Big Plans for the Fall

Next Monday, as DH heads back to the classroom, we’ll be starting our fall semester of homeschooling.  It’s taken quite a bit more work to coordinate this time around for a variety of reasons.  First of all, Bailey sincerely asked to include more science experiments (although I think the more accurate term is “demonstrations”).  This is way outside my comfort zone, so I’ve been doing a lot of organization to include this.  Secondly, after reassessing her learning style, I started looking for some more hands-on learning materials.  Third, after reading The Well-Trained Mind, I felt inspired to add a dab of history and logic to our schedule.  Fourth, after much discussion and debate, DH and I decided not to send her to Religious Education classes at our parish but to do religious instruction at home as well (with the blessing of our wonderful Director of Religious Education).

As usual our main focus is math and reading/vocabulary.  We will continue to use the Singapore Primary Mathematics series four days a week (M, T, R, F), finishing up level 1A and then moving on to level 1B.  On Mondays I plan to incorporate one English from the Roots Up card per week and have Bailey put together a Roots Up binder.  Each page will include a Greek or Latin root and its meaning written by her own hand along with pictures drawn to represent the root’s meaning.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we were going to use  Singapore’s Word Study 1; however, just last week I discovered Explode the Code On-line.  It seemed perfect for Bailey.  It was $55 for a one-year subscription (add that to my tally), but to see her get excited to learn to read was priceless.  As soon as we got it set up, she played for an hour.  I figure I’ll plan on two 20-minute sessions a week for when her interest wanes.  We’ll save the Word Study 1 for another semester.  In the meantime, I now have to go through and scratch out”Word Study” and write in “Explode the Code” on every page.  Oh, well…

Just the idea of doing the science demonstrations makes me nervous, so it would be very easy to conveniently run out of time to do them if they were tacked with work that I felt was more important.  So, I set aside Wednesdays for science demonstrations gleaned from Janice Van Cleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre, and Incredible Experiments. I thought that would also be a good day to incorporate a short history “lesson” following the history/biography scope and sequence recommend in The Well-Trained Mind and using books available at our local library.  We’ll round out our Wednesday’s by doing Mind Benders logic puzzles, starting with Beginning Book 1

With so many things to juggle, I decided to write out a weekly lesson plan for the first time.  I developed my own schedule sheet using Excel (I Heart Excel!):

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First of all you will notice that I just listed things like “Singapore Math” and “History” rather than specific pages or lesson numbers.  I wanted to keep it fairly flexible in case we missed a few days, needed to spend more more time on something, or worked through faster than expected.  Each of these subjects has its own sequence page where I just check off each completed lesson in order.  The science demonstrations are more specific for each week, with notes about any special materials I might need.  Secondly, I have left Fridays fairly open.  Once our math is done I plan to use Fridays as make-up days, and if we have nothing to catch up on then I’m putting together a list of extra learning activities (flash cards, charades for reading practice, etc).

As part of our religious education, I’ve picked at least one saint feast date to celebrate each week.  We’ll read a little about the saint, perhaps add a prayer card to our key ring for Mass, and do a coloring page.  I even have a few recipes we can use to celebrate.  On most Tuesdays we’ll be discussing lessons from the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism v. 1, but on some weeks it will move to Thursdays depending on how feast days fall.  We will also be using All Things Catholic three-part cards to learn the names and definitions of various church vessels; I anticipate learning as much as she will.

And then I have Piper to consider.  She often asks to do school work, too, but I am hesitant to do any formal preschool with her.  I’ve bought a few preschool level workbooks for use on demand.  Otherwise I just try to follow her learning interests.  I also hope to incorporate a little one-on-one time every morning either letting her help me with chores, reading books, or playing games together.  She may also participate in our history, science, and feast day presentations as much as she desires.  I suspect she’ll learn a lot just from being around for the other lessons.

I’m hoping to still keep our formal schooling time to no more than an hour each week day.  I know some things will need to be tweaked as we go along.  For instance, I’m not sure if the best time to discuss the Catechism will be during the day, over dinner, or at bedtime.  Bailey and I have had a lot of good theological discussion at the latter two times.  I also want to keep a lot of flexibility in our schedule so that we can deal with whatever curve balls or opportunities life throws at us.  And as usual, I expect a lot of unplanned learning will continue to happen.

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