Content Amidst the Chaos

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Back to school! August 4, 2010

Filed under: homeschooling — jps23 @ 4:24 pm

It’s the first week of August, and my nephews and niece started school this week.  My two other nephews start school next week.  Wow.  It’s still in the 90’s here in Georgia and the kids are already back in school.  I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to shift gears between the swimming pool and the cafeteria.

We will be “starting school” in September, right after Labor Day.  What’s with the quotation marks, you ask?  Do you not feel like your school is real school?  Let me explain my quotation marks.  Superman and I are lifelong learners.  I talked a little about that in this post.  Our kids love to learn, too, because learning at home is fun!  They aren’t reading information out of a textbook that they have to turn around and memorize for a test.  They are learning through every day experiences around here and out in the world.  SM and I are intentional in that venture.  “Did you notice that?”  “Do you know why they do it that way?”  “Why do you think it works like that?”  These are all questions we ask, IF they don’t ask first!  So while we aren’t doing structured academic instruction right now, they have been learning.  They sit and write their names or alphabet for fun.  I think Smiley, the three year old, knows how to spell his name because Picasso, the eight year old, loves writing and drawing so much and has worked with him on the letters in his name over the summer.  We love to learn through real life experiences!  Which is why the curriculum list I am about to share with you is not long and overly extensive, like most.  I don’t know how some of these homeschooling mamas keep up with it all!  Anyhow, the following is a list of resources I will be using this school year, starting after Labor Day:

  • Trail Guide to Learning: Paths of Exploration– This is a brand new curriculum that is based on the works of Ruth Beechick and has a very heavy Charlotte Mason element.  It covers history, geography, science, language skills, and art.  It uses nature study, narration and dictation, living books (aka real books vs textbooks), and copywork.  Charlotte Mason encourages the language skills in a more formal manner later, so that learning mechanics doesn’t get in the way of learning content.  Her approach encourages children to learn through reading quality literature with examples of good mechanics.  This curriculum also includes ready-made lesson plans, which I struggled over allowing myself to use.  I have a degree in doing that stuff, so I don’t need to pay someone for that kind of thing.  However, I am at a busy season in life with four young, wild boys in addition to my three creative girls, so I’m letting that one go.  I don’t have to do it all.  The other great thing about this curriculum is that it focuses on teaching critical thinking skills.  It isn’t just cramming our kids’ heads with knowledge.  This curriculum starts with US history and moves into world history next year.  It has a Bible component available, but we ave something for Bible already.
  • My Father’s World (1st grade curriculum)– I purchased this to use with Picasso two years ago, and wound up not using it to its full capacity.  I will be using the Bible element of the curriculum for our Bible instruction.  We will be starting a time line notebook to use throughout our schooling, adding our history from POE to it, as well.
  • Math- This is the area where I am winging it this year.  I looked at two particular curricula that were very hands-on and concrete, which is what Cowgirl needs, especially.  I already have the manipulatives, and the workbooks were simply white sheets of paper with practice problems.  The girls are also in three different places, with one beginning double-digit addition and subtraction, one still mastering that concept, and one that is beginning to understand multiplication.  I have a variety of resources that I will pull together to get them through math this year.  It’s one of my strong subjects, so I’m not real worried about getting it right.  This is an area where I am saying not to $100+ curriculum that does what I can do on my own.
  • We will be starting the year with some music theory to prepare the girls for learning their instruments.  Picasso will be learning violin with The Violin Book, Cowgirl wants to learn (you guessed it) guitar, and Mary Lou wants to learn the recorder in preparation for learning the flute.  I hope for the three of them to also learn piano, but I’m not sure if I will do private lessons or just purchase a curriculum for this.  SM and I are band nerds, but neither of us plays piano.
  • We will do picture study (art), music study (composers), and handicrafts, in keeping with Charlotte Mason’s ideas for learning.  We will also play outside daily for PE, take trips for nature study so we don’t over study our own backyard, and learn skills pertaining to health and self-care on a daily basis.
  • The boys will be doing a few different things.  They’ll attend some of what the girls are doing, especially Bible, and a good deal of their instruction will come from the 1+1+1 blog.  She has wonderful, practical ideas that we started using two years ago.  I also found a great study of the alphabet for free from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  It is AWESOME!  And did I mention it is free???  Earnhart and Smiley already know their letters, upper and lower, and their sounds, so we have a head start, but at this age, repetition is key.  It will help Dozer learn more of his letters (I was surprised the other day to learn that he knows some already), too.  Earnhart is a preschooler by age, so his stuff will be a little more advanced than the other boys’ stuff.

To you non-homeschoolers, this might seem like a lot.  However, visit many hs’ers blogs and you will find a curriculum list a mile long.  No thank you.  That is not for us.  I love the ideas of Charlotte Mason, and all that I am using has a foundation in CM.  I am looking forward to beginning the school year.  The kids ask me on a regular basis when we are going to “start our homeschool”.  It can be overwhelming to think about some days, since my nature does not include the word organized in any way, shape, or form.  I’m working on that, and have been for a while.  But mostly, I’m praying about it because it is going to take an act of God to help me get that way!

The Atlanta Botanical Garden, where I plan to take many nature walks with the kids this year!


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