Friday, January 11, 2008

More on homeschooling reorganization

Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, I had really hit a wall with homeschooling sometime around Christmas (not a big surprise, since I usually start slowing down halfway through the school year, PLUS I had a newborn to add to the mix). I knew I was in big trouble when I realized that I was pushing Reilly to finish a Saxon lesson every day in order to "stay on schedule," instead of slowing down and making sure she understood what we were doing (she's great in other subjects, but really lacks confidence in math). I was also grabbing stuff off the shelf in desperation when I had Grace crying in my arms and Marie needing attention and Thomas telling me a story about dinosaurs and Christopher... well, poor Christopher wasn't getting ANY school time.

That's when I turned to the Lord in desperation and said I need some serious help, here. Help me to focus on what's important, and show me how to be the Mom and teacher they need.

Well, I'm not going to stand up and say, "whoo hoo! Look at me! Aren't I the bastion of homeschooling organization now?" But, knowing how much *I* benefit from hearing from other Moms and their trials, ideas, and sparks of creativity, I offer you the following.

I was always agonizing over what the proper "framework" should be for our studies. Do we base everything on history? Science? The liturgical year? I bounced from one framework to the next, always unsettled, and never feeling at home with it. I was always too aware of the holes, the gaps, and the fact that I'm an imperfect Mom presenting the information imperfectly. It took listening to Elizabeth Foss' opening talk at the homeschooling conference back in August (I just got the DVDs recently) where she said, "there is no such thing as a perfect homeschool. Accept that, and get on with it!" Nothing new, of course, but God drove that straight down and I finally "heard" that. As the FlyLady says that "housework done imperfectly still blesses your family," so I can adapt that to homeschooling. I won't do it perfectly, so I can quit obsessing about it and move on.

With that in mind, and seeing Dawn's theme pages, I sat down and asked myself the simple question, "What comes to mind when you think of January?" I put down natural things such as snow, ice, hibernation, feeding the birds (they get hungry!), family birthdays, major feast days, etc. I wrote down that January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus. With that in mind, I started brainstorming. What sorts of crafts could I think of? Field trips? (minor ones, of course!)What books do we already have that have those sorts of themes in it?

I have a wonderful, wonderful book called A Pioneer Sampler. The chapters go through month by month, telling a short story about this fictious pioneer family in the 1840s, what activities they would have been doing during that season, etc. Then there are various activities and crafts related to that month that you can do at home. In December, for example, we made candles. I actually bought a huge block of beeswax, melted it and strained it, and we took turns dipping candles. Doing that project gave ME a bigger appreciation for what pioneer women went through!

This was a HUGE step for me, because I have literally agonized over the whole history issue. I wanted so desperately to teach everything chronologically (which I still think is valuable) that I was paralyzed from doing anything. I freaked out because I couldn't get EVERY saint I wanted to cover and EVERY history lesson to follow a linear path from BC to AD without stopping and starting. I was so afraid to have my kids skip around (and therefore have everything jumbled in their heads) that I didn't do much at all. Big mistake. I had to ask myself honestly, "what do you remember of history in your childhood education?" Before sixth or seventh grade, not a whole heck of a lot. So, if I don't cover every emperor/king/sultan of great importance, or I spend more time on one time period rather than another, THAT'S OK. I want my kids to be excited about what we study! Our biggest history lesson EVER came from when they were very little. We always had great discussions during lunch, and one day, I told them about Vesuvius and Pompeii. That's all it took. We read and talked about that for MONTHS, and even today, my kids can tell you that in August in the year 79, Vesuvius erupted. [after that, my kids got on a Titanic kick, and for awhile my husband proposed that I teach a "greatest disasters of history" course! LOL]

I also found a great website called Repeat After Us. It has a decent selection of copyright free poetry that you can listen to online or just copy the text. It was simple enough to search for themes (such as wind, or snow, or winter, or whatever) and find poetry for my kids. We won't do all the poems that I found, but that's OK. From Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight came the idea of a "permanent file," based on the months of the year, that I can store all these "great ideas." I'll come back to January again, and poems that we didn't get to this year can be done next year... or whenever we actually get snow here in SC!

I also have a great book called The Kid's Nature Book: 365 Indoor/Outdoor Experiences for Kids. I loved this book when I first got it, but NEVER USED IT because it just didn't fit into what the science books we were using told us we needed to do next. Baloney! For the first time, I decided to actually use this book. Since January is typically a snowy month, many of their activities are based on snow. OK, so we don't HAVE snow, but that's OK -- we can use the good ideas they present (including read alouds and poetry) and move on.

I further branched out (those who know my rather anal retentive nature will appreciate this) and decided to (gasp) study the chapter in Understanding God's World OUT OF ORDER. (yes, you may applaud now). I chose the chapters that coincide with our "themes" for the month, and that's what we will study.

