Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Phonics

Lesson Planning – Fall 2013

I am always so excited at this time of the year. It’s LESSON PLANNING TIME!! I have been reading and researching my little heart our and now I am ready to start putting it all together.

It’s been a long time since I have detailed exactly how I got about my lesson planning for the year, and watching a friend of mine who is new to homeschooling trying to find her way has reminded me how difficult lesson planning can be for your first year of homeschooling. There is literally an information overload when you start looking at resources. It gets completely overwhelming, and it’s easy to get stuck.

I will say that for first-years, I really do still stand by what I have always said – don’t buy much (if anything); sample everything you can get your hands on to see what you and your student like best – but most of all, learn to find the FUN in learning again. If that means that for your first year, you only do the 3 r’s, that’s cool. The rest will come. De-school if you need to, but if not, that’s cool, too! Don’t get locked into one mindset or curriculum – and open mind on your first year will help you find your way to what is right for your family.

But if you’re looking for more intense lesson planning, here’s how I got about it (which is in no way saying that mine is the only/best way; this is just how I, personally, do it. There are hundreds of other blogging homeschool moms who are more than willing to share their methods as well).

Fist, I decide what subjects I want to tackle, and how many times I want to cover them each week. For us this year, it’s:

  • Handwriting (Daily)
  • Math (D)
  • Spelling (D)
  • Writing (D)
  • Literature (2)
  • English (3)
  • Latin (3)
  • Weekly Research Project (D)
  • History (2)
  • Science (2)
  • Geography (1)
  • Art / Music (2)
  • an hour of reading (to self/to someone) (D)

Then, go about refining the weekly classes:

  • Handwriting (Daily)
  • Math (D)
  • Spelling (D)
  • Writing (D)
  • Literature (2), English (3)
  • Latin (3), Art / Music (2)
  • Weekly Research Project (D)
  • History (2), Science (2), Geography (1)
  • an hour of reading (to self/to someone) (D)

That is a much shorter list, because some of my subjects alternate days. Since I am only doing 2 days of Literature, then I can focus more on English the other three, etc…

Next, I can start looking at multi-disciplinary lessons. For example, I taught the boys more individual lessons (a set time for Spelling work, then a set time for English (parts of speech, sentence structure, etc.), then a set time for History, and so on. Now that they’re older, I can lump all of the reading/writing centered lessons into one.

Then, I start going through the books I have on hand, and through my links and Pinterest boards (by subject) to see what I wanted to use. Pinterest can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s awesome for archiving things, but unless you are very conscious about properly categorizing your pins, it can be a big mess when it comes to finding things. I separate my pins by subject. All grades are under the same subject, but I can wade through to find the right grade (or adapt and idea up or down for my kids’ needs). There are so many amazing links on Pinterest; even searching (i.e.: Math 6th grade) pulls up a ton of links that you can use.

This year, we’re trying something I’ve only just read about (on Pinterest), called ‘Thoughtful Journals’. The concept is fairly simple; a composition notebook divided into 5 sections (or 5-subject spiral). Each section is named. The sections are: My Strategies, My Thoughts, Powerful Words and Phrases, Author’s Craft & Genre Learning. As you go through your lessons, the student uses the journal to record notes and other useful tools to help them learn to be better readers and writers. I am paraphrasing, badly, in describing this technique, so I will link you to Life in 4B, which is the awesome blog I found the idea at. In any case, the Thoughtful Journal is where most of our work related to Grammar and Writing will find a home this year.

History, Science and Geography are another area where I smooshed subjects together. We are still going through Story of the World II at the moment; I plan to be finished by December. We are still lapbooking it, thanks to CarrotTopX3. When Alia from ‘Chronicle of the Earth’ was unable to finish the lapbook template for SOTWII, awesome bloggin’ mom Brenda stepped in to fill the gaps (for which homeschooling moms all over the WORLD are eternally grateful!!) – Team Work, yo!! SOTW makes History easy, especially with lapbooking. We try to coordinate our artist and composer study with History, so even though they’re not ‘on the list’, we still work that in. As we finish up SOTWII, I have SOTWIII waiting in the wings. I have already started lapbooking it; hopefully I’ll be able to post it in full when we start on III. We have the activity guide as well, and I am looking forward to digging into that.

