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I made a few pretty big changes to our homeschool this term that really altered how it flows. For the most part, I think the changes were good, but I also learned that when I’m adding more things to our lesson time, I need to keep in mind that our ending time is going to go later. It seems like that would be pretty obvious, but when I was only adding ten or fifteen minutes here or there, I don’t think I was prepared for how much longer it would add to our school time for transitions, etc.
The first big change I made and the one that affected our time the most was adding piano lessons. My mother-in-law gave us money late last year to help pay for a piano and we had to wait a while before the one we wanted was back in stock. It arrived in January, so we were set to start piano lessons in Term 2. I opted to go with Hoffman Academy as it’s more convenient for us to be able to move at our own pace and include it in our lesson time in the morning (otherwise, I’m afraid piano practice might not get done). The price point was also a huge seller. There was no way we could find a local piano instructor who was cheaper. B has absolutely loved this part of his school day so far and is learning extremely well. This was definitely a very good thing to be added.
The next big change was how I plan our weeks. Last year, I got a paper planner from my friend Anna, but I asked that she start it in January, so I wasn’t able to use it until this year. Up to that point, I was using LessonTrek to plan our weeks and considered myself a firm digital planner kind of girl. I couldn’t imagine not being able to drag and drop my lessons around and I liked that I could print each week out. But I also like paper and pens and washi tape and stickers and beautiful layouts, so I decided to give the paper planner a try in January.
And I absolutely love it.
While there are definitely aspects of the digital planner that I really appreciated (like copying and pasting and moving things around easily), I also love the paper planner in that I get to make it look pretty and I like how the grid is easier to see. I have a column set for each type of lesson we do (left brain/right brain/body moving/sitting still/handwork/etc.) and it’s easier for me, visually, to divide up our day when all of the slots within the column are the same size. I also like that her planners contain more personal elements, like a little questionnaire for both kids at the beginning of the year as well as a mother culture section for me at the end of each month. I feel like it’s not only a way to plan, but also a way to keep memories.
The final big change was where I sit during our school time. You can see a layout of our school area here. Up until this term, I was leaving the rolling carts over by the school table and putting my planner up on the mantel, then I’d move around the room based on whatever subject we were covering. Math/drawing/brushwork/etc. would take place at the table, readings on the couch. I’d drag the wicker chair over to the table when I needed to be there and then go over to the mantel to check what we had scheduled for the next reading before moving on to that.
One week, however, I got sick but not sick enough to cancel school, so I made myself a little nest on the couch with tea, kleenex, and my planner on the coffee table. I also wheeled B’s cart over since that’s the one I grab the most books from and it all worked so well. Both kids did their math at the coffee table, which also gave us a lot more room and it was very cozy on the couch. So I kept on with that and we’ll keep doing this until we discover the next better thing. 🙂
And now on to each part of our school for Term 2!
You can download a layout of our Term 2 Morning Time here. I mentioned last time that I shortened our Morning Time quite a bit in the first term and I still believe this was a really good change to make. It’s a way for us to come together and settle in to our school time, but doesn’t feel like it’s a burden or that we have to do a lot before we get into the nitty-gritty of our lesson time. It’s also a great way to make sure the riches are still included each week.
In Term 2, for our memorization portion of MT, we learned the ten commandments (which fit well as we are reading from Exodus and Numbers during B’s Bible lessons) and in Term 3, we’re memorizing the books of the Old Testament.
For our Old Testament readings in Exodus, Numbers, etc., I’ve started pulling out excerpts to read aloud from J. Paterson Smyth’s Moses and the Exodus to set the scene for B. I originally just pre-read the commentaries and then re-told in my own words what he wrote, but he puts it all so well and in such rich language, that I decided it would be better to just pre-read and then share parts of it with B. I’ve noticed that he’s much more engaged now with the Old Testament readings than he has been in the past and his narrations of readings that we did the previous week are much more detailed. An additional bonus is that I am learning so much from these commentaries for my own Bible knowledge. I’m so glad these were suggested!
For our New Testament readings from Luke, I don’t feel that he’s engaged quite as much, but we did read Matthew last year so I think he feels that a lot of this is just review. I’ll be glad when we can use the commentary for Mark next year (there isn’t one for Luke, though apparently there was an alternative listed in the PNEU programmes) as I hope to do with that what I’m doing with Exodus this year. I feel like it’s a second chance to really use the commentaries with the gospels as I didn’t do that with Luke last year.
