Monday, August 26, 2013

Homeschool Update: Finished With the First Ten Weeks!

Or rather, the first eleven weeks - that's what procrastination does for ya.

I can't believe that we're ten weeks into the school year! It has flown by. I am enjoying this year much more than last year, and though I still don't really know what I'm doing, I am at the point where I feel the hope dawning that some day I shall know what I'm doing. That's a big improvement!

And so.... notes on the first ten weeks of first grade!

- As I get more into home education, I am more and more in favor of late starts, especially for boys. I have seen more and more skills emerge more easily as our son ages - not because of my teaching skills, but because the skills are simply emerging naturally. I can either torture him into skills that he's not ready for (examples: reading skills, writing, etc.), or just wait for them to show up and then take credit for them. (Heh, heh, heh.) Considering that I've tried the torture route, I think I'll just wait!

(It's the difference between snoozing on the deck of a cruise ship or swimming alongside the ship. Same time to the destination, but a lot easier - and more pleasant for all parties - to choose the deck chair.)

Of course, it's also a matter of when a child is personally ready for academics. But if we combine a willingness to wait for a child's readiness and a willingness to give up our society's ever-lowering age of academics (preschool for six-month-olds, anyone? - no, not joking, we have it here), then that is a productive and positive combination.

- Picture study has been awesome. A pleasant surprise, and a ton of fun!

- Another big hit has been our Map Skills book. A sweet friend told me that Map Skills was her boys' favorite subject, and I have found the same to be true at our house! It's just one short lesson per week (or less, as there aren't enough lessons for each week in the year), and our 7yo always wants to do more - an honor that he does not bestow upon any subject except poetry reading!

- Right now we're doing a 4-day week, and that's working for us - but I think that at some point in the future we will have to switch to a 5-day week. Why? Because while I love 4-day weeks, it does not leave us enough vacation time for me to feel truly rested. Our 4-week summer was not nearly enough time - I still felt burned out when we started up again, and only going to a 5-day week will solve that. Maybe next year!

- As mentioned before, skills are coming much more easily for our 7yo than they did last year. He still doesn't care to write, but the little bit that he's doing is much better than last year. In reading, he has simply leaped ahead by leaps and bounds - far beyond what I have actually taught him. He is now reading independently and only needs a bit of help. Though we have a phonics program, we're not actually using it much any more - we're just spending time reading out loud together from whatever book we pull off of the shelf.

- I did finally decide against formal Language Arts for first grade. Instead, we are learning Language Arts informally through Charlotte Mason-style copywork. How does that look? Basically, I copy out passages from the books we read (I just pick any book that he enjoys), and he copies and then illustrates it. It's obvious that our son will never be an artist (keep your day job, kid), but copywork has worked beautifully. I hope to do a post on it soon! Some Charlotte Mason aficionados use copywork (along with dictation and narration) to form a complete Language Arts program for K-12.

- Right now school takes a maximum of an hour and a half, possibly two hours (rarely). If we (1) didn't have a toddler around wreaking havoc, and (2) the 7yo would buckle down and work without needing to be reminded to keep his mind on his tasks, it would be a lot shorter. Of course I'm not counting our science/history/literature time in the afternoons in that total (that's too fun to count as work!), just our family time (Bible, catechism, poetry, safety, picture study, etc.) and seat work (phonics, math, handwriting, copywork).

- The bad news: We're already a bit behind in handwriting and math. This is not because we've been slacking, but simply because, as a newbie, I didn't know to count the "extras" that take more time - like review math assignments that aren't covered in the lesson count total. The good news: I think we can catch up (especially since have more school days than assignments)... but even if we don't, we can always continue our books into next year (though hopefully not).

- Some things that are really working for us: 

  • I still love-love-love Handwriting Without Tears. This curriculum has won a permanent place in our home.
  • Making weekly checklists for work. Of course I can't turn the first-grader loose with his own checklist yet, but it's a great practice that really keeps me on track - and it also gives me a concrete list for telling the 7yo, "Here are the three things you need to do. When you're done, you can get up. You can choose to take ten minutes or three hours, so here you go."
  • Notebooking by Copywork - Per my Charlotte Mason reading, I have stopped trying to do free-composition-type notebooking. For now, copywork is my notebooking, and I'll add back free-composition (or rather, book narration) into our notebooking project in a couple of years. This was a big relief for me, as notebooking was fun but somewhat tortuous. 
  • Map Skills series by Modern Curriculum Press - Easy, fun, wonderful!
  • Poetry reading, picture study, and map skills have been the biggest hits of this year. 
- A major challenge during this time has been dealing with the dreaded transition between (1) having a toddler who takes a morning nap, and (2) having a toddler who now disdains such frivolity. Considering that my main modus operandi was to cram all formal work into said nap time, this has been quite an adjustment! But we're managing, and we're learning each day. I have the feeling that a mode of constant learning will be in place for as long as we are home educating, because it's never stagnant!

- I may have said it once or twice before, but I love living books education. It is truly a passion - and a passion that's still growing daily!

- We are tentatively (and very informally) starting our history/science/geography curriculum, Galloping the Globe. I'll let you all know how it goes!

And there you have it! Questions, dear readers? Bring 'em on!


  1. There's a theory in Child Development called the Zone of Proximal Development, which basically says what you said: there are certain ages when a child is more able to learn a certain skill. You can cram it down and force it before that time, but it will go easier for everyone and the retention will be better if you just wait until the child is old enough to learn whatever skill it is.

  2. Jen - Amen! That pretty much sums it up exactly as I have seen it working out in our home.

    Love you guys!! :)


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