Thursday, August 30, 2007

Our First Day Back...

Back from where???
...back from those long days of summer. When the hours are endless and the outside is calling and so is the lake. When mealtimes are hazy, bedtimes late, and the days have more spontaneity than usual.

After quite a while with those glorious days we all start yearning for a little more rhythm and ordering of our days.

So this week has found dinner way more intentional and on the table at a reasonable time. The house has shaped up a lot, and mom has been in front of the computer etc. a lot less!

I also was very inspired by Dawn's pictures of her learning space. We have definitely been more fly by the seat of your pants the last year or so, and it felt so good this year to try to bring some more beauty and order into our space. I found it very energizing. In our dining room I started to fuss with the different things in that space: computer desk, bookshelf, craft shelf, craft table, keyboard, hedgehog, and 8 seater dining table (luckily it is a big dining room with high ceilings). I moved things here, I moved things there... and they all ended up where they started, except that the bookshelf and the piano swapped places. I added in a new desk ($4 garage sale) for myself and some nice baskets for the kids stuff. I also reorganised the books on the bookshelf in the living room, placing some on upstairs shelves and reordering categories (I worked at a library in high school and have a thing with organising books!). It felt so nice to come down this morning after I had put my heart and creativity into the space, and enjoy it so much!

So we started off our day.....
With nice chai with breakfast and a Psalm and a parable. Then I announced that it was a morning chore free day and the kids were mildly glad (they actually like helping out)- Caleb also proceeded to tell me that he doesn't do chores anyways (he usually slinks off and plays in some out of the way place nicely hoping (succesfully) that he won't be missed).

Then we gathered and said a prayer out of our Celtic Book of Daily Prayer.
Next it was onto a new read aloud- Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Everyone enjoyed this thoroughly. Then I read a chapter out of one of the world history texts on the Baldwin Project. All four children decided to draw, then cut out pictures out of old National Geographics to cover their copywork etc. books with. Boy, they looked awesome when they were done. On the theme of China, I read Aaron the Story of Ping (it just happened to be in the basket).

After this I put on some pizza dough for lunch... it was such a nice morning I wanted to make something special.

Next we did Latin. The two olders did review with me while Caleb requested the Prima Latina workbook and worked his way diligently through a lesson of maybe two. I handed him a page of Hannah's old Math-U-See and Ariel and Hannah started in on a review page in their Zeta math books. Oh Math- How I love thee! But Oh, how I am not the person to share you with others!!!
This is our sticky subject! The kids really like it, but it is when my double comes in - the one with the rolling eyes and pained look!

After this, and a few pieces of fruit, Ariel dove into his project, The Songs and Tribes of the Lord of the Rings. He is so into this project still- he started it late last Spring, worked on it over the summer, and today he created a blog to put it on! This is a first for us here.... at least in the formal project sense. I know that Theresa uses a sort of project based learning and her son really enjoys it. Hannah decided to do more dictation from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (she has hand written 17 pages now), and by this time I had pizza in the oven and was in the yard with Aaron pitching balls (he is completely into this these days).\

Dh came home for lunch which was a treat (and he also reminded me nicely that maybe Ar and I should take a break with the Math (we had gotten in a rut at that point.... sigh)). After lunch Ar was back on the project and the other kids were reading (Hannah is loving Harry Potter right now- I have never seen her read like this. This, and the first book, are the first books she has really dove into. She has read 30 hours already this week (equalling I am sure all last year!)).

The rest of the day was spent at the park with friends, resting around the back deck, cooking dinner, and now more reading.

It was an amazing day.... all days are not this smooth. This one was not free of kinks, disagreements, or hard moments. But it was a day spent together, one day out of many that we will have this year, one with rhythm and meaning. It was wonderful.......

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lesson Planning

The Loveliness of Lesson Planning fair is set to be held on August 20th. So I thought I would write up something about our plans for the upcoming season.

