Friday, April 26, 2013

Homeschooling research blitz

This week we had two snowstorms.  No joke.  But yesterday it was in the 40s F in mid-afternoon and today I do believe it is in the mid-60s.  What a relief.  There is still snow on the ground, but it is melting.  The bugs are starting to come out and the poor robins actually have the potential to find something to eat again.

I have been in the throes of researching and defining my schooling plans for next year.  I've decided to continue following the Ambleside Online curriculum, but stripping it down to an almost skeletal form, then use it as a base to build from.

Yes, I am delving into planning my own curriculum.  After a year of "training wheels", I feel like I have more of a grasp on what I want to do and how to do it.  It is liberating and a little scary all at the same time.

One of my main goals is getting our weekly schedule in order.  This year, I've been following a weekly reading schedule based off of Ambleside Online's Year 1, then inking in whatever else we've done that week, from working on memory work to countless games of Go Fish or chess.

This has worked well enough, but I've realized that a lot has fallen through the cracks with this method.  I need a more complete survey of our weeks, or one of two things will happen: I will let things slid or simply forget all the other great things we could be doing.

With that in mind, I plan on creating a more in-depth weekly schedule of reading and activities.  It will be undated so I have flexibility of time, but still have plenty of structure to keep myself on track.  Monday - Thursday will be the most structured days, with Friday left for catch-up or fun activities.  I've found this year that any reading I had scheduled on Fridays was usually ignored or dropped, until I finally got wise and absorbed it into the earlier part of the week.

Other than these things, here is the run-down of my plans:


We will start following the classical tradition for studying history.  I like the idea of covering world history in chronological order and repeating the same time periods every four years.

While I like the idea of using biographies as a primary means to an end, I feel like I need more structure to help me along the way.  Because of that, we will be using The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor by Susan Wise Bauer as our history "spine" to branch out from.

I plan to supplement with a good variety of corresponding readings throughout the weeks to help ground us in actual people and how they lived.  The SOTW: Volume 1: Activity Book offers a lot of ideas that will help guide me through various options for "extras".  Whatever I can handle, big or small.  I'm sure we'll do an archaeological dig in the sandbox, but I doubt we'll be mummifying a chicken.  Heh.


I had planned to do picture study this year, but haven't had much structure.  And with no structure, at least in my life, not much happens.  For next year, I plan to buy three Picture Study Portfolios (studying one artist per term) from Simply Charlotte Mason and make it a part of our weekly routine.


This year, we've listened to various works: Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Beethoven's Wig 1-4, and Can You Hear It?.

But next year, I plan to pick three composers (one per term) and listen to their music throughout the weeks and months.  I'm sure I'll probably source some kids' biographical works for each composer, but mostly just focus on listening to their works.


I have no qualms with our literature study this year.  I plan to continue on track, using various booklists for Year 2 as a guide to what we are reading: Ambleside Online, Tanglewood Curriculum, Mater Amabilis, etc.  We read a lot, as well as listen to a lot of audiobooks, so I feel very good about where we are at.  We will also be going through a lot of good books via our supplemental history readings.

We will continue on with our "poem a day" practice as well as using poetry for our memory work.


At this point, I haven't gotten formal with math.  No worksheets, no workbook.  Most of our math work has come through games, questions, money, measurements, calendar dates, time of the day, etc.  Very laid back.  I feel good about this at this point.  For the first few years I want math to be seen as a regular part of life vs. a worksheet.

I remember being very confused and intimidated by math in the "worksheet format" and while I don't want to press my memories into their experience too heavily, I feel like what we've got going is a good thing.  Diego can do simple addition and subtraction in his head without much trouble, which makes me feel like we are heading in the right direction.

I may get slightly more formal by adding in "math time" each week, where we deliberately work on a math concept or problem.  Otherwise, onward ho.


We followed Paddle-to-the-Sea along the Great Lakes this year.  I plan to go forward with AO's geography recommendations again next year, as well as doing mapwork during our history studies.


All of our science up until this point has involved Nature Study.  I plan to continue that theme for the next several years, as there is so much to explore, learn, and appreciate.

I'd like to incorporate Nature Notebooks this summer and fall, where we will record our findings by sketching them and written descriptions.  I had planned to buy our supplies at Blick before we headed home from the Twin Cities two weeks ago, but the snowstorm nipped that goal in the bud.  I may just have to buy online and have it shipped here, as I doubt I'll be able to get my hands on high-quality art supplies in this area.  We shall see.

Reading Instruction

Amazingly, Diego still doesn't know how to read.  I would have thought things would have clicked by now, but he shows very little interest or enthusiasm for it.  Throughout this school year, we've worked on letter sounds, vowels and consonants, letter games, three-letter word puzzles, sounding out words, etc.

He recognizes his letters and knows his letter sounds fairly well, but has no desire to "connect the dots" and actually read.  It has been somewhat discouraging, but I've read enough to know that it isn't that abnormal  So I'm basically trying not to stress about it.  I've backed off a bit and will re-initiate again in a few months to see if he is more receptive.  At this point, Truen (at age 5) is far more interested than Diego (at age 7) and will actually get excited about letter games and sounding words out, whereas Diego usually just moans and groans.

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