Sunday, April 15, 2012

Designing Our Spring

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that we can change what we are learning or how we are learning it to fit our needs.  We can change when we feel bored or if we see that the girls need a little more practice with something or just because we discover an interest in something.  It is often through our curriculum that we discover our interests.

We are at a point where we are finishing up some things and meeting some goals.  It's spring and I thought a good time for re-evaluation.  I sat down with the girls and told them that I felt good about the work we have done so far this year.  Then, I asked them to make a list of ten things they would like to learn more about.

When they finished that (Allie could only come up with 7 things she wanted to learn more about), I asked them HOW they could learn about these things.  Allie came up with library books for nature, ocean and animal life and to learn more about our ancestors, all of those things were added to her List of Things To Do.  Piper has a Doll Crafts kit, several books on mythology and science experiment kits; she thought we could youtube how to do the Stop Motion Videos.

Next, I asked them to imagine they are 30 years old and to write in their journals about what their life will look like.

Allie said that she was married, a mom with two kids (she even knew their names, of course!) and an interior decorator.  Piper was also married, with three kids (she knew their names, too!) and she owned a bakery.

Allie has always been interested in nature, wildlife and ecology, as well as design, whether it be fashion design, interior design, jewelry design... Piper's interests are also always very creative.  I realized several years ago that I felt like I was throwing money away on certain lessons and classes, like gymnastics and dance; even music, although important, seemed like a waste to me, because my girls didn't enjoy it.  Once we found the things they love, I didn't mind spending the money on classes and camps and supplies.

Armed with all of this information, I set out to design our Spring.

  • History - Embarrassingly, we are only on Chapter 16 of Story of the World, Volume 2 since September.  My girls love the stories, but are not so fond of writing summaries.  We compromised: we will take a further break from Writing with Skill/Ease and use SoTW to build our summary writing skills.
  • Science - We will continue the science program we created together, adding a Human Body Lapbook from currclick.
  • Nature Studies - we haven't done this before, per se, although the girls read their Zoobooks and we go on a lot of hikes and walks and have always pointed things out to the girls.  This Spring we are planning some trips with our homeschool group that are in the Nature Study vein: a beach clean-up, a garden tour and a reservoir study.  We are also planning weekly Nature Play Dates in streams and woods and forests, oh my!
  • Math - my girls don't love math, but they tolerate the program we use more than any other that we tried. They would love to ditch math altogether, but I think it is something they need to learn.
  • Writing - The girls convinced me to read/use Writing Smarts by American Girl as a sort of review of what we have learned so far.  We'll also work with Writing Strands again--I adore the wide openness of this program!
  • Art - we discovered these great biographies by Mike Venezia.  We read one each Friday and try to replicate a work of art by that artist.  The girls and i sat down together to select the artists we want to learn about for the next two months and to put holds on those books at the library.  The girls also utilize their art journals on an almost daily basis.
  • Geography - Last year we studied the United States, the capitals, postal codes, etc.  The girls really enjoyed this.  I found this book in Barnes and Noble and I love it!  It has everything from room layouts (helpful for interior designers) to logic based learning activities.  

  • Latin - We love our Latin program, but we have decided to take a break from it to make time for other things.
  • Spelling - I briefly used a spelling program with the girls last year, but then read to just write down the words they mis-spell and keep that posted for them.  We have been doing this and I gave them a quiz using the book we had briefly used last year and they blew me away!  Their spelling has improved tremendously without spelling lists or any formal program!
  • Reading - the girls both finished the Reading Workbooks we bought for this year.  They both participate in a homeschool Mother-Daughter Book Club where we read and discuss books in a group.  That combined with their independent reading will be their reading this spring, to make time for other things.
Before we ever homeschooled, I was most drawn to unschooling.  I really believe we learn and retain more when we are interested in something.  I would love to just completely leave it all up to the girls...but then there is a part of me that believes discipline and learning to understand something that you are not particularly interested in is also important (there are things in life and at work that I am not particularly interested in, but that I must do nonetheless).  These two parts of my belief system at work attempt to create a hybrid model of what I want the girls to know and finding lots of time for the girls to explore and pursue what they want to know.
  • We are taking advantage of the free 2 week trial for and Allie is researching our family history. (This was an interest that began as a result of our curriculum mentioning Vikings; Jason's family has been traced back that far and he was related to Vikings, the girls found that and all of the information that MacDaddy and Grandma Lily sent fascinating!)
  • Allie accompanied me to work and selected several non-fiction books on nature and wildlife to read on her own.  Her only 'assignment' is to share any interested facts with the rest of the family.  As you can imagine, LOTS of sharing going on around here!
  • Allie also found some interior design books to take out.
  • Piper is working on summarizing and illustrating a book of Norse Mythology using D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths.
  • Piper has marked several recipes in our Baking cookbooks that she wants to try and so far has made a scrumptious pear cake (reducing the sugar as per mom's request and finding it was still really good!)
  • Piper and I are researching how to make a Stop Motion video together.  This is a REAL stretch for me, I don't have the patience for this and am hopeful that once we figure it out she can take off with this on her own!