Monday, August 25, 2014

Kickoff to the 2014-2015 School Year

We are back in it! The excitement of pointy crayons, new notebooks, fresh pencils, and crisp workbooks is all around us as we move back into the school groove. 

Unlike previous summers, we actually took an official break from school-type things this summer because we had so many other things going on. So, although the excitement of a new school year was big, there was also some "I forgot how to borrow from the hundreds column" and "My fingers forgot how to make the cursive letters" followed by a few tears. 

Last Monday, little feet pounded down the stairs and curious eyes peeked into the kitchen wondering if the back-to-school cinnamon roll breakfast tradition had continued. Full of relief that yummy things were baking in the oven, my kids discovered envelopes at their seats. 

Each year I write personal notes to the kids about the new school year ahead, and they tuck the notes in their desk drawers. On days when frustration levels are high or attitudes are sour, I remind them of my love note to them stating my deep belief that they are fully capable of learning, along with a Bible verse I've chosen as our focus for the year. 

This year our focus verse is 1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Your brother learns his times tables quicker than you? Big deal - God cares about your heart attitude. Your brother has neater penmanship than you? So what - God cares about your heart attitude. And the application continues. 
This year we are exploring world geography and as a fun way to kick-off our exploration around the world, I sent the kids on a scavenger hunt for "schultuetes." Schultuetes (pronounced shoo-l-toot-e) began in Germany in the early 1800's and are a fun back to school gift. These school cones are filled with supplies and treats for students. I kept the contents of our schultuetes very simple, but it was a fun way to receive new school supplies.
We made a time capsule, of sorts, that included the hand prints, feet prints, and height and weight for each of my kids. They also answered several questions and made predictions about things for the new school year. We sealed everything up in a big envelope and put it in a special box in the attic... no peeking until the last day of school! 

For the boys, most of their first day was spent scanning through new books, labeling binder tabs, writing names in workbooks, and organizing notebooks. For Annalyse, most of her first day was spent coloring and putting stickers all over her new notebook, which prompted a "Mom, I think preschool is going to be pwetty easy this year!" This coming from the child who has shown no interest in learning or writing the ABC's. Give it a few weeks and preschool could prove to be a pretty hard year, Sweetheart.
Grady Lee, third grade, and Micah, second grade, are following almost the same curriculum and materials. I'm so thankful for their close age to simplify teaching certain subjects! Several of you have asked about what I chose for curriculum this year, and although I move all over the place in terms of read-alouds and add-on books for particular subjects, I can share the materials we'll use for our core subjects.
This is my first year trying a prepackaged and prescheduled approach to what I teach. Given that I have an active baby and a learning preschooler, I thought this could ease some of the preparation and planning on my part so that my time could have a bit more flexibility. After a week of school, the verdict is still out on this, but so far so good!

My Father's World - Countries and Culture: This provides a big collection of books and materials for geography, science, and Bible, as well as several biographies and fictional stories for discussing Christian character traits and values.

Math: Teaching Textbooks 3 and 4. We'll begin the year at the halfway point of level 3 and hopefully finish the year at least half way through level 4.

Penmanship: A Reason For Handwriting B and C. This is, by far, the least favorite part of schoolwork for my boys. Grady has beautiful handwriting but quickly tires of practicing it; Micah has, ahem, horrible handwriting and has little patience to slow down and try to improve it.

Reading: Pathway Primers Grade 3 (two books) and various biographies of missionaries and historical figures. These are books that they read aloud to me each day. In addition, they choose books to read during quiet time each day and are currently enamored with the Hardy Boys.

Spelling: Spelling By Sound and Structure. This is different than the material I used last year and while it isn't colorful or flashy, I think it will meet the need. There is a high chance I'll use A Reason for Spelling later this year and then continue it next year. Why not just start the year with ARS? It's a long story...!

Language Arts: Language Lessons for Today. Again, this is not colorful or flashy, but I was attracted to the Charlotte Mason approach to to language arts. The lessons are short and involve more than pencil and paper, with a focus on narration and learning to effectively articulate thoughts and answers.

Writing: Bible Heroes - Writing Lessons in Structure and Style. This is part of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, a program with high reviews and one I'm excited to explore. The boys will also make short entries into a personal journal each day, and will continue monthly letters to our sponsored child in India.

Logic: Mind Benders. Grady Lee will work through Book 3 and Micah Book 2. In addition, they'll enjoy weekly games of Mastermind and Chess with their Dad!

Computer: Typing Instructor for Kids. So far they love it.

PE: They boys are playing Yes I Can basketball this fall and have already asked if they can participate in the Homeschool PE class at the YMCA this winter again.

Extracurricular: I'm looking for local art classes like they took last year but haven't found any being offered at times that are conducive to our schedule. MFW does provide a craft for each country we study, but I don't consider crafts on par with art. I'm also considering an engineering class and a Spanish class, but need to finalize dates and times of those offerings. Some local nature centers and living history farms offer fantastic homeschool classes every month and I'm sure we'll enjoy several of those as well.
With only one week under our belt, we're still navigating our way and finding the best routine. And, I'm sure that just when we discover what seems to work best, circumstances will change and we'll need to reassess how and when we're doing things. Some of the homeschooling beauty is the flexibility it offers and I'm counting my blessings that in the few years we've learned together at home, my kids have demonstrated adaptability to change.

So, to the 2014-2015 School Year... game on!

No comments:

Post a Comment