I Love it When This Happens
Spot Check: The Corner Counter

Step One: Check

As I announced rather exuberantly last weekend, the ed. plan has been written, printed and mailed to the superintendent. Step one in the new homeschooling year process gets a big old check!

Now it's on to the fun part: the list-making, the book-sorting, the desk-building, the schedule-setting, the folder-filing, the binder-filling ... if you homeschool, you know what I'm talking about! We live and breathe this stuff! :)

And right now, all that "stuff" is spread out all over my dining room table, LOL! But before I get into all that - here is a general overview of our school year ahead:

First of all, may I formally introduce my "students?" Bookworm just turned 11, Crackerjack will be 7 next month, and Earlybird is 4 1/2. Generally speaking (and give or take a subject area or two) we will be covering 6th grade, 2nd grade and Pre-K.

Earlybird: The general approach will be Charlotte Mason with a therapeutic touch of Waldorf here and there. For weekly instruction, we'll be folllowing the Little Saints Preschool Program while drawing on Oak Meadow too. I considered FIAR, but I already have Little Saints and OM in the house, and I think both will work well with Earlybird. For all his delays, Earlybird knows his ABCs and 123s (and shapes and colors etc.) and his fine motor skills are at a second grade level! So I think lots of good books along with lots of fun handcrafts will be right up his alley this year. I also plan to use Small Wonders: Nature Education for Young Children for hands-on nature study along with nature-themed puppet stories to inspire imagination (language) and wonder. I'll draw on all these resources to write up a weekly plan for EB. And along with all this gentle home instruction, he will attend weekly occupational therapy, speech therapy and a language-based social skills group.

Now for the older two:

Math: We'll continue with Saxon Math this year. Some find it repetitive and dry; I find it reliable and thorough. Most importantly, my kids do well with it. And a lesson a day keeps mum's panic away! ;) But to keep things exciting, we'll be reading fun "living math" books (like those suggested by MacBeth and Julie at Living Math) and putting into practice lots of real-life math too (cooking, carpentry and money all come to mind). I won't be leaving that all to the willy-nilly either. Before too long I'll have a detailed plan for which books and activities we'll read and do, and when.

Language arts: To begin with, there will be reading - lots and lots of reading. Aloud and independent and even on tape. We will be a family immersed in language and literature! :) Using lists found in Real Learning and Honey for a Child's Heart, I'm compiling my own book goals for this year - another future post - and we'll follow up these reads with narration, dictation and copywork. I hope to make some lapbooks this year too and by some I mean more than none, as was the case this year. For phonics, grammar, spelling and composition we'll be using materials from CHC. I continue to be so pleased with all our CHC purchases - they are beautifully made, CM-compatible and richly infused with our Catholic faith.

History: My favorite! This year we'll be rooted in Europe, focusing entirely on The Middle Ages. We'll begin with the year 400 and work our way towards the Renaissance, ending roughly around 1600. The boys are very excited about this - especially Crackerjack who loves knights and dragons! And yes, I promised a rabbit trail into the legend - and science - of dragons. ;) Last time we studied this period, we were following the SOTW. This year I'm making up my own unit study using the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia as a spine - or a timeline and resource for topics - and drawing deeper ideas from all kinds of places like the 4Real Forums as well as of course, zillions of library books! (We have a fair few ourselves too.) I will also look through Bethlehem Books and Emmanuel Books for valuable titles to add to our list.

As I outlined in our ed. plan, our topics will include: the Vikings, the Crusades, the Medieval atlas, castles and cathedrals, craftsmen and guilds, knights, chivalry, heraldry, monks and monasteries, peasants and feudal life, the plague, Robin Hood and legends, dragons, costumes and armor and the saints of the Middle Ages. We'll set up a timeline on the wall, and the boys will be keeping a big history notebook ~ a Book of Centuries ~ filled with their work and reflections. I'm very excited about this and feel our history will infuse much of our family life this year!

World Cultures, Current Affairs and Geography: Our focus this year will be on the lands of Europe - the countries and cultures, and life of yesterday and today. In additon to the globe, the world map and atlas, we will also use Uncle Josh's Outline Maps for hands-on activities and DK Geography of the World for detailed information. As we go along we will read folk lore and fairy tales from the English, the German, the French and the Irish (among others). And in December we'll take a look at Christmas traditions around the world.

Keeping up with world events and local affairs is an important part of our family life. And I'm grateful we have the time together every day to observe and discuss what's going on. To this end, I present the boys with age-appropriate clippings from The Boston Globe, the local papers, and newsmagazines such as Time and Newsweek. We used to subscribe to Time for Kids but now I find it just as easy to cobble together a selection of articles from the aforementioned resources as well as online kids news sites like New York Times Student Connections. Last year we just filed the clippings, but this year we will save them in a notebook along with a comment or two by the boys at week's end. At the end of the year we'll have quite a nice record of the year that was - a year in review!

Science: We're always doing some kind of science around here (a lot of it nature study), and while that surely won't change, our studies will focus on earth science this year. This is another area I'm planning myself, though I got a lot of ideas from The Well-Trained Mind and the 4Real boards. Topics of study include, but will not be limited to (LOL, I typed that in as a matter of habit!): local flora and fauna, formation and structure of the earth, geology, paleontology, astronomy, weather and climate, hydrology, oceanography, seismology, glaciers, soil science, volcanoes and caves. Now does that sound cool or what?

As with history, we'll be using lots of resources, but the ones I named in the plan are Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study (natch), The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia, How the Earth Works, How the Universe Works, the Lets-Read-and-Find-Out books and the Magic School Bus books. Then there are all the great magazines we get like Night Sky, Ranger Rick, Dig and National Geographic. And let's not forget the ever-dependable Dover coloring books! They're a staple in our homeschool!

I'm still working out the scope and sequence of our study - the specifics of what will be studied when and how - but soon it will all take shape - and then through the year it will all be recorded in our science notebooks.

Creative Arts: Most of our art and music study this year will revolve around the Middle Ages: Medieval architecture (castles, cathedrals), stained glass, tapestries, illumination, bookmaking, music and instruments of the M.A., costume, heraldry, feasts and festivals of the M.A. We'll be perusing the Macauley books, as well as a few art books by Sister Wendy Beckett (The Duke and the Peasant and Book of the Saints). We'll take a page from Design Your Own Coat of Arms as well as Hands-On History: The Middle Ages - and prepare some medieval foods - perhaps a whole feast! Field trips to a castle and an armory are on the docket as well.

Foreign Language: I was all set to order Learning Spanish with Grace when Bookworm informed me he really really wants to get back to our French lessons. So it's looking like French it will be. :) I took French for several years (high school and some college) but was thinking it would be better to start the boys with Spanish and go from there. I don't know where I got that premise, it just seemed a good idea at the time. Obviously my decision was not set in stone! I haven't decided what we'll be using yet - I'll guess I'll go search at 4Real. :)

When I asked Bookworm why he wanted French so badly over Spanish, he said, and I quote, "You know how you said you thought learning Spanish would be easier for us? Well, that's precisely the reason I want to do French, I like the challenge."

Now, who can argue with that logic? ;)

So there it is in a nutshell (and sorry it got to be such a large nut!). These are the educational plans I submitted to the superintendent this year (expanded upon and personalized greatly). We have a whole plan for faith formation too - but that will have to wait for another post. (I think this one is long enough!)