Happy Schedule Time

Our break last week was rather short-lived, thankfully.

We stopped midweek to celebrate some liturgical holidays but also to work on some scheduling issues. Through some minor miracle, I had a realization that the problem was with the schedule. When we started this school year, I broke the weekly readings up into daily chunks. We read the daily readings and continued on. It worked really, really well. Until it didn’t.

I ended up going through the schedule and condensing the readings back into weekly readings. Rather than doing (for example) The Little Duke over four or five days; we can do it in one reading (most of the time). When I reconfigured the schedules I left gaps in Moose’s schedule so that we could carry readings across a week if we need to (looking at you, Wind in the Willows). The problem with stretching the readings out over the week is that everything felt like it just d-r-a-g-g-e-d on (even if we were still only spending less than three hours of school for Peanut). Things go much quicker now and there’s a less draggy feeling.

We spent yesterday and today finishing up the last week (Weeks 5 for Moose and 3 for Peanut). This week we’ll continue on with Weeks 6 and 4, and see where we end up on Friday. I’m anticipating we will get through most if not all of Weeks 6 and 4 by then which means Moose has Break Week next week.

Another thing I did was make a Master Schedule that we (mostly) stick to. I made a column for each kid and scheduled out their entire day, marking naps, food, snacks, chores, play, quiet times, school, etc. For Nugget, his is rather fluid since he’s a little guy but for the big kids it’s quite structured. Everyone is less frenetic because I can say for certainty that Netflix time is in the afternoon (and has a definite end time) vs kids wearing me down and next thing you know they’ve watched a lot of Curious George or something. I also took commenter Flos Carmeli’s advice and went off to the dollar store for some fun “school book” things for Little Miss Sunshine, which seems to have scratched that “I want to do school!” itch nicely.

“Teachers must in this, as in all other matters, mix their work with brains…”
~ Charlotte Mason, as quoted by Elsie Kitching

Just a handy little pro-tip from Miss Charlottte. 😉

 

AO Year 4, Term 2, Week 3 | AO Year 2, Term 2, Week 5 – Part 1

This week was the Great Slowdown Week. We had no school on St. Nicholas Day, and no school today for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Thursday we turned into a Game Day, playing the new game St. Nicholas brought for the kids and other games we have around the house.

The kids don’t know it but school is canceled until further notice. Nothing too drastic, but an early and possibly long Christmas break.

There is a lot of things going on behind the scenes in my life: we had a death in the extended family last month and there’s a possibility of another death in the extended family this month. There’s health issues with members of my family. Our schedule has broken down because both Wok and Little Miss Sunshine want in on the schooltime – and while Wok can handle a level of Kindergarten; LMS definitely can’t. A couple kids need fillings done (SIGH) and all the kids need flouride treatments at home. One of my kids is so ridiculously hard right now and my stress is high.

I need to sit down and figure out the following:
– what can LMS do that will scratch the itch of “doing school” but is still developmentally appropriate for her age?
– how can I incorporate both LMS and Wok into schooltime in a way that makes sense, flows well, and everyone can be taught appropriately?
– how can we rearrange the schedule to include school but also playtime (usually outside), chore time, and quiet time?

I mentioned all my drama to a friend who had some wonderful advice and this part from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

[6] Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.
[7] And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
[8] For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.
[9] The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, and the God of peace shall be with you.
[10] Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, that now at length your thought for me hath flourished again, as you did also think; but you were busied.
[11] I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith.
[12] I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: (everywhere, and in all things I am instructed) both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need.
[13] I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me.

So that’s where I’m at right now. The time we have “off” from school will still be filled with home ec, games, nature study, read-alouds, and more. But I think we need to shelve the books while I tweak the schedule, and enjoy this time of waiting and preparation.

Wok’s Kindergarten

One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that we can start whenever we feel like it. Peanut started formal lessons at five (although in retrospect, it would have been better to have her wait until she was 6 – she does well but I think she could have used an extra year of maturity). Moose started right before his 7th birthday (mainly because 7 is the compulsory age for education here).

I had decided that with Wok, she would start formal lessons around 6; mainly because I was concerned about repeating what had happened with Peanut. As we made it through our Term 1’s, Wok was increasingly interested in “doing school”. She already had been folded into the family subjects, like Shakespeare, nature study, composer study, artist study, picture study, etc. And yet she wanted more.

