Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Homeschool 2014: Planning

We started our last official term for this school year a couple weeks ago and we'll be moving full steam ahead through mid-May to officially finish the year so that we can take a break (read: still do math and read for an hour every day) for about 6 weeks before starting the new school year in July.

Back in February I started working on our 2014-2015 school year in order to be ready for our local homeschool conference this past weekend. When I plan I tend to gather every bit of information I can, then whittle it down to what is useful and necessary. I re-read the books that mean so much to our homeschool to remind myself not to view curriculum as a solution, but as a tool. What do we really *need* to learn? Not much it turns out. Books to read and paper to collect our thoughts, mostly, but a few excellent tools can really smooth the process.

This year my brain is in overdrive as I've been trying to absorb so much information these last several weeks. It all started with reading Sarah's wonderful series on Teaching from a State of Rest. If you are a classical homeschooler (or even begin to bend that direction) and you don't subscribe to Sarah's posts, go over there right now and subscribe and read. But be warned- it's a slippery slope toward thinking longer and deeper about your homeschool than you had ever thought possible.

It was her writing and her Listen Up podcast and audio lecture links that led me on to Circe Institute and listening to back episodes of Quiddity and to listening to Andrew Pudewa and Susan Wise Bauer and so many more.

At the conference this weekend I also went to sessions with Steve Demme of Math-U-See fame that focused on family discipleship as well as sessions on our state laws and teaching your child to write. I walked the hall and looked at all the curriculum,  I talked with vendors about why their curriculum may or may not be a useful tool in our home, and I checked out all sorts of opportunities for my kids in extracurriculars and part-time schooling options.

My head is crowded, y'all. It's a mess of educating methodology and trying to translate it to practicality.

What I know right now:

1. We have some tools in place that are working wonderfully and getting the job done for the kids I am responsible to educate. We use some curriculum that isn't necessarily classical, but it is really getting the job done and with good attitudes from my boys. I don't need to change something that is working, even if it doesn't fit the classical mold perfectly.

2. Latin. The more I read the more certain I am that we should we studying Latin together NOW. We're going to start in June when we have a lighter schedule so that we can give some focus to getting started. In the meantime, does anyone have a suggestion on best ways for me to learn latin at my own pace as well (meaning faster than the boys)? I've seen recommendations for Wheelock's and Henle so far, but I'm just beginning my search on learning latin as an adult.

3. Starting my morning early is the best benefit I can give our family right now. It gives my slow-to-respond body time to get moving before the rush of kids needing breakfast, and I still have enough time to enjoy my coffee while I read Scripture and study a little. I'm able to write in assignment books and lay out the boys' Scripture readings before they even come out of their room for breakfast.

4. Starting our mornings focused on listening helps our day go more smoothly. I refresh our classical music playlist on Spotify every so often to focus on a new composer, and while it does seem like they aren't listening most mornings, I know it gets in their heads at some point because someone will say "hey, Mama- you play this one!" every once in awhile. We move from listening to music into listening to French and then listening to a read-aloud or two. I'm looking forward to adding Latin listening and Shakespeare readings over the summer in this morning time.

What I'm still pondering:

1. A writing program for my upcoming 3rd grader, and whether or not we need one. I'm looking particularly at Writing and Rhetoric and IEW's Student Intensive A program. I think Ender would particularly like watching the IEW videos on Mondays and then working on an assignment through the week. But can we accomplish the same thing through letter writing, narration and dictation?

2. History. We really like Story of the World, but I don't feel like we are retaining much as we read, narrate and do map work. I know something needs to change here, but I'm not sure what. More support reading? A timeline book?

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