Aug 16, 2016

And So, It Begins

First Day of Our Homeschool

Where we live, the public-schooled kids have been in school since the end of July, and even the charter school where my seminary kids attend began on August 1st. You could say that the school year is in full swing around here!

And, so, after a summer full of planning, we have jumped into a new school year.

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

I think the question I get asked the most these days, is "How do you teach all of the different ages of kids in your house?"

My knee-jerk response is "Not easily," but when I think about it, I recognize that an effective system has formed for us over the years. Here's how we tackle every age from high school senior down to pre-school:

1) Foundational Years

Through my personal experiences over the years, I have become a firm believer that young children need only a few things to learn effectively: a secure and happy home, time to be outside and/or playing, lessons in faith, working together with the family, and being read to.

I consider the foundational years to be between birth and six to eight years old-- the age of accountability. I know many children who are quite gifted, and can learn many academic or musical subjects at an early age, but to me, the priorities of learning faith, work, and play are the MOST necessary for little ones to successfully navigate the world and all the learning that is to come as they grow older.

There are many child development experts (1) and studies (2) that agree with my assertions, but I won't go into great depth on this subject right now. (See the links accompanying the footnotes below.) That's another post for another day. For now, just trust me when I say that I have come to this conclusion after many years of trying to do too much, too early with my little ones.
These are my littles, enjoying their new, fun, school-time-only toys and activities.

2) Exploration Years

Around kindergarten age, I do begin to add in handwriting for my children-- even before they can read on their own. I have found this to help with the process of learning to read, and because of the law of the harvest, I find that children need TIME to learn and practice legible handwriting.

I came to this conclusion rather painfully, thanks to my older "guinea pig" children. Some of them flourished and excelled at handwriting, due to their personal interests. However, my older boys really struggled-- and some still struggle-- with their handwriting. Now that they are adults and teens, they find their babyish handwriting embarrassing, and getting them to write anything by hand is a real struggle. 

This is one area where unschooling was a big failure for us-- at least for our boys. The experience taught me that there truly are some areas where the Law of the Harvest can not be ignored or forced.

Our children between six and fourteen years old join us for what I like to call "Table Time." This is where we do our foundational learning for the day. I follow Charlotte Mason's beliefs that lessons should be short and rich. My goal is to spread an "education feast" with a wide variety of subjects and types of learning. 

I use many of the LDS Church's free and available resources, which makes planning Table Time a real breeze. And I am all for SIMPLICITY!

Our "Table Time" goes as follows:
  • Prayer
  • Scripture Recitation and Memorization (We use the seminary scripture mastery scriptures.)
  • Copywork (This is where the kids copy down the scripture we are memorizing.)
  • Reading aloud of a scripture story. (We use the Church's scripture readers for this.)
  • Poetry reading by Mom (This term's poet is Robert Louis Stevenson.)
  • Reading aloud of a classic book.
  • Swedish Drills OR a Dance Party, depending on the mood. ;-)
And then, we do some learning in our weekly subjects. For example:
  • Mondays are History (American History this year)
  • Tuesdays are Music Study (This term's composer is George Friedrich Handel)
  • Wednesdays are for Art Study (This term's artist is Jean-Francois Millet)
  • Thursdays are for Nature Study/Science
  • Fridays are for Shakespeare (Edith Nesbit's Stories of Shakespeare is great for reading the stories. I am a Shakespeare purist, but there are some themes too vast for younger children. We DO watch a Shakespeare play on video once a month. See this link to find family-friendly versions of the Bard's plays to watch.)
Math is then done by taking turns on the computers, using my two favorite resources:
  • CTC Math- This is a very affordable subscription (non-Common Core!) website that teaches math concepts and gives the students math exercises. As a homeschool parent, I have a LOT of control on the back end, which I really appreciate. I am not paid to promote them at all-- I can't rave about them enough!
  • XtraMath- I use this for my younger kids. It is FREE, the lessons are short and it is just good, old-fashioned math drilling.
As big as this list may seem, we are actually pretty much done each day by noon! 

Some days, we may want to take longer reading aloud in our current book, and so that can flow over into the afternoon hours. Also, the kids twelve and older have extra assignments for their history and science that they work on independently in the afternoon.

Our Scripture for memorizing and copywork

Scholastic Years

I consider this stage of learning our High School years, and students can begin work at the high school level from the age of twelve to fourteen. (Girls usually start early, and boys usually start late.)

I'd like to go more into depth on homeschooling through high school in a later post, but for now, I'll just say that they mostly work independently. They do counsel with my husband and I about their educational path, and they are accountable to me as their mentor, school counselor, and teacher.

