Friday, August 7

7 Quick Takes: Our 2015-2016 School Year

It's Friday!  We start our 2015-2016 school year in three days!  Aside from not quite having all of my books here yet (at least they're ordered!), I feel pretty ready thanks to our new schedule!

New schedule?  Well, after hearing Sarah MacKenzie and Pam Barnhill's webinar about block scheduling, I made up my own schedules on Word and decided to go for it in my own way.  What does this mean for us?

It means instead of doing a little bit of every subject each day, we are doing a lot of only several non-core subjects for about six weeks at a time.  Math, handwriting, and English will have daily lessons all year!  This is very different from my previous years of planning, in which I planned only three large terms, and worked on the same books for most of the year.  I found that Beth would lose steam when we did it the proper Charlotte Mason way of consuming only tiny chunks of information at a time.  And I'm a total believer in doing what works best, so we are moving away from that idea and we will see how this one goes!

We have also developed some good morning habits, and I hope we can maintain those for awhile.  After breakfast- we clean up, say morning prayers at our family altar, read a story from the children's bible, have quiet individual prayer for a couple of minutes, and then listen to and sing a hymn (I use The Cathedral Singers "Catholic Latin Classics," a free album on Amazon Prime, it's much less awkward  to me than singing alone unaccompanied).  Then they will get a small break while I pull myself together (read that as I will talk myself into tackling another day with a cheerful heart), and then we will start school.  This is my plan.  Will it happen like this every day?  Absolutely not, I know that.  But we will strive for the ideal.

I'm also pulling back a little more from Mater Amabilis, the free online Catholic Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum we have mostly used in the past.  I just needed to streamline a few things, like combining grammar/phonics/copywork into one neat little book from Catholic Heritage Curricula (CHC for short).  All three kids will be using CHC phonics programs, including Little Stories for Little Folks (to learn how to read since 100 Easy Lessons isn't working well for Luke).  I'm looking forward to seeing how it works in our family, and I'm praying it makes our day a little smoother.  Beth will also be using CHC geography since she loved it so much at co-op last year, and we do our own history lessons with A Child's History of the World- which will alternate terms with Apologia's science.  I think everything else is taken from Mater Amabilis for Beth, and while the boys are in younger grades, I'm sure they will listen on and participate with some of Beth's lessons to a certain extent.

We share several subjects as a family: history, science, poetry, music and artist study, and some religion.  The boys are sharing family geography and literature (though I'm sure they'll listen on to Beth's literature as well).  Each child is using Faith and Life for catechism at their own level (well, Beth is doing 4th grade in that), and Luke will be preparing for his First Holy Communion next spring!  Both boys will hopefully learn to read at their own pace, and we will all share saint stories and advent/lent preparations.  Since we pretty naturally live a rich liturgical year at home, and since our parish hosts many amazing liturgical feasts throughout the years, I don't feel the need to hyper-focus on that for "school" time.  It will continue to be part of our daily life!

We will be participating in our beloved co-op again this year!  The kids are already super-excited about seeing their friends soon.  This year, Beth will have Bible History (which I'm terribly excited about because she's very passionate about reading the bible!), Art/Music, Ballet, and Junior Master Gardening.  Luke's class will be using Classically Catholic Memory (Beta Year), and Jack will be reading Tomie dePaola books, learning geography and math from me, religion studies, and play time/nature walks.  I'm so very nervous about Caeli being in the nursery for an hour- especially now that she's usually napping at 10 am every day.  I will probably try to have her nap on my back in the Ergo, but I suppose we will have to wait and see what actually happens in six weeks!

Caeli.  What am I going to do?  What are your best tips for teaching three children WHILE keeping a toddler alive and entertained?  I thought to pull out our old high chair.  She loves sitting in it and it might actually contain her for 30 minutes while I do reading lessons?  We are also utilizing more audiobooks this year, for history and some of Beth's geography, because I don't see how else I can do this!

We haven't decided what extracurricular activities we will do yet.  Ryan and I are very tempted to take a semester off from soccer (shhh, don't tell Luke- we're undecided!) because we will be traveling most weekends in September, and Ryan would actually like to go to an Aggie tailgate this year!  I think we're burned out from spending our Saturdays at the soccer field, and the fall semester is always SO hot...

Beth and Luke have been taking piano lessons all summer, and we will continue those.  I'd love to get Beth back into an art class of some sort, and Jack is begging to take gymnastics.  Maybe we can find an (air-conditioned) homeschool gymnastics class?  Air-conditioned soccer?! All three will also participate in their girls and boys clubs again this year, and we will most likely join 4H so we can start earning some college scholarship money!

Am I exhausted yet?  Not really.  Planning their schedules this way (instead of mapping out a day-to-day lesson plan) has been a cinch.  I still have to plan my co-op class and still have to figure out exactly how to use the LSFLF CHC readers, but I'm cautiously optimistic about everything.  I also know enough now that the fall semester is easier to tackle than the long, dark, rainy spring semester.  But I've planned my days of rest throughout the school year, and intend to use each of them in a truly meaningful way.  In fact, I plan to convince Ryan that I will need at least one night alone at the beach in February or March. ;-)

(Please don't feel behind in your own planning because I've posted this and have this part figured out.  I've learned that my planning doesn't have to be perfect- only that I have to participate in God's plan for our family, show up for the job, but then leave room for the Holy Spirit to guide us and inspire us.  It's very possible all of this will be thrown out the window sooner than later!  We are starting school early this year because we plan to take a two-week road trip in the fall, and I wanted to complete some school work before we left.  So I beg you, don't feel behind or bad, but I hope my resources and planning ideas might inspire you in your home school!)

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