July 29, 2018

Homeschooling Week 1: Plans vs Reality

I pride myself on being a fairly realistic planner, so I knew that our first week of homeschooling this year was going to be difficult and challenging for all of us.

For, Peter, my 8-year-old, it would be a very similar schedule to last year, but new books and new challenges to tackle. Plus he had just had a few months off to forget both some content (like spelling rules) and the way we do things (set up for watercolor painting).

In addition, I had completely retooled our afternoons to create more space for "afternoon occupations," basically all the individual work which needed to happen outside of lesson time, including piano practice, drawing practice, and additional handicraft work.

Also, this was the first year I was officially adding John (6) to the mix of lessons. While Peter was already reading fluently when we began following the Charlotte Mason method, John is still very early on the journey to reading, so besides reading all of his lessons to him, we would be starting consistent reading lessons in earnest this week.

Finally, I'm not only homeschooling a 6-year-old and 8-year-old, but also caring for and parenting an almost 4-year-old and an infant, not yet 3 months old.

My plate was full, but everyone was excited and optimistic to begin.

I expected some whining; I expected barely coherent narrations; I expected some chaos. And the first day, we had all that.

But I didn't expect that in the middle of the night after our first day that excessive rain was going to flood our basement with almost 1 foot of water!!!!


This week has been exhausting. From hauling up bins of clothes from the basement in the middle of the night with flashlights to transporting all our frozen food out of the freezer to drying out and testing appliances (I think we only lost the dehumidifier!) to running dishwasher load after dishwasher load of jars and various containers that came in contact with the water, I have been busy. And my husband has been hard at work hauling out anything to be salvaged or trashed and to powerwash and disinfect everything else.

It wasn't the ideal back to school week. However, in the middle of Monday night, with water still pouring into our basement, I asked my husband, "Should we still do lessons in the morning?" And we both agreed that the show could and should go on.

I was glad that we could keep our momentum going and honestly, it gave us something to focus on while the water went back down. Plus, there wasn't much that the kids could do to help at that point.

I also asked for help and got some. A few area mom-friends carried away the few bins of clothes that did get damp to wash and return. And I had already planned simple crockpot meals for the week to help with the back-to-school transition.

So here is my assessment of what went well this week as well as what changes I'll make after seeing how my plans (1st Grade Plans & 3rd Grade Plans) played out in our real world homeschool this week.

What worked

Almost all the important things. Our strict schedule of lessons worked really well for the most part. My idea for a dedicated time in the afternoon with a restricted menu of options for the boys to choose from resulted in so much more creativity AND piano lessons getting done early in the day.

What needs adjustment

My reading lessons are not working as well as I would like. Basically, I didn't follow my own plan. I fully intended on following the procedures in Teach a Child To Read with Children's Books: Combining Story Reading, Phonics, and Writing To Promote Reading Success. by Mark B. Thogmartin, but I didn't.

There has been too much talky-talky (by me) and teaching words out of context, even though I've tried to keep it fun. I need to stick to the plan this week and see it if goes better.

Somehow, I thought I could do reading lessons with John (6) while Peter (8) did math. In this way, I could do one son's most demanding lesson while the other son did his favorite lesson.

This was a terrible idea that did not work for us!

Teaching reading is both intense and important. And my son who loves math does hard math for his young years, so when he gets stuck, he needs support. They both need me! Fortunately, because we start lessons early at 8:15 am, my husband is going to be able to take over my son's math lesson twice a week. Two other times a week, I'll have my youngest son working with Cuisenaire rods at the table during the 8-year-old's math lesson and once a week, they will both use Cuisenaire rods at the same time.

Finally, as I mentioned, I'm loving our new afternoon occupation time block, but I have to tweak it. You see, this summer we reintroduced "rest time" where everyone went to separate rooms and did something quiet for an hour. The 3-year-old starting napping regularly again and everyone had more patience, including me.

My idea for afternoon occupations was that it would replace this rest time and run from 1-3 every day. After seeing how crabby we all were and facing the difficulties of getting an almost four-year-old to have quiet time when everyone else is not resting, I knew it wasn't working despite how much I love it.

This week, we are going to shoot for having a shorter block of time that starts earlier. So 12:30-2pm is for afternoon occupations and 2-3 is for rest time. Then from 3pm until dinner can be for chores and more outside time and free time.

I'll let you know how it goes!

