Mini-Terms for Homeschooling

Mini-Terms for Homeschooling

I got lots of feedbacks on the mini-terms last week! Again, all credit for this idea goes to my friend (and CC director) Erin Moore. I love to steal ideas from her. 🙂

This is the master plan I’ve worked out for next school year based on my children and our needs. (Lydia, Charlotte and Georgia will be “in school” next year. Eve will do a few things to help her stay occupied but won’t be in CC yet.)

Term 1 7/23-8/19 (4 weeks)
Read-aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Classical music, biographies, handwriting/cursive, catechisms
Math
Reading
English Grammar review of CC all cycles

Term 2 8/20-9/16 (4 weeks)
Read-aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Picture books, spelling, keyboarding, poetry
CC
Math
Reading
Essentials/Fix It Grammar
Violin/Piano

Term 3 9/17-10/15 (4 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Classical music, biographies, handwriting/cursive, catechisms
CC
Math
Reading
Essentials/Fix It Grammar
Violin/Piano

Fall break 10/16-24

Term 4 10/28-11/22 (4 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Picture books, spelling, keyboarding, poetry
CC
Math
Reading
Essentials/Fix It Grammar
Violin/Piano

Thanksgiving break 11/25-29

Term 5 12/2-12/13 (2 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Advent books, Christmas music, spelling, catechisms
Math
Reading
Violin/Piano

Winter Break 12/14-1/3

Term 6 1/6-2/14 (6 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Classical music, biographies, handwriting/cursive, catechisms
CC
Test Prep
Memory Master Prep
Faces of History Prep
Essentials/Fix It Grammar
Violin/Piano
(Reading and math for Lottie & Georgia)
Extra week 2/10-2/14: Work on Faces of History and Field trip

Term 7 2/17-3/13 (4 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Picture books, spelling, keyboarding, poetry
CC
Test Prep
Memory Master Prep
Faces of History Prep
Essentials/Fix It Grammar
Violin/Piano
(Reading and math for Lottie & Georgia)

Spring break 3/16-3/20

Term 8 3/23-4/17 (4 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Classical music, biographies, handwriting/cursive, catechisms
CC
Memory Master
Reading
Math
Lent
Essentials/Fix It Grammar
Violin/Piano

Celebration 4/15-21
Do something fun like a field trip to a museum or nature spot!

Term 8 4/22-5/19 (4 weeks)
Read- aloud novel and narration
Morning Loop: Picture books, spelling, keyboarding, poetry
Math
Reading
Fix It Grammar
Field trip
Violin/piano

Summer break (8 weeks)
Play outside
Nature journals
Classical music
Art projects
Violin/piano

Now that you’ve got the overall plan, I’ll explain the pieces in case you’re like me and want to know allll the things. 😉

Read-aloud novel- We are doing Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival membership. You can go to her website to learn everything about it. Summer membership is open this week! I like that this gives reading a book club feeling. My crew loves a good themed activity, so this is right up our alley!

Narration- This will be brand new to us. I am going to be doing some reading this summer to learn more about this. I’ll share that as I learn.

Morning Loops- In the past I’ve done a morning basket where I rotated several books that we were reading each morning. But I’ve found myself wanting to incorporate more into this time but feeling a bit overwhelmed with how to do that. I am taking the idea of looping and will rotate loops so that we aren’t doing all the things each term.

Classical music- We will focus on the specific artists we are studying during that cycle of CC as well as listening to music for violin (Lydia) and piano (Lottie). My big girls love the symphony too, so we hope to be able to take in a few performances next year as well.

Handwriting/Cursive- We have used Handwriting Without Tears for five years and love their stuff! I just get the student workbooks. I found I wasn’t using the teacher book at all.

Catechisms- We are using a free app called New City Catechisms that my friend Kelley told me about. This will be new to us, so I’ll let you know what we think about it after we’ve used it for a while.

Picture books- We’ll be using Read-Aloud Revival’s monthly picture book recommendation plus others that go along with our CC curriculum and just our overall interests.

Keyboarding- We love Keyboarding Without Tears. It’s great to have a few things like this that don’t require my attention so one student can be working on keyboarding while another needs hands-on attention.

Spelling- We use All About Spelling. I like that it teaches you the rules behind spelling so that when faced with a new word you can take a stab at its spelling and usually get very close if not absolutely correct. AAS has an online test to tell you which level your child should start with.

Poetry- We read various poetry from books I’ve seen recommended.

Math- In my last post, I explained that Lydia is no longer doing Saxon math. She is now doing Teaching Textbooks Grade 5. (Saxon puts you ahead a good bit. She will be 4th grade next year.) You can do a trial of TT too to see what you think. Lottie and Georgia will be doing Saxon math (Lottie- Saxon 3, Georgia Saxon 1).

