Okay, remember how gung-ho I was about school at the beginning of June? Didn't want to take a break? Well, mid-June I realized that my kids needed a break. So we took one. It was supposed to just be July, but it's ended up being the first half of August as well since with everything that's been going on I don't have everything ready yet. Now the kids are really anxious to start again and they're acting restless, so I'm trying to get a move on and implement all my fabulous plans.
Last year's plan worked well in some ways and not so well in others, but one thing I learned was that trying to change our one-subject-each-day routine mid-year was not going to happen. Bean does not switch gears easily. I had to stick it out until the end of the year and now I have to be very careful how I plan this year because whatever I do I'm more or less stuck with. It has to be flexible enough to allow adaptation while being structured enough to meet the needs of my particular children.
Bear with me while I review a little bit the pros and cons of last year's system. I had a subject for each day of the week and we did formal sit-down school for an hour each morning. It was supposed to be at the same time every day but the Rabbit had some objections to that. School ended up happening whenever, but we did stick to the basic routine, even if the time was off. The hour was a good idea, but the one-subject-a-day had its challenges. On the plus side, the simplicity and predictability of the system really helped Bean. But honestly, Bean cannot sit still and focus on one subject for an entire hour, especially if it is math. And while he completed and comprehended his first-grade math program, it was not the best to do math only once a week. Or reading, for that matter.
This year we are ready for a slightly more complex schedule with more variety. Most subjects are okay to have only weekly, but I feel that the kids need to do math and reading/writing every single day. However, everything needs to be in small chunks. So what I'm envisioning is this: each school day starts out with some kind of opening exercises-- a song, a prayer, a recitation, the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. Then the kids have a math and a language worksheet to complete on their own. We will then do two additional subjects or activities each day in 15-20 minute chunks. If we stay on task and complete our work in time I will play a game with them at the end. Everything will still only take 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The Rabbit has been doing better lately with her schedule so we should be able to keep to a time schedule this year (if I stop staying up late blogging!) If we stay on schedule, we should be done with our formal stuff in time for field trips, play groups, library story time, or whatever else is going on that day. And as always, the rest of our day is always filled with informal, unstructured learning activities. Learning is a lifestyle around here.
As I've thought about how to create our daily opening exercises, I decided to put together a school wall in the dining room that is similar to a bulletin board in an elementary school classroom. Many of my public school memories are pretty dreadful, but I do have warm fuzzy feelings when I think of the bulletin board displays so I decided to give my kids a taste of that. I went to a teaching supply store and purchased a calendar kit and a giant oak tree kit. This evening after the kiddos were asleep I worked for a couple of hours on my wall. It's not done yet, but here it is so far:
There are still leaves and acorns and animals for the tree. Hopefully the addition of the leaves will make it less noticeable that the owl calendar ended up way too close to the ABC strips (those were a later purchase and I didn't realize how big they were going to be and there was really nowhere else to put them.) With the calendar, every day during opening exercises we can talk about what day of the week and month it is and what the weather is. The tree is going to be used for various activities and incentives.
I went through nearly an entire package of these:
I love them.
I also bought letters to spell out the name of our school up above the tree. But I can't put those up until we make a final decision on what that name actually is. Once we've got a name, I want to pick a mascot and school colors. I'm even thinking of getting us all matching shirts with our school name embroidered on them to wear on field trips.
So I'm excited. I think this year is going to be really fun. That's really important in homeschool-- if the mom isn't enthusiastic about the curricula and methodology then no one's going to get much learning done. The kids are excited too. I can't wait to see their faces tomorrow when they come upstairs and see our school wall. I think it's going to help them feel more connected to their formal school work. I hope it's going to make everything a little bit more fun.