Monday, August 29, 2011

The best laid plans- Ah, the possibilities! -Part I

We are still in our summer mode this week.  But I've been doing some planning for the upcoming year.  My computer mysteriously stopped working for about a week, which freed up a lot of time for rereading my favorite education and homeschooling books, putting it all together in one coherent plan, just thinking and brainstorming and ruminating.  Then just as mysteriously as it stopped, the computer started working again:)  Anyway, so now I can write it all up.  A little bit about my planning process first.  I started out just thinking about what I'd like our educational goals to be for this upcoming school year. I thought about what the children need to work on, what their particular interests are right now, about what will work with our current constraints such as time, energy and resource availability, what would work better for us as family.  Then I hit the books to revisit various teaching suggestions, combed through many book lists, researched the areas that were not applicable until now or where I wanted to get a better picture for the direction we wish to pursue in our studies, I got more ideas online, looked at my own archives and then wrote things down.  We also have an additional challenge of having to learn some subjects in two languages, so I had to plan for it accordingly.  I think of these plans as a flexible framework, we'll change and adjust things if necessary.  Overall, our general approach continues to be eclectic but heavily influenced by the Charlotte Mason approach.  As I wrote previously, I like the interdisciplinary nature of CM, the short lessons, integrating art, poetry, music, nature, history and skill acquisition into a learning system which is very well suited to young children but also provides a lot of breadth and sets a good foundation.  This is what has worked best for us over the years.  As much as I was inspired by the Classical Education approach, I haven't found a satisfactory way to make it work with all of our children, CM way just works better for us in practice while providing  the same benefits I would have hoped to gain from the Classical Model. So here we go:
Math: We will continue with Mammoth Math, both boys are doing well with it.  I usually go by what I'd like them to learn and where they are academically and developmentally, occasionally looking at other books to get a better idea of scope, sequence, etc. The way it unintentionally worked out, is that we weren't covering the topics by grade level but because I guess one thing builds on the other in math, the children seem to be doing just fine anyway.  Sometimes, I use examples from Ray's Arithmetic as a way to assess if they have mastered a topic.  Those questions are often more challenging, so if the boys can do them, it means, they are solid.
English Language Arts: We will continue to work on reading fluency each one on his level, aiming for independent reading.  They both read independently in Hebrew but english needs more work and encouragement.  The 9 year old reads well in English but prefers Hebrew and the 8 year old  needs more work to become more of a fluent reader.  So I'll have them read out loud a little every day.  We'll continue to read out loud to them and I've been searching for suitable interesting, well written and mind/vocabulary expanding possibilities.  We will continue with Beautiful Italics for Children for our copywork/penmanship practice.  I would very much like to get them to write more this year, so I am thinking of doing some sort of journaling with them.  Until now, we have learned grammar very informally and sporadically but it worked well.  However, I'd like to move it up a notch with perhaps something more formal.  I liked what I saw in the Michael Clay Thompson program because it incorporates grammar and root work and poetry and great literature but it is very expensive and I am reluctant to invest so much money into a program that I am not sure the children would take to.  So I'll probably get some of MCT's book secondhand and see how the kids like it and then decide.  There is also a free download of 100 most used words in classics from MCT so I am thinking of using this list as a starting point in our vocabulary growth endeavors.  There are many approaches to expanding one's children's vocabulary (I'll post links in a separate post)besides just reading great books and so we'll have to live and see what works best.
History:  Both boys have expressed interest in history and historical subjects lately.  I have been unable to find a curriculum that I liked so far.  So we will continue as we have done in the past with our own explorations, lots of living books and discussions, perhaps historical coloring books, paper soldiers and other historical model making.    I am very much with CM, that history is more than just teaching dates and facts, but about introducing big ideas to children and expanding their horizons.  So I expect our studies in this area to be somewhat eclectic and we'll see where it will take us.  There are lots of possibilities here.
Geography: Again we'll be doing our own thing - geography games and drills, coloring maps, map reading skills, etc.  I have plenty of ideas in my archives to get us started.
Hebrew: We have to do reading, writing and grammar here too.  So we'll use some workbooks to get us started and take it from there.  Perhaps throw in some scienge and geography in too so we could keep up with the terminology.
Science:  I think this too will be interest based and involve lots of living books, some experiments, some science kits and other educational games.  I am thinking of getting a telescope when we get a chance.  I have a list of topics I'd like to touch upon but how far and how deep we'll go will depend. I have a list of books I'd like to look into to assist us in our learning journey. 
Art: I am hoping to integrate picture study with our other areas of study such as language, history, etc. CM style.  We'll hopefully do art projects and try out new crafts to learn new skills.  It would be nice to get them to draw in a nature journal -we'll see.  As to craft ideas, there are plenty in my archives and  I collect more all the time:)
Music:  Hopefully we'll fit in some composer studies and piano lessons for the boys. 
Physical Education: Just playing and doing things outside, bike riding, etc.
Practical/Life skills:  Just living a regular life in our family should help them learn all the basics: personal hygiene, discipline, home economics, cooking, baking, cleaning, getting along, etc.
I think I'll have to make some kind of a check list to help us keep it all together and come up with a schedule to make things easier.  I still need to organize things better, make sure we have all the supplies and a good way for boys to organize and keep their work.   This is already a very long post so I'll leave the plans for the younger set for a different time as well as provide more details for some of the above.


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