New Beginnings

It is so nice to get back into the routine of a new school year! I hope all my readers have a great new beginning to their school year, as well.

Happy learning!

Love,

Jul 23, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

(Image source unknown)


There are many approaches to homeschool.

There are even many ways to homeschool using the Charlotte Mason method.

It is my understanding that most sane Charlotte Mason-ish moms use prepared curriculum outlines like they have at Ambleside Online.

Or they use the beautifully organized planner at Simply Charlotte Mason.

But me?

Let me just put it this way: I am incapable of doing ANYTHING the "easy" way.

It is just not in the fabric of my being to do so.

I am the queen of customizing EVERYTHING.

I tweak things, I adapt things, and I mess with things until they are unrecognizable from where they began.

Maybe it's the stubborn, bratty little girl inside me, but I simply can't leave well enough alone.

So, guess what? I have been creating our homeschool plan all summer, and I'm STILL planning.

Yup.

I could not leave well enough alone, and am in the throes of making The Simple-- well, Difficult.

You can always count on me!!!

What the heck is my problem?


Here are my issues with following the simple and straightforward:
  1. The resources at Ambleside Online are really mostly amazing, and I know that many women have put countless hours into organizing everything-- especially for the younger grades.

    That being said, there are also many things that I just can't assign to my kids. Being LDS (Mormon) and doing all I can to raise my children in my faith, I cannot in good conscience read anti-Mormon books to my little ones.

    Now, I could skip those passages that specifically refer to my faith, but if that is the viewpoint of the author, my trust in the resource is gone.

  2. Another thing: most of the books recommended in the upper grades are all about Christian missionaries and are not the classical resources I was really hoping my kids would learn. While the younger grades all have rigorous academic work and books, the upper grades seem totally devoted to reinforcing Christian beliefs, and leave academics to the past.

    I have NOTHING against strengthening the faith and beliefs of my children. Goodness knows how much my youth need it! But as LDS members, we already have so many resources available to us as members for teaching and reinforcing our beliefs, that I already have it covered.

    I need a list of the classics and great works of ancient and modern thinkers which will challenge and enrich all the great things that my kids learned in the earlier years. And I have not yet been able to find the list of books that fits what I want my teens to leave our homeschool knowing.

  3. I have MANY children. I refuse to plan for each one, grade by grade.

    That's crazy talk, right there.

    If I were to plan according to grade, I would run stark mad from my house to register them all in Montessori or other charter schools tomorrow.

    I know my limits, and I will be COMBINING all the lessons I can, thank you very much. Interestingly enough, I will be following dear Charlotte's example by splitting my kids into three lovely, manageable levels. She called them Form 1, Form 2, and Form 3. I have my own names for them, but I will share those in a future post. ;-)

  4. There are many, many resources out there, I know. My choices are not limited to those I have listed above. Frankly, I guess I must have "trust issues." I just want some things very specific for my kids.

    That, and I have OCD. Oh, so much OCD...

Adventure Is Out There!


So, what am I doing, then?

I'm so glad you asked!

I am starting from almost-scratch.

I am taking the things that worked for us last year, and I am adding to it. I'm tweaking it. Messing with it. Jumbling it up, and throwing out the things I don't like. I'm adding the things I miss and some new things I always wanted to try.

I am stepping onto the "road less traveled," and it gives me a little tingly thrill of excitement to imagine the adventure ahead of me!

I thought you might like to join me, so I plan to blog weekly to share a bit of what I'm doing.

In the end, I plan to make everything available here on this website. Heck, it might all turn into a book, if I get my act together.

Thank you for sharing in the journey with me!


Ambitiously yours,

Mama Rachel

May 21, 2016

Planning, planning, PLANNING


"Choose and act for yourself. Be motivated from within. Make a plan for your life, including education or vocational training. Explore interests and skills. Work and become self-reliant. Set goals, overcome mistakes, gain experience, and finish what you begin." ~Robert D. Hales

Please note: This blog post contains links to books, but none of the links are affiliate in nature. 


I LOVE to plan!

It is a strange part of my usually-spontaneous personality, but I think I get it from my Grandmother's side. She, her sisters and her mother were Super-Organizers, and I love to organize, too.

Yet, as with organizing, it is the PROCESS of planning that I love. Following the plans are not as attractive of an exercise for me.

But I really-- really-- need this to change, now that I am homeschooling with more purpose and planning.

Perpetual Change

We moved again in April, and even though we just moved to a larger house around the corner, it was almost as difficult as moving far away, except we got rid of less stuff. (Which is fine, since we moved into a much bigger house. Yay!)

The biggest issue with perpetual change is the chaos that it leaves in its wake. Our chore system has been turned inside out, which is helping me try to do more with a "Family Work" mindset. So far, it has worked well, but I do still need to list out the deeper cleaning tasks, and organize them into some kind of a rotation for us to do.

