Friday, October 9, 2009

Week 7: Details!

Usually I paint the picture of how the week went in fairly broad strokes. This week I'll try to put more details to what the boys are learning and doing on a daily basis. We are not a fast-moving family in the morning, so we are usually up and ready to eat breakfast by 8 a.m. The boys know that after they wake up and get ready for the day, they are to tidy their rooms and the basement/playroom/schoolroom for the day, and our aim is to have all this done by breakfast.

After breakfast, Harry starts his piano time while I clean up the kitchen and the younger boys play. After I'm done, I will attempt to fit Ron's violin time in. We aim for 45 minutes for Harry, sometimes a little more, and 30 minutes for Ron. If Harry is done before I'm finished with Ron, he'll start working on assignments that don't require much supervision from me, usually cursive handwriting practice or an online math drill to practice addition and subtraction within 20. He's really gotten much stronger in this area over the past 4-5 months, although his subtraction is the weaker of the two. My friends with children in 2nd grade in public school tell me that subtraction is definitely harder for kids than addition and Harry's classmates haven't yet mastered subtraction within 20 either, so I think we're in good shape!

Then we officially begin together with Bible, using the My Father's World curriculum; this year, we are studying the names of Jesus and last week as well as this week, the focus was on John 6:35, the "I am the bread of life" verse which also served as the memory verse for the past two weeks. MFW does a nice job of trying to align Bible topics with history and/or science, so last week we did a number of activities with yeast, and this week the focus was on bread. Yesterday for our Bible activity, we made two loaves of bread, one for ourselves and one to share with a neighbor. It had been a LONG time since I'd made bread from scratch at home. We used a very simple recipe that hardly took much time at all to prepare and the aroma of fresh-baked bread cannot be beat!

After Bible, Harry has the following subjects to work through in addition to the aforementioned cursive program, and we try to get as much done as we can before lunchtime:
  • Math: Harry is using Singapore Math 1A; although some of this was review, I wanted to start from the very beginning to make sure he had a good foundation of the content in this program. We are just about finished and will start 1B possibly next week or after our fall trip is over. Looking ahead, he will be introduced to addition and subtraction within 100, as well as multiplication and division as well. Fun, fun, fun!
  • Spelling: We use a book recommended by MFW called Spelling by Sound and Structure, published by Rod and Staff. The words are pretty simple for Harry to spell right now, but along the way he is also getting basic phonics instruction, which he has never had in any official capacity and which I think will hamper him in the future spelling efforts if he doesn't learn those basic rules now.
  • Classical Writing Primer: This book has been a lovely, gentle introduction to standard classical education activities for young children such as narration, copywork, and dictation. It also includes a weekly nature study, weekly picture study, and some basic grammar/spelling rules as well. Harry has been enjoying it!
  • First Language Lessons: Although this might be a little bit of overkill, I wanted to also do FLL along with CWP because I wanted to introduce more grammar at a young age with Harry because his language arts skills are generally strong so I thought he could handle it. Where FLL overlaps with CWP in activities such as copywork and narration, I usually just opt for CWP, and use FLL for the grammar lessons as well as the occasional poetry memorization activity. These lessons are usually short so it is easy to add it on with CWP.
  • History/Geography/Science from Adventures in My Father's World: We do whatever activities and readings are assigned in this curriculum. Most of the creative ideas and activities we do come from this curriculum, and I've very much appreciated not having to come up with these activities on my own! In addition to breadmaking, this week the kids also made their own version of canoes in conjuction with learning about the French pioneers who made their way up the Mississippi River and ultimately to Detroit.

Meanwhile, when Harry is working on an assignment, I work with Ron on either Right Start Math A or on Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. Now that Ron is no longer at preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have more time to work with him on these subjects, which I'm glad about! Having just gone through Singapore Math 1A with Harry, I knew that Ron was not quite ready to jump into those kinds of activities. Right Start A, though, seemed to fit both his personality and his age better; it's more tactile and eases him into mathematical operations more gently than Singapore does. I think after he does Right Start A, he will be much better prepared to move to Singapore 1A, so that is the current plan. As for OPGTR, we have slowly and systematically been working through the lessons, and we are currently on Lesson 60. This program has really helped Ron significantly improve his reading skills. And because there is a strong phonetic component to the curriculum, he actually understands short vowel sounds better than Harry! It takes about 15 minutes for each subject, which I can usually fit in while Ron is working. I also add in handwriting practice for Ron and he participates with us in the other activities if he is awake and interested. And if Harry and Ron are both working on schoolwork, Dobby has to be a part of the fun!

(Speaking of Dobby, the poor guy gets the short shrift right now...I don't do very many intentional activities with him aside from pointing out letters to him when I can. But, he does start Musikgarten this Saturday, as preparation for his future music lessons in cello! THAT will be quite an interesting addition to our daily routine!)

I used to have a mid-morning break, but I've found that just throws us off and makes it very difficult to get our work done in the morning, especially since we aren't starting our academic work until 9:30 a.m., typically. So now, we just work until about 11:45 a.m. or so, after which we take our break/lunch all together.

After lunch, the younger boys take their naps. I clean up from lunch while Harry does his reading time, a combination of books recommended by MFW that fit what we are studying, and good-quality children's literature--I don't let him read Star Wars books at this time although I know that would be his preference if he had the choice! He has been stuck in a bit of a rut of only reading Beverly Cleary books during his reading time, and as much as I love the fact that he is enjoying books I read voraciously as a child, I thought it would be good to expand his horizons a little bit more. So, this week I learned the power of hooking him onto a story and to get him past judging books by the cover. I had brought home all these recommended books from the library that he wasn't reading because the first glances at the books had not captured his interest. So, I picked one such book (A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Bulla), a historical novel about a family of three children who made their way from England to Jamestown on their own, and read about ten minutes aloud to him. He was captivated by it enough at that point to choose to continue reading it on his own. I have a feeling this is technique I will be using many times in the future!

After reading time, Harry does either his Prima Latina (he has finished Lesson 5 and can now recite the Latin prayer The Sanctus by memory--"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts/Heaven and earth are filled with his glory...") or Chinese (we are on Lesson 9: "What Day Is It Today?") and we wrap up anything we haven't finished during the day. Although I generally like for us to be done by 2:30 p.m., if Harry is really enjoying his book or some other activity that we are in the middle of, I'll just let him keep going with it. I'm still learning where I can flex and where I need to hold firm with the school day; my tendency is generally to be too firm about the schedule and so I'm trying to loosen up to keep things fun while still getting what we need to get done, done!

Three days a week, the boys get to play with our wonderful sitter, a college student who spends a couple of hours playing with them; this is supposed to be my time to work on my upcoming book with Moody Publishers on being a missional mom. More details on this in the future, hopefully...once I make more progress on it!

So that was the week that was! Next week we will have a couple of days of school then go to visit family in Toronto--a nice homeschooling benefit, being able to align our schedule with my husband's teaching schedule for once! I will post Week 8 in a couple of weeks when we come back and finish. Thanks for visiting and reading our update!


  1. Yummy ~ I love homemade bread!! ... And that is so awesome about your book!!! How exciting!!!

  2. Another yummy from me too! I'm not usually a big bread eater, but nothing beats a loaf of freshly baked bread ( ok- I like it slathered in butter!)
    It sounds like you all had another fun filled, productive week!