Reading- We use All About Reading. Two of mine have learned to read with it, and it’s worked great. Georgia will start with Level 1 next year, and Lottie will be in Level 3. Lydia reads for at least 20 minutes each day from a list of novels I give her at the beginning of the year. (I have to give her a new list every few months because that girl is a voracious reader, and I love it.) Just like AAS, you can take a short assessment to see which level of AAR to start your student on.

Classical Conversations– CC covers history, geography, timeline, Latin, English facts, math facts, and science. It also gives us fine arts studies and science experiments which we LOVE! We expand on what we learn at CC through our morning loop books.

Essentials– Lyd starts Essentials next year which will teach her good writing skills. We are both super excited about it.

Fix It Grammar– My friend Katie recommended this resource. I’m a grammar nerd, so this should be fun for my student and me! Ha! This will help Lyd with Essentials.

Violin/Piano- Lyd has taken violin with the Suzuki method for three years now, and Lottie is starting to take Suzuki piano in the fall. Violin has been so helpful for Lydia because of the beauty of it but also for teaching perseverance. It’s amazing how far she has come!

Test Prep- Our umbrella school requires annual state testing each spring starting with 2nd grade. To prep for this we use Spectrum test prep books that you can find on Amazon. (Make sure you get the most recent editions!)

Faces of History prep- This is for Essentials at CC. Students study a historical person and prepare a paper on that person and then give a presentation in front of family and friends. It’s incredible to see their hard work!

A few things… you notice our summer break is only 8 weeks. That’s really all we need. By mid-July all of us are craving structure. So, we will go ahead and start school back four weeks before CC starts back. This allows us to really get in our groove before we kick off CC.

As I mentioned in my last post, I tried to do a better job of making our term match with the season. When December rolls around, we want to sit under blankets near the fire and read and sing Christmas songs, so we are leaning into that more next year. Depending on where we are in our math curriculum we may even lessen how many math lessons we do per week during those two weeks or we may do math games instead. Nothing makes me happier than seeing them excited about learning. My goal is that when they leave 12th grade they know that learning is fun and that it never stops. We can keep learning our whole lives. I’m 34, and I’m learning everything I can about gardening right now, especially the science of pollinating blueberry bushes. Learning is a gift and an invitation to know our Creator more deeply.

Whoosh! That’s a lot, but I’m sure I left something out! Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have any resource recommendations or ideas. I got several great ideas from FB comments on the last post. Thanks for those!

 

 

 

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What Worked & What Didn’t This School Year

What Worked & What Didn’t This School Year

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWe are wrapping up our fifth year of homeschooling! This one was the best one yet. There were hard days, certainly, but there were also a lot of really great moments we had together. I thought I would share a list of what worked and what didn’t work for us this year. I like to take some to reflect on the year we just finished before I launch completely into planning for next year. (But let’s be honest, I had my master plan for next school year mostly ready in February. I can’t help it. I like to plan.)

What worked…

  1. School Room- The biggest change that worked was definitely our new school room when we moved houses in December. Our home was built in the sixties, so it has what I think would have been used as a formal sitting room. We aren’t formal, and we don’t sit a lot, so that would have been wasted space. It gets the best morning light, and it’s a wonderful size, so we made it our school room. We’ve got a big white board that Lydia puts up our CC grammar work each week. We have a big oval table and four rolling chairs around it, one for each girl. The table is almost never clean. It is used for art projects, play dough messes and lots of learning. I have a little desk and rolling chair too. Right now we have one small bookcase which is overflowing with school books, so we plan to do a wall of bookshelves in there this summer. And some paint, but I don’t know what color yet.
  2. Our Classical Conversations community- This was our second year with this community, and I loved how much our friendships got to grow this year. I tutored the youngest class this year, and getting to know the parents of my kids was such a blessing not to mention the fun, crazy, wonderful group of tutors I got to know and love so much.
  3. One day with nowhere to go- When I was planning out dance classes and violin lessons, counseling sessions, etc., I tried to make sure we had at least one day per week that we didn’t have anywhere to go. This allowed us to have a slow morning and linger in our read-aloud for a bit longer or explore an interesting composer for a few more songs. One of my primary reasons for homeschooling is so I can set the pace for what our mornings look like, but if I’m not intentional with the planning of our week then it can start to feel very choppy. We prefer days with a bit more margin and fluidity.
  4. No TV until late in the afternoon. (I would include all screens. My kids don’t have any screens other than the TV, but if they did then this would apply to all screens.) This has been a rule in our house forever, but I’m including it because I can tell on Saturdays how much morning TV drains them of their creative and learning energy. Really, I think this would be a good thing for me to adhere to as well regarding social media.
  5. Read-alouds. This is everyone’s favorite. We love books so much. We are currently reading The Green Ember, and it’s fantastic. I’ll include this below but we need to figure out a better system for our morning basket time. I’m hoping to improve this next year.
  6. Caring as much about emotional growth as intellectual growth. This is an area God has really impressed upon my heart as my girls get older. It’s an area where I’ve gotten to see fruit this year and also an area I want to continue to pour into. In that vain, we are working on habits this summer. I talk more about our summer plans at the end of this blog.