I feel like my brain is overflowing with jumbled, bright, and shiny ideas for every aspect of my life, but I have no clue where to begin!

Today I sat down and mind-mapped all the roles I am trying to fill personally, and it was a pretty full page, let me tell you! And this is after our Shakespeare play is long over and done with! 

(We started moving the week of our production. What kind of crazy-doodle-head does that? Me.)

I feel completely out of balance right now. With all of the changes going on, my priorities have all jumbled together into one big clump of confusion. Thinking through my roles helped quite a bit, but I think I need to take it down to the details, next.

Homeschool Planning

This summer is my time to PLAN and work out what I hope to do for homeschool this year. Here are all the people I will be teaching in the upcoming school year:
  • Miss B: 17 years old, High School Senior
  • Mr. G: 16, High School Junior
  • Miss D: 14, High School Freshman/Sophomore*
  • Mr. R: 12, 7th Grade
  • Miss M: 10, 5th Grade
  • Miss G: 9, 4th Grade
  • Miss A: 7, 2nd Grade
  • Miss E: 5, 1st Grade
I have made many plans for my homeschooled kids over the years, but none of them really worked-- mostly because they were created, but never followed, and with no accountability built in.

This past week, I had a chance to talk to a friend who has been homeschooling as long as I have, with lots of academic success. I was fortunate enough to see her academic plans in spreadsheet format on Google Drive for her third child. It was beautifully organized; easy to see what subjects and assignments her boy had finished, and what still needed to be done. 

Happily, she copied it and sent me a link that I could edit. I am so excited!!! I spent a couple days reworking it for my own kids, and it's been waaay more fun than you might think. (I love planning, remember?)

I really, REALLY want to make it work! Right now, I just have the subjects organized, and some of the resources I will be using, but I don't have any assignments plugged in yet. That will come as I gather my resources this summer.

Each subject has a column with its own color. Some subjects are weekly, and some are daily. A really cool thing my friend did, is to highlight the current row/week (a week on each row) with bright yellow (easy for the student to see what they have to do that week), and then fill in each subject's assignment with the subject's corresponding color once it's done. That leaves all weeks in the future plain white, and then anything that was not finished remains highlighted until it's completed.

You can take a look at a copy of my high school schedules "in-the-works" at this Google Drive link here.  

Curricula

Our homeschool has always been literature-based, and that is one of the things we will not change. I am convinced that the best learning comes from the best books, and when I give my children an assigned list each term, I can better make sure that the very best books get read.

I am looking at many lists of books, especially going through our many bookshelves for the books we love and have learned the most from. One of the best websites for long lists of "living books" for each age group is at Ambleside Online. They have a free "curriculum" there, with lists for each grade level.

I especially love Ambleside for children, and for their enrichment subjects, like Art and Music Study, but I have not been impressed with their High School curriculum, so far. I have decided to customize the book lists and assignments for my children age 12 and older. 

Another booklist I am using, though not in the exact same order, is from the book "Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens" by Oliver DeMille and Shanon Brooks

I am just beginning to make my lists, but so far, it is lots of fun! It's exciting to teach my kids using the books that have enriched my life the most.

I will try to continue sharing my journey planning for our homeschool, sharing what works, and even what doesn't. Happy planning until next time!

Love,
Rachel


*My daughter, Miss D, is officially a high school freshman in the Fall, but she was able to start LDS seminary this year, as an eighth grader. This worked well for my daughter who is graduating from seminary tomorrow night, though she won't really be a senior until this Fall. It's nice to be ahead in something!

Dec 1, 2015

December 2015 Term: Week One

"The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Rembrandt van Rijn

Our family is loving our time together each day, learning using Charlotte Mason principles. I do have to spend time planning each term, so that I can use a customized plan just for our family.

Planning ahead for each term helps me sooo much on a day to day basis. It makes our learning time flow smoothly, yet gives me lots of wiggle room to still be spontaneous within those plans.

Our first term of the school year just ended as we took a break for Thanksgiving, and now we are really having FUN with our special "December term" of homeschool. For years, I have hoped that we would spend all of December learning more about Christmas, the Savior, doing service, baking, and doing Christmas crafts.

But most Decembers have just flown by, with us running hither and yon, and we have done next to nothing for our homeschool learning in December. But not this year!!! I am excited on this December first to share our first ever December Homeschool Plan! I thought I would post our schedule each week, just in case  anyone wants to take advantage of all my planning. Here we go! (NO affiliate links are included in the list below.)

WEEK ONE

Merry Christmastide to all!

With joy,
Rachel