Science fills the other two weekdays when we’re not focusing on History. We usually switch them up, but I am considering doing History M/T and Science W/Th so they have two days in succession to focus on one subject this year – dig a little deeper. Then Friday, of course, leaves us time for Geography as it’s own subject. We also tie in Geo. with History, but this gives us extra time to work on land forms or other interesting components of the earth (which is kind of History AND Science).

Math is another one that’s easy to plan; I don’t go off-road much which Math, so I get a grade-level curriculum and go from there. We’re working with Math Advantage this year. Latin is another one that I don’t experiment much with. I don’t know Latin any better than my kids at this point (though I am learning), so I can’t rightly ‘teach’ it to them – we’re learning together. We are still in Book I, but will be moving to Book II later this year.

Once I decide how I am going to plan my lessons, I start looking at the actual curriculum. For the most part, I stick with what I can find that’s grade-level. But, as is wont to happen with homeschoolers, I have found that they naturally fall into their own strengths and weaknesses as they progress. I found a great article discussing Homeschool Misconceptions that touches on this a bit, and is worth reading. For us, it means that this year their curriculum may fall anywhere from 4th to 7th grade. Spelling is a weakness, but Grammar is something they’re both strong in. It balances out! I found that even the school system uses different books for different grades, depending on the school district. I have a copy of the Science book that I used in school in the 6th grade that the manufacturer says is 5th grade level. I’d rather have my kids spelling ‘below’ than keeping up and failing in the classroom. Their spelling skills can be improved. Self-esteem takes longer. Whatever sources or grade levels you choose for your kids, you get the most out of it in whatever way works best for your family.

Once you find your curriculum, it’s time to look back at your schedule. You may want to flip through the books you’ll be using and make some rough outlines of how much material you want to cover each week, or how long you want to spend in one unit before moving on. I usually map out the schedule on notebook paper (Week 1 = Unit 1, Chapter 1; Week 2 =Unit 1 Chapter 2; etc.). This may change during the year, and that’s okay. But having a guide makes it easy to see the pacing of the year a bit better. You can always make adjustments later on.

This year, I am using a binder in addition to my usual lesson planner (homeschool bossy book). We aren’t doing workboxes this year, so I have been using the workbox plans in my planner for scheduling. It works well for that. The binder is a more in-depth, day by day type of lesson planner. I have it divided by subject, and the year’s activities per subject mapped out in each tab. This is also where I am storing printed materials, and unit study/lapbook plans. Having both planners will help make the day’s activity easier to follow, I hope.

We have in the past clocked about 25-30 hours of school per week. That averages out to some longer days and some shorter days. This year, however, I am pushing for more of a set schedule – about 30 per week. That’s on the high end of what we normally do, but I think it’s reasonable for my kids. Mine still need to be led quite a bit, or they lose focus. Not all days will take as long, but some will go over, so again – balance.

The only things left after this point are gathering school supplies and waiting on the first day of school!

… and the second-guessing, and worrying, and reading a blog at 3AM that tells to do do something totally different than what you have newly finished and ready to go… relax. That’s totally normal! Know that you can change any aspect of what you have planned at any time. It’s not a big deal – just go with the flow. The hardest part is getting it all laid out in the first place. There are SO MANY cool things to try, to implement, to experiment with – and each and every bit sounds more exciting and fun than the next.

I read a great blog yesterday that was talking about being ‘inspired’ by someone without re-making yourself in her image. I take that to heart when I read about SuperMoms in the homeschool world who have their crap together far better than I do. Go have a read. It’s at Living Well, Spending Less.

Happy planning!
Warmly,
~h

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Lesson Planning for M7 (Oct-Nov 2010)

Naturally, I’ve actually begun planning for next year and some of the groundwork for 2011’s school year is being laid in M7’s lesson planning.

One of the new things we’ll start in January is a formal Latin program. We’ve already begun forming a base for that with this really cool YouTube series:

Learning Latin with Virgil –  Since we’re doing this video series, I wanted flashcards for the boys to review in other places (so we’re not continually tied to the computer for Latin review) so I made flashcards for Lessons 1 – 4. I’ll have more later on. I’m cutting them, pasting onto index cards and laminating them.

