Next school year I will have three school-age kids and three babies. I can't really put off thinking about the upcoming school year. It's got to be good and tight, require very little of my direct teaching time, and pack a power punch. No busywork. No frills. Bare-bones, if you will.
My kids are very good at coming up with their own frills during free time, so I'm not worried about fancy hands-on projects and such. I want solid, academic, and able-to-be-tackled-even-when-Mom-cannot-run-the-horse-and-pony-show.
|Isn't that watercolor lovely? Primrose made it for me for Christmas. It's my favorite Christmas gift.|
I'm thinking about Kim's thoughts regarding Ho-Ho vs. Cake Pop homeschooling. (Oh, go click over really quick. I'll still be here, and it'll only take a minute.) As much as I may want to serve up Cake Pops, I do believe having all these babies means I'm going to have to make happy with Ho-Ho's.
So anyway, I asked Andy to list his academic priorities for the kids, which took him all of about 2.8 seconds (math, reading, writing). Yeah, okay- thought so. I matched that up with my own vision for our homeschool (tempered by the whole cake pop/ho-ho analogy, of course) and everything I've learned from Andrew Pudewa over the last year or so. Here's where I'm at:
- Read-Alouds: these fly right to the top of my priority list. If you're wondering why, that means you still haven't listened to Nurturing Competent Communicators, and you just need to go listen. ;) I have every intention of relying on audio books next year, as mama-led read-alouds can be tricky to maneuver with squalling babies about. In his talk, Andrew Pudewa says that listening to stories read-aloud is the best thing we can do to grow good writers, and that it would be best to carve out massive amounts of time to do so even if it means dumping other subjects entirely. Okay then. Yes, sir.
- Memory Work: the other best thing we can do to grow good writers, according to Pudewa. Last time he was speaking here locally, he told us: "If you aren't memorizing anything, start. If you are memorizing already, memorize more. You can't memorize too much!" We're planning to use Classically Catholic Memory. I don't expect that we will tackle all the subjects covered in this program- we'll just do what we can do. Memory Work is probably the most mom-intensive thing I've got on the docket for next year, so any suggestions on how to make at least parts of it more independent are welcome. Please!
- Independent Reading Time: An hour at least (more for the 6th grader), every day. They can read from fiction and non-fiction on all different subjects under the sun. For the most part, I'll let them choose their own (with guidance, of course), but I will also create a list of books I'd like each of them to get to over the year. Snap will likely need to read to me each day too, as we move him into fluency stage.
- Math: this is easy. Next year I'll have three kids in Teaching Textbooks, which requires extremely little of me (hallelujah). They'll drill facts on the Flashmaster, also completely independent (double hallelujah). My only caveat with TT is that it is very easy to go completely hands-off as the teacher, and that can be detrimental to the student (ask me how I know). I put it on my schedule to CHECK THEIR SCORES and help them work through their trouble areas on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This is still, of course, much less time-consuming than teaching an entire program to three different kids at three different levels, so I'll take it.
- Latin: this makes the cut for sure (add it to writing if you need to attach it to one of the reading/writing/math subjects, but it's really so much more than that). I'm learning right along with Prim, and honestly, I'm nervous about next year. Latin is hard, and moving right into First Form during a year when sleep, brain cells, and time are going to be at all-time lows just doesn't seem wise. Instead of plowing forward, we may take a year to work with Lingua Angelica. We would all memorize and sing the hymns and prayers together, and then Prim and I could do the written translation work. She and I would also keep our current grammar skills fresh by using the LC review workbook (scroll down to see what I'm talking about). I would very much love to hear from any of you who have used any of these programs. Is this a good plan? Is Lingua Angelica feasible when the schedule is tight? Is First Form going to be as hard as I expect it to be?
- Writing: I love-love-love IEW, but I also know when I'm beat. It is extremely unlikely that I will be able to make time for this program next year. (Sigh. Ho-ho's vs. cake pops, remember? This is where I'm struggling!) What I think we'll do instead is spend a year focusing on read-alouds, memory work (both mentioned above), and lots of copywork. Copywork can be done independently and is such a good use of time. I also would like Prim to begin working through IEW's Level A Student Continuation Course, but I don't want to bite off more than we can chew. I'd rather do a few things really well than pile on lots and then only get to them halfway. Still thinking on that.
Usually I call religion an essential, but we are doing quite a bit this year, so I think it will be just fine to have a year where we listen to Bible stories on audio, go to Mass, and work on our daily prayer habits. I've got my eye on this audio Bible set (not the curriculum set, just the audio). Anyone have experience with that?
Something for me to keep in mind: we're homeschoolers! We are not obligated to fit our learning into a 9-month time period, and we aren't bound by the clock, either. Think outside of 9am-3pm. We've got a good 10 hours a day to fit in what needs to be done, and we can do it all over 12 months if need be. I'm not willing to trade our family peace or harmony for more academics, so it will likely behoove us to use the flexibility homeschooling affords us to our advantage.
Also, as long as we've got art materials readily available (and a few DVDs, too), art will happen on its own. No need to schedule it in or make it stressy in any way.
I know some of you are thinking about simplified homeschooling, too. Tell me- what are your essentials? How do you decide what goes and what stays? How long are you comfortable staying in bare-bones mode? I'm all ears. Let's talk!