Get Out the Planner….Part Two

In my last post, I spoke about the philosophies we tend to follow in our home in regards to schooling.  Today, let’s get into the nitty gritty…curriculum.

For the first time, we are going to loosely follow a science curriculum.  I have chosen the R.E.A.L Odyssey Earth and Science program and the chemistry program.  Both programs appear fairly hands on with lots of labs-which is a big plus for us.  My plan is to have the Earth and Science curriculum out with all of the needed materials available.  We will go over the big picture lesson together and then they will be able to pick which labs they want to follow up with.  I plan to do chemistry during a block, or maybe two, later in the year. 

The kids are in three very different grades.  This year we will have a first, third and fifth grader!  Parks’ main curriculum will come from the Institute for Excellence’s Primary Art of Language program.  I plan to use the program with a Waldorf Twist.  He will use his main lesson book for the work and we will go through it using folk tales and fairy tales.  For math, he will continue with Singapore math along with Montessori math using materials.  I found a new reading and spelling program this summer that I am very excited to get into.  We already started the reading program and so far it is terrific.  The programs are by Sound Foundations.  The reading program is called Dancing Bears and the spelling is called Apples and Pears. 

The mighty third grader is going to delve into Waldorf Essential’s third year program which focuses on the Jewish religion and the Old Testament.  The fifth grade Waldorf Essential’s program is filled with adventures from ancient civilizations, Greek mythology and geometry.  Along with their Waldorf curriculum, they will do teaching textbooks for math along with Montessori math and Apples and Pears for spelling.  Together, they will also use Institute for Excellence in Writing to begin some more formal writing. 

I am still trying to narrow down which chapter books we will read together.  If you have suggestion, I would love to hear them!  I would love to find a few books with themes that will flow with what they are learning. 


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.

Three Blocks in April

We are headed into our last block of the year!  I cannot believe we have almost completed two full years!  The month of April has been a lot of fun; although a little tough too.  Many times, the blocks cross over each other and we can do some lessons together.  This month, everyone had a very different block!  Sawyer completed a block on the Jataka and the Anansi Tales.  Sims completed a block on human anatomy.  And Parks worked through the first Life of Fred Book called Apples.  Each kiddo has thoroughly enjoyed this block and has done a lot this month.  Instead of trying to cram it all into one post (which may be very long and boring), I am going to break them up into three different blogs (shorter and hopefully, slightly more entertaining).

The Jataka and Anansi tales are not only entertaining and humorous, but also full of history and lessons.  The Jataka tales are stories native to India that tell the previous lives of the Buddha in both human and animal form.  The first two weeks of the month, Sawyer went through The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Turtle Who Couldn’t Stop Talking and The Turtle Who Saved His Own Life.  The Jataka tales are perfect for the 8-year-old moving into the 9-year-old change.  All three of my kiddos are talker to the second story really hit home for all three of them.

The last two weeks of the month, Sawyer moved onto the Anansi Tales. The Anansi Tales are historically West African and Caribbean folklore.   First, she learned about how Anansi became a spider.  Then she learned about many of the tricks that Anansi did such as Anansi and Tying the Tiger, Anansi and the Talking Melon and Anansi in Tiger Soup.  Anansi is a very tricky spider who has the ability to become powerful even as a little spider by using his wit.

Another aspect of these stories, we enjoyed was comparing them to many of the other stories we have read throughout the year.  Anansi is very similar to the Coyote who read about in several Native American folk stories.  The same themes keep emerging and it is fun to see her realizing the similarities.  I look forward to going into more history of the stories when we go through these again with Parks in the second grade!

A Whole is Simply the Sum of Its Parts

So what do prime numbers, factoring, multiples and division all have in common?  Why do we learn them?

