Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Simple Schedule, Part 2

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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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our Simple Schedule, Part 1

A reader recently left a comment in a post from March about homeschooling.  I'm going to share her comment with you, and then reply to by way of a series of posts.  I figured that's better than taking up a bunch of space in the comment box of an old post, and maybe it will be of interest to others, too.

Here's her comment:

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 the schedule she's referring to:

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Okay, first up- resources for math:  After waffling in three different math curriculums, for three different kids, over the course of a few years, this past year we made the brilliant decision to stick to just one.  Mark and I chose the one we thought was the most comprehensive, and each of our kids is doing Rod & Staff.  We purchase the student books and the teacher manual and we pick and choose problems from each lesson for the kids to do.  Rod & Staff is a very thorough math curriculum, and each lesson incorporates review/drill work from previous lessons, so while we do some review and drill work, we do NOT do every problem.  It would simply be too much.  PLUS: We do Charlotte Mason's 20-minute lessons, remember?  (I talked a little bit about that in this post.)  So I set the timer, they work diligently until the timer goes off, and then we close the math books.

We also incorporate flash cards.  And occasionally-- just to change things up-- we'll do either math drills or this fun math game.

Next up I'll talk about Dictation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Staying in one place

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I took this photo two nights ago in our back yard.  The sun was going down, and we were watering our flower beds, setting up the sprinkler just so, leaving it for awhile only to move it again.  I looked around at our yard as I often do and I was grateful.

I've always had a desire for some land in the county- one with an old farmhouse and tall trees, the space for a jersey cow and chickens and room for the kids to explore.  I can see it in my mind, that place. 

And yet, we stay in our little home here in the city.  And I am grateful and content.  And the longer we stay, the more I feel that way.

I look around our yard, and everything has a story. 

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By the garden, there, is that big purplish hydrangea.  It came to me by way of a gift from Mark, so many years ago.  When he brought it home to me, it was a small potted hydrangea he'd picked up at the grocery store, the kind with the foil-colored wrapping around the base.  It was blue when he bought it.  And Mark planted it here on the inside of our fence, by the garden, and we have watched it grow and change color.  Now it is huge, and it graces us with blooms in these summer months.

There's our little side garden which was a family project, laying the rock pathway and planting perennials alongside of it.  And there, too-- my bird bath- a Mother's Day gift from Mark and the kids.

There is my picket fence, bordering our garden, that Mark lovingly put in for me last year.

Along the fence are the raspberries we planted there, scraggly at first, but now giving us containers-full of raspberries every day.

Back by the garage is the lilac tree we planted, right next to our camellia.  My friend Amy bought us a small camellia plant several years ago when we were struggling with infertility.  It was a gesture of love and of hope, and when it blooms each year I remember that season of our lives and that friendship.  That camellia shrub is now full and tall and vibrant, and I get to see my children run past it every day in their backyard play, and I am reminded of the faithfulness of God. 

Back by the swing set, there, is the place where the big old apple tree used to stand.  We loved that old tree, and the first few years we lived here we filled up boxes of apples from that tree.

There is the playhouse whose bottom floor we converted into a chicken coop, the ladder and deck and slide we built for the kids with the help of Mark's parents.  There is the fence we put up with the kids bordering the alley- another big family project.  Everything has a story.

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This new hydrangea has its own story.  It's a gift from my parents that will stand as a memory of the loss of our babies.  Mark planted it there by the bird bath and it is beautiful.  And each time I look at it I will remember.

As Mark and I sat in the yard the other night and watched the birds flock to the bird bath, I thought, not for the first time: How could we ever leave this place?  I don't know that we will.  I love it so much and there is something so precious about staying in one place, investing in this one place, seeing things change and grow and being here for that.
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