I hinted in this post that our days look a lot different than they have in the past. And they do. Our school day is shorter, more focused and dare I say, less Waldorf. I have an “ideal” day which we are working toward: it includes free reading and art enrichment in the morning and then two main lessons. For now, however, we are “treading water” – preserving our relationships and focusing on the academic essentials. Here’s a look at what’s working:
Drawing: Vincent is methodically working through the book Mapping the World with Art. We both love this curriculum! It uses a combination of background reading, freehand map drawing and numerous supplemental activities to teach geography and cartography. (There is a companion CD that demonstrates some of the drawing lessons, but I didn’t find this necessary.) Jude has spent his drawing time ploughing through Ed Emberley’s drawing books (again). This series is well-loved at our house and a must-have for the “What can I do?” shelf. I am compiling their drawings in a binder to show progress and also to remind me how much time they are spending at their desks (WITHOUT ME!) doing something very worthwhile.
Writing: I purchased Julie Bogart’s Brave Writer curriculum this summer and we are taking suggestions from The Writer’s Jungle and The Arrow to extend Vincent’s composition skills. While Friday Freewrites have been hit or miss, I’m trying to take a long view. I have also incorporated notebooking pages into Vincent’s main lessons, because main lesson books have never, ever worked for him. He has trouble orienting text and images on the page and having lines and a border/margin pre-defined helps him to concentrate on composition. We are using a variety of pages from this set and this one, specifically about explorers, is taking us through the entire semester.
Math: For the upper grades (starting in grade 5), I use the first semester of a new grade to reinforce skills from the previous year and wait to introduce new material until the second semester. Vincent is continuing to use the Key to series (focusing on Measurement and finishing Decimals and Percents) along with Jamie York’s free speed sheets. For some reason, he doesn’t like the MMM workbook, so we are still doing Old School Math for both mental and written practice. We will take a break from the subject in November and December will see our third and final geometric drawing block. This has been a favorite and we love using this curriculum from Melisa Nielsen. I am also hoping to sneak in a few lessons in constructing Platonic solids out of paper and clay while we listen to Christmas carols before the holidays.
Audio/Visual: I started incorporating a couple of documentaries into our blocks last year. We watched some real gems and had fabulous discussions over dinner, recapping what we watched for Tom. This year, I decided to make this a regular part of our homeschooling and we are subsequently enjoying “Filmstrip Friday.” About twice a month, we watch something from Netfilx, youtube or the library. I am doing a free 30-day trial of Discovery Education’s streaming, but don’t think I’ll cough up the $100 for the year. I am also using audiobooks almost exclusively for afternoon story time – thanks to audible.com and the library. I read to both boys almost every day for main lesson, and reading aloud in the afternoon was feeling overwhelming. Using audio books lets me just enjoy hearing the story along with them. I would like this to be a time for handwork as well, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Things to work on / Soliciting Advice, Suggestions, HELP!
Reading: This is really a post in and of itself, but suffice to say for now, neither of my boys read fiction on their own. They are both voracious readers, but it is exclusively non-fiction and magazines. I recently read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (thank you Alison) and she reminded me how important it is to dedicate time in the school day for free-reading. I want this time to be for fiction, but so far I am being met with big-time resistance. Like I said, I have a whole post in the works about this, but wanted to know if anyone else has this issue.
Other: I want to add in some enrichment time in the mornings for both boys. Art appreciation, music appreciation OR nature journaling. Admittedly, at one point, I wanted to do all three – one a day, a la Charlotte Mason. However that is not realistic, so for now, I want to choose one. I found some great resources for nature journaling, but cannot seem to get the gumption to actually do it. I like the looks of this program for music appreciation. Our library has a couple of their cds, so I’m going to sample those first. Anybody have any other suggestions – especially for art appreciation??