Thursday, October 11, 2007

The constantly changing homeschool

We are back in the routine of homeschooling now that my foot is recovering and I can walk again. I am thankful that we can be so flexible when crises arise. But, even as we get back into the routine that we were familiar with, I am noticing that the need for change will arrive pretty soon.

The Pillowfight Fairy seems to be itching to do more and learn more, but it is hard to give her the attention needed to guide her through more learning without neglecting the other kids. Adding library trips once a week has been a boon. She loves to read and reread the library books. Then she makes artwork to accompany the story lines. She will retell her favorite stories to me (which qualifies as narration though it is done in a very casual way). She will play act the stories with her sister. Adrenaline Junkie will sometimes listen to a book if it catches her fancy or her sense of humor, but mostly she is satisfied with the books we have at home which she has heard hundreds of times. Since she has not learned to read yet, the memorized story is the one that she can read by herself. Happy Boy is not let near the library books. He is in full teething mode and would drip puddles on them. He is busy chewing on everything and exploring our main rooms. Anything that allows him to pull to a stand is a favorite place.

I have to keep an eye on the two youngest, since they are both very mobile and have a knack for getting into trouble. They also like to play together. They are very active and that is good for them. Two-year-olds and crawling infants need activity. But, the Pillowfight Fairy, although active in her own right, has left the hyperactive toddler stage. She does quite well, doing her schoolwork as long as there is either variety (to keep it interesting) or a hefty dose of her favorite subject (art).

She really likes the curriculum we use for math. If I followed the instructions in the teacher's manual (which sound like they were written for a classroom setting), I would probably spend thirty minutes to an hour on this subject. Fortunately the Fairy picks up the concepts presented rather quickly and it only takes 10-15 minutes to finish her work.

She has been enjoying the Spelling work too. Though she sometimes complains about having to write lowercase letters (Capital letters are her favorite). Some people would pick their battles differently, but I insist that she use lowercase when that is what is presented. Most of writing is in lowercase and she only likes the Capital letters since they are easier. She has a lazy streak a mile wide and I can tell already that she needs to learn some basic lessons in discipline or she will always try to avoid "hard work." Once she is done complaining, she usually does a very good job. The spelling takes about 30 minutes to do two pages (both sides).

This is the core of her homeschooling at the moment. I'll have her read books, do drawing, painting, or listen to music as well. But we currently are not following much structure with those subjects. However, I noticed today that we are already more than halfway through the spelling workbook and it is only halfway through October. There are more books in the series that she could advance to, but the books are intended for a year for each level (about one lesson a week and we have been doing about four lessons a week). So, the question comes up, what do we do once she finishes the workbook. I am considering a language arts shift. At the end of the workbook, there is a simple dictionary containing approximately 350 words. I am thinking that I could shift the emphasis from spelling to vocabulary. She could do copy work (writing practice and spelling) of a set number of vocabulary words and using the words in a sentence. She would be actually making her own dictionary. It would also help formalize some of the word meanings in her mind. That would get us doing useful work within a structure without overburdening either of us.

Fortunately the math workbook will last longer. We are at lesson 60 out of 160. I have a little longer to decide whether to move up to the next book or do other types of math as a break until the appropriate transition time.

I have also been wanting to work in more memorization. Her memory verses for church are useful for this, but she only gets one every month. She has it memorized in three days. Other memory work that I thought would be appropriate would be poetry. There were some nice ones in the McGuffey reader that she finished this summer. But, although she likes them, they don't fire her imagination. She loves J.R.R. Tolkien's poetry and also the "Jaberwocky". That is what she likes to memorize. If I can find things that fire up her imagination, she will work hard at it without realizing that she is working hard.

The biggest problem facing our homeschooling at this time is Mommy's lack of energy. I have been trying to play catch up into the wee hours of the morning and then I'm tired and need afternoon naps. If I got enough rest, I might not have everything done that needs to be done, but I would be able to spend more time working with her one-on-one while the other kids take their naps. I can already see that this will be crucial next year. Next year's schedule will be much more full. It will include Spelling, Grammar, Reading, Memory work, Writing, History, Science, Religion, Art, and Music lessons. Good Grief I'm getting tired just thinking about it. Of course we wouldn't be doing all of these things every day, but everyday will probably have at least a good 4 hours work that will need pretty close supervision. I think that my best chance of getting us ready for next year is to start gradually adjusting our schedule to allow Mommy the rest she needs and gradually increasing the amount of work (or subjects) the Pillowfight Fairy will be doing. That way the transition will be less of a sudden shock.

With these ideas in mind, I think I will begin tonight by going to bed now.

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