I recently stumbled on a post written when Hannah was 2 1/2. It was about what we were doing for homeschool. With a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old and a babe in utero. I think at the time I felt like I needed to quantify what I was doing, because I felt like I just read out loud for hours every day. In hindsight, that was probably the most important thing I did for the kids, and that habit is still one we benefit from.
So yeah, I’ve been a homeschool junkie for a while. I will say that I’ve learned a lot over the past five years. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie. But some things are the same–the core of our day is reading out loud together and I’m still passionate about education. I don’t know, and would not venture to guess, what our schooling will look like in years to come (or even next semester), but this is what we’re doing now.
Most days, we start with math. The day just goes more smoothly when we get this under our belts immediately. That’s why there is a lot of oatmeal residue on the math books.
- Hannah: Saxon 3
- Jack: Saxon 2
- Sarah: Saxon K
We took a detour last spring and Hannah and Jack both completed Singapore math books. I like the approach, but the reality is that I don’t have time to do extra drill, whereas Saxon builds that in for me so we’re back to Saxon this fall. And no, Sarah doesn’t really need a math book at age 4, but she likes to feel a part of things and kept asking for her own Saxon book.
We cover a lot of subjects together, because it’s easier and fosters a shared body of knowledge and I think that reading aloud together is just about the most important thing I do with my kids. We’ve been reading together since they were babies so they pay attention pretty well and we all like this part of school best. As we read, the kids narrate back to me what they remember, so I can tell if they are paying attention and getting it, or if I need to backtrack and explain something. We have a lot of interesting conversations along the way. Here’s what we cover in Reading Time:
We are using Training Hearts, Teaching Minds for our Bible study. Finally the kids are perfect ages for this fantastic book. Each week focuses on a different catechism question and talks about related scripture and issues. We also do Jack’s Sunday School Biblestudy, work on our memory verses, and sometimes sing a Psalm or hymn.
We do a lesson from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1 together. This is for Jack, but Sarah knows it just as well as he does and Hannah really ought to be doing the lessons from Level 2 but I haven’t gotten around to adding that yet. Her workload is a lot higher this year, and I think she needs time to feel secure about that. We might add Level 2 work for her later. Meanwhile, she’s doing a lot of extra writing and grammar work with Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids–her co-op class is doing level 3.
History and Literature
Sarah and Jack are in the Lower Grammar class of our Tapestry of Grace group, and Hannah is in Upper Grammar. So we do the Lower Grammar history and literature assignments as read-alouds, while Hannah does the Upper Grammar reading as independent work. Jack reads aloud from a short chapter book related to the topic we’re studying as his reading work (he’s reading chapter books really well, but still working on expression when he reads out loud). It’s a lot of reading, but it’s interesting. This year we’re doing Tapestry of Grace Year 2. We also use the Classical Conversations history statements and timeline, although we are not part of a CC group this year.
We learn the Classical Conversations science statements and read living books about science (lots of these are listed on the Sonlight reading lists, if you’re interested). Our Tapestry co-op meets every 2-3 weeks and does an experiment from Noeo Physics, and once a week we try to do a science experiment at home–either from Classical Conversations or another experiment book. We’re taking a break from a science textbook for now.
Sarah is in preschool and although she enjoys learning along with Hannah and Jack, I don’t want her to miss out on the fantastic literature I used to spend all day reading when the big kids were little. So every day we read some Mother Goose (good for rhyming and cultural literacy, if you want to get technical), an Aesop fable, a fairy tale or folk tale, and three or four picture books (we have our favorites from all sorts of lists, but I go for strong storytelling, great artwork, proper grammar, and no twaddle). Sarah is learning to read from The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading but we do her lesson separately once we go back to the table (see below).
In addition to our Bible memory and Classical Conversations memory work, we also use Reading Time for memorizing our Shakespeare speech, doing math memory like addition and multiplication facts, Latin vocabulary, and so forth.
BACK AT THE TABLE
After finishing up Reading Time, we head back to the table for other subjects.
- Hannah: Spelling Plus (she does this as part of her independent work, but does the dictation sentences at the table) and looking up vocabulary words in the dictionary (one or two per day)
- Jack: All About Spelling Level 2
- Hannah: New American Cursive Book 2 and copywork on Shakespeare Fridays, plus using good writing to do final drafts of her writing compositions
- Jack and Sarah: The Joy of Handwriting – Manuscript plus copywork on Shakespeare Fridays.
We do the Classical Conversations map work as well as the Tapestry of Grace map work that ties to what we’re studying that week.
Hannah is doing a lot of writing this year, or at least it seems like a lot. As I mentioned above she is doing level 3 in Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids. Each week she writes a composition incorporating a different pre-writing technique or type of writing. She learns about the type of writing on Monday, pre-writes on Tuesday, does a rough draft on Wednesday, and a final draft on Thursday. She’s catching on. Last week she wrote a three page treatise on Joan of Arc with only help on spelling and a few reminders to alter her sentence structure. I was proud.
Our Tapestry group is doing Latin for Children, and I really, really like this program. Concepts are well explained, and grammar is presented well so that kids (and parents!) can understand it and apply it. I think we were a little burnt out on Prima Latina, and it’s helpful to have the co-op for accountability.
We do orchestra once or twice a week (listening to a composer’s music while reading about him), and listen to classical music frequently. We do art study when it coincides with what we’re learning about in history that week, and on Shakespeare Fridays we do a lot more music and also do lessons from Drawing With Children. We have had some good art study so far in covering the Middle Ages, and as we move further along we will have even more chances to learn about artists in their historical context.
HOW LONG DOES ALL THIS TAKE?!?!?!
Written out like this it seems like a lot, even to me. We build on a little bit year by year, so it’s not overwhelming to us now. Generally we start school some time between 8 and 9, and Jack and Sarah are almost always finished by noon or 12:30. Before lunch, at any rate. Hannah spends a portion of afternoon quiet time doing independent work at her desk–usually reading her history and literature assignments and working on spelling, handwriting, and writing assignments. Occasionally we have days where everyone is determined to be as sloooooow and inefficient as possible and the kids are still straggling over schoolwork at dinnertime, but that’s rare, thank goodness. It’s more fun when school is finished early, so that after quiet time they can play or we can do an art project or read for fun or go on a walk or something.
One reason this works is that I have learned to plan ahead. I’ll go into that process in another post–this one is already pretty long. I hope it was helpful and/or interesting. I always like to read about what other families are doing, even if I don’t do the same things. I definitely don’t want to present what we’re doing as prescriptive in any way. If nothing else, this post will probably be good for a laugh in another five years, when schooling a 7 1/2 year old will seem as simple as “school” for a 2 1/2 year old seems to me now. :)
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments or send me an e-mail. I’m not an expert, but a lot of what I do know I learned from other homeschoolers who were willing to talk about their experiences, so I’m happy to do that too!