Monday, August 28, 2017

2016-2017 School Year

  The first day back to homeschool is in the books!  We finished up moments ago and I thought that I would give a little rundown of our plans for this year.  We have a third and fifth grader.  My four year old will go to a nursery school nearby a few mornings a week and join in with us the remainder of the time.
*this post contains links, but none of these items are sponsored, they're just products I enjoy.

  We absolutely loved using Waldorf Essentials last year and are using that as the backbone of our schooling again this year. Waldorf can be overwhelming to newbies, like us, so we've heeded the advice to layer things in.  We are getting better at form drawing, wet on wet painting, handwork, improving our Main Lesson Book Pages (borders!) and incorporating more rhymes, stories with props and math games into our circle time.  Without all of those things, it's hard to stretch out the main lessons into a school day.  We still feel like we need a little bit more.

 Our little bit more will be Brave Writer Arrow.  Our plan is to read aloud the bulk of it with assigned independent reading sections.  Last year I had the boys read everything independently (Quiver of Arrows for the second grade), but now I realize it is meant to be a family read aloud.  I was excited about the selections for Arrow this year (and the party school ideas now included), so we went ahead and bought the year.  Last year I let the boys choose selections each month, but this year we are going to work through them together.  We also use other elements of Brave Writer  throughout our year, like Friday Freewrites and Poetry Teatimes.  It's a wonderful resource.

  Last year we absolutely loved the Beautiful Feet Books Early American History bundle.  I think I will always look back on that course in our first year of homeschool as something quite magical.  We were hoping to find a Medieval Studies course that was similar, but the BFB course is for older children, and I think it wouldn't hold the same level of attraction trying to push it with younger kids.  Well, I thought, I have a Medieval Studies Minor, I can figure out a course of study with picture books that will be charming and fun and educational!  I spent the summer poring over children's literature about the Middle Ages and I think I have a fun course of study.  We are hoping to do History about two days a week.

  Other than that, we throw in a little handwriting work, a little real world math, a little Shakespeare memorization, some typing and art and come up with pretty full and fun days.

  Our rhythm looks something like this:

8-9 Breakfast, get dressed, make beds
9-11 Circle Time, Main Lessons, snack
11-11:30 Nature Walk/recess
11:30-12:30 Finish Up Main Lessons, handwriting or typing
12:30-1:30 - Lunch, Free Time
1:30-2:30 SPECIALS
2:30-3:30 Reading/Independent learning/handwork

Specials are Arrow on Monday, History on Tues and Wed, Art on Thurs, Poetry Teatime on Friday

It is a rhythm, not a schedule, so we do not stop things or drag things out to fill time slots.  It's just a rough flow of how the day goes.  Sometimes a doctor's appointment or a field trip completely upsets the schedule.  We just go with it : )

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Morning Basket

This spring I came across the phrase 'morning basket' a number of times. I decided to try to work a morning basket into our homeschool time since we were doing something similar anyway.  We have started each morning with a picture book this year (see some of our Favorite Picture Books) so we decided to just expand that time by reading from a few other sources. What we read from changes each day, as I like to switch them out each week for new inspiration.

 I've found it to be a great way to touch on different subjects that I feel like we never get to.  Like art history.  I never thought we wouldn't ever seem to have time for a subject I absolutely love!

  We've solved the art history problem with a lovely book titled Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories.  Each chapter covers a different artist, work, or period and tells a story from the point of view of the artist.  The chapters are just a few pages and include the artwork discussed as well as delightful illustrations of the artist working.  We have really enjoyed adding these stories into our morning routine and read a new chapter most days.  The fact that the chapters are chronological and jump across the globe is a bonus.  You sure can tell a lot about world events by what the artists are making and who is hiring them.  Chapter topics include the Terra Cotta Army, the Parthenon, the Stained Glass of Chartres, Angkor Wat, and the bronze casters of Ife, Africa.  There are 68 chapters and they span cave drawings to Ai Weiwei (probably best known for the "bird's nest" stadium for the Beijing Olympics).

Vincent's Starry Night definitely shows up the most in our morning basket, but we really just read anything interesting that I come across, and I'm trying to nudge the boys into helping me pick out things that they are interested in.

  The morning basket idea works really well for books that can be read in small chunks. I love that I can flip open a lot of these books and just read a page or two while the boys color or model:
  That last one is a chapter book by one of our favorite authors, Tomie de Paola, and the kids thought it was hysterical. We have added most these books to our home library, and so I included links to Amazon, but please remember it's a good idea to check your local library first!  We always attempt to "try out books" before we purchase.  

Do you have any favorites that would be fun to add into our morning basket?  I'd love to hear your ideas!  Or, do you already do a morning basket?  How does it work in your home?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Waldorf Grade 2 {Saints & Fables Block}

Celebrating Candlemas on February 2nd
  For our second grade February block we returned to Saints and Fables and Will couldn't have been any happier.  The three part Waldorf method of listening to the story, retelling the story through art and then retelling the story using the written word has been very effective with Will.  He absolutely loves to hear the stories and almost always know exactly what his picture is going to be before I finish.  Some days he works with modeling beeswax too.  He can warm the beeswax to help quiet his fidgety hands while he listens to the story and then he can model one of the animals.  

  I'm still learning about the Waldorf method of storytelling.  As I understand it, it is very important that we let the student come to his own conclusion about the moral of the story.  In order to do this he will need some background information, particularly about how the traditional characteristics attributed to the animals.  For example, a fox is known for being sly or an ant is always busy working.  I found this Waldorf Teacher Resource page very helpful in setting up the stories for Will.  I also did a blackboard drawing for each new fable, although I do not seem to have any pictures of those saved.

