September Studies

We are only two weeks into September and it has already been quite an exciting month.  Last week, we enjoyed a beautiful hike at South Mountain State Park as a family.  We continued the fun this week as we visited the Cabarrus County Agribusiness Fair in Concord on Tuesday, the National White Water Center on Wednesday for some white water rafting and Latta Plantation on Thursday for Muddy Boots Class.

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The kids began their Waldorf lessons this month as well.  Parks is continuing with the IEW program that I wrote about here.  He is doing very well with writing and is actually enjoying it.  We are continuing with fairy tales, folk tales and classic stories.

 

Sawyer is in the third grade.  This year she will be studying the Jewish faith and history.  We began her lessons by reading the book, Meet Rebecca.  Rebecca is one of the American Girl Characters.  We then researched on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper.  This week, we started the creation story.  She is truly enjoying the art that goes along with the story.  Next week, we plan to finish the creation story and do a little geography on Israel.

 

Sims is in the fifth grade.  He started his Waldorf studies with a quick review of the United States.  He looked at the regions of the US and how they have changed over the years.  He is beginning to learn the states and their capitals.  This week, we “flew” over to Africa for a quick study of Africa.  We studied the geography and history of Africa.  Sims was amazed at how much the history of Africa was similar to that of the US with European exploration and trade.  We also thoroughly enjoyed a few African folk stories and fairy tales.

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I hope your studies are going well also.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Making the Curriculum Work for Us..First Grade

As I have stated in several past posts, we do not follow one set curriculum. We are very eclectic with our choices. I also do not follow each curriculum exactly the way the curriculum recommends. I tweak each one to work for each child. We have not gotten into all of our subjects yet with my older two kiddos. We are easing into the year this month.

Last year, my littlest guy worked through Melissa Neilson’s first grade Waldorf program, Waldorf Essentials.  He was only in kindergarten but I felt the material would be good for him.  Now starting first grade, what do I do?  He is not ready for the saints and the second grade curriculum so I had to look for something else.  I decided upon the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language Writing Program as our main lesson book.

I am 90% sure that he has dysgraphia as my oldest son and I do.  He still has a difficult time orienting letters and numbers, spacing letters, and getting his thoughts down on paper (yes, I know he is only 6..smile).  The PAL’s program begins with letter formation using stories to give clues for the letters.  We used Handwriting without Tears for my older kids and it worked fairly well.  However, my little guy could not grasp the concepts for some reason with the HWT’s verbal commands.  I was concerned how the new program would work.  Well, so far he loves it.  He is enjoying the writing portion of his lessons and he is writing his letters beautifully and in the lines!  Small steps make a big difference in later years.

The writing program also uses fairy tales and folk tales to teach writing as does the Waldorf first grade curriculum.  PALs uses a new story each day.  This is where my tweaking comes in.  We are reading a story one day and drawing a picture, painting or sculpting.  On the second day, he dictates the story synopsis to me and I write it down.  We are doing a two-day cycle with the story.  The PAL’s writing program also recommends All About Spelling which we have done in the past.  We are trying out Apples and Pears this year.  I have not started it yet, as he is just now getting his letters down.  We plan to start it soon.

He is very motivated to start reading more this year (we used some rivalry with this one and it worked).  He has not been very interested in reading up to this point.  His motivation seems to come in spurts.  Right now, his motivation is high as he has a cousin who is reading fairly well and he want to be able to read like his cousin.      We are using the reading program called Dancing Bears.  So far, it is very straight forward and carrying over into other areas.  Hopefully, he will remain motivated and be reading like crazy by the end of the year.

Let’s hope the excitement of the past two weeks will continue as we move into more structured days.  For now we are getting our creative juices going and trying to find a new rhythm that will work for us during the school year.

Get Out the Planner..Part 1

Last school year, I planned the school year out in May! I was not on top of things like that this year. I needed more time for researching curriculums. We are entering our third year of homeschooling, and we are still figuring some things out. Last year, I planned one thing and ended up doing almost an entirely different thing. I am hoping that this year, we will do better. So what does next year look like so far? I am continuing to follow two main theories of teaching-Waldorf and Montessori. I like several pieces of each so I plan to integrate parts of the two philosophies into our year.

Both philosophies are developmentally driven-meaning they follow the development of the child. In our house, all three children are in the second phase of development. I am excited about this and planning to use it to my advantage. In this phase of development, both philosophies have the teacher as a guide who gives the students information in the form of a lesson. The children are then given time to inquire, research, and experience the lessons in their own way. Another similarity between the two philosophies is the importance of having movement throughout the day and with the lessons. I definitely have two kinesthetic learners who benefit from this approach. Finally, both Montessori and Waldorf hold nature as a very important part of the child’s educational experience. From previous posts, I am sure you can see how important nature is to all three of my kiddos. Going on a hike can cure any bad day and bring all three of them together.

So why not follow just one philosophy? Well, that is the beauty of homeschooling. I can take what I like from multiple philosophies and make them work for us. Our initial schooling was Montessori. I LOVE the Montessori materials and dream of having a beautiful environment filled with all of the beautiful materials. The reality of the situation is we are at home. We do not have the space to have all of the materials nor the number of children to justify purchasing the materials. How do I incorporate Montessori into our homeschool experience? We integrate many of the materials that we have into our daily activities including the metal insets, the 100 board, the Pythagoras board, the multiplication board, the division board, the bead chains, diagraming sentences, timelines, puzzle maps and many cards for naming, grammar, science and social studies. This year, I am also starting a monthly work plan for Sims (5th grade) and Sawyer (3rd grade). I will have Parks work on a daily work plan. Work plans are a general outline for them to follow. It will allow them some independence in their work and give them a guide for the year.

Here is an example of Sawyer’s work plan. It still has some revising, but you can see the general outline. April Work plan grade 3

As much as I love Montessori, I have found a few things that we were missing such as bringing in work that uses the imagination. This is where I fell in love with the Waldorf approach. It brings drawing, painting and sculpting into daily work. The philosophy also uses stories to teach the children, and the stories are focused on the stage of the child. An example is using folktales and fairy tales in the early years (kindergarten through second or third grade) to teach morals and lessons and moving onto the myths in later years-starting in the upper elementary years. Waldorf also brings religion into the teachings. We are not a religious family so this is a terrific way to introduce my children to the many cultures and religions around the world. Last year, Sawyer studied the Saints and the Christian religion. This year, she will look into the Jewish faith. Meanwhile, Sims studied the Norse Myths last year and will go into Hinduism, Buddhism and the Greek myths this year. Parks will continue reading folktales and fairy tales.

Next for the specifics of the year.