My personal bibliophilia has not been the only thing we’ve been feeding with our weekly library trips. We are back in the swing of homeschooling, with a vengeance. We even have a very simple “school corner” set up. It contains a kid-sized table with two chairs, an adult-sized chair, and a few shelves with all our school books and paraphernalia. We are using Ambleside Online’s Year 1, Term 3 as our curriculum base for this term.
Charlotte Mason believed in a curriculum that was both wide and deep. This is the first term I have managed to fit in just about all the subject areas she recommended covering. The list of subjects looked a little daunting at first, but in the end, we only spend about an hour and a half each morning “doing” school. Some of our scheduled learning does fall outside that time, as does all the informal learning that happens organically as a natural result of children being children. I view our homeschool as a classical (or in my terms “renaissance humanist”) education from 9-10:30 in the morning, and unschooling for the rest of the day.
As usual, we’re a few weeks into this term already, since I like to test it all out and tweak it before I tell you about it, lest there be anyone who actually reads this and follows me into an excessively unnavigable educational morass. So this curriculum plan has been tried and tested for at least three weeks by one very exacting but good-humored six-year-old. The four-year-old is welcome to participate in anything he likes (he listened to the story of King Alfred and the Cakes this morning and did a great unsolicited narration), but he generally pops in and out all morning. Fortunately, he’s a brilliant self-entertainer, so we rarely hear from him when he’s not participating with us.
Devotional – We begin with a Primary song (sung during the children’s classes at Church). Grammy procured us a cd with all the songs for the Primary Program, so we are playing catch-up, since we spent most of the year in Tunisia, where we just sang whatever songs we wanted in our informal Primary. Then we read/recite together our current family memory scripture (2 Nephi 21:6-9). As soon as we have it completely memorized, we’ll rotate in another scripture. Then we read a few verses of scripture together at the place where we are reading in the Book of Mormon, and discuss what we’ve read (if we think of anything we want to discuss). Last, we have our family morning prayer, and then Axa and I go into our school corner.
Per Charlotte Mason’s instructions, I have a schedule of school subjects that mixes things up so we don’t get bored or wiggly. For instance, some days we’ll start out listening to an Italian cd, then do copywork (penmanship), then read aloud from a history book and narrate, then watch a math video. Each subject takes from 10-20 minutes. If you’re skeptical that things can actually get done that quickly, try it out. I did not think it would work, but I tried it, and I’m now a believer. Making the time short effectively eliminates dawdling, so we accomplish things very quickly.
These are subjects we do every day, although I do different activities each day to make it interesting:
Math – Our “spine,” inasmuch as we have one, is Khan Academy, which I reviewed in more detail here. We watch a video one day, do the related exercises two other days, read some math literature on another day (usually a library picture book from Dewey decimal number 510 or so), and play a math game on the last day (from Family Math, which I remember fondly from my own homeschooling days, and borrowed from my mother when we were up there last week).
Italian – We checked out some language cds from the library, do Livemocha together, read a book in Italian from the International Digital Children’s Library, and play a simple game with the words we’ve learned. Our Foreign Language program could use a bit of beefing up at the moment, but at least we’re doing it every day. Maybe I need to re-read some of my own suggestions.
Phonics – Axa can read Easy Readers, but it’s a bit laborious and tedious. She loves listening to audiobooks (and parents reading to her). I really want her to enjoy reading, so I don’t want to be too pushy. But at the same time, I do want her to learn to read. So we got a copy of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. The first few lessons are a little strange, but the book has been highly recommended to me by several people, and it takes all of 10 minutes a day, so we are persevering.
Copywork – Axa taught herself to write quite some time ago, and her writing is becoming more legible on its own with time. But I just love the italic handwriting that most Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use, so I got her a Getty-Dubay book.
These are subjects we do once per week:
Artist Study – During snack time on Tuesdays, I show Axa and Raj a painting. Ambleside Online schedules a specific artist for each term, and this term we are doing Jean Honore Fragonard. We look at the painting for a few minutes. Then I put it away, and we take turns describing it from memory. Then we look at it again, see if we missed anything, talk about thematic and stylistic elements, the story of the painting, how it makes us feel, etc.
Composer Study – Again, we follow the Ambleside schedule. This term’s composer is Mozart. I downloaded the selections on the German site linked to from Ambleside, and I put them on for the children during snack time. They usually get up and dance to it for a while after they’re done with their snack.
Handicrafts – Grammy is very artistic and crafty, so she does these with the children. Last week they made little leaf elves with fall-colored silk leaves. I think Grammy has a little circular loom she’s going to teach them to use sometime. I’m not sure what other projects are in the works, but I don’t mind outsourcing this one, since Grammy is much craftier than I am.
Nature Study – We took our first nature study outing for the term yesterday. I packed up a lunch, and we drove to a wild-looking spot. Since we currently live in Bakersfield, most of the flora consisted in dry grasses and sandy-colored tumbleweeds. But we did find a lot of insects, including a dragonfly, praying mantis, grasshopper, different kinds of ants, butterflies, and moths. Axa was delighted to see her first black widow “in the wild.” We took their new nature journals too. Axa didn’t want to draw anything, but she wrote the things we saw in different colors.
Art – We have just started Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks, and I am so excited. She maintains that while children naturally draw symbolically, they can be taught to draw realistically, just like they can be taught to play the piano or dance. I am excited to see how this helps us with our nature journals.
Each of the books in this last group gets read two to three times per week, except the bedtime stories, which are every day;
World History – Discovery of New Worlds, by M.B. Synge. This is Book 2 of 5 in a series that covers history from ancient times to the end of the 19th century, in an engaging story form. We spent the year before we started the Ambleside curriculum reading Book 1, which covers ancient Greece and Rome, since Ambleside doesn’t cover classical history until 6th grade.We are also reading 50 Famous Stories by James Baldwin, which are shorter stories of famous events in history.
British History – Continuing with Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall. We’re currently at the time of King Alfred. Also reading from Viking Tales by Jennie Hall, which is another book that was read at Charlotte Mason’s own schools.
Geography – Holling C. Holling’s classic Paddle to the Sea, a charming story about a little carved boat that slides down from the mountains into the Great Lakes, and eventually out to the ocean, in the process giving the reader an excellent view of the geography of the region.
Science – We did our first lesson out of Bernie Nebel’s Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding last week, and it was awesome. I can already tell that this book will help my children figure out the answers to all those questions they have about how the world works. I talked about this book in more detail here, and plan to devote an entire post to our implementation of it after we have a few months of it under our belts. I’ve also already learned a lot from the associated email group.
Natural History – The Burgess Bird Book, Thornton Burgess’ account of how the birds return to the forest in the springtime. He gives each species of bird an unforgettable personality. I get really fun narrations of this book from Axa.
Literature – Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty. Wise and beautifully written stories that take spiritual lessons from the lives and habits of plants and animals. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. We have Twelfth Night and King Lear scheduled for this term. Aesop’s Fables. I found this in 12 volumes on librivox, and we listen to one every day. I think I like them as much as Axa. Always a good pick-up when she feels like narration is “too hard.” For Daddy’s literature read-alouds we are doing The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle, which is a collection of fairy tales. At bedtime he reads The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. Grammy also got us audiobooks of James and the Giant Peach, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Pippi Longstocking, all of which Axa has loved.
Poetry – We are reading through Ambleside’s Poetry Anthology, with one poem per day. Our memorization poems for the term are The Owl and the Pussycat, I Think Mice are Nice, and Wynken, Blynken and Nod.
If you’re a homeschooler, do you have your curriculum posted? I love reading other people’s ideas.