First, I should mention that we are a purely non-religious family (not anti-religious, we just don’t follow one), so all of our school plans and any books or materials we might use will be secular.
Second, we aren’t actually starting school until September 8th. This is an odd day, I know. We’re doing this for two reasons:
- It puts our start after labor day (something I always appreciated when I was in school, with a late August birthday nothing was more horrible for me than having my birthday be the first day of school. Plus so many kids went away for the long weekend and just were not ready to come back yet — our oldest two are still out-of-town with their great-grandmother, also.)
- It gives me more time to get our school space ready (we don’t have a dedicated school room, but we’re in the process of converting our small office into a project/craft/school/quiet room. It already has a built-in book shelf and lots of windows for light and ventilation and can be closed off from the rest of the house easily.)
That said, here are our plans for this year:
Instead of doing 5-7 day weeks, I plan on doing 4 days (Sunday to Wednesday) of more focused school time, Thursday will be used to catch up on housework we’re bound to fall behind on, Friday my day off, and for spending with Daddy Monkey as it is his day off, and Saturday is my day to make sure I have everything ready for the next week.
A little time from each school day will be set aside for me to work one-on-one with the boys to help them with the things they have the most trouble with or just to spend a little alone time together to give them the chance to bring up any questions or problems they don’t feel comfortable discussing in front of others.
We’re going to start out very light, mostly just reading together and discussing what we’ve learned from the books. Once we get into the habit of that we’ll start adding in notebooking with our discussions, and then work up into some of the more intensive things. I expect to be doing most of the writing that goes along with notebooking, Vincent is a very, very reluctant writer (and ‘reluctant’ isn’t nearly a strong enough word) and Conner would rather draw or talk than write, and needs some practice with his letter formation and phonics.
For Trent, we have an assortment of tactile activities, mess-free coloring and a variety of toys to keep him occupied when he needs to be. He’s the easy one!
For the older two I’ve put together a notebook for spelling words to be used with words they have trouble with as we go through the year. I don’t want to do proper spelling lists or anything like that. Just focus on where they need help. We’ll be taking those words and using Spelling City and pen-and-paper word games, word finds, things like that to help drill them into their heads without them having to forcefully memorize them.
Most of their language arts learning will come hand in hand with working on notebooks, dictating and the above spelling assists, but I also want to have them work on some minor copywork, this year I’d like to focus on poetry, fables and fairy tales because they have language patterns that aren’t common in every day speech.
For history, geography and other social studies we’ll be doing a lot of reading, looking at maps and things like that followed by notebooking our experiences. I plan on focusing on early American history this year, with activities like teepee building and archery, making a map of our neighborhood, constructing a traditional log cabin (dog-house sized .. he’s been needing one for a long time), baking bannock and homemade bread, hand-sewing a small item (bag, hat, something of the sort) or working on a small needlework sampler, and as a grand finale of sorts, gold panning. We may not get to do ALL of these activities, but this is most of my shortlist of neat ideas to help show them what life was like for the Native Americans and early pioneers. It will involve a lot of learning for me, too, because as a Canadian I didn’t learn much (ok, any) American history in school.
For science I want to tie in to what we’re studying in other subjects as much as possible, and again using notebooking to document our experiences and experiments as we go. I’m still coming up with experiments to do, but I think a comparison between bannock and traditional bread could be interesting (why does one rise and the other not?), making paint from flowers, berries and bark as the Native Americans did (and then using that paint in art projects) to discover what plants create what colors when mashed, boiled or otherwise prepared and why color changes might occur.
Then for art I’d like to use the paint we made for science to decorate our teepee, include some nature walks to see if we can find feathers and stones to use as other decorations. I also want to teach them to use a bead loom (I have several small ones, not sure where I got them from) to create a bracelet (or belt if they’re feeling ambitious), or perhaps to use as a headband with feathers to create a traditional headdress. I’m also thinking about tying the crafts together to teach them how to make moccasins (super comfy to wear in the winter, even in a snowless winter place like central Texas). Here again I’d like to try having them document what they’ve learned with notebooking, perhaps including samples of things they’ve made.
You may be noticing that I haven’t mentioned math yet. That’s because its my least favorite subject. It’s hard to do math without any kind of worksheets or books at all so it will be one of the last subjects we start on. Luckily, the boys are both very good at math and a year or two above their respective grade levels, so starting it late won’t really hurt them any. I want to let them get used to ‘fun’ learning first, before we have to start something that involves a lot more writing than Vincent will want to do.
As you can see I have a ton of ideas, and the majority of them are very hands-on, something that works well for my boys, but I think a lot of these ideas could be modified or used as is with kids who aren’t hands-on learners too. Feel free to take, use, alter, etc any of my ideas here. That’s the whole point!