Welcome to the second math block of the year!  In the first math block, Sims worked on prime numbers, factoring, complex multiplication, long division and reviewing addition/subtraction.  The second math block focuses mainly on, you guessed it, FRACTIONS!  When I think of fractions, I mainly think how many parts of a whole.  However, as I review fractions to teach them to Sims, I am amazed at how much more there is to them and how they bring everything we’ve done so far this year together,

First, we focused on the simple things such as how to name them.  For a child with dyslexia, we had to focus quite a bit on the “ths” sound at the end of tenths and hundredths.  Next we discussed all the places we casually use fractions in our daily lives; such as distance, cooking, filling the gas tank and of course money.  In Montessori, we use circles and look at how to break up circles into pieces.  In Waldorf, we use a fraction tree.  Since we use both methods, we did both.  Then, Sims took it a step further and made a fraction hand.  I was pretty impressed with his idea and it worked well.

Over the next few weeks, we will begin working with fractions more in-depth.  We will bring in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions.  The fun of fourth grade math.

Fraction Hand1, 1/5,1/10, 1/20

 Fraction Hand
1, 1/5,1/10, 1/20

Fraction Tree with Roots1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. 1/16, 1//6. 1/12

Fraction Tree with Roots
1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. 1/16, 1//6. 1/12

Montessori Fraction Circle

Montessori Fraction Circle



A Schedule? What?

ImageMany people ask me about our schedule.  We are out and about a good bit (however, that amount extremely less than last year!).  I remember at one conference, Andrew Pudewa of IEW said that his kids were more like car schoolers than homeschoolers.  I felt this way last year.  In fact, if we were in the car-then the kids were working.

Waldorf schooling focuses quite a bit on rhythm.  Montessori focuses on allowing the kids to have an extended period of uninterrupted time in order to complete their research and work.  Well formally, we don’t fall into either of these of these.  However, we do use aspects of these.

As far as Montessori, the kids get daily periods of uninterrupted time to research and complete their work.  They get to chose what work they want to do and when they want to do the work.  They each have four to five basic items to complete daily (math, grammar, journal, reading and lessons).  Beyond the basics, I give general ideas and the kids can run with them.  An example is Sims’ most recent month.  In his curriculum by Waldorf Essentials, he is to research his state.  We went to the library to look up NC and to decide what to research.  He chose the history of NC, NC geography and the Native American tribe of the Cherokee.

As far as Waldorf goes, we do not follow a specific daily rhythm.  However, we do have a weekly rhythm.  Mondays are PE; Tuesdays are dance and gymnastics; Wednesdays are art; Thursdays are Latta Plantation, music and gymnastics (a way overscheduled day, obviously); and Fridays are horses.  This is how my kids know what comes next.  They know what happens on each day so they are able to prepare.

On a daily basis. the schedule hasn’t changed much since I wrote earlier.  The kids wake up between 6:45 and 7:45.  They eat breakfast and feed the animals.  Then they play for a little while before we “start school.”  We do not have anything that starts before 11 so they can work uninterrupted from 830 to 1030.  This gives them time to be artisitc, research, and follow their interests.  Then they have throughout the day to work on their daily work.

As far as the other things that have to get done in a house, yes, we are still figuring that stuff out two years later!  I am getting the dishes and the laundry done finally. Everyone has a laundry day.  Parks puts his laundry in the washer on Sunday (his day).  The clothes are washed and dried on Sunday.  Then when I awake on Monday, I fold his clothes and put them in a basket for him to put away.  So far this system works well.  If the kids don’t bring their clothes down on their specified day, then it is up to them to do everything (wash, dry, fold and put away).  This also is the case if I find clothes that I know are clean in the laundry (or those that are still folded).  I also empty the dishwasher before the kids wake up also.  If someone wakes up early, they are typically very willing to help with these chores.  Cleaning is still a tough one.  I try to get it done on the weekends but that doesn’t always happen.  Then we try to get it done piece by piece throughout the week.

