Friday, May 20, 2011

Plants + Games + Art = Our Homeschool Summer

I have given a lot of thought to summer.

This is our first full year homeschooling.

When the girls were in school, I had them do math games and Modern Curriculum Press Phonics over the summer.  We did loads of Mad Libs.  They never minded, they thought it was fun.

Last summer we did Unit Studies on Colonial Williamsburg and then visited there :)

I had thought we would school all year round.

Then I had thought I needed a mental and physical break.  My brain felt tired.  You know how your brain is a muscle?  I felt like I had really worked that muscle, like my brain had run a marathon competed in a triathalon and it needed a break.

After two days spent scrubbing my house top to bottom (err, something I sorely neglected last year) and another three days organizing closets and cabinets and cupboards and drawers and storage spaces (errr, another area I neglected badly); several days spent just playing with friends; two weeks spent reading books for no other reason than because I wanted to; not reading to learn, just reading for fun.  After finding time for yoga or walking or bike riding nearly every day, I can honestly say that I am at a place where I am ready to make a decision about summer.

Isn't God amazing?  If we'd followed my plan we would be done in June, but we followed His and we're done in May, after a few weeks of rest, I am rejuvenated and re-inspired and re-invigorated to go at it again!

We already have some camps and trips and visits with family planned.


I have decided to do Apologia Botany with the girls.  We never really did a formal science curriculum this year, but after reading reviews and looking at options on-line and browsing materials at a curriculum fair, I really like the idea of this program.  I've ordered the books and I am eager to start.  I want to combine it with trips to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Bronx Botanic Garden, Duke Farms, the Grounds for Sculpture and several Arboretums on whose Boards my husband serves.  Spring may have been a better time than summer, but I feel confident that we can get some plants growing.  We are looking at a plot on an organic community garden nearby.

Yup, that says "Creation".  If you know me in real life (or my science-loving husband, for that matter) you may be surprised.  Do I subscribe to Creation or Evolution?  Hmmm, well I went to Catholic school.  I was shocked in public school when someone started talking about The Big Bang.  I thought surely they were mistaken, it was 7 days and Adam & Eve.  Since then I have developed a view that encompasses both.  I can't dispute scientific evidence, but where did the gases come from?  My belief is that God created them.  Even my Science Dude hubby will say that Science doesn't adequately explain emotions and some other things.  We plan to teach our girls both sides and tell them what we believe and let them form their own opinions. 

Latin & Greek
I had originally thought that I wanted to do Latin this summer.  After purchasing Latina Christiana, my brain cramped up at the thought of declensions.  I felt like I'd already run 10 miles and was about to bike the next ten in my IronMom decathalon.  I thought about forcing it, but we'd all be miserable.  So, I decided just to cover Latin and Greek roots.  I put it out there on the Well Trained Mind boards and got some fab suggestions.  I have thought about each one carefully.  I think Vocabulary Vine sounds like a fun, easy summer vocabulary program.  It's basically all games.  We may supplement with something more in-depth in the fall, if we feel it is necessary.

I had also set a goal last year for the girls to know all fifty state, the capitals, where they are located on a map and their postal abbreviation.  They had both learned The Fifty States song in public school (thanks to their homeschooling music teacher).  So they know the states IF they sing it.  lol.  The girls have downloaded the Stack the States app to their ipods and the ipad and they have been playing that.  We are supplementing that with the Scrambled States Game.  They are going to copy some lists and do some good old-fashioned memorizing as well :-)

Since we started knitting club, the girls are really into knitting.  At the suggestion of the homeschool mom that runs the knitting group, I ordered Kids Knit and Kids Knitting.  We are going to spend some time focusing on knitting and finger knitting.  As their first knitting project, both girls are working on scarves for their American Girl dolls right now.  I have been learning more about the Waldorf model of education and making lists of things that I think the girls would enjoy.  I am ready to redecorate my whole house in a simple Waldorf style--the photos are so beautiful and simple.  I just love it!  lol

P is almost done with Teaching Textbooks, but I must say I am not at all pleased with how tyrannical frustrated she gets when she needs to multiply 3 and 4 digit numbers with 3 and 4 digit numbers, so I have made the executive (I am Homeschool Mama, I can do that!) decision to order Math U See Gamma for her.

Each girl will be responsible to complete 1 Math U See unit per week.  I will do the grading, but they will be responsible for doing it in their own time.  They will come to me after they finish a page, so we can see how they did and how they should progress.  (Did I mention how much I <3 Math U See?  If I had another child I may name him Steve Demme. lol.)  We'll see how this goes.

They will also do Daily Grams as a warm-up exercise on the days we "do school", i..e., Science, Vocab games or States games.  I love Daily Grams and it's simple spiral approach to grammar.

Apologia's plan is for two days per week, but I am not sure how we will work it.  I have no idea in mind of how long I want this to take, other than that I want it to be fun and laid back, but learn a lot.

Some days we may do Science a States or Vocab game AND knit.  Other days we may just do one thing.  Some days we may do nothing but swim and play with friends.  It is summer after all.  I want to use this time to train myself to be more easy-going and laid back and not hell bent on getting all of the academics done yesterday.  I want to re-train myself that it is ok if not everything gets done all the time.  I want to make sure we get plenty of time for friends and field trips.  I want to get away from feeling like I have something to prove (I think we proved it in Year 1!), get away from rote work and the have-tos and thinking about what they would be learning in school and how we can cover that.  I want to learn not to worry about and wonder what people are thinking; I want to stop hearing the principal of my girl's elementary school criticizing me in my head or my aunt asking who is monitoring what I do every time I speak with her.  I want to leave lots of time for fun all year round.  By concentrating on Science, Geography and Vocab now, I can concentrate on History, Grammar and Writing at other times of the year and make for a more relaxed, but also more in-depth and focused learning environment.  At least I hope that is how it works!

I have no plans for how long I want this to take, maybe just the summer or maybe through the fall, we will see how it goes, where we want to dig in.  As long as the girls are doing grammar and math and vocab and reading books, it's a well-rounded plan, yes?  This may take us through til November and then we will take December off and start back up with Story of the World Volume 2 in January, or maybe we will decide to start SoTW while we are doing Science...we are open to anything and to me, that is the best way to learn!

So far, this is feeling very Zen, like a nice long stretch after a sprint :)