We didn’t have a start – back day to school this year. In July I began easing us back into a school routine. (Any of you who read regularly will remember that I posted a couple non-posts that were cryptic in their shortness regarding our starting back to school.)
We did a few days of school in July, then started again towards the middle of August, and I would say that at this point we are about 6-8-ish weeks into the school year. Which is kind of funny because I really have no idea how far we are. The boys started working on the math books they were doing at the end of last year, and some of the concepts are super easy, so they are breezing through those. If they consistently understand the concepts and get at least one-two lessons completely correct, they are allowed to skip one lesson. A motivation also for them to not be careless.
It’s very easy for me to question, at times, whether my “new and improved” way of homeschooling is good enough. But after digging in further the past few weeks and beginning to settle into our routine a bit more, I’m slowly gaining confidence.
Collective gasp here — I’m not using an actual science and history curriculum. And at the moment, our language curriculum is a conglomeration of several things, not an actual curriculum.
You see, I feel like I’ve been defining curriculum a little ignorantly for awhile now. Rather than say I’m not using a curriculum, I should actually say – we’re doing our own curriculum.
Because – curriculum is just the thing you teach, right? And I’m definitely teaching. And also – teaching them to learn on their own as well. Which is totally exciting to see.
When your 10 year old is telling you about what he has learned about sharks/Paul Revere/Abraham Lincoln, and your 8 year old is telling you what he has learned about blacksmithing — all from the books that are readily available, (ha! if you saw my house…) …and spread everywhere. Not kidding. There are books in every room of the house. Bathroom. Living room. Dining room/School Room. Kitchen – the ones waiting to be put away. Each bedroom. They are EVERYWHERE. Oh! And there are usually some in the vehicle as well, because it would be a crying shame to actually have to be in the car for longer than 15 minutes without something to read.
In the living room occasionally I put away the stacks that have accumulated, and spread out a new “feast” before their eyes. And they dive in again. Which I just absolutely love to see.
Now that I’ve revealed that shocking truth, that I have not shelled out cash for a prewritten curriculum, I will tell you what we do. This week, I told Mr. J, when breakfast chores were finished, to grab a book that was interesting to him, and pick out something to tell us about. He picked out one of our big books on Animal Wildlife, and found the water buffalo.
So, we read some facts about water buffalo. (Longest measured horns were 13 feet, tip to tip, who’da thunk it?) Well, while we were reading, one of the boys spotted a bird on the bird feeder that was different than we had seen before. (Can you imagine my excitement to hear them saying “HEY!! LOOK!! A NEW BIRD!!” -I know, I know. It doesn’t sound that exciting. But they are completely, in a child-like way, awake to the environment and science happening all around them.That is exciting, folks. Much more so than seeing rote answers on a piece of paper.)
We took a couple pictures, looked it up, and decided it was either a house finch or a purple finch. We can add it to the list on the board up in our dining room, now. Ok. Back to water buffalo. I had one child read about the water buffalo, then both boys got out their composition notebooks. (Using those for EVERYTHING. They’re cheap. They don’t lose pages or come undone like spiral bound.) For Mr. E, I had him copy about 4 sentences about the water buffalo in cursive in his notebook. All had to be VERY (I’m a stickler) neatly written, only one mistake allowed unless you want to redo it…. And Mr. J had to write two sentences. So far, we have gotten science under their belt, studying two animals, and then connecting it to English by practicing writing complete sentences with good capitals and punctuation. For spelling, I do Dictation. A year ago I had heard that word, but didn’t have any idea what it meant. Basically, I choose a sentence or two for them to study, pick out words they may have trouble with, study those in particular, writing each one down. When they are ready, I read the sentence out loud, and they are to write it down with perfect spelling. If they miss any words, they are then required to write those words several times. The next day we do the same sentence(s) until they do it perfectly. Then we go on to another sentence. I’ve used sentences from the main read-aloud we are doing, a book they are reading, a Bible verse, a verse from poetry, you name it.
So in the last several weeks we have done lots of different things. Our read-aloud along with the history we are learning is Johnny Tremain, set in the time period of Paul Revere/John Hancock/American Revolution etc. and it’s about a young boy who is a silversmith apprentice, learning some hard lessons about himself and pride. They have also been reading biographies about Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere – and Mr. E is working through writing out “Paul Revere’s Ride” for his copywork each day.
Today I decided to read to them about the history of a hymn. We read about “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, its author and the inspiration, and listened to a beautiful accapella version of it online.
I’ve also been having the boys each read from the Bible as we begin our day, with one reading a Psalm and one a Proverb. Is there any better way to get reading practice? Sometimes I or they will read a poem on other days.
Each day looks different. We have identified a snake, several spiders, some birds, a luna moth caterpillar, an eastern newt, among several other things. I bought sketchbooks, which is pretty much where all their drawings go. In them are drawings of state maps from books we have read, a map of the original 13 colonies, drawings of some of the animals/insects we have identified, drawings of animals we have studied, pictures drawn from books we have read…. and the list goes on. and it is just so much fun. One big place to put everything – science, history, etc. And even this far into the year it’s exciting to look back in their composition notebooks and sketchbooks and see how much their drawings show and how much their handwriting has improved.
The goal? Truth. Goodness. Beauty. And every day doesn’t look like the ones I described. Some days are an exercise in patience. A battle to get everyone settled. But it’s ok! Because there isn’t any rule book that says you are supposed to complete every subject every day. The other day they all had migrated outside and were playing and imagining and building so many wonderful things that I was hard-pressed to ruin something so beautiful. A day in the week previous found my boys switching tires from bikes and making new creations from some old rusty things that had previously been deemed dump-worthy. How could I interrupt that? I want them to learn to use the imagination and creativity that God gave them – whether it be in building a fort, a new bike from something old, or a story about hunting The Big Buck.
After all, there are only so many summers in a child’s life. And who says that the freedom of summer must be abandoned once September comes? And the joy of lit-up eyes, the wonder that comes from discovery of wild and furry creatures, naming them and knowing who they are, might be a little taste of the Eden that Adam experienced when God gave him the delight of naming them. This is a science curriculum couldn’t satisfy me more.