What didn’t work…

  1. Saxon math for Lydia. This is our biggest didn’t work this year. Lyd did Saxon 5/4 in the fall. I ended up getting videos for her to watch to make it better. (The videos we had were not the Nicole lady who I heard great things about but another person. They were so boring.) I was thinking we would try the Nicole math videos, but then I heard about Teaching Textbooks. They had a free trial, so Lyd gave it a try and we both love it. She loves it because it’s more engaging than before. I like it because it grades all her math stuff for me, and since I’ll have three students next year and four the year after this was a big deal to me. The price was reasonable, and it still teaches using the spiral method which I like. We just made this change a month or so ago. I’ll update after we’ve been using it a while, but so far we love it. (I am still using Saxon for Lottie and Georgia next year.)
  2. Late night Wednesdays + early morning Thursday. Our community met on Thursdays last year, and our Missional Community meets on Wednesday nights. While this isn’t the worst thing in the world by any stretch and certainly kids in traditional school deal with it all the time, I’m not sad at all that our community day is moving to Tuesdays. I’m grateful to not feel rushed to get littles to bed on Wednesday night so they aren’t grumpy for CC day.
  3. My school planner. I used one I got at Target. It was fine, and I made it work for two students, but I need something a bit more for three students with three different workloads next year. I’m going to try Emily Ley’s Teacher Planner that launches tomorrow.
  4. Planning for two semesters. For the past five years, I’ve treated our calendar like a traditional school calendar–start mid-August, fall break, two week Christmas break, spring break, end for summer before Memorial Day. It’s worked okay, but it felt like there was room for improvement. Come late-July we are all craving some sort of structure and also all the air-conditioning. January and February always feel weird because we are prepping for state-testing, and this year Lydia was prepping for Memory Master. In December we want to sit by the fire and read and sing Christmas carols and bake yummy things. All that to say, it felt like we were imposing the same structure on every season even though seasons are just that–seasons. December isn’t like May, but it felt like we were trying to make it be. My friend Erin shared how she does mini-terms instead of two semesters. Each mini-term is 4-6 weeks depending on the calendar and holidays. I thought this was brilliant, and immediately decided I wanted to give it a try with our master plan for school next year. I will still get in the same amount of school days, but they will be spaced out differently, and our areas of focus will shift with the seasons. I really like how it’s looking right now, and we’ll see how it feels when we live it out. I can share more about our specific master plan for mini-terms in a future blog.
  5. Morning basket time. We struggled with this this year, and I think it has something to do with the planning for two semesters I described above. It feels like there is so much I want to fit into this time and I struggled to do that in an intentional way. When I was reworking our master plan I reworked our morning basket time too, and I’m hoping it will be more meaningful next year.

There you go! (I should mention I felt the need to have the same number in each list, but I curbed my perfectionist tendencies and left you with 6 and 5. That’s growth, people.) I’ll share more about next year’s master plan and the plan for morning basket time in a future blog.

Our summer term will be 8 weeks long. We are going to read some great books through Read Aloud Revival, work in the garden a lot and learn about habits using Sean Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. On rainy days we will watch Our Planet on Netflix and Monty Don’s Gardeners’ World on Britbox. And, of course, time with grandparents and cousins and friends and ice cream… lots of ice cream.

It’s been a really good year, and I’m incredibly grateful for the memories I’ve gotten to make teaching my smart, creative, delightful girls. Lydi and Lottie, you make me a better learner. I’m so glad we get to do this adventure together. All my love.

Our First Year of Homeschooling: Some Resources, Ideas & Thoughts

Our First Year of Homeschooling: Some Resources, Ideas & Thoughts

IMG_3741I should preface what I’m about to say with this . . . I am a total rookie to this homeschool thing. (Also, I will probably say that every year because if it’s anything like parenting every year will bring new and different challenges, and I will feel completely inadequate almost always.) But given my must-read-everything-I-can-on-the-subject personality I thought I would share our experience from this year in case it might help someone else scouring Google for resources. If you aren’t homeschooling, skip to the bottom for my favorite banana pudding recipe. (Which has nothing to do with school except we made it to celebrate finishing our first year.)

