week. This year we are on year three of the cycle which covers from Columbus up to the Civil War (1492-1860’s).

Here is a blank Relational Subject Comparison for anyone else who is interested in planning this way.

Some people look at the above list of subjects and can’t imagine how we get it all done in a week. Here is a small taste of what our Sample Week looks like so you can see how we make this a doable reality. Remember, we don’t do every subject every day and this is fitting in essentially 5 different grades into one week. Not every grade is doing every subject on the above list. And it is especially important for new homeschoolers of younger children to remember that our schedule was not always this full. We started out with years of 2-3 hour school days and lots of extra time for library and field trips, lots of nature walks and outside play and, most importantly, LOTS of interest-led learning. Enjoy your little ones. Enjoy the slower pace. There is a time and season for a busier, more challenged schedule but the early elementary years is not that season!

So, how did our first week go you ask?

Find out here.

PAYSON ACADEMY

2014 – 2015

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