Monday, June 01, 2009

I've finished the planning stage

I am happy to announce that I have finished planning for the coming school year. This is a really big thing for me. To understand why, you need to understand what I mean by planning. For some people, a plan is a nebulous idea of something they might do sometime, somewhere in an undetermined place. That's not me. When I have finished planning something, it is complete and detailed.

Our new school year will start in July. The reasons for choosing this time are varied. First, we did it that way last year and it worked well. Second, the kids can only stand so much vacation until they get antsy for school (Really! They do! My oldest is already reading ahead in her new textbooks). Third, their grade levels change at our church in July. Fourth, Starting that early helps in scheduling our nearly year round school. The only catch in this schedule is that the Adrenaline Junkie will not immediately move up to Kindergarten in the church class although I will be doing Kindergarten with her at home. That change will take place when she is more able to sit and listen for more than a few minutes at a time. I can work around her wiggliness here at home, but I don't expect another teacher to do so with a full class of kids.

I've spent hours and hours over that last five months, planning the new school year (I got an early start since I knew I was expecting a baby and didn't want to do intensive planning right after giving birth.) The Pillowfight Fairy has a year that will be just as full as last year was and slightly more challenging. The Adrenaline Junkie will be starting some basics. How to juggle their lessons will probably be my biggest challenge this year (that and how to keep the Happy Boy from feeling left out).

The Adrenaline Junkie will be following a course of study that includes reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics. Her reading program will start with McGuffey's Eclectic Primer and continue with practice reading in a variety of books that we have or can get from the library. She has gone through a phonics program and knows how to sound out words, but she still considers it hard work and prefers to have people read to her. My goal is to get her to do enough practice of sounding out words that it becomes easier and therefore something she wants to do herself.

For writing lessons, I am going to try Handwriting without Tears. She is actually very good at forming letters that are readable. But she has some work to do at drawing her letters the same way every time with proper size and spacing. She actually does a better job on blank printer paper than she does on lined paper. She also has no consistency in method. Sometimes she writes left to right, sometimes she writes the letters and words backwards from right to left. She may start writing a letter at the top or bottom and never the same way twice. She doesn't follow a consistent pattern of writing curves in clockwise or counterclockwise directions. Maybe this is because she is more of a free spirit than her sister was, but she needs to learn consistency for her own ease of writing.

I am including spelling lessons because I find that they reinforce the writing and reading lessons. Besides... she is always asking me how to spell things that she wants to write. If she is wanting to spell words, she should be learning basic spelling. We will be using Spelling Workout.

For math, we will be using Horizons Math. This has worked well for our first daughter and we like the teaching method and pacing that it uses. It is also flexible with students with different learning styles. The Adrenaline Junkie gives the impression that math is not something that she thinks about. However, this is a deception. I have noticed in her play with her older sister, that she has shown a better understanding of simple math than I had expected. She also tends to have more of an engineering personality than the Fairy. I expect that her learning style will be different, but I think she can handle a challenging math curriculum.

Some of the curricula we plan to use, will finish relatively quickly in the school year, so we will continue reading, writing, and spelling practice in various ways through the rest of the year. I will need to space the Junkie's lessons out a bit during the day to give her time to run around and play.

The Pillowfight Fairy will be having the following subjects in her new school year: spelling, grammar, vocabulary, memory work, penmanship (cursive), mathematics, medieval literature, medieval history, Earth science (1st semester), astronomy (2nd semester), religion, art, and music. I am fully aware that this is a lot. However, the way it is arranged in her schedule, it really is manageable.

She will be doing spelling lessons four days a week. Grammar and vocabulary will be trading off days (three days grammar, two days vocabulary). Memory work will be a combination of memorization from other subject areas and her church memory verses. Penmanship will be five days a week to start and then adjust to three days a week as she completes the formal lessons and moves on to practical application. Math will be five days a week. Literature will no longer be daily (as done last year), but instead will be selected stories to match up with what she is studying in history and to be read concurrently with them. History will be three days a week. Science will be two days a week of readings and lessons combined with daily weather observations for earth science (nightly sky observations during the astronomy section). We will continue our Bible readings where we left off. According to my schedule we will pick up in the book of Numbers and finish in I Samuel (yes I did really read ahead and break up the readings into appropriate chunks). Her art lessons will be a combination of art technique (using Drawing for Young Artists), crafts to match her history lessons, and history-themed coloring books. Music lessons will be piano practice five days a week, a weekly piano lesson, and a weekly music theory lesson.

This is a challenging schedule, but it looks more daunting on a daily basis than it really is since she is such a quick learner. She is a good enough reader that I will be having her do most of her own reading rather than me reading to her. She will have plenty of opportunity to practice writing in various ways. She loves memorization of poems so I will have to make sure that she gets some of that as well as memorization of drier information. She is good at math and picks it up quickly, but she hates the math practice that is necessary to internalize it. She is very excited about her coming science lessons (especially the daily/nightly observations). Art is a favorite subject of hers, so I will try to incorporate it as much as possible in our lessons. She also loves music, but as with math, she doesn't like practice.

Beside having her read more of her own lessons, I want to have her narrate back her lessons to help her process the information to retain it better. For literature, history, science, and religion she will need to do some kind of narration. She needs to work more on doing verbal and written narrations. I am thinking of letting her have some choice in what kind of narration she will do. Of those four subjects I think it would be reasonable to have one of them verbal, and one of them written every day (her choice of subject). Any additional ones could be her choice of verbal, written, or artwork. With the schedule I have made, some days would have only two, some would have three. I don't think we would be doing any more than that during a day unless we were trying to play catch up after a sick day.

To make my life easier, I think that I can plan our days in such a way that I can have the two girls doing workbook work at the same time so that I could bounce between them instructing and guiding as needed. I can also probably do a reading lesson with the Junkie during the Fairy's Piano practice. I'm hoping that having the girls doing some of their lessons at the table together (even though they are different levels) will help them feel like they aren't having to do all the work alone. That was a bit of a problem this last year when the Fairy had trouble concentrating because her siblings were busy having fun while she was stuck with schoolwork. Also, whenever the Junkie wants to listen in or participate with the Fairy's other lessons, she can. She can listen to the stories, she can listen to the history lessons, she can do art and crafts, she can listen to the science lesson and learn about how to do weather observations. She wants to be a big kid so badly, listening in to the lessons can help her feel less left out.

The Happy Boy will be running amok, most likely. He will be doing his best to find ways to monopolize Mommy's attention. In addition, we will probably need to eliminate our current habit of watching a video after the Happy Boy's nap. As the kids get older, there are so many other things that they can do to fill that time more productively. That will also give us a little more flexibility in scheduling during the day. By the end of next school year, the Happy Boy will probably be giving up naps anyway.

So that is a summary of the plan. I have a folder that contains 46 pages of detailed lesson plans (including books and page numbers). I'll need to double check craft supplies and library books about every two weeks. Then I'll look over each day's plans the night before. This kind of planning isn't for everyone, but it works for me. I like being able to do all the work and decision making ahead of time. That way the actual accomplishment, is less stressful to me.

No comments: