Back in the Groove
And so we embark on our fourth year of homeschooling. Looking back, I just can’t believe that we’ve been at this for three solid years. Time has just FLOWN by. It’s amazing to me how much we’ve accomplished over the last three years.
We took off the month of December, as is our normal schedule. We use a four weeks on/one week off schedule throughout the whole year; that gives us roughly the same number of school days that your average public or private school has (following a traditional schedule) – we just get our breaks spread out through the year instead of clumped together during the summer.
I spent our first day ‘back to school’ doing some assessment testing with the boys, mainly in reading, and was impressed with their progress. I don’t do much testing as we go; we’re mastery focused, so we don’t move on until the concept is learned, so there’s not a need for testing in the same way that educational institutions use testing. If you’re interested, I use a couple of reading assessments; there are several listed here that are free and easy to use. It may not be totally comprehensive, but it’s good enough to get an idea; plus, they read all the time, so I hear them reading aloud and already have an idea of their ability; this just gives me a quantifiable number for my records.
I thought that I posted a ‘lesson planning’ post for this year, but I must have overlooked it. I know that I updated our ‘curriculum’ page, but I’ll reference some of that here for good measure, rather than posting a lesson planning post. We’re pretty much set at this point; we’re not making a lot of changes the way that we were in the beginning. I’ve kind of found the things that work for us, so we don’t need as much trial and error!
One of the things that i kinda wanna brag about for a minute is ‘grade level’. I have said over and over again that we don’t really do ‘grade level’ – it’s somewhat of an arbitrary concept, in my opinion. However… even though I’d love to get rid of the concept entirely, we can’t really escape it. The boys have friends in school, my niece is in school – so the topic comes up whether I like it or not. Since we pulled the boys out of school mid-year, and started our school year in January, we’ve been in the middle of a grade for homeschool. My goal has been to get the boys and the school year’s start on the same page – without letting the boys lag behind their schooled peers – and it’s taken three years, but we’re finally there! That’s a silly thing to be proud of, but I am!
That said, we’re actually not starting the next grade. Technically, they’re both done with this grade level’s work (4th for PeaGreen, and 5th for LBB), but one of the benefits of not having to jump into the next grade is that we have time to play around with unit studies and some of the other things that I’ve been wanting to do that we just haven’t had time for because we were busy getting the basics out of the way. I’ve really been wanting to get back to Mason style, literature-based lessons, and with the boys having their grade-level work completed, I finally feel like we can delve into those things.
When the boys were small, we pre-homeschooled with Before Five in A Row and Five In A Row. Then, when the boys started school-school, I sold our copies of those guides and books – but when we had them, we loved them. So, I bought Beyond five In A Row, Volume I to work on over the next few months. I had forgotten how multi-disciplinary the lessons were. I don’t feel that they’re necessarily complete, but using them as a base and supplementing with other materials will work quite well, I think.
The first book in BYFIAR I is The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. We do lapbooks, so I decided to lapbook the lessons. I posted them a few weeks ago here: The Boxcar Children Lapbook for Beyond Five In A Row Vol I, and we got started on them yesterday. So far, so good! This is a different ‘style’ lapbook than we’ve done previously; usually the mini-books are all on the same theme. In this case, because the lesson plan pulls so many different aspects into it, I’ve had to re-think lapbook organization. Truthfully, the lapbook probably won’t make much sense without the lesson guide, but feel free to use them if you like.
On the schedule for this year are:
- continuing with karate – Loverly Husband and PeaGreen are both orange belts; LBB and I are both yellow belts. We’re completed a year of training, and participated in our dojo’s New Year’s Day tradition of Hatsu Geiko, or 1,000 Kicks, to re-commit ourselves to our training for the coming year.
- Spanish Lessons – our local library has organized a children’s conversational Spanish course to be held once a month with a group of volunteer teachers. We went to the first class this evening, and it sounds like they’re going to have a lot of hands-on type things. It sounded interesting and can’t wait to get started! The theme for the next class is ‘food’, so we can interpret that how we like, I suppose.
- Spiral Scouts – we’re starting a new Spiral Scouts group in our area. I have issues with Boy Scouts, so that was out, but scouting always sounded like so much fun! There’s just nothing like that in this area; we’ve been in need of a more inclusive scouting program here for years. I’ve known about SS for a while, and am glad to be getting started with it.
- I don’t have a main curriculum for math right now; we’re going to work on solidifying some of the core concepts before picking up again and moving forward. LBB is working on division with decimals, and PeaGreen is working on division with remainders at the moment; I’m content to work on that and multiplication tables for a few weeks. We used Timez Attack for a while last year so I think we’re going to use that a bit more for a while.
- The boys both got tablets for Christmas and already, two days int the new year, they’re getting quite a bit of actual school-use from them. We’ve been working on research projects each week, so that laid a good foundation for them to be able to do independent research. Already, they’ve been asked to and successfully located information about Gertrude Chandler Warner for a research paper on her, and several bits of information for their Viking Adventure lapbook, and definitions for vocabulary. I am loving that I don’t have to give up my computer for them to do their work!
- Something new I want to try this year is visual writing prompts. I found an article by Rosina Lippi a while back on Pinterest where she was talking about using them, and it made me start a pin board for interesting pictures that we might use for writing prompts. We haven’t started that yet (only 2 days in), but I am looking forward to using them.
- Science is another area that I am not set on yet. I am thinking that we may go ahead and do REAL Science Odyssey. I am thinking Level I Chemistry and then Level 2 Biology in a few months… we’ll see. I have science textbooks for days, so we may stick with those.
- We’re doing Story of the World III this year, but aren’t starting it just yet. We’re in the middle of II, and are taking a break to pursue Vikings at the moment; I found a lapbook that corresponds with Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla, so we just got started in that. We were/are doing the SoTW lapbook from Chronicle of the Earth at RunOfTheMillFamily’s blog, but she’s on hold for now; we may or may not be ready to start SoTWIII by the time she has started posting new minibooks… that’s a ‘wait and see’ game. In the mean time, I have started working on lapbooking components for III just in case.
- We are still doing Latin; still Cambridge I. Hopefully we will get into II sometime this year.
- Science Fair is coming up in the spring, with the Texas Regional Homeschool Science Fair in March/April. We’re going to go this year, I think – maybe not compete in the TRHSF, but at least go to get the kids excited about next year.
- And, of course, our local homeschool group is active, as ever. We just updated our calendar for the group’s activities through June and we have a ton of fun stuff planned.
So… that’s a look at what we’re doing/thinking about for the coming year. We’re off to a really good start, and I look forward to sharing our continued journey with you!