There were a few Sara Teasdale poems that we’ve already memorized and it was fun to see his reaction when I began reading and he remembered them. I don’t know that either poet resonated much with him other than just a few poems. He said he didn’t care for Hilda Conkling as her poetry doesn’t rhyme, but he was interested to learn that she wrote all of them when she was a child.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is our poet for Term 3, but because I picked up a boxed set of poetry books from the library used book sale a few months ago, we’re going to use that book instead of the AO selections.
In Term 2, we continued to work on multiplication, the order of operations, rounding, division, check numbers, and fractions. During most days we do not finish an entire RightStart Lesson in the 20 minutes allotted to math, but we did go into the summer last year with math lessons and that actually worked well for us as it kept his mind fresh on the subject when we started school again in the fall. He does grumble….a lot….. (understatement)…..when it comes to math, but he is making progress and does well on his assessments so I still feel confident in the path we’ve chosen.
I also recently was able to find the RightStart Level E Lesson Book, Worksheets, and Appendix on eBay, so we’re all set for next year as well. 🙂
I was thankful to see the readings for This Country of Ours got shorter as we struggled with getting through some of them in Term 1. I also didn’t have to do as much editing other than replacing words like “savages” and “redmen” with the tribal names and more respectful terms (which took some research but was worth it, I think). B still doesn’t care for this book or Our Island Story, but they’re definitely heftier than others we’re reading (though the OIS readings have also gotten considerably shorter) and I have to break TCOO down into smaller chunks for him to narrate.
In Trial and Triumph, I ended up skipping Ann Askew due to content.
For biography, we read both of the Diane Stanley books since they’re so short and I think both Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare are important historical figures to know about. B didn’t really care for the one about Queen Elizabeth as he feels that he’s read a lot about her already, which he has as we also covered her in Our Island Story and Children’s History of the World. I told him his narrations should be amazing, then, since he knew her so well. 🙂
I do sometimes think the Diane Stanley books are maybe too short as she packs a lot of information into a small space and he struggles with narrating these well. He does like the pictures though….and I don’t blame him!
We fell behind on Marco Polo in Term 2 which actually ended up being fine as I was able to fit in the extra readings during Term 3. B is enjoying this one less and less and some of the cultural references are problematic. On the flip side, it definitely offers an interesting view of the world from the 14th century. I have definitely had to edit this one as we go.
In Elementary Geography, we learned about why the sun rises and sets (which was review for B) and mid-day lines, which introduced the idea of the lines of longitude (or “meridians” as the book calls them). He struggled with this concept, but having the globe out so we could actually see them did help.
We’re still making our way through the Salsa episodes, which the kids are really enjoying. We watch the same episode three weeks in a row, once per week on Mondays (just watching it the first week, “active” watching the next by doing things like saying the words along with the characters/narrator, and the third week is pausing periodically and guessing what will happen next), then we do an activity from the supplemental materials for that episode later in the week. We alternate that with learning a song from De Colores (one song per month) and this pattern has worked well for us.
One drawback to this is that I have to get the Salsa activity ready in advance which sometimes doesn’t happen. My goal is to start doing that on Sundays when I’m doing my lesson planning for the week rather than waiting until Tuesday as I’ve been doing up to this point.
We take ten minutes per day for B to read to me. He started with My Side of the Mountain last term and finished early in this term and very much enjoyed this book. It was just challenging enough that he expanded his vocabulary, but not too challenging that it frustrated him. He followed that with Sarah, Plain and Tall, which was a very quick and easy read, and now he’s making his way through The Adventures of Old Man Coyote, which was his request. I have The Matchlock Gun ready for him after that and I’d definitely like to fit in The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen before the end of the year if I can as Lloyd Alexander was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up!
B has really enjoyed the tall tales, though I did leave out the reading of Mink Fink due to content.
The Heroes is mixed…. sometimes I think the readings are a little difficult for him to narrate because so much is compacted into such a small space, especially when there is background on a character who is part of the background of another character (the Argonauts definitely started like this). And some of the content is a little violent, but for the most part, he is giving me good narrations with this one and seems to be enjoying aspects of it when the evil-doers get what’s coming to them.
He does not like Parables of Nature, but we’re reading it anyway. 🙂 He says he doesn’t like it, but once again, I think it’s more that he doesn’t like narrating but enjoys the stories on their own, especially when there’s a humorous or silly element.
For Shakespeare, we read the Nesbitt versions of The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure at home and the Lambs’ version of As You Like It in co-op. B especially liked The Taming of the Shrew.
The second part of Pilgrim’s Progress continues to be interesting as B remembers the different places that we read about with Christian that Christiana and her children are now experiencing.