The last couple years have been more unschooly around here: focusing on the 3Rs plus Latin and a heap of good books. So this year I was pleasantly surprised when I felt a desire to plan a little more. In the past, in my beginning years, I would plan and plan and then not follow any of the plans. After that, a good break included, I have learned that for me simple is better. A plan that works around the framework of our days, something simple enough that adding or subtracting things are easy. Also, I think I will try to work with year long learning goals plus three week at a time plans (Ann, over at Mozart and Mudpies inspired me with this post I am going to try to maintain the studies we choose for those three weeks- not rigidly, rabbit trails/colds/etc. will always be well received, but I want to try out a more stable path for a few weeks at a time.

The Plan

Faith Studies- these are just part of our life here and my husband has an aversion to having them including on any daily to do list.
*I read the Bible to all the kids at breakfast and Ariel reads his after on his own
*A few times a week I aim for our Morning Prayer from our Celtic Prayer Book
*Once a week I want to talk to them, or read them, something from one of the adult books I am reading. Last year it was Imitation of Christ.
*continue on with memorising the Sermon on the Mount

  • Latin
*Latina Christiana 2 or Latin for Children B (any faves out there??) for Ariel and Hannah

  • Math
*Singapore 1b for Caleb- our first year with Singapore (Mom needs a MUS break!)
*Math U See Zeta for Ariel and Hannah (they are a 1/3 of the way through the book)
*short focused lessons

  • Writing
*We will aim for dictation 1-2 times a week with Ariel and Hannah
*Ariel will continue to do written narrations a couple of times a week
*Hannah will start to journal and do the occasional written narration
*Caleb will continue doing copywork
*We love Bravewriter and will use some of those ideas as well as some of the exercises from Write with the Best
*Need to work on Ar's handwriting, so he will write his narrations more this year (instead of typed)

  • Grammar
*......not sure. In the past we have skipped it entirely. Then we started Latin and I figured that was enough. However, I think we will do some orally (for Ariel and Hannah) from Intermediate Language Lessons since I own it anyways, and I figure I can do both children together.

  • History
*we will continue on with our study of Rome
*The Aeneid by Church
Famous Men of Rome,
The Bronze Bow
Outcast and many more books I am sure
*Ariel is 2/3 of the way through The Story of Rome by Macgregor and he will finish this and then I will find a new read for him- possible How the Irish Saved Civilisation
*onto the Middle Ages when this ends (Hannah has been begging for Otto of the Silver Hand again - a wonderful book)
*some studies of the Celts as they enter into the above studies (our children love all things Celtic)
*A modern history biography- possibly Dietrich Bonhoeffer
*50 Famous Stories Retold for Caleb and Aaron
*this year we will try to add a little geography in by printing off some of our blackline maps, and also using our timeline (this will require me to take the time to do this)

  • Nature Studies, Poetry, Science, Art and Music
*I rotate the above things (actually, we more go in spurts)
*we are in the middle of Tennyson's Lancelot and Elaine and will continue to read this
*Hannah wants to study Monet
*Papa teaches the kids art with the Mona Brooks great book Drawing With Children
*I am teaching Hannah the piano, Ariel is continuing with his Irish Whistle, and Caleb is set to begin the fiddle (Hannah also is doing Irish dancing... we are looking at a possible future trio!)
*We hopefully will use our Nature Journals more (famous last words..)
*We are reading the Storybook of Science by Fabre- I am also going to try to do a few labs (more famous last words from a professed bookie!)

  • Literature
*we read reams of books here- always have a bundle of read alouds on the go. Almost all of them from the library (except the bundle coming from a gift card from our good friends). Yesterday I went to the Newberry Award list online and ordered the ones we haven't read from our library....
Some of them are..
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
The Singing Tree
The Westing Game
Secret of the Andes
I will skillfully hide the ones that really stand out as good read alouds from our book gobbler (aka Ariel) so they can be a fresh read for all of us!!
*Viking Tales and In God's Garden (from Yesterday's Classics) are in the mail for Caleb and Hannah to read, as well as Beric the Briton for Ariel

  • Good Meals

*I have my favourite cookbooks out and am looking through them with the kids for some good meals for our two week rotations. I find that advanced planning saves us money and we eat alot healthier too.

  • Room to grow and time to think

*Last, but definitely not least. This is one of my top reasons for homeschooling. I like to have many afternoons at home or with friends, living a full life together, or in solitude.

