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Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
― A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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spring herbs + tales of Benjamin Bunny

a small lesson about finding God in the ordinariness

the medicinal properties of garlic and honey

Burke, bathed in light on his 11th birthday

a brief study in early sports medicine, illustration and copywork

busy hands, doodling and practicing cursive

Olive, at sunset on her 7th birthday

 The Martian and a welcome break from Latin

endless amounts of time scraping paint

afternoon read-a-loud, led by Burke

focused, independent math work

an owlet resting just over our shoulders during dinner

Olive’s introduction to Jenny Wren and The Burgess Bird Book for Children

practicing compound probability

sleepy morning reading practice

regular fires in the backyard again

more images #cloisteredaway_homeschooling

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The quietness of this space and the fact that I am writing about March in mid-April speaks loudly to the busyness here the last several weeks. March is rarely quiet in our home, as Spring’s arrival brings much energy and many TO DOs. We celebrated our two March babies at the beginning of the month with simple family dinners, desserts, and balloons. On a whim, we opted to stay home for spring break this year and re-paint the house instead. With combined efforts, we estimated the scraping, repairing, and painting to take an upwards of two or three weeks–ha! Four weeks later, we’re still in the scraping phase. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the time it takes to scrape paint. The children are helping with the work (when appropriate), and since this project stretches beyond their typical responsibilities, we decided to pay them for a bit of it, offering them a different sort of education in business, budget, and economy. We hope to empower each of them with entrepreneurial spirit and also the wisdom how to manage such things.

In terms of our studies, I have felt the need for more focus and steadfastness in light of all the chaos of our environment, part of the other reason for quietness here. These sort of large home projects tend to distract me, diverting my attention and sending our school days spinning in disorder. For now, I’m learning how not to chase rabbits. March is a climatic point in our academic year. Enthusiasm begins to wane and the lessons somehow become more concentrated with newness and complexity. It’s easy to look for distractions, whether in home projects or online work. Instead, I have sensed this clear need to nurture order and routine with the kids, holding firmer boundaries of time. Looking back, I’m grateful for the levels of peace and focus it brought to our home, even in so much undone-ness.

The kids and I have been reading journey narratives aloud together: Pilgrim’s Progressfirst thing in the morning with poems just after breakfast, and The Wingfeather Saga, at the end of the day just before bedtime. Although this wasn’t initially intentional, I love that we are experiencing the journey of an individual in one and the journey of a family in the other. They’ve offered such great fodder and rhetoric for our daily living about choosing the difficult and straight path, about individual and family identity, about purpose. I highly recommend both for older children (and adults). Although these beginning/closing reading periods do require a discipline of sorts, they are so grounding for our routine, a soft beginning and end to the day together. On a side-note, when my children seem more quarrelsome or nit-picky with one another, reading aloud can also be a balm of sorts, a practical way of calming and bonding them. So can play time outdoors.

As for specific studies in March, Olive and I still mostly focused on her reading fluency. Each week, she had one practice story or nursery rhyme, which we used for spelling and reading often taken from Reading Lessons Through Literature. She also practiced a bit of math daily, which seems almost intuitive for her, and she’s quickly moved ahead. She loves numbers. We also began The Burgess Bird Book together at the end of the month, aiming to read a chapter a few times a week. She copies a sentence from it or from another picture book we’ve read aloud 2-3 times a week. The rest of the time she plays, mostly pretend and often outdoors in a fort she a Blythe made in our bamboo.

Blythe and Burke finished their study of Galen (a physician to four Roman emperors) and the beginnings of Western medicine this month, and we loved learning so many new things about the origins of medicine, from how travel and education impacted Galen’s learning, to how he studied the body in an era before autopsies were permissible, and so much more. We’ve been loosely using Beautiful Feet’s History of Science study for their science/history this year, and although we’re moving slowly through it, we love it! They’re also both practicing grammar and writing with their independent reading three-four time a week (My Side of the Mountain and Heidi for Burke in March; The Secret Garden for Blythe in March and April), which I feel more disciplined about for them as I’m walking through Latin studies with Liam now. As a short encouragement, a firmer grasp of language early on opens so many more doors to understanding language later.

