Sunday, August 09, 2009

The coming homeschool year

I've been working hard on my plans so I'm going to jump on the Not Back-to-School bandwagon and share my idea(l)s. My apologies if I’ve ever sounded smug about my homeschooling. I think homeschooling a single child under a certain age (I think under 4th grade), can be easy. I certainly don’t feel that way now with my oldest turning 10 this year, and my second child being well into school years. I want to offer them some content as well as helping them to develop their skills , but not overwhelm them (or, just as important, me) with work. I want to pick a few excellent resources for us to use, and I worry over finding the right ones. I prefer living books, and consider myself a secular Charlotte Mason educator.

My boys are 9 (P), 7 (M), and 5 (E) ; fourth grade, second grade, and kindergarten. We will continue to use Ambleside Online as our guide.

I've thought a lot about whether to combine the studies of any of my boys -- doing three different years is definitely a bit daunting. However, I don't want to hold the oldest back, or force one of the younger children to jump in at a higher level, so for now my plan is that they will all work on their own level, with separate materials for history, geography, literature, and some math and science. I'll have to push my oldest to do more of his own reading to make this work; it's hard for me to let go of knowing everything he reads, and it will be hard for him, too, because he likes me to read to him. I'll read the literature selections to him, but my hope is that he can take over the rest. We'll also do some topics together such as artist and composer study, Shakespear studies, and nature study

For my fourth grader I am planning to use the following: For history, This Country of Ours, by H.E. Marshall, George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster, Poor Richard by James Daugherty, and Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober. For geography, Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling. For math I'm leaning toward Math Mammoth as being a little more useable than MEP, which I used last year. I want to de-empasize the workbook (use them as a guide) and use more Living Math. I'm hoping this list of math readers from the Massachusetts DOE will prove useful.

We'll use the AO 4 Lit selections: The Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, as well as some shorter works.

We will do some poetry, but I'm not sure if we'll use the AO 4 selections for the family, use difference selections as a family, or do different poems with different boys. I have a long free reading list for P to choose from -- I think I'm going to ask for two books he selects from my list per term, but we'll see how that goes.

I've done a lot of thinking about our science selections. We'll read Physics Lab in the Home by Robert Friedhoffer. I would like to cover some earth science also and have requsted the following from the library to evaluate: How the Earth works / John Farndon, and Shaping the earth / Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. We own The Earth by Barbara Taylor, but it's what I consider a factoid book and not the type of material I prefer to use. We may also read material about evolution and/or read a biography of Charles Darwin. I'll use DVDs here also (see Nature Study, below).

I plan to teach my oldest italic cursive this year, continue doing copywork, do some written narrations, and start doing dictation. I may have him learn to type this year. I also plan to do some Plutarch, using Our Young Folks' Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman. We need to do a little grammar, perhaps using Primary Language Lessons, by Emma Serl, or perhaps just expanding on Mad Libs.

A focus with my second grader will be his reading skills, and my hope is to be low key but do consistent and regular work with him. His little brother is breathing down his neck with reading skills and I think my middle boy will be happier if he can stay a step ahead of his little brother, even if he has to work hard to do it.

M enjoys language, and is interested right now in Norse mythology and medieval times. We'll read Viking Tales, an AO 1 selection that we didn't get to yet. We'll use early chapters of This Country of Ours and Child's History of the World, by Hillyer for history, and I may look for ways to supplement that, although our literature selections may be sufficient to fill it in some history. We'll use Holling's Tree in the Trail and probably Seabird for geography and more history. This child is very sensitive, and I'm not sure how he'll feel about whale hunting. History tales will also include The Little Duke, by Charlotte Younge. We'll try Understood Betsy, The Wind in the Willows, and Robin Hood for literature, as well as other selections, including Shakespeare stories (we'll try Leon Garfield's book, and Jim Weiss's audio).

Science selections will include The Kids' Book of Awesome Stuff by Charlene Brotman which I enjoyed with P two years ago, and Pagoo, by Holling.

I'll be a little more flexible with the reading selections for M, as working on basic reading and writing skills is where I'll need to pick my battles. I plan to use children's readers and other children's books to work on his reading, and we may add a phonics resource. His computation is good, I'lll try to keep in fresh with living math, but will probably use Math Mammoth with M also.

If we do individual poetry selections, I'll use this compilation from Ambleside for the two younger boys.

I like to unschool for kindergarten, and my youngest has lots of interests (unschools well;). I own MFW K program, so I may use that for guidance as well as making sure we have a good selection of books to read. I use the lists from AO0, Mater Amabilis, and Five in a Row for guidance in selecting books.

I plan to do some things with all three boys, perhaps even starting that way in the morning after doing family chores (this would be new for us, but worked well one day recently). However, we have a tea-time ritual, and composer and artist study will be saved for tea time on occasional afternoons. I'm hoping to do the following together: hymns (from our UU hymnal), virtues, a bible story a week from Penny Gardner's list, foreign language (Spanish, probably), art, song/folksong, and perhaps recorder for the older two.

As I've noted before, we struggle with nature studies, but we continue to work on it. Last year we watched the complete DVD series Life of Mammals (David Attenborough). This year I plan to use Handbook of Nature Study bird challenges, and follow that study of common backyard birds with the Life of Birds DVD series (also David Attenborough). I may also look for DVDs for learning about the earth, space, and evolution.

That's it, and it's subject to change to meet our needs.

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