For the 2013-2014 school year, Beth will be in 1st grade, Luke will be in Pre-K4, and Jack will be in Pre-K3. We have a lot of the same activities going on this year- we've dropped a couple but added one big one. Beth is so excited to be telling everyone she's in first grade! We started school on August 12, and just wrapped up our third full week of school. So far it's going great, I think even better than last year!
I'll start with the boys, since they'll be easiest to write about! Neither Luke nor Jack will be following a formal curriculum as I don't think either of them need or want that right now. I have two brand-new workbooks for Luke: a Getty Dubay first handwriting book general math/handwriting workbook. Since we follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy of using living books and quality literature, Luke will be able to participate in some of Beth's lessons to the extent that he wants- and I suspect he'll be very interested in her literature books. ;-) Last year he'd participate in religion and history sometimes too, and I bet he'll also be interested in our science as it's very family-oriented. My goals for him this year are to foster creativity and let him be little, get as much outside time as possible, learn some handicrafts, and work on good habits and virtue. He will also be attending a Pre-K class with Jack in our new co-cop, which I know he'll LOVE!
Jack is a new 3-year-old, and I have no expectations of him this year other than to play, learn, and grow. His imagination makes me laugh- I hear him playing "baby" by himself with a doll and he talks to the baby and tells her what to do... It cracks me up. At this point, he is playing generally very well with Luke- for the past 3 weeks of school the two of them have been playing nicely together for the nearly two-three hours Beth and I do school work. AMAZING. What a blessing- and don't I know it. Sometimes they will quarrel or come sit and listen to what we're reading, but for the most part they're playing!
Beth has seven primary subject this year. I am mostly following a second-grade curriculum from Mater Amabilis, making a few changes.
1. Math- She is finishing up her first grade book from Abeka, she should be done by Christmas break. After that I'm not sure what we'll do yet, she wants to change programs so I have to do a bit of research. She hates the repetition of math facts, but she loves the cutesy pages and when we play games and use manipulatives. So we'll see...
2. Religion- Each day we do something a little different. Monday we read A Life of Christ for Children, Tuesday we do a lesson from Fath and Life 1, and Wednesday we do a saint study (right now studying Juan Diego using this book, usually 3 chapters/lesson, and supplementing with library books and coloring pages- you know she loves to color!). She is also continuing to learn her Latin prayers- we are over halfway done with the Our Father right now- we just memorize a line/week using Pray It In Latin). Starting in January we will begin Faith and Life 2 and First Holy Communion prep using the Baltimore Catechism and the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism. I would like for her to receive her First Holy Communion at Easter when we have family members in town to celebrate, but I still have lots of details to work out!
3. English- Every day the goal is 2 pages of handwriting and 3 pages of phonics from Explode the Code 2.5. She's reading well now, so I don't have a "reading" course anymore- she reads to me now when I ask her to. She also does dictation and copywork. Dictation is twice a week- I am starting small while she is still learning how to do it- I write a short easy sentence down for her to study the spelling and punctuation, then I take it away and repeat the sentence to her while she writes it down. This is basically her introduction into spelling and grammar, Charlotte Mason-style. Copywork is usually scripture or a poem we're working on, but I haven't been as worried about this formally since she is technically doing copywork with her handwriting program.
4. Literature- We are reading Swords and Sorcerers (King Arthur!), Greek Mythology, and poetry from the Harp and Laurel Wreath. She is memorizing poetry and narrating the other stories back to me. I think we all enjoy this part of our school day- cuddling on the couch and reading new stories! In the evenings Ryan usually reads a chapter from one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books- they're on Little House on Plum Creek right now. Sometimes he and Beth take turns reading to each other.
