(Dining room, where we do all of our table time schooling.
However, we read in the living room and do activities all over the house.)
This school year, which is about three weeks underway, I am teaching 11th, 1st, kindergarten, and preschool. We homeschool 5 weeks on and 1 week off with a total of 36 weeks of "documented school". The rest of the weeks that are meant to be break time are fit around Christmas, late spring, and any major events in the year. We tend to take May/June off as our major break, since spring fever always strikes, and we all hate the heat of summer. It is easier for us to school during the summer in front of the A/C unit. My son says all this "when we are in school versus not in school" is just a spoof. In his words, "We are always being educated, but during official school time, Mom just has a plan. That's really the only difference." Shucks, how to make a Mama proud. At the beginning of the year, I have a general outline of goals and courses for each child, as well as how we are going to go about achieving it. Then I write out goals for the next 5 weeks during the week in between lessons. During the 5 weeks on, I plan out each week's lessons on Saturday night. So in reality, I only have to stay one week ahead of my kids! Breaking it down this way helps me avoid getting overwhelmed and burning out. Sometimes a special event or opportunity comes along, and things have to be bumped to the next week. This is totally fine with me and I am flexible. I follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy for the most part, but do really like indulging in unit studies on occasion.
So this year the big teen is taking seven courses: English III (British and American literature), Theater, Nature Center Internship, World History, Biology, Creative Writing and Art II. With the exception of theater and the internship, all of these courses are being covered at home. For those of you that follow my blog, you may see me mentioning other classes that he is doing. Since I have all 4 years of his high school years written out complete with lesson books to fill in, if something comes along that would fit into his learning, I can document it. Much to his delight, there is no math listed here. He will be doing some math by private tutor to help prepare him for Algebra next year but this will be limited. My big teen still needs a lot of support from me because of his learning disabilities, and so most of his schooling still requires me to be near him. Thus, his schooling is scattered throughout the day when I can devote time to him. Some of the fun/messy courses such as Biology and Art are covered at night when the little ones have gone to bed. English III is covered by reading a running list of great literature from Britain and the USA. He has been taking acting classes and will be in a play soon for Theater. He is Charlie Brown in the play. He continues working 3 mornings a week at our local nature center for his Internship. World History is being covered by reading all of the Genevieve Foster books, watching all of the "Western Tradition" college classes on PBS, and dabbling in some projects around particular events. Other videos will be added where useful. He will also be doing a few research papers on selected topics. We will be completing Biology by dissecting a frog, sheep's heart, starfish and perhaps more, using our microscope to study a variety of things. Our text books will be Real Science 4 Kids and my college textbook. For those of you who are familiar with Real Science 4 Kids, you may be thinking it is really odd to be using an elementary program and a college textbook as guides. When you are dealing with a very bright child who is very academically challenged due to learning differences, these are some of the wild leaps one must make. He can work with the workbooks and text of Real Science 4 Kids without being terribly challenged, and I can use the college textbook to extend and complete concepts that are presented. In Creative Writing we will be using several resources and opportunities to write poetry, journals and essays. Writing is my big teen's most difficult area, so we will really be focusing on this course. Lastly, for Art II he will be using the Meet the Masters Program. We have been very pleased with this program. My Mother, who has a degree in art, will be teaching most of this course to him.
(The big teen with his new microscope! He loves it!)
(We made him his very own writing nook for creative writing
complete with his own computer for writing ONLY!)
My little ones are all early risers, so much of their "table time" school is done before 10:00 in the morning. I loosely use the Core Knowledge series of "What Your _____ Grader Needs to Know" to make my goals for the year. This year, even though I have three different grades for the little ones, they are doing many of the same lessons but just with little alterations. For example, Tom Sawyer(5) is very good at math so he is working on identifying, copying and adding numbers into the 100's; Little Red Ridinghood (3) is working on numbers up to 50; and Goldilocks(6) is working on numbers up to 25. Usually I start the day with a Bible story (Tomie DePaola's Book of Bible Stories and The DK Family Bible ) and then move on to reading lessons with Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This program is working great for Tom Sawyer, but Goldilocks is stuck on lesson 8. I will probably be moving her to Veritas Press Phonics Museum. I was so lucky to find this used program at a homeschool book sale, and it really covers every learning style in every lesson. After reading, we move on to table time and do math, which is Miquon Math for Tom Sawyer and number workbooks for Goldilocks and Little Red Ridinghood. We often also play a math game, or make a math graph or read a preschool math book. We then move to art. We do an art project almost every day because my kids are addicted to art. Also in Charlotte Mason fashion, we are doing picture studies of famous works of art. Usually the little ones need some free play by this point, and the big teen is ready for me to help him. The little ones will do more table time later in the day with cooperative games, play dough, drawing and copy work. Depending on the child, copy work consists of copying lists, Bible quotes, Bob books, and each child's full name and address. History, science, music, physical education, and Spanish are done a few times a week but not every day. For history I am reading them children biographies of famous people, and starting a timeline of early America. For science, we are keeping nature study books (Charotte Mason) and performing fun little science experiments. Spanish is BBC's "Muzzy" videos and Spanish/English books on tape. Music is piano lessons by me for the little ones and listening to music and learning songs. Also, Goldilocks is joining the Homeschool Choir. Physical education consists of outdoor games, YMCA swimming, long walks (more than 1/2 mile), and classes (ballet classes and swimming lessons). Throughout the year, we will also be dabbling into mini-unit studies of books from Five in A Row, Vol. I .
