Okay, we are in week 8 of the ’10-’11 school year, far enough in that I think I can step back and assess how we’re doing.
We have tweaked our schedule a few times, playing around to see what works best to not only get school done for two grades, but also to keep up with other necessities like laundry, clutter, dishes, dusting, bathrooms, etc., all while not neglecting the other three children! I think we have arrived at a schedule that is working for now, keeping in mind that life ebbs and flows around here and we need to be flexible at all times.
We begin each day around 7ish, heading down to breakfast around 7:15 or 7:30 or whenever we can no longer convince Samuel that it’s more fun to snuggle than eat breakfast. We try really hard to have breakfast finished and get everybody dressed and ready for the day, including beds made and rooms straightened, by 8:30, and we actually achieve that more times than not. At 8:30, we gather on the couch for the ordeal–oops, I mean joy–of getting each child their own Bible or story Bible, finding the right page for that day’s story, then finding it two or three more times in the middle of the story because they dropped their book and lost the page. Anyway, 8:30 is Family Bible Time, which is indeed a joy because of the promise it holds, but is sometimes a trying experience. After the story we head to the piano and work on that month’s hymn–we’ve learned all four verses of “God is Working His Purpose Out” and we’re on the second verse of “Be Thou My Vision”–then back to the couch for prayer. We’ve been praying for different Muslim countries over the past month or so, and it’s been really neat to pray for a couple of countries where we actually know people who are missionaries. Up for the Battle of the Flag, I mean the Pledge of Allegiance, and then Family Bible Time is over.
After Family Bible Time is one of Mommy’s favorite times of the day, even if I’m the only one with that opinion: Family Chore Time. Unfortunately, in our house, the chore is usually just cleaning up the playroom or some other messy room in the house, but on the remarkable day that the clutter is mostly picked up, the children have more fun chores to do like dusting and cleaning bathrooms with Lysol Wipes. And yes, they really do think this is fun, which works greatly in my favor. This is where half of their daily allowance is earned.
Now that the chores are done, or the 30 minutes are up, which usually comes first, it’s finally time to start school for the day, in theory around 9:30. Catherine goes first, and Elisabeth joins her for the first part to “practice” school. This serves two purposes: it really does let her practice sitting still and listening to make things easier when her turn rolls around next year, and it shortens the amount of opportunity for her and Abigail to clash upstairs while Catherine is doing school. While Catherine, Elisabeth, and I are downstairs, Abigail is upstairs “babysitting” Samuel and keeping an ear on Silas, who is thrilling his mommy by beginning to fall into a morning nap pattern right when we’re doing school! This is where Abigail hopefully earns the other half of her daily allowance. When Catherine is done with school, she switches places with Abigail and “babysits” to earn the rest of her allowance.
Elisabeth and Catherine do Bible together, listening to a Bible story from the Child’s Story Bible, and coloring a picture when one matches that day’s story. Then, we’ve already worked our way through Evan-Moor’s Aesop’s Fables Literature Pockets, and next week we’ll begin the second Folk Tales and Fairy Tales. We also have a coloring book of illustrated children’s poems that I copy for them, one poem each week. Then Elisabeth heads upstairs and Catherine tackles Phonics and Math. Her reading has picked up tremendously this year, and she is having none of the trouble she had last year. Every now and then she’ll have a mental block for a sight word or two, but I learned last year that the more I push the more she blocks it, so now we just keep pulling it out for a little practice every day and one day she’ll suddenly get it and never have trouble again.
After Phonics is Math. Catherine was extremely excited to start math this year; I guess she feels like now she’s arrived or something. She does well in math–the First Grade level of Saxon Math–and she was very proud to finally get to her first worksheet of all doubles facts this week, the first worksheet of nothing but addition problems instead of mostly coloring and counting problems.
Now Catherine is done, so she runs up the stairs, usually yelling, “Ready or not, here I come!” and Abigail heads down for Grammar. She does so well in Grammar that it’s actually slightly boring for me to teach her. She thrives on her weekly journal entries, and a couple of them will be posted here soon so that her…interesting…form of writing shall not remain hidden away in her notebook. She truly writes with character, to say the least. We haven’t covered many new skills yet, mostly just still reviewing from last year, although there is a vocabulary component that is new this year so she’s learning to use a dictionary and thesaurus.
Now that Grammar is done, she has a folder with her daily Reading, Spelling, and Cursive assignments in it for her to do on her own. So far she’s finished Misty of Chincoteague and Homer Price, and is now reading Stories from Grandma’s Attic. She does well reading, but sometimes gets lazy on the worksheets, making her grade in Reading frustratingly lower than what it could be. But she’s gradually realizing that if she doesn’t remember the answer, she should look it up instead of just making it up, so hopefully that will improve. Spelling is a breeze, and Cursive is exciting just because it’s Cursive.
While Abigail is working on her own, the other children are finally allowed downstairs. In actuality, they have already been taking turns coming downstairs to say things like, “Is Abigail done with school yet?” “Elisabeth gave the baby doll a bath for real!” or “Samuel really really wants to watch Dora. Can we come down?” They usually head into the living room for TV time while I possibly knock out a chore or two, or go straight to fixing lunch, depending on how long school took that morning.