If it is helpful, I'll show you some of what I brainstormed for the coming months:

Themes/Plans for January

Nature: snow, ice, hibernation... feed the birds! Quadrantid meteor shower: January 1-5

Science: UGW Chapter 7: Geology – Planet Earth

Poetry/Read Alouds:
“Snow Everywhere” (Ivy O. Eastwick)
“Furry Bear” (A. A. Milne)
“Good night” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
“Block City” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Winter Poems (Barbara Rogasy)
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost), illus. Susan Jeffers
It's Snowing! It's Snowing! (Jack Prelutsky), illus. Jeanne Titherington
The Big Snow (Berta Hader)
Pioneer Sampler (ch. 1)
The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Faith – Dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus
1 Mary, Mother of God, Solemnity
2 Basil the Great; Gregory Nazianzen, Memorial
4 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (USA and CAN), Memorial
5 John Neumann, Memorial
6 Epiphany of the Lord, Solemnity
7 Raymond of Penafort, Opt. Mem.
13 Baptism of the Lord, Feast
17 Anthony, Memorial
21 Agnes, Memorial
24 Francis de Sales; Our Lady of Peace, Memorial
25 Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Feast
26 Timothy and Titus, Memorial
28 Thomas Aquinas, Memorial
31 John Bosco, Memorial

Sunday Gospels:
6 Matthew 2:1-12 The Feast of the Epiphany
13 Matthew 3:13-17 Baptism of Our Lord
20 John 1: 29-34 John calls Jesus the Lamb of God
27 Matthew 4: 12-23 or 4: 12-17 Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to be “fishers of men”

Write thank you notes
The Holy Name of Jesus
Build log cabin (out of shoeboxes)
make bird feeder area more attractive; restock!
Fill in new address book

Themes/Plans for February

stargazing, bare trees, ice, hibernation... continue to feed the birds!

Science: UGW Chapter 9: Astronomy—Consider the Heavens

Poetry/Read Alouds:
Glow in the Dark Constellations
D'Aulaire's Greek Myths
St Valentine (Robert Sabuda)
The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan)
“Winter Moon” (Langston Hughes)
“Escape at Bedtime” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
“Picture-Books in Winter” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Pioneer Sampler (ch. 2)

Faith – Dedicated to the Holy Family
2 Presentation of the Lord, Feast
5 Agatha, Memorial
6 Ash Wednesday
8 Jerome Emiliani; Josephine Bakhita, Opt. Mem.
11 Our Lady of Lourdes, Opt. Mem.
14 Cyril and Methodius, Memorial
21 Peter Damian, Opt. Mem.
22 Chair of St. Peter, Feast
23 Polycarp of Smyrna, Memorial

Sunday Gospels:
3 Matthew 5:1-12 Sermon on the Mount
10 Matthew 4:1-11 Temptation of Christ in the desert
17 Matthew 17:1-9 The Transfiguration
24 John 4:5-42 Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well

14 St. Valentine's Day

Field Trips
Visit a planetarium

Heart “flowers” on the door (We Love Our Family)
Watch St. Bernadette video
Color picture of Our Lady of Lourdes

Themes/Plans for March

wind, getting head-start on spring planting

Poetry/Read Alouds:
“Who Has Seen the Wind?” (Christina Rossetti)
“An English Breeze” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
“Mud” (Zaro Weil)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
The Very Quiet Cricket (Eric Carle)
Pioneer Sampler (ch. 3)
books on St. Joseph

Science: UGW Chapter 5: Water, Air, and Weather

Faith – Dedicated to St. Joseph
3 Katharine Drexel (USA), Opt. Mem.
4 Casimir of Poland, Opt. Mem.
7 Perpetua and Felicity, Mem.
8 John of God, Opt. Mem.
15 Joseph, Solemnity
17 St. Patrick
20 Holy Thursday, Triduum
21 Good Friday, Triduum
22 Holy Saturday, Triduum
23 Easter Sunday
30 Divine Mercy
31 The Annunciation of the Lord

Sunday Gospels:
2 John 9:1-41
9 John 11:1-45
16 Matthew 26:14-27:66
23 John 20:1-9

Make wind chimes
Make a wind vane
Fly kites
Plant Biblical garden
Stations of the Cross

video of St. Patrick, Learn St. Patrick's breastplate prayer

For further craft ideas, take a look at what Amy's kids did at Epiphany Springs. Isn't this the cutest idea? I love the seasonal fairies!!! My kids and I did this for Autumn (we made acorn people) and we had so much fun. There's no reason why we can't do this for the rest of the school year!

I have to accept the fact that I'm not doing everything right, and there will be a ton of fantastic ideas out there that I will be inspired by. Right now, I just can't do them. So, for rest of this year, this is how we will fill in the science, history, art, and read-aloud blocks in my homeschooling journal.


Matilda said...

Your plans look amazing!! Very inspirational!

Elizabeth Foss said...

This may not be perfect, but it sure is really good. Thanks for giving all of us such a great gift!

Amy said...

Those plans look great! I like how you brought the Sunday gospels into it, I need to start doing that again.

ThG said...

May I just say I wish I had had you as my teacher growing up!

Marybeth said...

Hi-- I found you through the planning fair. I just wanted to say that I quit hsing this year for the reasons you listed-- wanting everything to be perfect and feeling overwhelmed because I could never make everything fit "just right." I love what you have done here... it has inspired me! I wish I would have grasped the concept of a monthly theme much earlier!

Ouiz said...

Thank you, everyone, for the kind comments!

Marybeth -- Dawn was the one who inspired me with the theme idea, and that little lightbulb clicked on in my head... It is just way too easy for me, being a perfectionist, to want to do everything and do it perfectly the first time (or we have to start all over again! How many times have I made the kids start over with Genesis 1:1? Because we didn't narrate it properly/draw great pictures/whatever....)


I'm hoping that this will help me relax more, and ENJOY my time teaching (rather than throwing one worksheet after another at my kids!)

God bless!

Cheryl said...

Your plans look wonderful.