Here are two of the little ones working on a noodle number graph.
Our afternoons are filled with outside play, science projects, baking, visiting with friends and errands. We also enjoy taking long walks on days that the weather is nice. Also, the kids often watch a special video or the PBS channel in the afternoon for an hour or so, while I work on a hard concept with the big teen. About once a week, all of the children will help with a cooking and baking project. This is a time of great excitement, and often it is hard to make sure that the treat is still intact when Dad gets home. Our children are allowed to have two outside activities each at any given time. Goldilocks will be in the homeschool choir and homeschool art classes. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Ridinghood will be taking semi-private swimming lessons. Little Red Ridinghood will also be taking a preschool dance class. The big teen spends a lot of time at the nature center, but he is considering taking a chess class, too.
A glimpse into our homeschool would not be complete without stating that character training and working to better our community is at the forefront of our thoughts as parents. There are days when working through a character flaw in a child takes precedence over all else. This is fine, since having children who become adults that are productive, community-minded citizens with kind and charitable hearts, is more important than how much math or history they have under their belts. We also have a character trait of the week (or month if it is one we struggle with). For example, this week we are working on Stewardship with a slant toward conserving our resources (turning off lights when you leave the room, etc.). For the three youngest, much of this training starts at home doing chores with happy hearts and showing kindness to family members and others. They do participate in several charities each year, such as Operation Christmas Child and Heifer International. For our big teen, working at the food bank and other activities with our church are often on his schedule.
I often am questioned by people about how I can homeschool with so many special needs children. The answer is with a lot of faith, and I actually don't know what it's like to not live with special needs children. In other words, I don't really know that it can be easier. When I said in the opening that having special needs kids has both enhanced and complicated homeschooling, I meant that having these children has made me a better parent. I have had to strive harder to find the right resources and learn how to parent/teach my children effectively. For example, learning the Tomato Staking parenting style has been so important to our family. Due to my Goldilocks' behavior issues, I was searching for how to run the home more smoothly with her constant disruptions. Tomato Staking is the answer to my prayers and has helped a great deal. Learning to live with children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction has helped me learn how to run a calmer home. I have a tendency to overstimulate children. My sensory boys have also taught me so much about learning styles and how to introduce things that are gentle on the senses. I could go on but you get the point. Is it easy? NO!!! Is it worth it? YES!!!!! As you all know, every one of us faces a challenge in our homeschool journey -- that is what makes it our calling.
Here is a list of some of my favorite resources --
- Home Education (The Original Home Schooling Series) by Charlotte Mason -- This six-volume set is a great resource once you get used to the Old English prose. It is just jam-packed with info and has even given me insight into parenting my RAD child.
- Blockbusters Online -- There is a wealth of documentaries and movies about famous people and events as well as great literature that has been put to film at this site. Best yet I just keep a running list and the movies arrive in my mailbox when I need them.
- Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola -- I love anything by Karen Andreola! I come back to this book year after year and seem to glean something new each time.
- Hints On Child Training by H.C. Trumbull -- This book is a wonderful guide that has helped me several times over the years with children who are stong willed.
- PBS Television -- We tape shows that will fit in with our schooling throughout the year. I find that there are many great shows about artists, "Masterpiece Theater", music and college/GED classes that are great resources. I use these shows for my big teen, who loses his focus easily, as a fun addition to our normal curriculum.
- What Your _____Grader Needs to Know (Core Knowledge series) -- As I said before, I use this loosely. It has helped me slow down. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and skip over some of the building blocks when teaching. This series reminds me of how to start with the foundation and teach up.
- Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock -- This is a must for a Charlotte Mason teacher of older kids. The lessons and resources in this book make nature study a very complete and educational experience.
- "The Bible on CD As Told by Max McLean" -- This is a great resource and having it on CD makes my life so much easier. My big teen loves to listen to it in the car and it can go anywhere with us. If I am looking up something, I usually go to the family Bible; but if we are listening to the Bible for a lesson, I use the Bible on CD.