I noticed that even with “video school“, she still was apt to get into mischief and slip into bad habits of whining for cartoons or Netflix, general whining about everything, and picking on siblings. I finally decided (last week, actually) that Wok would start formal lessons under some specific conditions:

  • she needed to still spend plenty of time outside.
  • she needed to have good habits – if bad habits arose then those needed to be dealt before schoolwork.
  • she would be leading the show – I would not sit down and make her do any level of schoolwork.
  • she would be involved in the family subjects of the big kids, and have her own read-alouds to listen to.

I decided to start digging around online, wondering what Charlotte Mason thought about Kindergarten. I was well-acquainted with her List of Formidable Attainments of a Child of Six, her emphasis on letting as much time as possible be spent outside during the early years, starting school at a later age (6) – but was there anything I was missing?

Oh, yes; there was. I came across an entire section in Volume 1 about Kindergarten. I’ve read Volume 1 but it wasn’t registering for me at that time, so I simply didn’t pick up on it (kind of like what registers with the kids when we read their schoolbooks…). Read it, it’s fascinating.

I also found a couple of blog posts at Piney Woods Homeschool – about that Formidable List and about Kindergarten as well.

I decided to give her some level of formal lessons, mainly focusing specifically on learning to read, refining penmanship, and basic math. She enjoys the workbooks we have of phonics and math concepts. We talk about what numbers, do a little bit of copywork, and work on our reading skills. Like Moose, she’s using the BOB Books combined with Plaid Phonics – he just finished the entire series and she finished reading Book 1, Mat. And then she read it about 100 more times today just because she could.

Each day, she demands for school (usually right after breakfast) and I do try to keep her semi-reigned in, especially with the math book. She wants to do tons of pages in it, but I limit her to two since I know that plowing through it will end up in burn out. And who needs to be burned out at 5 years old?

We’ll see how things continue with Wok’s Kindergarten, and always keep the door open that we may need to shelve things for a while and make sure that she can continue to do the hard work of childhood.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 12 | AO Year 2, Term 2, Week 1

This week was all about endings and beginnings. The ending of one term and the beginning of a new one. Peanut wrapped up her first term and Moose dove into the second term.

Year 4
Peanut was highly disappointed that we finished Poor Richard. I think that was probably her favorite book of the entire term. I’m going to find some other Benjamin Franklin books for her to read and go deeper with, should she decide to.

She finally got over her repulsion about Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, “it’s about mice and RATS, Mom”. I think she’s really enjoying the storyline and was expecting something rather disgusting and gross (think Templeton from Charlotte’s Web).

She’s read two Saint biographies by Mary Fabyan Windeatt – the story of St. Catherine of Siena and of Blessed Imelda. She’s working through Blessed Marie of New France, after she spotted it in the parish library. We observe the liturgical year and have daily Catechism lessons from the Our Holy Faith series, based on the Baltimore Catechism.  I am really quite thrilled with the series.

She thoroughly enjoys each subject (although I think she’s not totally interested in the founding of the country, oh well). We did a nature study on the pumpkin we had purchased for All Hallow’s Eve, which was probably the favorite part of her week. 😛

Year 2
Term 2 started with most of the same books carrying on, but The Wind in the Willows for literature instead of Understood Betsy. Moose isn’t so sure about The Wind in the Willows – talking animals aren’t exactly his forte. But he listens well and narrates well, and especially likes the map in the front of our copy of the book.

His copywork and math are both coming along nicely, with math moving at his own pace. I’m super glad that we can move at the kids’ pace, especially in something like math. We just keep moving forward, even if it’s at an extremely slow pace. At least I know the kids are really, truly understanding it.

We read about the Crusades, the jumping mouse, what The Little Duke did in the face of someone wanting to harm an animal, and had fantastic discussions along the way; and talked about what he would do if he were in The Little Duke’s position.


The kids finished up homeschool swim class for the year, and they’ll resume next year. As much as they love swimming, it’s nice to have a break (mainly for me as I kid-wrangle the non-swimmers). I’m not sure what level Peanut is at but I know that she’s in the advanced levels based on what she does in her lessons (diving, butterfly stroke, etc) and her swimming classmates (teenagers). Moose is in the intermediate levels and absolutely adores it and gets along well with everyone, and is pretty brave about everything they ask him to do. He discovered that water polo is played right before swim class, so he quickly gets out on the deck and acts as the ball fetcher when the ball goes out of bounds. The polo players have taken a liking to him and they let him splash around with them and make goals and give him pointers when their game is over (and joke that Moose and Peanut are the next generation of polo players).