FlashcardsLLV1_2_AGibbins_byTAL

Flashcards_LLVLess3_4_AGibbins_byTAL

The Declension Song (lyrics)
Flashcard Exchange (for vocabulary building)

If you’re considering Latin for your homeschool, here’s a comparison chart with the introductory and intensive programs. I have a copy of Ecce Romani book II that I found secondhand; I’m not sure if we” start with that or go with something a little more basic to begin just yet; look for more on that towards the end of December, though ER seems to be a good course, so we’ll probably stick with that. It will depend on how far Virgil takes us. We actually started this a few weeks ago (we’re still on lesson 1) and the boys seem to like it. Since it crosses over with Literature, I’m really quite impressed.

Science:

Along with some of the stuff we’ve already been doing, we’ll begin The Lab of Mr. Q – Classic Science – an almost comic-book style science curriculum that looks like a lot of fun. Our Project Wild course should be soon, so we’ll have a full curriculum from that, which will come in handy with our field trips since we do so many at the local state parks.

History:

History is definitely an area that I’ve struggled with this year as a ‘teacher’. Mosaic, using SWB’s Story of the World (or optional, Gombrich’s A Little History of the World) was recommended to me; but SOTW is very faith-based, IMO and I prefer not to use it. MacroHistory was recommended on SecularHomeschooling.com, so I think we’ll use that and see where it takes us.  I did like the timeline pages on Mosaic, so we’ll do a 2011 THE Academy Time Line – we’re going to do some prep-work this mod so that we can begin a timeline of our school year next year. I am thinking that we’ll do a scroll version, simply because we lack space to lay out a wall timeline.

We’ll also wrap up the outstanding lapbooks we’ve started (hurricanes and The Constitution – that one was way more intensive that I thought it would be and thus have I been completely unmotivated to finish it). This time of year has many opportunities for history lessons that are outside of academia, so we’ll be taking advantage of that as well.

History and Science seem to be the two main areas that our field trips coincide with; this mod is no different – plans include 2 history-themed museums, a children’s museum and a working farm.

Math:

We’re still going strong with MEP math, using Kahn Academy videos to supplement, as well as a hot of other resources from all over (AAAMath, multiplication.com).

Language Arts:

Language Arts is an area that I don’t really use a full curriculum in. We’ve been using Lesson Pathways, and I really like that, but we’re using it as a spine and adding/skipping/re-arranging things to suit what we’re doing rather than a by-the-week guided lesson planner. We read quite a bit, both individually and together. I think that at this age, they’re more interested in hearing a story or reading one than picking it apart to learn what the bits and pieces are, though LBB is going to be getting more and more into that this next year.

PeaGreen is still using MES-English quite a bit; we printed the FunFonix workbook and are still working on that. He’s a flashcard king, so we’ve printed and laminated several sets from there as well. I can definitely see an improvement in his reading ability since we started flashcard drills and doing the reading cards.

We’ve been doing books reports using Story Mapping and Book Report Sandwich. Right now, they’re dictating and I type their thoughts out; hopefully they’ll get better at creative writing as we settle in this year. I also found English Maven that we might use for supplementation.

AAASpell is back on just for fun this mod; they have cute little holiday-oriented lessons for tis time of year, so though we’re not going to be faithfully working on a spelling curriculum, we will have fun with what’s available!

So there you have it.. a somewhat disjointed look at what we’ll be working on for the next 6 weeks or so. I’ll update the ‘our curriculum’ page at some point… I’ve been so lax about keeping that updated! {slaps wrist} This is out last 6 weeks for this school year; we’ll end at the beginning of December and then start fresh with year 2 in January. I can’t believe that we’re almost done with our first YEAR of homeschooling!

Warmly,

~h


New This Week

We have a few new additions to our curriculum that I think are pretty cool that I’d like to share.

MES-English ,  FunFonix and Sight Words with Sampson

PeaGreen is having the worst time with self-confidence and reading. We’re over halfway through with 100EL, and he’s reading the stories in there just fine. We have Dolch flash cards, and he zips through those with only a few misses – but you give him a book or a sheet with more than a couple of lines to read and he’s absolutely overwhelmed.

He also reads backwards – with the ending sound first a lot of the time. I think that’s an age thing since he usually corrects himself. In any case, we’re working on building confidence and recognizing letter combinations and I think that these two sites will help that.

