First Quarter Update

8 weeks down!  Can you believe that we are done with our first quarter of school?  So what is going well and what had to change, because you know things never go as planned?

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Parks is doing well.  He is enjoying his science program, Exploration Education, a ton!  In fact, I am pretty sure that he will be finished with it before the holidays.  He also enjoys grammar (I know odd, right?).  Reading is starting to come a little easier.  He is open to reading books a lot more this year.  Dancing Bears (our reading curriculum) is also doing a terrific job of teaching him how to break down words.  I started him with the Apples and Pears Spelling program (which works in conjunction with Dancing Bears nicely) at the end of last year.  He is continuing with this program.  He does very well spelling aloud but has a difficult time putting the words down on paper, so that is something that he is working hard on.  Parks is also thoroughly enjoying his heroes and saints block!

Sawyer is working hard on her time management this year.  She is very aware of what she needs to get done each day which was a difficult task for her last year.  She is able to do her grammar (Growing with Grammar) with minimal assistance.  She did not enjoy doing Exploration Education for science, so we made a switch.  I recently read a review of The Gumshoe Archives on Only Passionate Curiosity’s Blog, and I decided to give it a try.  So far (she is only on the first book), she is really enjoying the book.  She is still doing vocabulary with the program and some simple projects.  She is getting the information through reading and not so much hands on which is what works for her.  We are also focusing on poetry with her Man/Animal block which she really enjoys.   Sawyer is continuing to use Apples and Pears for her spelling, and Teaching Textbooks for her math.

Sims had a rough time getting into a groove, but he has found it now and is thriving.  Sixth grade is a jump in the amount of work in most subjects.  He is doing very well with increasing his independence with his work.  He started the year with Apples and Pears spelling, but he quickly got frustrated with it this year (which disappointed me greatly because he does very well with it).  Thus, we switched over to IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  So far, he LOVES it!  He gets to do it on his own which is important to him.  He also enjoys that he has to master the list before moving on.  He is still using Dancing Bears for reading fluency, and I hope he will pick Apples and Pears up again-but I am not going to push my luck.  He is also loving Exploration Education for science.  The projects are fun and do a terrific job teaching the concepts.  He is doing very well with the vocabulary portion of the science as well using the T method.  Math is taking more time, but he is mastering it well.  He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a 100%-he has high expectations.  LOL.  Originally, the plan was for him to do a block on Rome, but he asked to start with business math/economics.  Thus, he is reading through Striker Jones and going over it with me.

Overall, I think we have had a terrific start to the year.  We are getting outside which keeps everyone happy.  Everyone is getting into the groove of doing daily work and an individual unit study.  Let’s hope the momentum continues through the next quarter!

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 www.dictionary.com 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?