School time behavior had gotten a little out of control, so during the month before Christmas, we cut down by half to the core subjects and got discipline back on track: such a short sentence for so much effort! School went really well that month, but I felt troubled that we were doing only half the schoolwork I'd like to see. Of course, my husband was nothing but encouraging.
After Christmas break and the Plague of the 2014 Holidays, we got back to school and I'm beginning to add back in the missing subjects, perhaps one per week, watching how it goes. I really, really want us to be done with formal teaching by noon each day, which is quite a feat, when achieved, and makes the mornings intense.
Changes I've made . . .
1. The biggest change I made was geographic. For two and a half years--really three and a half years counting a year of preschool--we'd done school in the Bonus Room with all four kids in the room with me. It helped me supervise the other ones while I worked with one child at a time. But as of this year, the noise and activity levels were becoming very distracting ("why does she get to play?"). Every time I had to change a diaper or switch over laundry, I had to leave the room (up and down stairs), and the kids would stop their schoolwork to become engrossed in play.
So, two months ago I moved my base of operations to the kitchen table. I work with one child at the kitchen table while the other works independently at the dining table or does music practice in the den--all adjoining rooms. Meanwhile, the 2- and 3.5-year-olds move about at will, playing in the Bonus Room, or any other room downstairs, or in the Sun Room if the weather is fine. They're close enough that I keep fairly good supervision. I can wash dishes, make snacks, change laundry, or change diapers without losing supervision of the schooling children.
2. I drew up a new tracking sheet that is working well for us for now. (When will I find a tracking system that I stick to for years, or even for just one whole year?)
3. I instituted folders for the kids, with all photocopies for the week on the To Do side and the completed pages on the Completed side.
4. I've been promoting more independent learning, wherever I can, which doesn't feel "ideal," but does feel necessary given that I have a preschooler and a toddler in the mix too. It has been a consistent theme from successful homeschooling mothers that one must turn those kids into independent learners so that one can teach the up-and-comers.
5. I stopped having us do our daily family chores in the morning before school (which worked great) because we simply needed more time, needing to start school by about eight o'clock. Well, two months into it and I still haven't found a new anchor point for our daily chores, which means the kids aren't doing them, I am, at random times in the cracks. This is bad and I'm actively trying to figure out a fix. Score one for school accomplishments, score zero for contributing chores to the family.
What the kids are doing . . .
MATH . . . We switched to Singapore and I am still getting my sea legs with this program. I also instituted daily practice with flash cards because I got a clue about why it's important to have the math facts memorized with fast access.
CATECHISM . . . Chugging along! I now have the second grader reading his own catechism chapters and coming to me for a short discussion about what he learned.
PHONICS . . . Going great! I don't assign additional reading time formally right now because both kids read at night for longer than the 30 minutes I would assign.
SPELLING . . . Going great!
MUSIC . . . Our music education is gaining a life of its own. The second grader has 20-30 minutes of piano daily, the Kindergartner has that much piano plus 20-30 minutes of violin, and they each have 3-5 pages of Theory homework daily (which is about another 30 minutes). I have a blog post being drafted about motivating music practice--not that I'm an expert! This has been a year of a steep learning curve in this regard.
PENMANSHIP . . . I bought new copybooks for the new semester, including a Thankfulness Journal to practice the second grader's handwriting.
GRAMMAR . . . for the second grader only and I have him doing it independently now.
HISTORY and GRAMMAR . . . After some fits and starts, we're back to a good clip at Connecting with History and associated MapQuest maps. I've now joined in the Kindergarten formally. Obviously, History does not need to be taught in Kindergarten, but this particular Kindergartner can follow along and enjoys the read alouds.
|Enthusiastic about their Latin lesson|
LITERATURE . . . I'm still not following a formal literature program, nor requiring comprehension questions or writing. I am typically reading aloud two chapter books at a time and we spend nearly an hour reading them most nights before bed . . . and I count that!
Since August, I have read aloud eight chapter books to the children (not counting several books per month within the History curriculum), Mary has read 19 chapter books, and John has read 20 chapter books.
ART . . . I just began the DVD program "How Great Thou Art" and I hope we can stick with it, perhaps on Friday mornings, and I think the kids will enjoy it a lot.
SCIENCE . . . None introduced back into the routine yet. It was quite informal anyway.
MEMORY WORK (memorizing poetry) . . . Not yet reintroduced.
EXTRACURRICULAR . . . Paused on swimming, started on ice skating. Continuing in Younger Art Class, Chess Class, Boys' Club, and altar serving.
I find homeschooling the adventure of a lifetime--and a daily dose of irony given that throughout my entire college career, I said I didn't know what I was going to do with my English literature degree, but I was not going to teach. I am frequently reminded of the U.S. Marines' motto to improvise, adapt, and overcome! (And then hide in the pantry and cry a little bit when days are tough.)