5. History- Okay this gets a little confusing, even for me! The curriculum we follow uses living books to teach history, which I love and will continue to do because I have already seen the fruits of this style of learning, but our co-op is learning Early American History using a Seton textbook. So my plan is to follow the textbook's lessons (Columbus, Pocahontas, etc.) that she'll be learning about each week, and use a day at home to supplement with a living book. This will require some planning on my part... Which I haven't started yet since we haven't started co-op yet! So for now in that time space we are planning a trip and studying the geography of where we will be going! Works for me. :-) Tuesday is Weather and Climate and Wednesday is a rotating book. We are learning about European history, and have started with the book Vendela in Venice, which is a wonderful book about a little girl's trip to Venice with her father. Each week we read several pages then study the maps for location, geography, and rivers, etc. I know they're all learning something because one day she asked me if we could ride on a vaporetto and see the golden horses when we visit, just like Vendela did. And they were all playing "gondola" one day, trying to recreate the straw hats the gondolier's wear! We have also watched a few youtube videos about Venice, to reinforce everything and present it in a different way. We are also starting a very rough timeline on index cards, at this point the concept of chronological order of the history of the world is still forming in her little brain so it's very rough still!
6. Science- We do science every day, because it's something we all enjoy for the most part. We are using Natural Science Through the Seasons supplemented with the Handbook of Nature Study. Each week includes a little experiment that have been easy enough for us all to do together at home- right now the first few chapters have been about plants so we've made clippings and are trying to root new geraniums, setting white carnations in dyed water, and even made flower arrangements! We do these lessons two days a week, and the other day we are reading from the Burgess Bird Book for Children. We listen to bird calls from allaboutbirds.org and have learned about their nesting and migration habits, along with the temperaments of some of the birds. Either I read this or I have Beth listen to it from booksshouldbefree.com. She is really enjoying this book, and also the Animal Book which we've been listening to on long car trips. LOVE that website! We will also be going on weekly nature walks in the co-op, and attending a once-a-month nature class at a local nature center.
7. Arts- We are studying the life of an artist per term, using living books of course, and doing picture studies on his/her art. Right now we're studying Monet and I can't tell you how much she (and I!) have both learned already. We have already finished Linnea in Monet's Garden and picked up a biography or two on him. We have Katie Meets the Impressionists and after studying Degas and some Renoir last year, I think she has a good understanding of Impressionist art. But she's actually getting to know Monet and his family- which is more important to me than her memorizing facts and dates. We're also reading about Vivaldi and learning his music, though there are not many living books on him as there are Monet! She is taking a twice-a-month art class, and will be starting piano lessons at the end of September.
We do all of this in about 2.5-3 hours, have lunch, then have rest time. After rest time, we usually read a short story during snack time, a story about virtue... Or being nice to each other, or obeying mommy, or whatever the issue of the day might be... Heh. Afternoons will be spent on handicrafts- my goal is to start something on Monday so Beth can pick it up during the week whenever she wants to. We will be sewing, crocheting, embroidering, making clothes for our new gnomes/fairies people, and baking. And doing chores, and playing with friends... Honestly we've stayed pleasantly busy so far that we're not feeling rushed and crazy, the house is actually staying in pretty decent shape, and I've been able to keep good meals on the table. I'm going to enjoy it while I can, because I know it won't be this easy for much longer!
The big thing we're adding to our schedule this year is our once-a-week co-op. I am so excited about this! Every Thursday, we will start our day by attending mass, then Beth will go to class with K-2 graders and Luke and Jack will go to a preschool room. I stay and help out as I'm needed, as I am not a teacher this year. Beth will have classes in US Geography, Bible History, PE, Art, Language Arts, Nature Study, and American History. We all come together for an hour of lunch and playtime in the middle of the day, and they're going to wear uniforms! They're all excited about it but they really have no idea what's going to happen. I'm hoping Jack will enjoy the preschool program as much as I KNOW Luke will!
I know some might look at our list and just gawk! But it works for us at this moment. And our plan for school is one year at a time. I have a day planner that I've done my lesson planning in, so we are set to go for the whole fall semester. Overall, as I continue to read through Charlotte Mason's writings, I am trying to stick to her idea that education is an atmosphere, and continue to create a beautiful home filled with beautiful art and music, an understanding of virtue and good habits. It's still pretty chaotic most of the time, but we're all working on it and we're all getting better at it. We are educating the children for eternity, to recognize the beauty in our world, and to have a relationship with the material that they learn. Please pray for us this year! Good luck to all the other back-to-schoolers out there!