  We used most of the fables told in the Waldorf Essentials second grade curriculum and added in a few that Will requested. 

  Here are the fables we covered in February:

The Ant and the Grasshopper

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Vain Jackdaw

The Fox and the Crane
The North Wind and the Sun
  We also learned about four saints in the February block: St. Brigid, St. Patrick, St. Valentine and Joan of Arc.  I had no idea that our American holiday Groundhog Day was the halfway point of winter and is celebrated as Imbolc, Candlesmas, and the feast day of St. Brigid in other parts of the world.  We made woven paper St. Brigid crosses, beeswax candles and let Will tell us all about Brigid.  Aside from St. Patrick being captured by pirates, Will thought the most exciting lesson was about Joan of Arc.  He wanted to draw her while I told the story and I told him he better wait so he knew what she looked like.  "What color are her robes?  Just tell me; they all look the same."  When I replied that she wore a suit of armor I had his full attention for her story!

St. Brigid

Joan of Arc

St. Patrick (and his pirate abductors)

St. Valentine

Monday, March 27, 2017

Our Daily and Weekly Rhythm

  I think one of the biggest questions I had before I started homeschooling, and one of the most frequent questions I am now asked, is how a typical day looks.  The short answer is that it can vary. Wildly.  Flexibility is one of the great things about homeschooling and we exercise that flexibility to learn and have fun often!  However, my kids thrive when they have some structure to their day. That's why we have a rhythm, even though we do not have a schedule. I have times listed here, but we really only focus on the activities and never stop them or drag them out to fit a time slot.  This is more about the order of events that the kids have come to expect.

  I often refer to myself as a "cheater homeschool mom" because I send my little one to preschool.  He's three and goes three mornings a week and loves it.  He goes to the same school that his older brothers thrived at and I knew keeping him there would give me a few precious hours to devote to teaching the big boys without any distractions.  So far it has worked great.

  Here's what an average week looks like at Lyons Academy:

Baking brothers

8-9  Breakfast, dress, maybe some baking
9 - Drive Sean to preschool (the boys do reading from their Brave Writer selections while I drive and drop off)
9:30 - Morning Time - we start by lighting a candle, setting an intention or hearing a prayer or poem and reading a book (Here's a list of some favorite picture books) and then moving on to Waldorf Essentials Main Lessons.  Main lessons always start with form drawing on Mondays.
11 - recess/walk/snack
11:30 - Brave Writer Arrow & Quiver of Arrows copywork passage
12:15- Lunch
12:40  - Pickup Sean, more reading or an audio book in the car
1 - Free time to play
2 - Read aloud from our Early American History book and drawing/painting to go with it
2:30 -  Independent time to practice piano, read, journal, use the Duolingo app for Spanish

Art class

8-9 Breakfast, dress, outdoor play
9 - quick morning time with story book or read aloud.
9:30 Mom to Yoga class and boys to my Mother-in-Law's for cursive writing lesson
11 - Back home for snack and recess
11:30 - Main Lessons from WE
12:30 - Lunch
1:30 - Art class (we use various classes on CreativeBug, currently Lisa Congdon's Boot Camp)
2  Narrating from our previous day Early American History book read aloud
2:30 - Independent time for copywork (any non-fiction passage they choose), piano practice, Duolingo Spanish

Main Lesson - Math Block, Grade 4

8-9 - Breakfast, dress, outdoor play
9 - Drive Sean to school/reading time in car
9:30 - Morning Time with Main Lessons
10:30 - Piano Lessons - each boy has a half hour lesson with an instructor who comes to our home while I work with the brother on their Arrow copywork passage for the week (learning parts of speech, spelling, language mechanics
11;30 - Recess/lunch/free time (the boys are worn out from a busy morning so we relax a little!)
12:40  - Pickup Sean, more reading or an audio book in the car
1 - Read aloud from our Early American History book and drawing/painting to go with it
1:30 Creative Writing/Shakespeare
2 -  Independent time to  read, journal, handwork and use the Duolingo app for Spanish

Ant study from Abundant Garden

8-9 Breakfast/dress
9- Drive to Homeschool Gymnastics at the Harris YMCA/boys read
9:30-11:30 Gymnastics/Sean and I run at the track, play on the playground and grocery shop
Often the boys go home from gymnastics with my Mother-in-law for knitting and write their previous days' narration there, if not we come home and eat lunch and do it
1 - Abundant Garden Science Lesson
2 - Narration from previous days' Early American History lesson

Poetry Teatime

8-9  Breakfast, dress, maybe some baking
9 - Drive Sean to preschool (the boys do reading from their Brave Writer selections while I drive and drop off)
9:30 - Morning Time - we start by lighting a candle, setting an intention or hearing a prayer or poem and reading a book (Here's a list of some favorite picture books) and then moving on to Waldorf Essentials Main Lessons
11 - recess/walk/snack
11:30 - Brave Writer Arrow & Quiver of Arrows copywork passage spelling/grammar test
12:15- Lunch
12:40  - Pickup Sean, more reading or an audio book in the car
1 - Free time to play,  practice piano, read
2 - Poetry Teatime

WHEW!  So, that would be if we had no field trips or special activities in a week.  If we do, we still always try to get in four main lesson blocks, a lot of reading and our literacy work with Brave Writer.  History, art, copywork and science get shuffled around as needed, not because I don't think they are important, just that we do cover those areas in main lessons a bit too.

If you ask my boys they would probably say the week goes like this:

Monday - Form Drawing
Tuesday - Cursive (or field trips)
Wednesday - Piano
Thursday - Gymnastics
Friday - Poetry Teatime

Those are the highlights for sure!