Wok just started this year, and she went from “THE WATER IS LAVA” to getting basic strokes under control. Her teacher is a homeschooled young lady who is taking college classes at the local college since she exhausted homeschool curriculum (at age 16). She’s so good with the kids and each kid has worked with her for a while before they move on up to a different class. It’s such a great environment for everyone to be in.

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AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 9 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 11

This week was one of those weeks where flexibility was the name of the game. It came apparent to me that we had something going on every day of the week and in some instances; had some double booking going on. Happily Grandma helped out by taking the kids to and from choir for me while I went to the doctor; and we basically forced ourselves through the rest of the week.

Monday and Tuesday Peanut (Yr 4) and Moose (Yr 2) discovered the wonder of having all their school done by 11:30 in the morning. I have told them until I’m blue in the face that if you finish your work well (as in, not slopped or rushed through) and don’t dawdle; you can be finished before noon – which leaves the rest of the day for playing, reading, visiting Grandparents, playing with friends, and so on. Sure enough they discovered that I wasn’t yanking their chains.

Peanut and Moose both had math tests and passed. Peanut finally finished up Math Mammoth Grade 3 and can begin Grade 4; Moose moves on to the next chapter in his Math Mammoth text. We also went on to the next list in both Phonetic Zoo and high frequency words.

Wednesday was a day where everything went south but we managed to get things accomplished. Our special needs kid had an extremely hard morning of therapies which meant that that child was fried and drained and needed to rest all day (but was irritable making it hard for others to work), I was fried and drained from whatever health problem I’m having, and it was just blah. I didn’t force school too much on everyone because when we’re at each other’s throats, sometimes we just need to shelve everything and have some hot cocoa (or a Snickers bar) and chill. The relationship with the kids trumps any knowledge they may gain. And besides, who can learn when someone’s antagonizing you, you’re frustrated because things “aren’t easy” and so on.

Peanut did have her heart broken a little bit more about Benjamin Franklin, she was entirely unimpressed that he stayed in England so long, despite his wife begging him to return (and not returning until after her passing). She still thinks he’s a “mostly good guy” though. 😉

Thursday was worse than Wednesday, in that I had a blood draw scheduled for 1 in the afternoon. “Please fast for 12 hours beforehand” said my doctor. Welllll I don’t know about you, but I’m not up at midnight getting my last meal in. I ended up having an unintentional 17 hour fast. At least I was hydrated enough for the five vials that needed to be drawn. I forgot to ask the phlebotomist (I was ready to go to the grocery for ALL THE FOOD) when my results would be in, and since I have no new lab reports in my online account I’m guessing all the tests are done across the state. Maybe on Monday!

(My doctor thinks that maybe I feel so screwed up because my ferritin iron levels may be low, so he’s having that checked, plus thyroid antibodies and like 249820675698719584867 other tests.)

Friday was swim class day and absolutely TGIF. Moose wasn’t impressed to learn that we’re finishing Understood Betsy next week. I find that we’re slowly “falling behind” except that we’re not, if that makes sense. Yes, we got off on our Latin schedule so the regularly scheduled quiz wasn’t on Friday, and next week we’ll do some extra reading to get done with Moose’s first term. But really, it’s not a big deal. I’m finding in necessary to cut myself slack and let go of some tightly held (and wound) beliefs. I’m participating in Brandy Vencel’s “Charlotte Mason Boot Camp” right now. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it while feeling so lousy BUT it’s so great, I’m glad I took the chance and signed up. Plus, I enjoy having to make some time to be quiet, read and discuss and pray about certain aspects of our homeschool and life in general.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 8 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 10

It’s hard to believe that we are almost finished with Moose’s first term! Peanut is not far behind, and soon we will be switching some books and moving on to new ones. I’ll be quite bummed to finish Understood Betsy, but we’re moving on to The Wind in the Willows which I haven’t read; so it’s not totally a loss.

This week was another crazy week – scheduling a new doctor appointment for me, a nature walk (the weather was GLORIOUS for it and it was just great to be outside and enjoy some sunshine), choir and therapies, homeschool swim class and a park day with a friend and her daughter. I think I need to readjust the school schedule to allow for some afternoons to be truncated or some mornings to be removed because we’re busy with therapies.

