After making a list of what was great about last year and what was not so great, I made a “next year” list which I populated with the things that worked last year. So it has things like:
- 2-3 Shakespeare plays (audio, picture book, movie/play)
- Elementary lessons (2 hours 2x/week; Bible, history, and science)
- Morning Time binders
Plus, I also included ideas for improving upon our successes. For example,
- Act out one scene per Shakespeare play.
- Add 5-10 minutes of handwriting + spelling for Knox & Ilse
- Take advantage of having a group for E.L. (review games, discussion)
Then I added ideas for solving what didn’t work, such as
- Make Latin a priority this year
- Ensure 2-3 quiet reading afternoons per week
- Put in place a solid daily & weekly review habit to improve consistency
I also made a list of problem spots and brainstormed ideas, particularly logistical, to improve the next year and streamline things (because I love streamlining things):
- Each child gets his own bin for his stuff with his own stocked pencil case. I tried each child having their own crayons/colored pencils years ago and it just meant double the number were everywhere within 3 months. I think now the older two are old enough to care for and clean up their own (and buy their own replacements if they don’t). The younger ones will still have a share bin that I keep for school times, and then we have a collection of all the old, short, broken year-end leftovers they can use anytime.
- Make it easier for kids to get audiobooks going themselves; set up a routine for making sure iPods are charged. Is there a way to prevent earbud cords from tangling?
- Make reusable school checklists so they don’t have to be printed or found every Monday, to lower resistance and administrative hassle.
- Purchase a dining room cabinet to keep the things we use daily handy and accessible and hidden.
I love the anticipation and planning phase of the school year.
Planning a homeschool year is always my favorite part of the cycle.
I started planning with a big picture look. First, I looked really big picture when I realized that my oldest is a year away from seventh grade – when things like Omnibus and Logic and other new things loom as possibilities. So I spent a little time making sure we’d be ready, as far as I could tell, for high school in 3 years. Then I jotted down how old everyone would be during Hans’ high school years.
I got scared off planning for a little time after that. It’s a good thing I started early. And, it takes a lot to scare me from planning! But, just like our family grew one child at a time and my mothering abilities, capacities, and experience grew slowly over 10 years (and still is growing!), so schooling all these children is an experience of slow stretching and growing so that each year I’m ready for that current year. God’s the one working providentially all along.
So, anyway, I finally calmed down and remembered that I only had to plan and execute this year and not all the next 5 years.
Screenshots are of parts of my plan, made with Pam’s pretty (free!) planning sheets (I use the expansion pack sheets, too).
Here’s what we have this year:
- 11yo sixth grader: Math, Latin, Circle Time, Elementary Lessons, Drawing & Nature Study, Free Reading, Writing, Piano.
- 9yo fourth grader: Math, Latin, Circle Time, Elementary Lessons, Drawing & Nature Study, Free Reading, Writing, Piano.
- 6yo first grader: Circle Time, Phonics, Reading Practice, Handwriting, Math, Read-Alouds.
- 4yo K-1st: Circle Time, Phonics, Reading Practice, Handwriting, Math, Read-Alouds. (he’s already reading, so he’ll be joining the 6yo most of the time)
- 2yo busybody: Circle Time, Read-Alouds, coloring in her chair, special toys in her pack-n-play, troublemaking. (I’m praying she doesn’t give up her nap this year, but all my others did before they were 3).
Curriculum is not something you buy, it’s a path you travel. Here are our paths for the year. I’ll be writing more about each one as I continue this series in June.
- Math: We use and I love Math-U-See. Because it is a mastery-based approach, the rate each student moves through the books varies drastically based on each student’s development and on the concepts in each book (the first four take the longest to master). So, I have two books ahead for each student ready. Knox is starting in Primer (because he really wants to), Ilse completed Primer and 10 lessons of Alpha last year and will pick up where she left off, Jaeger will return to long division in Delta, and Hans will continue what appears to be a fast-track through Zeta. My current plan for math is to stick with MUS as far as each student gets through 8th grade and then reevaluate for high school.
- Latin: I’m using Latin for Children with the lesson DVDs. We completed half a book last year, so we’ll see if we can at least finish them out and maybe move into the next level. I’m ok with going slow if it means we’re mastering it. Last year the reason we only finished half was because I dropped the Latin ball more than because we were pacing ourselves. Jaeger is in Primer A and Hans in Primer B.
- Morning Time: We’ll continue on as we have been, because it’s working. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. The only thing I’m tweaking this year is that I’ll attempt to be a bit more intentional about the “liturgical” element, that is, the habits around beginning and closing. Everyone, even the baby-toddler, will be a part of Morning Time.
- Elementary Lessons: My friend and I will be doing our little mini-co-op swap thing again. Twice a week my 6yo & 4yo will go down to their house for read-aloud time and open-ended play without older sibling interference and during those times (which will also be while the baby is napping, if she cooperates) my friends’ 10yo & 8yo will join us for lessons. We’ll do Bible, History, Science, and Shakespeare together. This year it’s Gospels & Acts, modern times, elements & the Periodic Table, and at least 2 plays which are yet to be determined. We’ll also do something for writing which will involve writing instruction but also writing on topics we’re reading about in our lessons.
- Personal Enrichment: This is how I’m grouping nature walks, free reading, commonplacing, drawing, and piano. We might not do each one of these each week all year (well, there will be independent reading nearly every day), but I want to be intentionally about setting aside the space and time for them to be woven into our lives. In my mind, these are less about academics and school and more about simply living a rich and wonder-filled life – myself as well as the children.
- Phonics & Early Reading: My 6yo is an emerging reader and my 4yo is starting to read smoothly. We’ll continue with phonics instruction and practice using TATRAS. They’ll also practice reading with early readers and I’ll log their books on Goodreads. They will likely reach their 100-book milestone this school year if I am consistent on my end. Our children get their own real Bible after they’ve read 100 books.
- Handwriting: I’m pretty much a handwriting flunkie for my oldest two, so we’ll see if I can do better for the subsequent children. I’ll be using Beautiful Handwriting for Children and Startwrite. After 1 term of letter-formation practice, I’m going to introduce italic cursive to the 6yo. I only want a few top-down lines and left-to-right circles out of my 4yo, but I’m anticipating some days he’ll want to do nothing (fine by me) and some days he’ll want whatever the 6yo is doing (fine by me).
- Read-Alouds: I know most people do read-alouds during Morning Time, but for us it’s primarily a memory work time. They younger kids will get one or two picture books before the phonics lesson, there will be reading aloud for both age sets during our lesson trading time, and I will keep the iPods loaded with audio book options. The boys requested that we also listen to an audio book during lunch time. I’ll also add “read the younger kids a picture book” to each of my older boys – reading aloud is a good skill! Sometimes my husband reads a family read-aloud in the evenings, too.
- Time Management: I am also going to try taking my own daily index card practice and teach it to Hans and Jaeger. We’ll do a together weekly review sort of meeting on Mondays, plus start Circle Time with a “scrum” where we go over the agenda for the day and what each person is responsible for. Basically, I’ll be trying again with our one-on-one meeting plans, because the boys liked them and thrived under them, but I dropped that ball 80% of the time after Christmas break.