Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our Simple Schedule: Part 4 (Geography, Science, and Written Narrations)

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This is Part 4 (and the final post) in an impromptu series I'm doing in response to a readers question about our schedule.

Here is her question:  
I know this was a while back, but I really love the simplicity of that schedule you shared (the picture in the other post of your school schedule). I'm curious what resources you're using for things like math and dictation (are you using Spelling Wisdom or just choosing something each week, etc.). Anything in particular for Bible, memory, poetry, etc or just choosing as you go? What about geography and science? And, written narrations ... are you just letting Ella choose what she will write from? Thanks so much! You really know how to simplify and make it feel calm (or at least appear that way). :) 
Here is what we've covered so far:
Part 1: Math
Part 2: Dictation and Spelling
Part 3: Bible, memory work, and poetry

And in this post we'll cover geography, science and written narrations.  So.  Geography.  Mark is really much more into geography than I am, so I asked him to make our lesson plan last year.  He made a GREAT one, having the kids draw world maps, label oceans, continents, rivers, mountain ranges, etc.  They loved it.  Then he moved to local geography, then back to each continent for a closer look.

We started well and then faded into nothing.  TOTALLY my fault.  And really more of a management thing- he had the lesson plans on the computer, I never printed it out or had it with me, or I'd look and be confused about what I was supposed to do so we just ended up skipping it a lot of times.  :(  Which just means we'll be doing some repeats this year.  Fine by me.  I plan to be much more organized- everything printed out and ready to go and discussed with him beforehand.

Science.  We've spent years doing only nature study and we love that--  examining things growing and living around us, drawing, labeling, and reading about them.  This past year I thought we should maybe explore other science stuff so I ordered an Apologia book and we did that once per week, in addition to nature study.  I didn't really like the textbook approach, although we all liked the information we learned.  Generally I would look ahead, print out some coloring pages (specific to whatever animals we'd be reading about), and the kids would color while I read aloud.  I'm still undecided about what we'll do this year.  I just ordered this book--


-simply because it seems right up our nature-study-alley, and I thought it might give us some fresh inspiration.  We'll decide soon what science will look like next year, but I'm leaning more toward a nature study approach again.

Written narrations we do once a week- and again, much like dictation, I select a passage from one of our books: whatever we're reading at the time (history, read-aloud, one of the kids' own books, Shakespeare, etc).  I read it aloud ONCE while they listen, and then they summarize it for me in written form.  If there are places or names that are unfamiliar to them, I will put them up on the dry erase board for them.

I am ALWAYS surprised by how much they write.  I expect a paragraph, and they will easily give me a page to a page and a half.  I love reading these narrations.

A written narration requires a bit of time (about half-hour) and little to no interruptions, so honestly?  I skip this more than I'd like to admit, because it's just difficult to have such quiet around here!  But that's how we do it when we do it!

***

Next up:  School Planning 101


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Simple Schedule, Part 3 (Bible, memory work, poetry)

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This is Part 3 in an impromptu series I'm doing in response to a readers question about our schedule.

Here is her question:  
I know this was a while back, but I really love the simplicity of that schedule you shared (the picture in the other post of your school schedule). I'm curious what resources you're using for things like math and dictation (are you using Spelling Wisdom or just choosing something each week, etc.). Anything in particular for Bible, memory, poetry, etc or just choosing as you go? What about geography and science? And, written narrations ... are you just letting Ella choose what she will write from? Thanks so much! You really know how to simplify and make it feel calm (or at least appear that way). :) 
Here is what we've covered so far:
Part 1: our resources for math
Part 2: what we do for dictation.

And in this post we'll cover Bible, memory work and poetry.

IMG_5376For Bible time: Every morning over breakfast we read from Hurlbut's Story of the Bible.  [Another favorite is Catherine Vos' The Child's Story Bible].  About 80% of the time we follow our reading up with a narration: the kids tell it back to me, or I have them draw a picture, or we'll make lists on the dry erase board (observational- listing characteristics of someone, or of God, or of what this or that king did in comparison to another).  Every once in long while I'll have them act a story out, which they love, but which takes a really, really long time.

Mark also reads from the Bible (NIV) in the evenings before bed, before or after our read-aloud.  He started this habit years ago when we only had Ella and Isaac.  Sometimes he only reads a few verses and we talk about it, sometimes he reads a whole chapter.

For memory work,  this year I transitioned from our memory work box, which we'd used for years, to binders (shown in this post) for each child containing all of our memory work.  Honestly, I sort of miss our memory work box and I still can't decide which we'll do this coming year.   The box is more portable and practical, and we could easily do it at the table, and it held an all-togetherness factor that I like.

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The binders made for more copying and more papers.  And while I liked that the kids got to have their very OWN, I think we did it less because we had to move from the table to the living room for memory work.  (Because five open binders at our table, usually with breakfast (or the remains) on our table, is impossible.)