For several years I’ve felt like homeschooling was something we needed to try. There were many reasons, but a big one was knowing there is a decent chance I will need to homeschool our adopted child to catch him or her up and to teach English. Knowing that, I wondered about teaching our other kids. Originally, Matt was hesitant, but he came around and has been our biggest supporter this year. I thought we would try it out for PreK since that seemed like a low-risk situation. I told myself, “How badly can you mess up her education in PreK?!”

Through several friends, I had heard about Classical Conversations which is kind of like a combination of a homeschool co-op and curriculum. It covers history, timeline, Latin, geography, music, science, art, and basic math and English things. I went to a preview day for a local CC group and loved it. It gave me the accountability and community I was looking for, and it gave Lydia the friendships and outside influences I wanted for her. CC gave us a basic structure, and then I could add on as I wanted. For PreK we kept it very simple. With CC, you are responsible for choosing a comprehensive math and language arts curriculum. I chose to do Saxon math because I liked how it told me exactly what to do and say. Math was the subject that most intimidated me, so this helped calm my fears. (Side note: several people mentioned to me that most kids can work one level up with Saxon so we did the Kindergarten level this year, and that worked well for us.) For language arts, I chose All About Reading. I wanted a curriculum that was heavy on teaching the rules of phonics instead of just memorizing tons of sight words. You all know I’m a word person, so I did a lot of research in this area. Lydia and I both loved AAR. We did Level 1 this past year, and on their website you can take an assessment to see which level is best for each child to start on. Next year, we will add All About Spelling by the same group. The thing we did the most this year was read. I read to Lydia from chapter books almost every time I fed Georgia. She got the Chronicles of Narnia set on CD for Christmas and listens to those during rest time and before bedtime every day.

And that’s all we did this year. We focused on the basics, and I had to tell myself no a lot. We didn’t do many field trips, although we did take a lot of nature walks with her field guide. We didn’t make a paper mâché volcano or create a tornado from a two-liter. During our CC days, she got to do all sorts of science experiments and art projects, but we didn’t do these at home. The first half of the year I was very pregnant, and the second half I had a newborn, so we kept things simple. And I’m glad we did because it allowed us to go slowly and enjoy the learning journey.

Next year, we will be official, and I will have to report grades and attendance and such. We will be adding a few more things to our lesson plans, but I’m still trying to keep things simple. We are doing Classical Conversations again, and I’m excited because we learn all about Africa this year in our geography lessons. Like I said earlier, we are adding All About Spelling, and we’ve been doing Handwriting Without Tears and will continue that as well. The umbrella school that we are registering with requires a Bible curriculum each year, so I’m praying through what that looks like. (After originally writing this, a new friend recommended Grapevine studies, and I think we are going to do their Old Testament study in the fall.)

Regarding our schedule, we do most of our school in the morning while Georgia is napping. Charlotte is in the kitchen with us. Sometimes, she wants to “do school” and I give her a math manipulative or a little slate to “practice” letters, but that’s only if she asks. She does sing the US presidents while brushing her teeth which is pretty comical because about the time she gets to Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and Hayes little toothpaste bubbles are dribbling down her chin. All the girls have rest time in the afternoon. The younger two take naps, and Lydia has quiet time by herself. This gives me a much needed sanity break mid-day.

Homeschooling is hard–hard because it demands time and patience and energy which, let’s be honest, often feel like they are in short supply. But if your heart feels stirred to try it, I would encourage you to explore it and see if it might be a good fit for your family. Several years ago when I started my list of life goals I wrote, “To teach my kids to read.” Sitting beside Lydia at our kitchen table with the early morning light casting lines through the blinds and hearing Lydia read her first sentence was a moment I won’t forget. I loved watching her little finger tracing underneath letters that were now unlocked and the look on her face that day when Daddy came home and she told him, “I can read!” That moment made all the hard moments worth it. (And trust me, there were some hard moments. Sometime in person, I can tell you the “milk” story, but let’s just say I thought I was going to lose it one day over that four-letter word.) We started out the year with the mantra “We can do hard things.” And we did.

Lydia loves a good party and requested a little celebration a couple weeks ago after we finished our last day of school. So, I made her favorite roast beef sandwiches, and she and Charlotte helped me make banana pudding, which means Lydia helped and Lottie licked the remaining whipped cream from the container. I got this recipe from Miss Nan’s cookbook, and every time I make it I think of Miss Nan and all she taught me.

Jackson Banana Pudding
– One small package of instant French vanilla pudding mix.

– 1 can of Eagle brand condensed milk

– Large Cool Whip

– Vanilla wafers

– Bananas

Make pudding according to package directions. Fold in the can of condensed milk. Then, fold in the Cool Whip. Layer with vanilla wafers and bananas. It makes a ton!