MES-English is a site for English as a second or foreign language, but it’s phonics section has a bunch of printable flash cards and handouts. We’re using the handouts as posters on the wall, and the flash cards I printed and cut to do drills. I had to re-size them to fit (2 per page) and it made nice-sized cards – about the size of a playing card. They’re easy for him to hold and flip through. I may get them laminated and put on a binder ring.

FunFonix has printable workbooks that are probably similar to other phonics workbooks, but you can print all or some of the pages. I printed out all of the first one, but may not for the others; it just depends on how quickly he moves through it. That’s part of the charm though – I want him to breeze through it to build confidence. We’re also still using Lesson Pathways and KISS Grammar for both boys, so this workbook is just a little extra for PeaGreen.

Sight words with Sampson is a flash site that I’m going to try out starting tomorrow. It uses 8 word lists and I think we’re going to use them as spelling words for now. Both of the boys find spelling to be a challenge, so maybe this will help since it’s more visual. I’ll let you know how that goes.

As usual, my additions are free to use  – I am all about the free resources. I found FreeHomeschooling101 a while back and LOVE their collection of links, and I also found Frugal Homeschooling ‘s article, Spending Time to Save Money. In comparing what she had to work with, I realize that we have many of the same resources here. Our library is great, we have more museums per square mile than any other US county (or something like that – there’s a TON of them!) and a relatively large homeschooling community (even if they’re not particularly open to ‘outsiders’ coming into their little groups) – but to give credit where credit is due, those homeschooling groups have done a lot to make homeschooling ‘normal’ in our community – no one bats an eye if we’re out and about on a school day during school hours because they figure we’re homeschooling.

I was reading somewhere that homeschoolers who want free resources are distasteful, but I disagree. I don’t expect companies to make their resources that others have to pay for free for homeschoolers, but there are plenty of resources – great resources – out there for homeschoolers to make use of without shelling out a fortune in curriculum. I also think of it as if I were wanting to learn something. Practically anything that I want to know more about, I can learn for free – all it requires is a little effort!

A couple more things I’ve found to be of interest, recommended by the lovely ladies over at Secular Homeschooling are Waymarking (similar to Letterboxing and GeoCaching, only different) and a really neat poster that talks about Forecasting the Weather.

Warmly,

~h


Gramps, Guns and Greasy Lunch

… are three words that describe our morning. My dad called yesterday evening to see if we wanted to go shoot. It was getting late, time to fix dinner and wind down for the evening, so we rescheduled for this morning. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, ‘goin’ shootin” is a regular part of what we Southern folks do. Probably not all Southerners (because that would be stereotyping and stereotyping is wrong [/snark]), but if you were born and raised south of the Mason Dixon, then you’ve been shootin’ at least once in your life. Basically, it’s target shooting – not skeet shooting (clays or pigeons). We’ve used everything from aluminum cans to slabs of scrap lumber with a target painted on it. Today’s target was the plastic lid to a 5 gallon bucket that we rescued out of the trash in my grandfather’s garage. PeaGreen calls this ‘recycling’.*

‘Shootin” can involve pistols or rifles, semiautomatics or revolvers. Again, lots of Southerners keep a selection on-hand because we like options and guns are fun – don’t let anyone tell you they’re not. {wink}

We live on about 10 acres of land next door to my grandmother and my parents. The back of the property is where we normally go to shoot. There isn’t anyone for miles and miles in that direction, so it’s a safe place. We’re big on gun safety around here – we have to be. My dad and brother both hunt, and all of us are firearms enthusiasts, so even if we didn’t have guns in our home, the kids would still have them in their immediate environment. I’m of the opinion that even if you don’t like guns or are completely opposed to them, gun safety is something that you can’t afford not to know and definitely something that you should teach your children. If you are a gun owner or enthusiast, then I’m sure you already have tips (and I’d love to hear them in comments!) on teaching gun safety. If not though, this is a pretty good little free Gun Safety Course for Kids that is in e-book form that you can read through with your child that addresses all the salient points of gun safety. I firmly believe that the number one killer in gun related violence and children is ignorance – children who have not been taught a healthy respect for the power of a firearm. I’d rather be the one teaching my kids than letting them learn from TV or video games about guns.

