It’s that time of year. Green Gables Schoolhouse is back in session!
After a busy summer of camps and traveling, I am so happy to be back home and back to school. Most people look forward to summer break, but I look forward to the first day of school. I am a person who thrives on schedules and routines, so summer totally throws me off my game. While we do not follow a strict schedule during our school year, we do fall into a nice rhythm that seems to bring out the best in both me and the kids.
We started school on August 15, so we are now finishing up our 3rd week. We could have waited until after Labor Day, but starting earlier allows me a little more flexibility with taking time off during the school year for visits back to Georgia and Ohio.
We are still following the Charlotte Mason philosphy and I am continuing to use Ambleside Online as my curriculum “spine” as some would say, although I am feeling more comfortable this year with making a few changes to the curriculum to better suit my vision for our school year.
For the last two years I have written out my plans in a lesson planner and kept my records in an Excel spreadsheet. This year I decided to skip the planner, and just use the spreadsheet. I color-coded it by blocks of subjects and plan out our assignments one to two weeks out and then darken the cells as my way of checking off the assignments we have completed. If we don’t get to something, I can easily cut and paste the assignment to another day.
Some subjects we do most every day (usually in the mornings) such as Bible, Math, Language Arts, Copywork, Reading, Memory Work, Habits, and Drills. Other subjects are rotated in a loop such as History, Science, Fine Arts, Creative Writing, Arts & Crafts, etc. We usually do these after lunch. We don’t really follow a schedule, but have fallen into a routine that brings order to our day.
This year we are using the following curriculums in addition to Ambleside Online Year 3: (For reference, Jack is in 3rd grade and Aidan is in 1st.)
- Devotions – Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland
- Math – Math-U-See (Alpha for Aidan, Gamma for Jack) and Life of Fred Elementary Set (Jack only)
- Math Drills – Xtra Math
- Language Arts – Logic of English (Foundations for Aidan, Essentials for Jack)
- Copywork – Bravewriter’s Quiver of Arrows (Jack only)
- Creative Writing – Bravewriter’s Jot It Down
- Typing – Lessons at Typing.com (Jack only)
- USA Geography Drills – Sheppard Software Online Games
- Memory Work – IEW Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (plus scriptures, catechism, facts, speeches, etc of my choosing)
- Shakespeare – How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig and The Children’s Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit
- Classical Music – Themes to Remember V1
- Art Appreciation – Discovering Women Artists for Children
- Habits – Laying Down the Rails by Simply Charlotte Mason
- History Supplement – Story of the World V2 Activity Guide and Audiobook
In addition to the spreadsheet, something new that is really working really well are these daily checklists I made for the boys.
These are daily assignments and tasks they can work on independently while I am working one-on-one with someone else. I also included personal disciplines such as making their beds, tracking their fruits & veggies, exercises and quiet time. For now I print them out each morning, fill them out, and attach them to the magnet board on their desks. I am still tweaking them, but once I am finished I plan to laminate them and just a dry erase marker to write on them.
I found these fun ABC exercises for them to exercise their way through a different family member’s name each day. I also found this prayer journal page for Jack and 5 finger prayer for Aidan for their personal quiet time. I keep all of these pages in a Daily Journal folder along with book and movie review pages, field trip reports, and other miscellaneous notebooking pages. I started using folders for all of their different subjects rather than just putting them in a tray that I have to sort through at the end of each term. This way all of their papers will already organized for our end-of-the-year binders.
For the first time this year, I am giving them computer time. Their aunt gave them a Google Chromebook and we have it set up so they can access a few websites such as ABCya, National Geographic Kids, the Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary in addition to their math, geography, and typing websites linked above. If Jack needs to look something up, I am letting him use my computer to search via Kiddle, the new Google search engine for kids. They are loving this new addition to our homeschool.
With Kate I am not really doing anything academic. I am simply being intentional about spending one-on-one time with her each day reading, singing, and setting up various activities such as these. She is very creative and loves to play with her dolls and in her kitchen.
Also on the boys’ daily checklists is to each spend one-on-one time with Kate either reading a book or doing a puzzle or activity each day. She LOVES this time with her big brothers!
At the end of the day the boys can turn in their daily checklists to me to initial and award them with pom-poms. Each pom-pom is worth a quarter and they can earn up to 4 pom-poms a day for completed chores and assignments and extra good behavior. (They can also lose them for not listening or disobedience. The pom-poms make a great discipline tool.) They keep their pom-poms in a little mason jar on their desks. (Their desks are the Micke desk and add-on unit-high from IKEA.)
On Saturdays, they turn their pom-poms in and I record their accumulated balance on a spreadsheet as Amazon spending money. This way I don’t have to worry about having cash on hand (because I never do) or them losing their allowance (because they usually do). And this way they don’t immediately waste their allowance on dollar store junk and instead can save up for something they really want.
I mentioned on Instagram that the transition from Georgia to Virginia really took a toll on the second half of our 2015-2016 homeschool year. Our time together lost a lot of it’s magic and I lost my joy in homeschooling. Homeschooling became a list of assignments to check off each day and nothing more.
I am trying to be very intentional about bringing the wonder and magic back this year with lots of music, arts & crafts, creative play experiences, baking, poetry teatimes, field trips and outings, etc. It certainly isn’t easy when you are running behind for the day and you want to skip the “play” for the academic, but I truly believe the play is equally as important as the academic, and I want to make it a priority.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~ Fred Rogers
I want my kids to look back on these years in our home with warmth and fondness, remembering theirs as an innocent and magical childhood, and I am going to work hard to make that happen.
“A home is a place of life, filled by a woman who exudes a contagious sparkle in the midst of messes and laughter in the midst of duty. Her song pervades the whole place. Music, feasts, art, celebration flow out of a heart that has found joy in her God.” ~ Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life
So now I will leave you with a glimpse into our last three weeks of school. To follow our 2016-2017 school year, you can find our homeschooling posts on Instagram by searching #greengablesschoolhouse.
Blessings from our home to yours.
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