Liam, Burke, and Blythe are both closing another level in math, and I’m beginning to take a bit of time for quick review a couple of times a week, feeling out for soft spots or holes in concepts. We use Saxon books, which although admittedly a bit boring, thoroughly spiral through concepts again and again to build a stronger foundation. Math is an area in which I feel the least intuitive and I wanted to make sure they really know it well.  At the back of levels 5/4 and up is a “supplemental practice” which is great for the purpose of review. On a side note, unless you have a child who loves worksheets, I recommend a different curriculum for the little years (grade 3 and younger), something more playful and artistic like Waldorf or Montessori methods. By levels 5/4 (4th grade math), my children have been ready to transition and learn more discipline about book work.

Liam moved into a weekly Challenge A class with Classical Conversations in January, an unplanned move for our family, one which merits a blog post all of its own. This spring he’s been working through sketching and memorizing systems of the body, memorizing and sketching the geography of the Eastern hemisphere, learning logical fallacies, writing persuasive papers, translating Latin verbs and nouns, and beginning pre-Algebra. It’s a lot of work, but he loves it–even though sometimes he doesn’t want to do it. He is still twelve after all. Wink.

Here’s the books we read in March. I included a list of our favorite picture books (mostly Blythe and Olive) we read aloud too.

MARCH BOOKS

Liam| Crispin: The Cross of Lead | The Wingfeather Saga: The Warden and the Wolf King | The Martian | The Fallacy Detective 

Burke | My Side of the Mountain | Galen | Heidi | Calvin and Hobbes

Blythe Galen | The Secret Garden | Ivy and Bean #6Aesop’s Fables | The Picture History of Great Inventors

Olive | Little Bear stories | Burgess Bird Book for Children (RA) | various beginning readers  

Picture Books We Loved | Ike’s Incredible Ink | Sorry! | Good dog, Carl | The Curious Garden | Miss Rumphius | Island Boy 

Family Read-a-loud | Prince Caspian (audiobook) | The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness | Pilgrim’s Progress 

Myself | All the Light We Cannot See | Teaching From Rest | New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 | Simple Matters

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Although I did well in maths growing up, teaching it is an entirely different story. For me, each class during my childhood to early-adult years was a practice of mastering one section of a puzzle without understanding its connection to the next. What I mean to say is: I have never felt intuitive with numbers in the way I do with language, which intimidated me at the beginning of our homeschool journey so many years ago. It might sound odd to feel terrified of teaching Kindergarten maths, but I kind of was when we first began.

Like so many parents who decide to take ownership of teaching their children, when we first decided to homeschool, I began with tons of curriculum research. I was too academically driven at the time for a no-curriculum approach, something I wish I could go back in time and speak more confidence to with my younger self. Instead, I will speak it to you, dear readers, in the event you find yourself terrified of teaching maths (or any other area) to your little ones, too. Do not be afraid.

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It is good to know as a parent that every child will take to pencil and paper work differently. Some children will struggle because of dyslexia or dysgraphia or underdeveloped fine motor skills or simply because of the hardship of sitting still for longer period of time. There are only a few things necessary for learning about numbers in the early years (roughly ages 3-6).

If your child loves paperwork, you can begin with most any workbook or curriculum for practice with writing numbers. But maths needn’t be strictly for paper, and in my experience, children will enjoy it more if you begin with a chalkboard and something familiar for play. I keep a small basket of wooden people on a bookshelf, which Olive uses for pretend play, for art, and as it turns out, for math. Anything of this type in your own home will work. Here’s a few ways how:

Counting || You can use anything you have around your house for counting: toys, crayons, blocks, Legos, beans, and so on. Begin with counting forward to 10. When your child can do that, count backward from 10. Move up to 20. And backward. Move up to 30. And backward. Continue until you get to one hundred before you begin equal groups (or skip counting).

Sorting || Practice sorting by shape, color, or any other characteristic you can imagine. This process can be done over and over again with materials already around your home: laundry, blocks, crayons, and so on.

Ordering numbers || Numbers give us order. Use language such as first, second, third, and so on. This is particularly easy in the kitchen. As your child become more familiar with the terms, change it up a bit. “I need to add the carrots second. Do I need to do something before this?” You can use manipulative (such as the wood people), too. Giving oral instructions for your child(ren) to follow.  “[named girl] is first in line and [another named girl] is second. Who shall we put third?” This application can work with most any set of instructions around the home.

