Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Well-Rounded Education

Our homeschooling days are peaceful and fun now, for the most part.  I love Charlotte Mason!

I did not write a detailed master school schedule for fall semester.  There were too many changes and interruptions with a baby around to make it work last year, and the same will be true for this year, with an active toddler in our midst.

Instead, each morning after breakfast the boys take out a piece of paper and I dictate their morning schedules for them to write out (including morning chores/group devotions).  When they're done they've got a simple list of tasks (no time frames are included, except for independent reading).  This is working very well.  It still feels structured and keeps the ADHD under some control, while also easily accommodating changes to our routine, like a teething baby, sick children, or literacy morning at the library on Thursdays for my two little girls, ages 21 months and 3.5-years.

We write another schedule after lunch, if we still have more schooling or chores/cooking/baking to do.  Usually by the afternoon they just have to listen to mom read one or two more things, followed by their short dictations.  Listening and dictating are always low stress, and thus perfect for the afternoons.  We find any type of storytime a bonding experience.

All four children have ample outside play and explore time, despite the hefty list of living books you'll see below.

The girls benefit as well from hearing all this good classical literature!  I read to the boys in the playroom while the girls play, or at the kitchen table while the girls work with Playdoh/crayons/puzzles.

Some non-Charlotte Mason details:  Paul is finishing up a 2nd grade math book, and Peter has begun a 3rd grade math book.  Paul rarely needs help, while Peter needs help on every section, partially due to wanting to be spoon fed his math concepts, rather than working diligently at figuring things out on his own.  Math is the most trying part of my day.  3rd grade math does get complicated, so I have to walk a fine line--encouraging him to try harder, while providing sufficient support for complicated concepts.

I purchased Explode the Code spelling/phonics books last year, which we are finishing up.  After that I'll go my own way in spelling.

The boys do copywork three times a week, which consists of copying Bible verses.

Peter writes casual friendly letters/thank you notes 2-3 times a week, but Paul currently does no composing.

Charlotte Mason homeschooling log:

The boys are reading & narrating the following (in 25-minute reading segments, twice a day, for 50 total independent reading minutes):

8.5-year-old Peter is reading Laura's Pa, by Laura Ingalls Wilder - reading level 3.5

6.5-year-old Paul is reading Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White - reading level 4.9--if he hadn't already seen the movie, this book would probably be too hard.  He is narrating it to my satisfaction so far.

Mom is reading these selections to the boys, after which they narrate (retell the events of the story, in order):

Literature - Heidi, by Johanna Spyri - (Reading level 3.5)  They can read it themselves, but I grabbed it off our shelf for before-bed story time one night, before realizing the reading level was technically too low for a read aloud.  But we've enjoyed this experience together!  It's been priceless.

Ideally, read alouds should be at least two levels higher than your child's own reading level, to enhance vocabulary.

Literature - Robin hood, Howard Pyle  (Reading level 6.1)

Literature - The Complete Poems, by Christina Rossetti

Science - Pagoo, by Holling Clancy Holling.  (Reading level 6.1) This is a living book for science which describes the life of Pagoo, a hermit crab who started as a speck of ocean plankton.  Fascinating!

Science - Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock

History - This Country of Ours, by H.E. Marshall (4th - 6th grade reading level)--a living book for social studies.  A living book is in story form, often, and written by someone who has a passion for the subject matter.  Put another way, living books are the opposite of boring textbooks.  They make the subject matter come alive for the learner.   In this first term we are reading about how the Vikings of old found new land.

History - Our Island Story, by H. E. Marshall (grade range 9-11)  A living book for social studies.  The first term we are reading about the years 1066 - 1189 - Kings Harold II to Henry II

History Biography - The Little Duke, by Charlotte Yonge.  This is a biography of Richard, Duke of Normandy, great grandfather of William the Conqueror, 943 A.D.

Geography - Tree in the Trail, by Holling C. Holling

Geography - Seabird, by Holling C. Holling

Keep in mind that each reading is only about 15 minutes in duration, with the boys' narrations (oral retellings) taking no longer than five minutes each. 

We don't read all of these books every day.  We alternate.  And a few of them are large volumes which we will read over a couple of years (Our Island Story, and This Country of Ours, and Handbook of Nature Study, and The Complete Poems).

The purpose of reading so many different things at one time is to give kids a well-rounded education, so they can discover what things they feel most passionate about.  Without exposing them to a wide variety of literature and subject areas, they can't possibly develop their intellects fully.

The goal is for the students to be reading all these living books on their own by the 4th or 5th grade.

Language arts learning, incidentally, has four components: listening, speaking, reading and writing.  Often the listening and speaking components are woefully neglected, which makes it harder for a child to develop outstanding reading and writing skills.  The four components all depend on one another and build on one another.

I love Charlotte Mason for her instinct in rounding out a child's learning experiences, in more ways than one.  She was brilliant!  Of course she had no husband or children, so she had time to develop brilliance!  She dedicated her life to teaching and writing about education.

Details needing finalizing:  We still need to pick a composer and an artist to study for this term, and I need to get some handicraft projects planned and organized.  The boys do impromptu craft projects for now.  Ambleside Online, my Charlotte Mason companion, suggests you start slow with their curriculum.  That's just what we're doing!

1 comment:

Sandi said...

So glad it is going well. I enjoy CM approach too. I have to split school up on the core subjects though one becasue of the age range and because Isaac cannot handle others in the room during school. He just can't handle it. So we start his learning time at 7am so I can get most of it done before the baby gets up around 8:30. I hope to post my routine and the remaining curr. we are using this year.
My favorite days are geography day. We do a few core things like math and bible then spend the whole day doing geography. It is very CM like. This is the first year I haven't tried to split it over a few days. I am loving doing all of it in 4 hours time...taking tons of breaks. We will be finished by Christmas (using Ann V's book) and then move on and do science for the year the same way.

I like the idea of writing down the plan each morning. Totally my style but my middle man would not tolerate it for his work. But he is done by 9 am everyday and Journey is fine being flexible so I actually do this with her and I didn't even realize it untill now.