Can you believe that even standing in the funky stance, he still managed to hit the target 4 out of six shots? PeaGreen elected to forgo shooting today in favor of collecting spent casings. He gathered quite the collection this morning.

I’ve read a lot of debate on parenting forums about guns and have found that the issue is pretty polarized – those who think guns are evil and those who think that it is possible to be both a responsible parent and gun owner. I’m not here to debate that – it’s clear which side of that issue I am on. I once read a signature line that went something like, ‘I wanted to test the theory about guns killing people, so I put a loaded pistol on the coffee table and sat back to watch it. I watched it all day long and I’ll be damned if it didn’t kill a single person. I guess it really is people who kill people and not guns!’. I thought that was pretty darn clever.

I forgot to mention how very warm it was today, so we only spent about an hour outside. Even in the shade, we were all soaked by the time we went back up to the house. My dad came over to see our Cosmo Kitty (finally) and grab some Robert Jordan books and the kids and I got dressed and went to see Toy Story 3. The timing was off for meals today – the movie started at 1:40, so we didn’t want to have a full lunch or the delicious, buttery movie theater popcorn would be wasted – so we drove thru McDonald’s and grabbed a couple of cheeseburgers. After the movie (which I liked, but thought that there were way too many similarities to TS2 to make this truly great) we went back home and found that my aunt and her dd (who is the same age as the boys) were at my grandmother’s, so we all jumped in the pool for a while to visit and cool off. All in all, a pretty good Summer-fun kind of day!

Warmly,

~h

P.S. Oh! I almost forgot – I found a few more thing that I wanted to share. There’s a Deschooling article that I thought was really great, and also a free reading program at Progressive Phonics that looks good. I found a lot of nifty resources at Freely Educate and science stuff at Hunkins Experiments.

* and speaking of recycling and science, we got PeaGreen an UberTropolis building kit last week – it’s so cool! It meshes with other building sets like K’nex and Lego and encourages kids to find other things to use in their creations as well, like soda bottles, paper clips, straws – all kinds of things.


Planning for M5

“Children have more need of models than of critics.” ~Carolyn Coats

It is with that in mind and with an eye towards unschooling that I am planning this mod. We’re not there yet, but I do so love the concept and so I am working on moving in that direction. I think that a large part of my motivation for how we’re schooling right now (which is more ‘school at home’)  is fear – fear that my kids will be behind, or won’t learn as much or what they should. I found a list of questions to ask yourself about unschooling at Unschooling Ruminations, and it made me think a little more about it. So… this mod,  I am working on having more faith in myself, more faith in the boys and more faith in the process of natural learning.

One of the links I found was one to SageMama – the account has been suspended, but the quote was thought-provoking, “One of the most important concepts I ever learned was about finding our family rhythm.  But rhythm is a funny thing – no one can sell you a rhythm, no one can tell you what your family’s rhythm should be, no one can really even tell you about their own rhythm you have to live it to really feel it.” I really feel like that’s true in regard to parenting in general, but in homeschooling as well. Rhythms change – we’ve certainly moved away from the ‘desk work’ we started out with. Though there are some instances where we choose to work in the school room – and may yet again – right now, working in other areas of the house (and yard, and park, and car…) are working better for us. I don’t think that homeschooling will or should look the same in any two families. So much of homeschooling is about individuality – and I think that is a ‘feature’, not a drawback. My goal is to celebrate that unique flavor that we have, and share it.

I came across this article, Five Steps to Unschooling by Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll, and it got me thinking. I also found this joke, which made me laugh and made me see more how we’re already leaning in that direction – mentally, if not truly in body. While we’re not abandoning all our books and lesson plans just yet, M4 has brought to my attention that we’ve actually been doing a lighter version of school over the last few weeks because we’ve been gone so much. There is a ton of stuff that our community has to offer during the summer months that we’re participating in, and much of it is educational, so I’ve just been counting a lot of that as school time – which is basically unschooling – or at least unstructured learning (which isn’t quite the same thing). We usually discuss whatever we learned about in the car on the way to the next thing or home, and do something else related to a theme if possible. Listening to the comments they make and the questions they ask, I know that the kids are internalizing what they heard and not just parroting.