The only literature book that we struggled with was Children of the New Forest, which was a beast to get through. There were a few weeks in which I was reading 11 pages a day from that book alone and the text is compact so it would haven taken us longer than 20 minutes, which meant I was reading it twice per school “day,” catching up during non-school hours, or pushing it off to the next week. I also didn’t feel that some of the content, in particular how they spoke about Pablo, how they treated Corbould (in Chapter Eleven), and the killing in general, was appropriate for B’s age so I am going to think more about this one when it’s C’s turn to hear it.
We have drawing on Mondays for fifteen minutes and have slowly been working our way through What to Draw and How to Draw It doing one drawing per week. I usually open the book to the next page of whatever thing we happen to be drawing and both B and C have about fifteen minutes to draw. Sometimes they’ll finish early and C will color hers in while B draws more of that “thing” or adds details to his. This is something he says he doesn’t enjoy, but I do think it improves his drawing skills as it breaks down how to sort of build a drawing.
We do Swedish Drill once per week on Tuesdays during our normal lesson time and then again on Friday of the weeks that we have co-op. Last year we made it through the Transitional Routine and we finished learning the entire First Routine during Terms 1 and 2. I’m still so glad we decided to add this into our schedule as it’s a great way to get in some healthy movement during our lesson time and also teaches good habits for listening to instructions.
I ended up buying some new watercolor paint in Term 2 as we moved away from using red for everything. I actually went through two different brands as the first brand smelled horrible and I was afraid we were all inhaling toxic fumes (it was bad), so I bought a second set and so far it’s good. The jury is still out on the quality, so I’ll post a link later if we end up liking it.
We also switched from a size 8 brush to a size 6 and I think that was a good change as well. B got a little sloppy with some of the drawings because he said he also doesn’t like brushdrawing (we’re going through a phase of him not liking pretty much anything I ask him to do), but we’re working on correcting that.
Both in co-op and at home we studied weather this term. Joy’s ebook was SO helpful and a great way to keep us on track. We did two lessons from that each week unless we had something assigned to do at home for co-op, but there’s enough wiggle room with her lessons that we were still able to get through all of the material. B filled out a weather log every day, so we have a nice little record of the weather over the course of the term and we learned quite a bit about clouds, using weather clues to figure out our direction, and how to predict the weather!
The jury is still out on Secrets of the Woods. B has enjoyed some of the stories so far, but is finding this book more challenging to narrate. One thing I’ve started to add in Term 3 after our SotW time is a YouTube video that shows the animal we just read about which often helps both kids (C likes sitting in on this reading) better picture in their minds the habits that the book is describing (not to mention the animal itself if it’s one with which they’re not very familiar).
For recitation in Term 2, B learned:
We’re continuing with poem recitation in Term 3, but I want to revisit how exactly to include recitation in our rotation for the coming school year as, based on conversations I’ve had with my friend Maria, I feel that it could be better.
In Term 2, we learned about Emily Carr (and for those of you subscribed to Common Place Quarterly, I wrote an article and picture study about her for the 2020 quarter 2 issue!) and studied the following paintings:
I’m still debating whether or not to offer a picture study aid and print set for Emily Carr….she may show up in the shop in the next few months. 🙂
In Term 3, we’re learning about Norman Rockwell.
In Term 2, we learned about Aaron Copland. He is one of my absolute favorite composers, so I really enjoyed this term and I think B also really liked his style of music, especially as he could be heavy on the timpani. It was also very neat to actually be able to watch him conduct his own music as usually the composers we study were long dead before the invention of the movie camera, so this is not something we get to do often!
We worked on a mountain pastel scene in the early part of Term 2, then made a few crafts with pressed flowers we had collected earlier in the year. I thought both activities went really well and I’m so thankful for the flower presses that one of the other co-op moms, Sarah, made for us and we’ll be able to use for nature hikes in the future as well.
I was able to grab all of the copywork files from the AO Copywork Yahoo group before they disappeared, so I’m still using that to make copywork sheets. Each file contains short excerpts from our readings over the year that I copy into into the cursive worksheet generator on worksheetworks.com. I usually print out many of these pages at a time so I don’t have to do them very often and B does 1 side of 1 sheet per day. We tried doing timed copywork, but he does not use his time well, so I had to switch to this method.
We’re actually about four weeks into our third term right now, which means we only have about nine weeks until this year is also in the books. I’ve decided to take a cue from a few other homeschoolers and do a sabbath week, so six weeks on and one week off, since I think we need that break more in the middle of a term rather than a few extra weeks in the summer. We’ll see how it goes!