Drawing || Art and math are intrinsic to one another, and if I’m honest, I didn’t realize how much so until my adult years as a homeschooling parent. As your child learns shapes, you are teaching beginning design and form. Draw often during maths in early years. Encourage your child to draw pictures of their math stories if they enjoy it, or rather look for shapes together in your child’s existing art. Can you find a line? A circle? Rectangle? And so on.

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Create number stories || Introduce math operations through stories. Begin with addition. “We have ___ and add ___ more. How many do we have now?” This is the simplest plot that can be elaborated in millions of ways to become more details. When this becomes more comfortable or predictable, add subtraction stories, where something is taken away or disappears. Multiplication story plots (later) always include sharing and equality of groups. Division’s plot (as they grow older) tells of a generous person who is giving all they have away to a specific number of people and wants to make sure they all have equal amounts. You get the idea.

Since we often use our wooden people, Olive will create the story around the people and possibly a road trip or playtime at a friend’s house. I’ll prompt her with questions along the way: “Where are we going? Who is going with us?” I record the numbers on the board and she writes the answer. Now that she is older and has practiced math for a while, I’ll ask her to identify the two primary functions or addition and subtraction on her own. “If more people are coming, what sign do we use?”

Numbers in daily living || Numbers give form to the abstractions of time and space. With numbers we can gauge the seasons, weather, calendar, time of day, how to make a recipe consistently, or know how much something costs to purchase. By them we can travel the world and space or, in the very simplest of ways, bake bread. When possible, I try to connect the importance of numbers in daily living, even still with my older children. Numbers are consistent and absolute, even when they are relative. While your preschooler doesn’t have to understand all of these things yet, these years are wonderful for pointing to numbers in every day life.

math books for littles we’ve loved || Anything by Tana Hoban | How Much is a Million? series | Mat Man | Beas, Snails, & Peacocks

 

 

 

 

Blythe arrived to the kitchen table in a leotard and tutus (yes, plural — apparently one didn’t have enough fluff) for her first day of “kindergarten” three weeks ago. I smiled and nearly fell out of my seat as she eagerly pulled out her math binder, flipped to her worksheet, and asked if I could begin with her math lesson. Someone pinch me. Math has been the dark cloud of our homeschool for the last three years, on the worst days, leading to tears (in spite of dousing them with encouragement and brevity), so having my daughter request time for more formal learning in this area– well, it dispersed the cloud and choked me up a little bit.

Although I have had to chase Liam and Burke down at times for math, they have both performed relatively well in the subject, meaning we’ve pushed them along, even ahead, assuming ahead in levels always means better. Sometimes. Not always. We noticed, in spite of producing enough to move up through the lessons, they were both sluggish with their facts and missing some foundational number sense — sense they’ll need to understand higher level math soon enough. It sounds a little extreme for a pseudo-second and third grader; however, honestly, Mark and my number sense runs a little short. I mean, we both performed well through grade school and university, but neither of us feels very confident as a math teacher, per se. Obviously we know how to do second and third grade math, but teaching it and understanding how all the skills build into the other — well, let’s just say we’re getting a different sort of education by educating. So this year, one of the goals we had for our children (and for myself) centered around this very thing: having more enjoyment, confidence, and mastery with numbers. One way this translated is having both boys repeat the same math levels as last year. What? Repeat? Gasp! I know. Modern education has trained us me to equate repetition as failure, and although I’ve always valued the scalability of homeschooling — the freedom to move at my own child’s pace– it’s hard to avoid these feelings of inadequacy comparison stirs up. Because it does stir up. When I shared this news with the boys, fully expecting their sour rebuttal, they surprised me with their cool nonchalance toward repetition. “So I’ll probably be less frustrated. Plus, I’m sure there’s stuff I didn’t get last year that I’ll understand this year. Right?” Liam asked. “Exactly” I sighed, relieved and astonished by my kids once again. So the last month we’ve been overcoming our math-phobia, and even if it’s still not the favorite subject, we’re peaceful and without tears. That’s the sum of it.