Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Curriculum for 2016

I have spent years poring over various homeschool curriculum. I have read books and posts about Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Project Based and Unschooling.  The more I find out the more I know how much I do not know.  Finally, it was time to make a decision on how to work out this year before my brain exploded.

Jack & Will's curriculum will be centered around the Waldorf Essentials lesson plans.  I think they make a great backbone for structuring our year.  Since I'm not a trained Waldorf teacher and we are joining this movement late in their schooling, I've tried my best to catch up.  The lessons are supposed to take a few hours each day, but to me it seems we will finish them quicker.  I know the point is not to speed through, but I think this will be part of the learning process for how to slow down from the programmed school speed.  A bit of a decompression period.  The lessons mention practicing math facts and lots of read alouds, but we are also going to try to incorporate a few other things with the daily lessons.  

Both older boys will be doing a Fifty States project independently.  I'm hoping this gives me a little time to spend on the main lessons with one child while the other does this.  We will record two states a week noting the capital, flag, location on the map and a few interesting facts of their choosing.  Jack will be memorizing capitals this year.

As a family we will be working on the Early American History pack and guide from Beautiful Feet Books.  This is one that I did not realize had a Christian emphasis until after I bought the guide.  We are not opposed to this, I am Catholic, but my husband is Jewish and that is the way we are raising the boys.  Luckily, at their core, the values of those two religions align well and the emphasis on religion can be applied to Judaism with very minor changes.  I think these books will be great for family read aloud time and retelling the stories for main lesson work should be fun.  As a history buff, this is definitely a portion of the year I am eager to start.

Fourth Grade
Waldorf Essentials focuses on Norse Mythology this year.  The first unit is maps and local geography, so we will incorporate early North Carolina history along with this.  Some road trips and a book about the Lost Colony of Roanoke are planned.

Jack is doing really well with reading and math.  We will be doing daily math facts and trying to incorporate real world math.  We have always tried to incorporate math in daily life and I'm not sure if the boys like math because of it or we were encouraged to do more math at home because of them.  We constantly ask them about dividing food up fairly, question them about using different measuring cups for baking and have them figure out sums on any situation that arises - they love tabulating lego set costs vs. the money in their wallets.  We love to share with them about how much rent costs in our area, a car payment, insurance, groceries, etc to help them understand why we need to budget and why it is so hard for so many to be able to afford all of these things.

Writing is an area that needs some improvement, both in neatness and content.  He tends to write without thinking about the sentence or idea first, often leaving out or adding words that make his writing confusing. I am going to try to get him to think about what he wants to say before putting pencil to paper.  We will also spend some time trying to make more complex sentences by adding more parts of speech.  Spelling is another area he struggles with and this I would like to gently correct by making him read it back to me and hoping he can figure out that it doesn't sound the way he wants.  We may do some spelling or vocab lists from our literature work.  We will probably use units from The Arrow by allowing Jack to pick the books he would like to read.

Second Grade
Waldorf Essentials focuses on Saints and Heroes this year.  The first lesson blocks focus on St. Francis, a Catholic saint I have always felt great admiration for and I even have some props from a trip to Assisi years ago.  We are very excited about celebrating the traditional Waldorf festivals.

Will is definitely up to speed on math and reading, but he needs to work on comprehension.  One of his biggest problems in school was comprehension questions.  He read at a third grade or higher  level but the scores he got on comprehension pulled his reading level back down to first grade.  Which is fine, he was in first grade!  The questions that tripped him up were usually multiple part and he lost focus and only answered the first portion.  Sometimes the question would ask for three instances in a passage and he would only cite one.  I always felt this was way beyond what should be expected in first grade, but, alas, we will continue to work on comprehension, probably doing more aloud.  His writing, spelling and vocabulary seem great for his age, but we will also work on more descriptive writing.  He loves to learn new words, so we may add in a vocabulary component as we go.

Sean will be going to preschool a few mornings a week - he loves it there and doesn't any kids his age around us like his big brothers do.  The mornings that he is with us for school time, we will have a more traditional circle time in the morning.  We will focus on fairy tales and include lots of art, music and movement.  Hopefully he will be able to play independently while I work a little with his brothers and then, they, in turn, can work independently while he gets some mom time. 

Since Nana and Pap are busy moving, we took over the Muffin Ministry duties for them this week. Jack loved making them for the men's shelter so much we are going to sign up to do it all the time #jackb
Jack baking muffins for the Muffin Ministry through St. Matthew's Catholic Church

The boys will continue with piano and swim lessons.  They are also signed up for a soccer league at the Y this fall, which my husband is coaching.  We plan to do a few science classes at Discovery Place and I am still working on ways to incorporate Spanish into our days.  My husband and I both took it in high school and college, but we are far from fluent speakers.  I feel like the natural way of learning through exposure would be better than the vocab/grammar heavy way we learned, but I'm not sure how to provide that yet.
We also want to add a service component to make sure we are helping to make the world a better place.