winter schooling

love hearing about what others use for homeschooling. On a practical level it helps me figure out what might work with my kiddos. On a humorous level, if you start researching different methods and curricula, you’ll land in the room of online chat rooms and message boards, and there is so much crazy out there that you can’t help but laugh. People are so passionate about their choices that many just cannot imagine why every other parent wouldn’t pick their preferred method or materials. You won’t find any exaggerated rooftop exclamations here about one specific book or one type of method. One semester something might work great and the next not so much. We homeschool for now, but I don’t necessarily see it always being this way.

But we’re in a good groove right now. And lest somebody read back a few posts and think I do all my schooling through television, here is a quick rundown of some of what my kids see on a more-or-less daily basis.

Singapore Math has the boys chugging along at a good pace and there isn’t much drama in this department. Add in some Star Wars practice math books and they’re set.

Easy Grammar 2 is joining up with First Language Lessons 2 to form a pretty good grammar curriculum. Writing consists of copy work and dictation, and soon we’ll move into Writing & Rhetoric (I’m excited about this one).

My Father’s World US History is one of the only lower elementary one year American history programs out there. I switched from Sonlight this year to try to get a year of US history in when it looked like they might be headed to a charter school next year. That is off the table for now, so we’ll finish this up and either head back to Sonlight or make our way over to Veritas Press for their online self-paced history. I love the book list in the back of the My Father’s World manual, but the program has just not been a good fit for us. I love Sonlight history. Their book lists are great, and their teacher’s guides work with us. They are also one of the few companies that don’t have a completely Eurocentric history program. But…at this stage and even next year, there is still so much that I would have to read to them, and I think something has to give in this department. An online history program with less reading from me sounds pretty good right now.

Omar is using Song School Spanish with the kids in the mornings. I think they all like it?? Ha.

Literature read-alouds are a mix of things that match up with our history (currently Farmer Boy while we are in 1800s America) and things that just sound up their alley (recently From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler). As for what they boys are reading themselves, it’s a bit of everything: picture books from the library, Harry Potter, graphic novels, history readers, and books that I’ve read about from this site (such a good resource!).

Science is a mix of library books, scientific encyclopedias, the bit of science included in My Father’s World and Real Science 4 Kids chemistry. And there is always a focus on south Florida nature and animals, especially now that we’ve decided to visit all of the parks in our county. We always try to take field guides, a notebook, and The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms when we go out.

My dad has been working through Mona Brookes’ Drawing With ChildrenWe’re also going to focus a bit on watercolor over the next few months.

Morning Time comes and goes depending on the week. Some weeks we faithfully memorize poetry, review civics questions, read books on random topics that just wouldn’t find their way into other parts of our day, and learn and sing hymns together. Other weeks? We take a break.

From January through March/April there are lots of park visits and walks around the lake. The weather is just too beautiful down here not to. And now that Asa is out of the itty bitty stage, museum visits and zoo visits are on the agenda more often. Like tomorrow, when we hit up the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science.

Happy schooling.


s :: s :: s

Summer is here. In all of its pool-filled, popsicle-dripping glory. Nights and mornings are still occasionally breezy and cool. The mosquitoes are lurking and the poincianas are blooming. I saw trucks selling lychees in Miami this week but have yet to see them pop up in our county.

School is winding its way down, but I don’t think I’ll bring it to a halt. We need the routine and activity. We’ve also hit a bit of a random mid-May school stride. The kids are eager and interested and soaking it all in. They’re particularly intrigued with the civics questions I’ve been asking them during Morning Time. They get about half of the questions I ask them (e.g. Who was the first president of the U.S.? What is the Constitution?) right and the other half hilariously wrong. They are fascinated with the presidential line of succession, but they’re still working out in their little heads how the whole president and vice president thing works. So when I start in on trying to explain the cabinet, their eyes glaze. For awhile Elisha kept saying that they should just keep having races because he thought the races actually involved the candidates riding elephants and donkeys and what’s the big deal with that? If only…

Sweets are being made, but they’re moving away from the baked variety and on to the frozen variety. Juices for popsicles are being experimented with. The ice cream maker has been dusted off for its annual appearance. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home has become our go-to ice cream book. The flavors and textures with her technique are great. Her recipes are some of the few homemade ice cream recipes where I finish a bite and don’t feel like I’ve just licked a stick of butter. First up this year were the pumpkin and five spice powder ice cream and the roasted rhubarb frozen yogurt. Both delicious and even loved by the little people.

when we get up

A while back I began to realize that the school morning went much smoother if we started on the couch reading a few picture books. The smooth factor is raised even higher if we let Lenna be the one to choose most of these. She’s content to call it her “school” and leaves us (mostly) in peace for the rest of them time. Over time, I started adding in a brief bible time, included a song or two, said our ABCs (again, to include Lenna), and counted by 5s or 10s (or did something else math related) before we started in on more formal writing or history or math. I loved this time. The kids loved this time. I wanted to do more but wasn’t quite sure what “more” looked like. I was fortunate to be able to visit a friend and get more ideas from her. She told me about the poetry her kids memorized and how she started off her school mornings.

And then I came across the Circe Institute blog and one of their contributors, Cindy Rollins. She has a blog dedicated to Morning Time. And what is Morning Time? She writes:

Approximately 20 years ago as a result of my early home school adventures and the reading of For the Children’s Sake (Susan Schaeffer Macaulay) followed by The Original Home school Series by Charlotte Mason, I began a morning meeting with my children as a way to incorporate subjects that were important to me but easily lost in the shuffle of conventional schooling.

Over the years I continued to add to this time so that it eventually made up about 2 hours of our morning. As my older boys graduated and flew away they often returned and encouraged me that the most important things they had learned while growing up had been in MT. MT became our daily family colloquy. It was a way to bring all my educational philosophies to the table. It was a way to incorporate poetic knowledge into the hearts of my children. It was a way to share my faith and even preach a sermon every single day.

I loved this. It’s what I was looking for. The part about incorporating subjects that were important but easily lost in the shuffle of life and the rest of schooling really hit home: poetry, Shakespeare (here is a great article Cindy Rollins wrote about teaching Shakespeare to children), fables and fairy tales, music, random facts and history bits, prayers and creeds and catechisms. Check out the blog. She has lists and schedules and books and many ideas about how to develop your own Morning Time routine and what to include. I’ve also appreciated this blog’s (Permanent Things) description of what their Morning Colloquy looks like.

No morning looks quite the same, but it usually takes about a half hour to 45 minutes. I can see it getting longer as the kids get older. Life happens and some days Morning Time doesn’t find its way into our routine. But the kids are actually sad when it doesn’t happen. I get a cheap thrill from that. Ha.

Here’s a bit of what our Morning Time includes right now. We don’t do each thing everyday but I try to touch on most of it:

Memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed
Reading a fable or a fairy tale and then discussing it for a bit
Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Children
Learning an old United States song I learned as a kid
Going over some of the more basic civics questions found here.
A lesson (we focus on one for the whole week) from Get Widsom!
Reviewing our monthly bible memory passage from church
Math memory work
Poetry review and memorization (currently learning Sea Fever by John Masefield)
Learning the first couple verses of a new hymn each week
Reading a few Lenna selected picture books