After lunch, on days when he can, Clay comes home to do Latin and Bible with Abigail. I usually head upstairs to work and bring the other kiddos with me so they can enjoy that time without interruptions. The other kids don’t mind having to stay up when I’m up there with them, because all Elisabeth and Samuel ever want to do is follow me around anyway. Most days, Catherine will head out to do her “chore”–taking the d-o-g on a w-a-l-k, as she says. She is very proud that she can do this all by herself, although sometimes she shortens the walk considerably. Abigail really enjoys Latin, almost as much as her daddy does. She’s just learning basic vocabulary this year, and even I have the songs going through my head often, just from hearing them while I’m upstairs. The Bible cards from Veritas are wonderful, and she can list chronologically with Scripture references every main event from Creation to God’s covenant with Abram already, 8 weeks in.
At 1:00, Elisabeth and Samuel lay down for that state of bliss otherwise known as naptime, Catherine entertains herself in the living room, and Abigail and I do History and Math. The History cards from Veritas, again, are wonderful. We’ve gone from Creation to the First Intermediate Period in Egypt, and on the last three cards, which were all Egyptian history that is not in the Bible, I was learning things about pharaohs and pyramids that were fascinating. The books that are recommended resources are excellent, and she loves looking through them at the pictures and diagrams and maps. I love how the history cards show how biblical events are chronologically ordered with other historical events like the pyramids and pharaohs, because we can tend to totally disconnect the biblical events from the rest of history without realizing what was going on elsewhere in the world when God called Abram to leave his home.
She is actually showing improvement in math–Saxon Math 3– this year over last year. She has timed worksheets every day, with 25 addition or subraction (soon there will also be multiplication and division) facts on them. Her score last year was the number correct in one minute, with 10 being the minimum to be “acceptable.” There were way too many days that she did not get at least 10, mostly because she would totally shift position in her chair about every three problems, wasting a good five seconds every time. When I saw that this year the amount of time was 45 seconds, I was sort of dreading the timer worksheets, but she has amazed me. Only two days has she gotten less than ten! I am really encouraged by her improvement in using her own mind to figure out how to solve the problems, especially the word problems, since last year she just wanted me to tell her how to do it and would often end up in tears before she would think it out on her own. This year she is doing much better at doing it herself without even asking me to help her. Huge sigh of relief there. All in all, there are far fewer tears shed during math this year, which is always a good thing!
Math is over, which means school is over for the day!! Before Silas was born, that meant Mommy might get an hour or so to crash on the couch before the little kids woke up. For the first couple of weeks this year, that still worked out. But lately history has been taking longer since we’re covering events new to both of us, and Silas hasn’t cooperated as well in the afternoons as he does in the mornings, so I haven’t been having more than 15 minutes or so to sit down before all four big kids are up and pleading for snacktime.
The girls have plenty of time to play outside most afternoons and evenings, and they finally have neighbors to play with, for the first time ever! Ashley lives next door, and she plays with the girls quite often, and Allie joins them when she’s visiting her grandparents across the street. They are hilarious with their scenarios that they cook up. (One night they were running around in the yard yelling, “Champaigne, champaigne! I need some champaigne!” Then they would pretend to pick champaigne off the trees. Not sure what they thought champaigne was, but I hope any snooping neighbors saw them picking it off the tree and realized they didn’t know what they were talking about!)
We’ve tweaked bedtime a little too, by moving from storybooks to chapter books. Clay and I are taking turns reading chapter books to the girls at night. He started with a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress, which I followed with Trumpet of the Swan. He read The Princess and the Goblin, and I read Mr. Potter’s Penguins. He read The Princess and Curdie, which is the sequel to Princess and the Goblin, and now it’s my turn and we’re reading Anne of Green Gables. The girls are eating it up, and both of us are loving it too. It’s fun to be the parent who’s reading, because you’re reading a book that you either loved as a child or are reading for the first time and enjoying as much as the girls. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying it just as much when Clay is reading, because then I get a good three weeks or so off of bedtime duty. It makes bedtime sweet and pleasant, instead of the chore that it used to be.
So that’s our life right now. I didn’t even squeeze gymnastics, drama class, the homeschool “recess” group that we’ve started going to, Paducah day, or church activities into this blog the way we squeeze them into our week. We have truly hit a new level of activity this year, but we’re still managing to find ourselves playing outside a lot, taking walks, hitting the playgrounds, and hanging out with friends occasionally, so I think our schedule is just about right for us for now.
Our days are much fuller now that Abigail is in second grade, and now that we have five children. I go pretty much nonstop most of the day, and my brain is still trying to adjust to that. But I truly enjoy it–it actually makes the days go by faster and most days I feel like we really accomplished something when they’re done. This year it really feels like we’re actually doing school for real, instead of just playing around, and I absolutely love it. The joy of watching my kids learn and discover, not to mention the joy this year of learning right along with them, is indescribable and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.