Back To Homeschool

We started homeschooling again last week.  It is nice to be back to fall structure rather than the loose, unplanned summer days.  I realized we actually do homeschool year-round, but with different styles.  Very structured schooling in Fall and Spring, unschooling in Summer.  It seems to work well that way.  Beginning of summer, the children and I alike are glad to shake off the daily rhythm and have some freedom.  September-wise, it feels sort of like putting things back together again.

This year Rose is in 3rd grade, Mirin is in 6th, and Clo is in a difficult age where she can’t quite join in, but doesn’t want to be left out.

I put off planning for most of the summer, and did it all in a few desperate weeks in beginning of August.  I was trying to figure out what we were doing.  Now that we are not Waldorf homeschooling, I felt a loss.  I thought last year I had it all figured out, but I found myself back to the drawing board.  I haven’t had enough time to study, figure out, and implement anything else.  Running out of time, I went ahead and planned 3rd and 6th grade by taking the things I liked the most from the Waldorf plans, adding my own stuff, and finding some new interesting things that we never would have found if we had been still stuck in the Waldorf rut.

For 3rd grade I chose the things we had enjoyed when Mirin was a third-grader.  The Native Dwelling series by Bonnie Shemie are fantastic.  We loved studying the Native Americans, so I kept that as part of the curriculum.  We are also studying the great civilizations of Central and South America.  These blocks include Language Arts, culture, and history.

Science in 3rd grade was Weather – and we are keeping that.  It was fun and interesting to keep a weather journal, and included honing observational skills, measurement (inches, centimetres and temperature), cardinal directions, graphing, data analysis, and weather phenomenon.  It is a very rich subject.

I found a beautiful cursive practice book that includes beautiful artworks.  After the basic letters are taught, the lessons center on finding and describing things in famous classical paintings.

Looking around this same website, I discovered the Life of Fred books that intrigued me.  I bought a few to see how my children liked them.  I got the first book for Rose, thinking it would be a good review, and I got a more advanced one for Mirin.  We ended up working through the first one and are starting the second.  Some of the content is very easy, but it also has things that we have never done before.  I looked through the harder book and decided to just start them both at the beginning.  So far we are really enjoying it.  The story is entertaining, and includes much more than just math.  I particularly like the way the negative effects of sugary foods and television are worked into the story!  How great is that?

For 6th grade we are working on Geometry, Greek Myths, studying the planets, stars, and solar system.  I planned it very lightly, because Mirin balks at lots of planned, structured schooling.

And of course I had to include Clothilde in my plans.  Every week we are trying to do some cooking together, some art together, and some small lessons – like counting and listening to stories.  Every day we do a seasonal verse (one of my favorite things I learned from Waldorf – I have always loved poetry and awareness of the seasons).  We also have a break between different parts of the lesson and do yoga stretches from a wonderful book written for children, picture-book style.  Often Clothilde will get the book out and do the stretches herself – even at age 3 she can do this because of the very simple format.

While I was planning, I remembered drawing shapes with my mom when I was about Clothilde’s age.  I recalled being so pleased learning to make stars and hearts especially.  Last week, while Mirin was plugging away at Math and Rose was working in the cursive book, I got out drawing paper and crayons and tried to draw shapes with Clothilde to keep her occupied.

To my surprise, it wasn’t just the casual, “Oh, we’ll just play around with shapes and colors” that I had expected.  No, Clothilde takes things seriously.  I started drawing a few circles, which she tried to copy, and was quickly screaming and sobbing because her circles were not exactly the same as mine.  Simultaneously, Mirin got frustrated with his Fractions review and was clamouring for my attention.  Rose got angry because during the excitement, the table was jostled and messed up her letters that she was painstakingly working on.  We ended up with everyone screaming and crying – not exactly what I’d had in mind!

After the older children were done with their lessons, I got out the crayons and paper again, and sat down with just Clothilde.  I thought my approach was wrong.  I didn’t remember this sort of thing being such a crisis when I was drawing shapes as a child!

Instead we opened the crayon box, and I told Clothilde to pick three things.  She picked:  a girl, a dog, and a horse.  I drew them on the paper, and began making up a story about the three of them, drawing as I went.  Halfway through, she pulled the crayons away from me and began drawing confidently, making up the end of the story on her own.  I found it fascinating to watch her creative process with this, and how a different approach can completely change a child’s reaction to an activity.  My structure of drawing a circle did not inspire her, as I had expected, instead she became focused on how her drawing was not the same as my adult drawing, and felt inadequate.

When the process was freed up to her creativity, she became inspired, the flow of the drawing and the story came bursting out.  After she was finished and went off to play, I quickly jotted down the story on the back of the picture. I am imagining making a little book with her drawings and stories.

It was an intense week back to schooling, and I am having trouble finding time to write here, or work on French recipes.  My garden is very weedy, and my fall seedlings got slammed by hurricane Hermine over the weekend (and we lost electricity for two days – no joke when you have chest freezers full of your year’s supply of meat!).  Dinners are usually a scramble and end up being something I pull desperately out of the freezer at the last minute – usually steak (not complaining, I love steak).  But I will try to write at least once a week until things settle down.

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