We had a lot of fun this past week. We did a bit of freestyle schooling and I have found some helpful encouragement.
Off the Beaten Path
This past week we went to my parent's house for 6 days to help my mom with some spring cleaning and to help with lambing out her sheep. I know the kids loved seeing the lambs and the highlight of their trip was watching one of the goats kid, but I think I received the most refreshment just from going out to do chores every day and benefited from the extra exercise and change of pace. I would go do chores in the morning to check the sheep and goats and then feed hay to the sheep, goats and horses and feed my dad's hunting dogs and the barn cats. Then I would come in and my oldest and I would go over her Math and Phonics for the day. Then, while she worked on her assigned pages, I would drink coffee with mom.
Even though we get out pretty often and have plenty of activities to keep us busy at home, it was so great to have a break from being the only adult in the house for the majority of the time. Mom(and sometimes Dad) and I played cards, visited and just generally kept busy. I'm also potty-training our 2 yr old and it was nice to have an extra helper to keep track of him.
Continuing on with Trying New Things
One of my biggest struggles is in trying to find a way to improve the attitudes of the kids as we start school each day and to incorporate and entertain the youngest two during Morning Time.
-Keeping us on Track
To help the kids and myself transition from free-time to getting ready for school I set an alarm so we know it's time to turn off the television, put toys away and finish up with morning chores because school is almost about to start. It seems to help so far. I don't get stressed because I got distracted and didn't get us started on time and the kids are happier because I don't suddenly spring school on them. :)
This week we started using Chalk Preschool. It's a free, online preschool that includes, songs, videos and hands-on activities. We all do it together, with my oldest daughter acting as my "assistant teacher" and it seems to get everyone settled into the daily routine. One thing we didn't like was the alphabet song on Chalk (it doesn't follow the traditional tune) so we also add in portions of Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool for preschool.
In order to be a better teacher/mother to all of the kids, I have been trying to foster more independence in my oldest daughter so her schooling doesn't monopolize my time. Previously, I would teach a subject (ie. Math or Phonics) and then go over the directions for the workbook page. Then I would wait and watch as my daughter finished the assigned pages. I have since switched to teaching the subject, going over directions in the workbook and then having my daughter place a bookmark in the assigned page to do after I am done teaching the other subject. It's sort of an obvious, simple thing, but it has helped in that I am not pulled away from the other two kids for such long periods of time.
My oldest daughter and I also looked at and talked about Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool for her as well. She really likes that she gets to use the computer and seems to appreciate the independence of working through the days' activities on her own. At this point we are going to give it a trial run, but she is excited about school for the first time since preschool. She told me yesterday that she liked school that day and was happy that we were finally getting to the fun part of school. I don't really believe that all of school has to be "fun", but it sure is nice to not have to deal with resistance from her. I really want her to love school and learning! Especially at this young age.
We won't be only using Easy Peasy for Math as I like the curriculum we are using. They do utilize some fun Math games in Easy Peasy so we might just supplement with it. Otherwise, we use Rod & Staff Mathematics and I am impressed with how thorough it is. Although I don't do every activity suggested in the Teacher's Manual and I do allow my daughter to use manipulatives to build answers or answer problems orally in her assignments.
-Easy Peasy Sample Day
I have to say, I had fun using Easy Peasy too. So I thought I'd share what we did. My daughter read a short chapter about Reddy Woodpecker and told me about the story. Then she drew a picture of where Reddy lives. While she drew the picture, I read the Bible portion and we talked about what we read. I also read from the suggested Optional Reading book, Tor, a Street Boy from Jerusalem. For Math, we did use the links from Easy Peasy as it happened to coincide with what we are working on. She loved the Math games! After that she played a Rhythm game. Lastly she read about the Life Cycle of a Plant. When we were done we all went outside and planted some seeds in recycled containers we had been saving.
I know every day won't go as smoothly, but the younger two were content to play because they had already done their school and didn't feel left out and it's so exciting to see our little garden sitting next to the window and to hear such positive remarks from my daughter.
I still want to keep the heart of our school focused on Charlotte Mason methods, but in this season of our lives, these changes seem to be a good choice for us.
Speaking of Charlotte Mason... This past week, I have been thinking about what I can do to be a better teacher. I don't want school to be just another chore to complete. So I have been searching for ideas on how to improve my teaching. Most of the information I have found is directed at Public School teachers and didn't really apply. I inadvertently ran across a very encouraging and inspiring article on the Afterthoughts blog. Brandy discusses Charlotte Mason's "Mother's Education" courses and how the mother's were expected to take these courses in order to better teach their children. They would study many subjects and not just learn along with their children, but become students of many other subjects themselves. I love how she says, "It is out of the overflow that we teach." Brandy suggests just starting with one book or subject. I had already started reading Charlotte Mason's "Home Education" Volume 1, but I am going to be more intentional about reading it. We have a Quiet Time/Tea Time every afternoon and I am going to read it each day during that time and work on doing written Narration. Some other subjects I want to pursue are Survival Skills, the Sabbath, Native Plants, and U.S. History during the Depression. What would you study?
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