The nice part about our method is that it works for our family.  I have read many people’s rhythms and methods to get everything done in the week.  What I have learned from the many, many blogs and articles that I have read is that you must find your own rhythm.  You must work within your own family-homeschooling or not.  We all have a schedule that we must adjust to and we have to find what works for us.

Have you found a good rhythm for your days and weeks?

Making time for Art

Art according to is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”  To me, art is a way to express yourself and your feelings that is out of the ordinary.  As I have written in previous posts, one of the areas that appealed to me with Waldorf education is the importance of art and handiwork in the everyday curriculum.  Our typical week involves at least two days of creating an art piece in our main lesson books depicting what was discussed or taught.  When I initially looked at the curriculum, I immediately thought, “Sims will not like this but Sawyer and Parks will love it.”  Well, Sims has completely blown me away with how much he loves to depict what he has learned.

Beginning in January, the kids also started taking an art class through our local parks and recreation department.  So far, they have learned about Monet, Renoir, Matis and a local artist who uses collage and mixed mediums.  Every week the kids look forward to this class and learning about the different artists.  They have even brought out a lot of our art books at home with the many different artists they have learned about.  The kids also started music back up this semester with Sawyer on the violin, Sims on the drums, and Parks taking an intro music class in which he learns piano, violin, recorder, drums and the pipe organ.  We have been at it for about 6 weeks now.  This week I began to feel overwhelmed and to think that maybe we should back off.  Then I heard them play their instruments and saw how much they enjoy the art of music.  Now, their “art” of music is far from the definition above and to most I am sure it is more like noise.  However, I know how much they enjoy it and can see how they are using it to express their feelings.

Another exciting part of our homeschool is art appreciation.  Just as the kids see the beauty in nature and take the time to observe nature, they also see the beauty in art and take the time to observe it all over.  They are able to discuss what they do and do not like about an art piece and how it makes them feel.  (Unfortunately, they also are able to tell their siblings how their music makes them feel which is not always the nicest…smile.)   They are also realizing the talent, patience, and perseverance it must take professional artist to create such amazing masterpieces.

How do you incorporate art into your homeschool?  Do you see value in it?

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” Thomas Merton

The time has flown since I last sat down to write.  Two weeks ago, our life was chaotic and out of balance.  We have since slowed down and found our rhythm again.  Last week was finally back to “normal.”  Everyone awoke, ate, played and headed to the school room each day.  We had our morning meetings and everyone got to work.

Parks hard at work They are working! Sawyer in deep thought.

A few things helped.  Taking the time to review what has changed is so helpful when trying to uncover chaos.  In my last post, I took the time to look at what we were missing.  I realized we had lost our rhythm and not been going outside as much.  Last week we focused on these areas as well as finding some fun research.

Parks is taking a class called Animal Discoveries at Latta Plantation Nature Center.  His first class was on reptiles, and the second was on amphibians.  We are using this class to guide some of the children’s research, and to give Parks an opportunity to be the teacher (being the youngest, he doesn’t get the opportunity to teach as much as to be taught to).  For the past few weeks, the kids were supposed to be researching a reptile or amphibian of their choice.  Of course, nothing happened with the research other than hitting the library two weeks ago when I was hitting my head against a wall.  🙂  Last week, however, the kids got to work.  They all researched and learned and shared.

On Thursday, the kids went to Latta and took a look at the reptiles and amphibians.

On Thursday, the kids went to Latta and took a look at the reptiles and amphibians.

We ended the week by celebrating the winter solstice with a hike and some hot chocolate.  It was a cold hike but so worth the ending.  We watched the sunset over the lake with its beautiful shades of yellow, orange, pink and purple.  We are looking forward to the longer days to follow!

Using his binoculars, Parks is on a misson to find some birds.

Using his binoculars, Parks is on a mission to find some birds.

Waiting for the sun to set.

Waiting for the sun to set.

It's beautiful!

It’s beautiful!

Sunset on the night of the Winter Solstice.

Sunset on the night of the Winter Solstice.