My husband won the award for Husband of the Year.
This past Friday evening, he took all the kiddos to get pizza (5 buck Little Caesar’s Hot n Ready’s are the go – to for a frugal “eating out supper” at this house.) and to go to the park. He left around 5:30, and suddenly, all was quiet.
The plan? For me to have a few hours of quiet here at home to school plan for this year.
I looked around. It was just so weird, all this space, little ol’ me, and so very quiet. Almost scary. So I did the first thing that any sane (ha!), slightly wide-eyed mother would do in the face of this new and uncharted territory.
I made a pot of coffee.
Then I called my mom.
“I’m supposed to be school planning,” I said.
She laughed and we talked, uninterrupted for about an hour, and it didn’t have anything to do with curriculum or books. It was sweet and wonderful, and reminded me just how blessed I am to have a mom who cares about me and is only a phone call away, even when we live far apart. I have a friend who just lost her mom to a battle with Parkinson’s. I have cousins who lost their mom to cancer. So while I don’t love the fact that my mom and I live 3,000 miles apart, I treasure our relationship and do not take it for granted.
We got off the phone after awhile, and I began to plan my year.
It went something like this:
….”I really should get a grammar program.” And a spelling program. And, and, and.
….Research, research, research. …. Read some Charlotte Mason philosophy at Ambleside Online. What I read reminds me of my focus. To trust the process. Copywork. Dictation. Narration. These are foundational, and lay the groundwork for teaching the mechanics of writing, as well as spelling, penmanship, how to write well, and all that other good stuff.
Copywork, done in small increments at a time when children are young, teaches the beauty of perfectly forming a few letters. It teaches how to check your work. Last year I had my boys copy our memory verse each day in a composition book. I would write it out for them at the top of the page, Mr. E in cursive, Mr. J in printing, and they were required to copy it perfectly. No spelling, punctuation or capitalization mistakes. And it must be done neatly. If when I checked it I found one mistake, they could go back and find it and fix it. More than one mistake, and they would have to recopy. The whole thing.
They were thrilled about this from the very get-go. “Oh, Mom! Thank you for caring enough about me to require excellence! We know this will serve us so well in the future.”
They groaned and whined and fussed for the first week. Gradually, though, they learned how to check their work, and it became normal for them.
So this year – more copywork. Possibly a bit less for Mr. J because I want him to learn how to write cursive. And no, I’m not buying a workbook. I’m going to write a cursive “a” at the top of his page, and ask him to trace it and copy it a few times on his page. And we will just go through the alphabet. I might find some printable cursive worksheets. But that will be it. The rest of the boys’ copywork will be either our memory verse, or a verse from a poem that we have read.
Narration– this is a retelling of what they have read on their own or what they have heard read. Charlotte Mason refers to it as oral composition, setting the stage for written composition.
Dictation – this is probably going to be more for Mr. E this year. He will look at a sentence or short passage, find any words he is unfamiliar with, try to familiarize himself with them, and get to the point where he knows them and has a picture of the word in his mind. Then I will dictate the sentence to him to write correctly.
So. No grammar program.
-….”I think I need a geography program.”
Ummm, well, what about tracing maps? What about the two books on geography I already have? What about the blank maps I’ve used before that I’ve had them fill in?
Hmm. No geography program.
-…..So then the question was, what about science and history?
I’m pretty excited about science this year – I got the book “The Case for Creation for Kids” by Lee Strobel and plan to plug that into our morning time. Also hoping to do more nature study. I was excited to read on Ambleside Online this quote: “Nature observation is enhanced by drawing what is seen.” I have also heard about people doing nature study simply by using the field guides or nature books in their home, and drawing something interesting from one of those.
History is going to be reliant on TruthQuest History for the most part. (An awesome glorified booklist that goes chronologically through history, each topic with a fun conversational introduction) I used their booklist, and that’s mostly what I’m spending my curriculum money on this year. Real books. Wow! Exactly what I really want homeschool to be about.
-I ordered Math-U-See this year again.
–I planned our Morning Time
Morning Time is where we will do prayer and prayer requests, Bible memorization, (just saying it. Together. Two or three times.) devotions, math drills, history reading, science reading, map drills, timeline, etc. It’s also where the boys will be drawing stuff for nature study, or tracing maps while I read. Just so you know – this does NOT all happen on the same day.
Speaking of timelines, this is (hopefully) going to be the year we finally do one. I have had the stuff to do a timeline for the last two years. I found a tutorial on how to separate out the pages of a timeline book into enough pages/time period on Ambleside Online. So. This Is The Year Of The Timeline. We shall see where my good intentions take me.
Once again, in my research on different blogs, as well as other reading I have done in the last while, I am reminded that it’s most important just to DO IT. Do morning time. Not to wait until it’s perfect, but to start small, and add things a little bit at a time. Even if it’s just one song, one small Scripture reading, one chapter in the read aloud. To keep lessons small, 10-20 minutes, not necessarily when the page is completed. Keep the interest alive, keep the fire burning, not exhausting our children with every subject.
Now. I have an almost 4 year old and a 2 year old. They keep things very….. interesting. I’m hoping this year is a little better.. I try to keep them occupied with books, drawing, playdough, etc. and don’t let them switch an activity until I switch to the next subject or thing I’m working on with the boys.
I’m far from an expert… more like a newbie in this whole thing of Morning Time, the Charlotte Mason type of schooling, etc. But it’s totally freeing as long as I continue to simplify and integrate as much as possible. For me that looks like with whatever we read – we mine the depths of the book. We can talk about where the setting is, for example, and hit geography right along with literature. If there are animals or nature or something in the book, we talk about that and hit science.
In the process it can be oh-so-easy to feel like it’s still not enough.
It’s easy for me to see all these things that look so neat. The projects. The foreign language. The typing. The science curriculum. Paper maiche. Glitter. Loads of paints. Teeny-tiny dioramas. Maybe then I would feel like it’s enough?
Oh goodness. I think I might break out in hives.
Fact is? Homeschooling has to be something that I enjoy as well. And if dioramas make me break out in hives, it’s probably better to skip them altogether. And when I give myself the freedom to do so without the gnawing guilt of “what if I’m not giving them enough of an education?” then my mind opens up and is a little more willing to look at that book of easy and fun science experiments that’s sitting on the top shelf of my homeschool books…
I need to spend my time focusing on what we are good at as a family – what we enjoy together. We love audiobooks. We love watching and drawing birds. We love to listen to the rhythm of poetry. (I didn’t see that one coming, but it’s definitely been a highlight for the last few months of our schooling this past year.) We love to read out loud together. WE love to drink tea and snuggle under cozy blankets. Fort-building and pretending to be hunters in the wilds is a favorite activity. As well as planting and tending the growing things in the garden with Daddy. We don’t need a certain grammar or geography curriculum to thrive as a family or in our education…. we just need to do what works, one small step at a time. And sometimes? Sometimes it’s not even the math and the language that need to be tended to – it’s the attitudes and anger and meltdowns that need to be addressed while the more formal school is laid aside. Because I care a lot more today about my children becoming people who love God and others more than I do about whether they can understand fractions or write a sentence well.
Above all – seeking Truth. Goodness. Beauty. In everything we do.
And doing all for the glory of God. Perhaps… even the occasional science experiment.
–Also? I’m pretty sure I need to “school plan” every week or so in a quiet house in the evening.
And I’m thinking it should always begin with coffee and a nice chat with Mom. =)