  • Aaron

On the 4real forums there are so many neat Montessori ideas. I want to set up a nook for Aaron, my 4 year old, with some neat things for him to do. He has to be tops on my plans otherwise he can feel a little left out in the shuffle, and I know the craft table I set up especially for him last spring thrilled him!!

Happy Planning!!

More Habits.....

Today we worked together on the dishes, and yesterday we had a great 'pre-company' cleaning session.

We go in definite seasons of chores, but most days some type of chore is being done by most kids (although the littles are great escapee artists at this time of the day).

I really enjoyed this post on Danielle Bean's about chores. We have no large blown system here- I often post our routines on the fridge, but I think I am about the only one who looks at them. The children for the most part get reminded for a time and then it becomes more second nature (let that read, it gets so that mom doesn't need to remind them quite so much!).

My ideas for this year are more of a continuation of last years chores-
*for breakfast I like to do the tidying up, but I thought I would try placing Hannah in charge of clearing, stacking the dishes, and wiping the table. Then at lunch I could wash both meals dishes while Hannah dries and the two little boys clear and wipe. That leaves dinner, which Ariel and I have gotten into the habit of doing together- it is our together time to talk, and we are also a fast duo to boot!
*Friday room cleaning worked two years ago so I will try to implement it this year including training the littles
*The other jobs would be -the animals
So I will see how I will parcel these out. For us Laundry is a 1-2 load a day job, which Hannah has been on for the past couple years. Ariel has always done floors, but is more interested in bathrooms this year (if you could call it that). I am also thinking of having the two older ones do their own laundry twice a week together- alternating who takes care of the washing, hanging, folding. Laundry is an area we have tried many things, but it always boils back to one communal laundry hamper, and an early morning wash followed closely by a morning hanging (the laundry that is). One thing that has helped with volume is to hang only gently worn things on the boys beds to be worn the next day: the rule is that new undies and socks are daily, the other things can go as long as they are reasonable.

After a great summer I am quite excited about all of this....

Habit #2- The Computer, or lack of

Mom needs to be face to face with the computer alot less.
I always have my arsenal of excuses, and many are very resonable: our connection is very slow right now, I use/grow/glean so much from the ieas and information on various blogs ie., the 4real forum etc. not to mention the support. But a post I read a few days ago (sorry about my links, I still have to work on them) really convicted me, as did my 4 year olds comment yesterday, "Mom, you are always on the computer!"

Even though this is an overstatement, it still cut to the heart.

The Process:
*The past couple days I have done more of my computer time at night, or when the children are visibly happy and contented.
*I do get up from the computer, even during a blog post, to get drinks etc. for littles- the days of pouring soymilk beside the moniter are over!
*Going simple with my reading choices... not getting sucked in
*Waiting till the house is orderly ( a post of Elizabeth's I read last year inspired me this way)
*Living fully in real time!

How do you work your screen time?

Habits....part 2

Habits... hmmmmm. Lets see. I wrote the first part of this post before we left for a three week trip to my parents, to endless days with beach, lake, and friends. So habits? well, lets just say we are starting to look at them now.

Habit #1
The first habit that I feel we need to work on is (drum roll please): MOM needs to get out of bed in the morning. Not that I don't get out of bed now, but for the past (ahem) three years or so I have been a definite night hawk and have gotten into the habit of being pulled gently nudged out of bed by my starving seven year old (the rest of the kids aren't hungry till they have been up for a while). How hard can this be you may be thinking? Well, for me, a mom of four great children, who spends most of her time with them, I really enjoy those hours after the kids are tucked away and I tend to get onto a really awake cycle and then don't go to bed until much too late. But with older children I find to get that time I am staying up even later. So I realised I have to switch things around, to find those quiet early morning hours, the ones I used to so enjoy in my breastfeeding days.

So how is this habit going so far?? Out of the past three mornings I have tried I am 1 in 3 (and the one was a mere 7:45). But slow and steady wins the race. So I am going to aim for 7:30 tomorrow and up it by 10 minutes each day until I am at 6.

If only my chocolate habit could be so easy....

How do you handle mornings? Sleep late, up at dawn, up with kids? For my benefit, how do you do the early mornings??