What we did for memory work this year: our Family Ways.  Mark and I used this as a springboard to make our own family ways.  We used many of theirs but tweaked it a bit- adding some different verses, omitting a few and adding some of our own.  So we introduced them week by week and discussed them, and then memorized verses to go with them.  We also memorized Psalm 19.  And we reviewed our previous memory work, listed below:

-ABC Bible verses
-Catechism questions
-OT books of the Bible
-NT books of the Bible
-the Ten Commandments
-assorted Bible verses/passages we've memorized over the years
-a couple of poems

For poetry, what I did last year was to choose one to three poems for each month- specific to the month or season, and tried to read through them at least once each week.  My plan* was that the kids would then choose one poem per quarter that they would then memorize and recite.

*I am really quite good at making plans and systems and thinking they're going to go along swimmingly, right up until they don't.  So while that was my poetry plan, what really happened is that we read the September, October and November poems, and the [3 older] kids each chose a selection from them and memorized them (roughly), and kept asking, "When are we going to recite our poems, mommy?"  And I said, "I don't know.  Let's ask daddy sometime."  Repeat about 20 times over the course of a couple of months. One day I did, finally, ask them to recite them to me.  And they did.

We don't school for the month of December, so no poems.  I also miscarried that month, and we were very sick.  While we began school up again sometime in January, I don't think we ever read the January poems I'd selected.  I read February's poems at least twice, March's poems once or twice, April's poems once, May's poems once, and June's poems never.  

I was bemoaning to Mark the other night that we would have gotten far more poetry done if I would have just chosen a book, set it somewhere close to our kitchen table, and picked it up and read from it each day.  

Next up: Part 4: Geography, Science and Written Narrations.  Then I'm going to write a few posts on how I plan for our upcoming school year, since that's what I'm doing these days.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Simple Schedule, Part 2 (Dictation and Spelling)

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This is Part 2 in an impromptu series I'm doing in response to a readers question about our schedule.

Here is her question:  
I know this was a while back, but I really love the simplicity of that schedule you shared (the picture in the other post of your school schedule). I'm curious what resources you're using for things like math and dictation (are you using Spelling Wisdom or just choosing something each week, etc.). Anything in particular for Bible, memory, poetry, etc or just choosing as you go? What about geography and science? And, written narrations ... are you just letting Ella choose what she will write from? Thanks so much! You really know how to simplify and make it feel calm (or at least appear that way). :) 
I already discussed the resources we use for math in Part 1.

For dictation,  (Have I not shared how we do dictation here on the blog?  I feel like I've written a whole post on this very thing but I can't seem to find it anywhere!)

I am entirely indebted to Linda Fay for the way we do dictation.  She has several posts on dictation, and they can be found here.

This method of dictation is the way we teach spelling and grammar in our home.  It's also great handwriting practice!  We do this once a week.  And both of my children are excellent spellers.

Here is what I do with my two oldest (12 & 10):

1. Choose a book

I grab a book-- something we are currently reading, whether it be a read-aloud, a history book, or one of the books they are reading from their assigned reading list-- and choose a short paragraph or a few sentences and point it out to them.  I intentionally choose a passage that has words they may not know how to spell, or something with dialogue or interesting punctuation.


2. Child studies the passage you've selected (x2) 

Their first read-through is for spelling.  They study the passage, looking for words that are unfamiliar to them.  Then they tell me the words they're unsure of, and I write them on the board.  They study those words, one by one, until they can close their eyes and "write" (spell) the word in the air.  When they're confident with that word, I erase the word from the board and they move on to the next one.  When there are no more words on the board, we move on.  This can take several minutes (which means you can be helping younger kids with something, loading the dishwasher, or doing meal-prep).

They read through the passage for a second time, looking closely at the punctuation.  This usually doesn't take long.  When they are ready to begin, we move on.


3. Dictate the passage slowly
I take the book and slowly dictate the (now familiar) passage to them- three to five words at a time, pausing while they write.  This step requires patience from me.  :)  I try to have something nearby at the table that I can be working on while they write.


4. Child corrects him/herself
Then they correct their own work, by taking the book and checking their work to the passage.  This is their favorite part!  They each have red pens and white out and they go to town, or take great pride in having a perfect dictation. 


Other notes/tips: 

- Sometimes I choose the same passage for both of my kids (to save time), and sometimes we do it separately.  It just depends on how much time we have.

- I have found that writing is much more painstaking for my son than for my daughter.  So the key here is quality, not quantity.  Start small.  Choose one sentence with one or two challenging words, and build from there.

- They also love to correct each others' work!

- My 9-yr-old son is still very much working on proper letter formation and spacing, and writing does not come easily for him.  At all.  For these reasons, he does not do dictation yet.  He and I are going through All About Spelling, for a season, until he is up to speed and can start short dictation lessons.  I think All About Spelling is an excellent program and works great for him because of its multi-sensory approach.


Coming up in Part 3: Bible, Memory work and Poetry.
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