It was really interesting to me a couple of weeks ago – we went to see a presentation put on by the Houston Zoo’s mobile unit, and my kids had questions about everything the lady had. They had their hands up the whole time! While I’m sure it was frustrating to the her, it was nice for me to see that when their interest is piqued, they will learn – without prodding. This same tendency was demonstrated again the other day when we saw the Pioneer Lady at the library for the second time. I think I needed to see that in action.

Of course, sites like this one help quite a bit: I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. and this article, too: Unschooling Grows Up: A Collection of Interviews

Now, I am sure that in light of the above, what follows this paragraph will probably make some unschooling parent reading this slap his or her forehead with confusion and irritation – but I know “me” and I am not ready to take the leap off into unschooling headfirst just yet. So if that’s you, then bear with me – I’ll get there eventually… or not – but be assured that whatever path or mix of paths we walk will be the right ones for us. {wink}

One of the sites we’ve been using often is AAAKnow.com. That link will bring you to AAAMath, but in the top right corner, there are links to AAASpell, AAAWhere and other similar sites.  Each one has a collection of lesson plans, sorted by subject and grade. It’s very easy to use as a daily thing or just occasionally or to supplement. I like it because the main lesson is spelled out, and then there’s a practice section that you can do with your child or they can do on their own, and you can print a ‘report total’ that will tell you how many problems were offered, correct and missed and how much time was spent. I’m still using the free version of Homeschool Tracker and though we’re not doing as many ‘structured lessons’, the program still allows me to see in record form how much time and what kinds of lessons we’re spending our time in. I use a lesson planner that I keep with me and often make noted while the kids are involved in an activity and then copy those into the computer later.

We’re starting the boys in the next grade ‘officially’ with this mod, and are working on Lesson Pathways‘ guided paths in math and language arts. LittleBoyBlue (who is now in 3rd grade) loves computer games and many of the math ‘work’ lessons are games, so that combo works well for us. PeaGreen (2nd grade) really needs support with reading, so we’re continuing the short lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. According to the book, he’ll be mid-grade 2 by the time he’s done with all of the lessons, so that’s right on-target. Of course, we supplement that with reading books of his choice almost daily and is gaining confidence with every book he adds to his list, so that’s nice to see.

I also found some interesting lesson plans at Discovery Education. You can choose by grade range and then see a list of completed lesson plans by subject. Neat for augmenting a subject if you’re short on material or haven’t had time to plan much. I’m also going to explore Kitchen Table Classroom more fully. Her goal is to make learning fun, and she has a segment called “Today’s Tidbit” that gives you a task to do that’s out of the ordinary, like follow a single ant for as long as possible. It’s actually a book, and though I haven’t read it, it might be worth checking out.

At our library, they have a couple of these ‘Make It Work‘ books. We’ve done quite a few of the projects in them and it makes a wonderful way to help the kids get a feel for the lesson they’re learning, especially in history and social studies.

I Love That Teaching Idea has a TON of cool ideas for livening up lessons, and making lesson activities out of everyday items. One of the best ones, I think, was the “book report TV tray” – putting the story elements into the different slots (plot in the main dish, characters in the side dishes, favorite part in the dessert slot, etc.). We’re constantly in need of new things to do with spelling words, and they have a whole list of ways to learn your list.

Web-Based Projects is a collection of lessons and really neat activities that was created by teaching students and available for free. Montessori Mom has a lot of really great Montessori-based resources, which I like, especially for younger kiddos. My boys are moving out of that age bracket now, but some of the concepts will work for us.

Patience – because I needed to read it again.

And some nifty freebies:

Have trouble remembering to bring your reusable grocery bags into the store? Get a FREE WINDOW CLING for your car to help remind you! It’s from Conserving Now, and they have a section for ideas to help teach our kiddos about conservation, too.

Ever wonder what’s in your water? Nature’s Own is offering a FREE WATER TEST KIT.

I hope you’ve found something useful in this post!

Warmly,

~h


Planning for the Next 6 Weeks

One of the things I am always interested in is the planning process. I’m curious how other homeschooling moms go about planning their lessons – where they start, how they make choices, how long it takes them, etc. So I thought I would share a bit about how I plan my lessons. For me, planning is possibly the most important step in homeschooling (if you’re not unschooling). An organized method of presenting information is key to making things “flow”. I think there is a logical way to present information, especially in the core subjects. Each new thing builds upon the foundation previously laid, and so I want to ensure that my kids’ foundation is strong. That means good planning is essential so that nothing is left out …  and so, I plan.