I had some glimpses this week of learning with Moose and math. Math isn’t the easiest subject for him, and lots of patience and manipulatives and S.L.O.W. learning. I contemplated even giving up on his current math and going back to absolute core basics, much like I did with reading – lay off and wait, and try again in a couple months. But, I don’t think we need to go back to absolute basics, or wait a few months; because the connections are being made and it IS coming together. Even if it feels like we’re treading water in molasses sometimes, it’s good for both him and me to see the little successes and that YES, he is learning math;  just at his own pace.

I gave the kids reading level assessments this week, and both kids are above grade level. Moose was sort of reading CVC words in January, which is when we began systematic phonics instruction and ta-da he completely caught up and surpassed where he “should” be. Hot diggity dog.

Peanut is finding her friend, Benjamin Franklin quite the person. We had a spirited discussion about taxation, the Stamp Act and its repeal, why the colonists were SO unimpressed with the taxes and how that relates to our lives today. A lot of aha moments happened. I love these times of discussion, to see how her wheels are moving and what she’s thinking.

Peanut and Moose unearthed a rabbit skeleton with their friends on the mountain behind our houses, which has been THE highlight of the week. Earlier this week they had found just the legs, and so I was enlisted to help ID what they were looking at. Today the skull and jaw was found, along with ribs and other bones. Triumph! Peanut was ecstatic that “it still had its bunny teeth!” Thankfully no one has taken to calling the skeleton “Peter Rabbit”, which may put a slight damper on Moose’s enjoyment of Burgess’ Animal Book. 🙂

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 4 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 6

And now, for this week’s work! 🙂

Year 4

We had the return of “elastic time”. I gave Peanut one of my Happy Planners that I had no use for and wrote out her assignments, breaking them down into “by yourself” and “with Mama”. I came across this post on Afterthoughts, and I will be definitely incorporating that into our days. It should help Peanut begin to manage her time better.

Some things I’m noticing this year with Peanut:
– copywork has drastically improved her cursive writing.
– math is coming along really well. We use Math Mammoth and Simply Charlotte Mason’s Living Math. I use Living Math to explain the concept and Math Mammoth for practice problems.
– Latin had a giant leap and not only is she learning it well, she’s correctly spelling everything
– English spelling is also improving and I suspect it will take a giant leap forward when we start dictation and written narrations

I’ve found some problems with introducing the actual plays of Shakespeare and beginning Plutarch. My plan is start Plutarch again but use Publicola instead of Julius Caesar. I’m also going to either go back to Shakespeare retellings that we did last year or perhaps s l o w l y read the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as we read the retelling of that last year and the kids really enjoyed it.

Year 2

I am absolutely loving this Ambleside year. Moose is growing and learning so much through it, it’s exciting to watch him grow. Based on his excitement in narrations, Understood Betsy is his current favorite book. I’m really enjoying it as well. I was the spoiled youngest of my family so I definitely relate to Betsy, especially as she begins to stretch her wings, so to speak. 🙂

Moose finished six weeks of work which means he gets the next week off for a break week. He won’t be left feral, but it will be good for him to take a week off the books and have some relaxation time.

His major accomplishments so far:
– handwriting is massively improving. We finished the cursive Handwriting Without Tears book and went to printing.
– math is also improving. I’m the same setup that I use for Peanut – Math Mammoth and Living Math – and it’s been the key to unlocking math for him.
– his narrations are really developing well, and I’m quite pleased with how he’s doing. He used to just repeat the last sentence, then he pretty much told me back word for word everything I read. He’s understanding that I’m not looking for a regurgitation, but rather in his own words what he’s heard. What’s impressive that he completely GETS that he has one only one listen through and I think only once or twice has he been not paying enough attention to give any narration. Way to go, Moose!

***

The biggest event this week was, of course; the solar eclipse. We saw about 93% of totality, and it was awesome. We had our solar glasses on and watched everything from the beginning up to peak. We saw crescent shadows on the ground, we felt the temperature get cooler, we saw the surreal haze – it was excellent. The kids were a little disappointed that it didn’t get really dark – but it’s a good lesson that a smidge of sun is still really bright. The kids drew the stages of the eclipse in their nature journals, and even Wok (five next month) has been drawing little eclipses on pieces of paper since Monday. 🙂