July 14, 2018

Our Morning Time, 2017-2018

In our home, we do morning time together as a family at breakfast every day of the week.

I start by reading the same poem every day for a week. You can find a list of poetry to read aloud here. I try to mix in folk tales, fairy tales, nature stories, seasonal and holiday books as well as books about science and history. I also use morning time to include our artist studies, composer studies and any preparation for seeing a Shakespeare play.

Here are the resources we used during the 2017-2018 academic year with a second grader, kindergartner, and 3-year-old.

This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure to learn more.

One Day in the Desert by Jean Craighead George
Robin Hood re-told by Michael Bishop
A Time for Trolls by Asbjornsen and Moe
Exploring the Moon by Gallant and Hess
Perrault's Fairy Tales by Gustave Dore
The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by Thornton W. Burgess

The Twelve Months by Aliki
Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
The Minpins by Roald Dahl
Battle on the Rosebush by Marian S. Edsall
Lines and Shapes: A First Look at Geometry by Solveig Paulson Russell

One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest by Jean Craighead George
Blaze and Thunderbolt by C.W. Anderson
The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris van Allsburg
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth

Birth of an Island by Millicent E. Selsam
Butterfly Eyes: and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman
Biography of an Ant by Alice Hopf
Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome
Digging Up Tyrannosaurus Rex by John R Horner and Don Lessem

When You Were Born in Vietnam by Therese Bartlett
Marianthe's Story Painted Words and Spoken Memories by Aliki
Chinye: A West African Folk Tale by Obi Obyefulu
Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie by Carol Lerner
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Cow by Malachy Doyle
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots by Barbara Knutson
Alison's Zinnia by Anita Lobel

Pizza in Pienza by Susan Fillion
Ghost Wings by Barbara M. Joosse
Minette's Feast by Susnna Reich
Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler
D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire

The Viking Children's World Atlas by Jcqueline Tivers and Michael Day
The Return of Magic by Wendy Plowman
The Gift of the Tree by Alvin Tresselt
Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson
Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
Spiders are Spinners by Ellsworth Rosen
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Michelangelo Picture Study
The Treasure of Li-Po by Alice Ritchie
Ludwig van Beethoven by Mike Venezia
Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians by Luetta Reimer

Winter Trees by Carole Gerber
Before We Eat: from farm to table by Pat Brisson
An Elm Tree and Three Sisters by Norma Sommerdorf
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
In November by Cynthia Rylant

Maple Tree by Millicent E. Selsam
Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Eating the Plates by Lucille Recht Penner
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson
George's Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl
Millions to Measure by David M Schwartz
Eskimo Boy: Life in an Inupiaq Village by Russ Kendall

Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Vivian L. Thompson
A Drop of Water by Walter Wick
Getting Oxygen by Stephen P. Kramer
The Story of Paper by Ying Chang Compestine
Gift from a Sheep: The Story of How Wool is Made by Alberta and Nicole Eiseman
This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamnonthe
How Kittens Grow by Millicent E. Selsam
A Chick Hatches by Joanna Cole
Treasures in the Sea by Robert M. McClung
The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett
Teklas's Easter by Lillian Budd
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature (Spring section) by Nicola Davies
The Tremendous Tree Book by Barbara Brenner
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Bob Dylan, Illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum
The Story of Your Hand by Dr. Alvin Silverstein and Virginia B. Silverstein
Are you a Bee? By Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster, 1937 by Lauren Tarshis
I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, A.D. 79 by Laren Tarshis

A Day in the Woods by Ronald M. Fisher
Song of the Sea Otter by Edith Thacher Hurd
Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends by Opal Wheeler
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Air by Irving and Ruth Adler
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871 by Lauren Tarshis
A Midsummer Night's Dream Graphic Novel by Nel Yomtov (Author),‎ Berenice Muniz (Illustrator)

The Elevator Family by Douglas Evans
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle (Free Google Books illustrated edition)
Among the Night People by Clara Dillingham Pierson (Free Google Books illustrated edition; more free nature lore books here.)
Seals and Walruses by Louis Darling [Part of my $5 book sale haul]
Hurricanes by Dean Galiano
Cactus in the Desert by Phyllis S. Busch
The Goat Lady by Jane Bregoli [Part of my $5 book sale haul]
Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac

Zero is Something by Marnie Luce
All About Frogs by Jim Arnosky
The Aesop for Children illustrated by Milo Winter
Pet Bugs by Sally Kneidel