As I mentioned in previous posts, this week is our “off” week. We do school for 6 weeks, then take a one-week break. We follow that schedule all through the calendar year. I use the week off to plan the next 6 week lesson period (what we call a learning module, or “mod”), which leaves us with 7 mods for the year.  If you’re new to lesson planning, I recommend getting a good lesson planner. You can buy them in office/school supplies stores, online (Donna Young has a good selection of printables. Here’s her homeschool lesson planner) or you can make your own, which I recommend once you know what you want to do. I also use Homeschool Tracker, a free downloadable program that lets to plan and/or keep records on your computer. Helpful because you can generate reports on everything and I am a fan of good record keeping.

Now, for the actual planning process, I begin by browsing. Today, I am just surfing the web, reading homeschool blogs and checking out websites that other moms like and making notes. I’m also reviewing my bookmarked sites because I tend to forget what all I have saved. I often will bookmark something with the intent of using it for a certain lesson and forget that I have it, so this review helps me use the resources I have gathered. I am using Ambleside Online (link in sidebar) as a basis for our year with heavy influence by The Well Trained Mind (link below). I also want to incorporate more Waldorf style into this mod, so I will be working on meshing that this week. I’m using these two articles about Waldorf curriculum to draw from: 1st grade & 2nd grade. You can search that site for Waldorf curriculum overviews for other grades.

We covered “Paddle to the Sea” for history/geography in the first 6 weeks (M1), so I need something new for M2.  I am thinking of buying History of the World, but since we covered “history” in M1, we might work on more “social studies” in M2 and then switch back to history in M3 and just alternate for the rest of the year. If we do social studies, we can still work in concepts like mapping (drawing our neighborhood, a local park, finding routes to locales around town), visiting a local fire dept and police department, the courthouse; even things like paying bills can become a discussion and lesson on how our society works. If we do stick with History, I am considering using the history section of The Well Trained Mind’s strategy and starting on a timeline. I have read that kids under 3rd grade don’t benefit from a timeline, but I am not so sure about that. It seems like such a logical way to show history in relation to a little kid’s lifetime. That will require some thought over the next week or so. I did find this online timeline, which is way cool. We’ll still make our own, but this will be a good one to start with and to help me know what to add and when. I also found a set of lesson plans at Core Knowledge (link below) that we may use for history as well.

I found a recommendation for Sequential Spelling while reading through this blog’s list of resources. The workbook we’re using for PeaGreen is one from his former school (though oddly, not the one they were using for spelling lessons) and so we’re going to continue using that for now. For LittleBoyBlue, the book I am using is just a workbook I picked up from somewhere and it’s short (only 8 lessons) so we’re doing that for M2, but it will run out in week 5, so we’ll do a review of the words form the book and I will probably pick up Sequential Spelling to begin in M3. I also found some spelling lists here, and if you scroll down, there are holiday and special occasion lists, too. I also have a book called Power to Spell 2, which is a teacher’s edition (it’s so old that it doesn’t have an ISBN number…), and one called Dr. Spello 2nd edition that I may use if we don’t get Sequential Spelling. (Wow – I looked that up and maybe it’s worth something??) One thing I am noticing is that the older spelling books seem more advanced in grade 2 than the newer ones I am finding. Proof that schools are dumbing our kids down?

For math, the boys are almost done with the workbooks we started in, so I need to come up with something to carry us through. Actually, when I looked, LittleBoyBlue is done with his. I have Saxon Math 3, but I am not sure if we’re ‘there’ yet. I will be looking over the skills they need for their grade on the IXL website, and planning quite a bit from there for this mod. I found a list of lesson plans at HotChalk that offers some neat games to plan that are math related using cards, dice, spinners and other manipulatives, which my kids love. We’ll add in a bunch of those, too. I am looking over Math programs and am considering going with Math-U-See, but am not committing to it just yet. I am going to get some of the block/place value manipulatives, but probably from Manning’s since I’ve seen sets there cheaper than $30.00. I may check and see if Manning’s has a 2nd grade workbook to finish out the year since “technically”, LittleBoyBlue will begin “3rd grade” in the fall.

I have Learning Phonics and Spelling in a Whole Language Classroom but we’ve never used it. I also have Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we have used that before, so I think we’re going to use that more completely during M2. We’re using a couple of readers that I found at Goodwill (always good to pick up lost and older versions of text books…) for Reading and Language Arts. We didn’t focus a whole lot on reading last mod, so it’s going to be stepped up now. The kids read books, but not aloud, so I need to make sure they’re doing that more this mod. We’ll probably just use the readers (Bookworm for PeaGreen and Rainbow Bridge for LittleBoyBlue) chapter by chapter until we’re done with them, then look for something else.

Field Trips – we didn’t do many (only 1, not counting the library and playgroup) of these in M1, so I definitely want to plan several for this mod. I really want to go to the Botanical Garden in Orange, and since we’re studying plants is Science, and it’s getting closer to Spring, this will be a good time to go, I think. I’ll probably call or email them at some point this week to get their recommendation and see if they offer a lesson plan based on a trip there. I’d love to hit some of the museums around town, too. I’ll have to see what’s out there and how it can fit into our lessons for this mod.

For art, we’re going to continue with our study of Raphael. We’ve only covered 3 of the paintings recommended by Ambleside for the first term, so we’ll stick with that, and then move on to the next artist.  Music will continue with AO’s recommendation as well. I’m also going to buy some silk scarves from Dharma Trading Co. and we’ll kool-aid dye them for playsilks. I’ll get several 35×35 and a couple of the larger sized for tent-making. Handicraft-wise, I think we may work on some needlecrafts this mod.  I remember learning how to crochet when I was about 7, so the boys might enjoy that. I have a beginner’s kit, so this might be a good time to re-learn, myself! I also will plan holiday-oriented crafts for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter/Ostara /Spring Equinox will fall in this mod on March 20, so we’ll have some activity corresponding with that as well. Spiritually speaking, I don’t profess to claim any one religion; I think there is value in almost all kinds and want to present my kids with a well-rounded, open-minded view of things and so we’ll learn about the Christian holidays and the Pagan ones that influenced them.

Here are some of the sites I have bookmarked:

Super Teacher Worksheets

Beestar

Core Knowledge Lesson Plans

Big IQ Kids – spelling lists grades 1-7, math lessons and US Geography – This site is pretty neat. It features a “tutor” that speaks to your child. Downside is that all of the lessons are done online, so if you don’t like that (I prefer not to do lessons online) then this might not work for you. However, the geography one seems pretty cool.

Books available in whole online:

The Wonder Clock

Main Lesson – LOTS of books here, many from Ambleside’s curriculum including Milo Winter’s Aesop for Children, The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang and Elementary Readers by Treadway.

The Rosetta Project – Vintage picture books and lots of classics

Handbook of Nature Study – Anna B. Comstock’s 1911 version online.

And videos we like:

50 States and Capitals and worksheets

The Colors in Spanish, Numbers 1-30 in Spanish, The Alphabet Song in Spanish

You can also search story books, circle time or the name of a book and it may be read by someone and published on YouTube. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, The Carrot Seed (from FIAR) and many others can be found there.

There are also lots of kids’ TV series and videos, like The Magic Schoolbus and Grammar Rock (and School House Rock, too) videos!

So… that’s where I begin. I have a lot of information; now comes the part where it gets put together into coherent lessons. Basically, I take the information I want to cover and break it down into 6 “bites” – or more, depending on how many days per week we do that subject. For example, with copywork, math, spelling, phonics & reading – those are done every day so I need 24 lessons to cover the whole 6 weeks. With art, music and drama, I only need one per week, so 6 lessons will suffice. With history, geography and science, I can get away with only 12 lessons, or 2 per week for each. There are other lessons, too, like character education (Aesop and other resources), etiquette (Tuesday Tea and I’m using a book called White Gloves and Party Manners that I picked up a long time ago) that may happen daily or weekly, depending on our schedule.

I am going to go ahead and publish this now, but I may edit it later and add to it, so check back! If you have resources that you’d like to share, please comment. Any additions will be noted. Thanks for reading!

Warmly,

~h