Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our 2014-15 School Year Plans

We have begun the school year!  I have both a first and fourth grader this year.  My philosophy on education is that we use plenty of good, real books - not textbooks! - and learn about real things around us, making sure to get the kids outside each day that is possible... and having relatively short lessons makes time for that.  Here is what we are doing this year and a bit about how it is going so far...

Morning Basket
(note: it does not all fit in the basket!  Shh, don't tell anyone!)

This used to be our "Circle Time," and it has evolved to remain as a whole-family together time while not merely being about the calendar and singing seasonal songs (although we still do that for the youngers!).  Now it also includes more meat... read-alouds from different books daily, picture and composer study, and poetry and Shakespeare memorization.

Here's our Morning Basket daily schedule:

Circle Time/Morning Basket 2014-15

First and Fourth Grades


* Recite Monthly Prayer

* Sing Hymn (at least 3x/week)

* Calendar/Vestments on priest – Cecilia; Caroline does finger plays with Lucy
* Caroline: Problem of the Day (math word problem)

* CCL: Time/amount of day, word families, counting patterns, odd/even numbers at easel

* Read about saint of the day; oral narration (alternate between the girls): Saints for Young Readers for Every Day Volumes One and Two

* Poetry reading/recitation; Shakespeare quotes

Our calendar with saint magnets to mark feast days


* A Nest for Celeste, oral narration (alternate)

* Burgess Bird Book for Children, separate written narrations (I write Cecilia’s)

++after Nest for Celeste is finished, we will read from various other bird books like Bird Watchers and Feeders, etc.++
* Peterson Field Guide Birds coloring book


* Among the People (start with Pond, then move on to Forest); oral narration (alternate)

* Composer Study (bios, listen to specific pieces, draw the song: Handel, Beethoven, Wagner)

* Life of Fred - one lesson, each girl in own book; written 'Your Turn to Play' in notebooks


* Catholic Mosaic/liturgical year story; oral narration (alternate)

* Picture Study; oral narration, sketch from memory on easel (alternate girls wkly.) - Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael

* Nature Walk in yard: find one thing for Nature Calendar of Firsts, collect specimens/photos for later work in Nature Notebooks

Last week, we studied our first Giotto painting... after looking closely and making observations, the girls close their eyes and visualize the painting, then try to recall everything they can.  Caroline made a rough outline sketch from memory on the easel and then I put the painting up next to it.


* Among the People (start with Pond, then move on to Forest); oral narration (alternate)

* Plutarch’s Lives of the Greeks; written narration from Caroline

* Once Upon a Time Saints for Cecilia only; oral narration (transcribed by me)


* Handbook of Nature Study (girls choose one relevant topic to read about each week)

The girls in the mirror above their watercolor crayon project from Artistic Pursuits
Each day the girls also have independent "morning work," which consists of things they can do on their own.  Cecilia's includes hands-on manipulative type materials such as puzzles, which she can do along with Lucy.  On Fridays, they listen to prayers in Latin on a CD so they can begin to learn some of them.  The guy reading the prayers sounds like he is about to fall asleep whenever he says, "Amen," but hey, it was a free CD.

Caroline's Stuff

Caroline's major topics in 4th grade are Ancient Greece and British History.  She is also beginning some study of Shakespeare this year for the first time, which she LOVES (ask her to quote from Midsummer Night's Dream if you want proof! ;).  She is continuing with Math U See (Delta) as well as doing Life of Fred for math.  She whizzed through the younger LoF books late last year and is picking up with the Honey book to start off this year.  These books are so hilarious, in a really odd way.  It's learning math concepts through a story.  A story for nerdy people.  Perfect.  For instance, an excerpt from the third book in which place value is being taught: "Fred turned to the nurse who had just finished stacking up 324 boxes.  He asked her what she thought about stacking up 5,367,948 boxes in the hallway outside his classroom.  She laughed and left the room."  Earlier in the book, Fred gets a cat scratch on his nose and consults his alphabetized bookshelf to find out what he should do, and he finds these titles: "Castanets for Everyday Use, Casual Pizza Restaurants, Cat Scratches: What to Do, and Cattleman: What it Takes to Be One."  My kids love these books so far.

Here are the books Caroline will be using throughout this year:
* Famous Men of Greece
* The Children's Homer
* Archimedes and the Door of Science
* Science in Ancient Greece
* D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
* Tales from Shakespeare
* How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare
* Children's Encyclopedia of British History
* Our Island Story
* Augustine Came to Kent
* Beorn the Proud
* If All the Swords in England
* Castle Diary
* Our Island Saints
* 57 Stories of Saints
* St. Jude, Friend in Hard Times
* Simply Grammar
* Intermediate Language Lessons
* Faith and Life 4
* St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism No. 1
* Paddle to the Sea
* Seabird
* Maps, Charts, and Graphs D

She is also using a neat science kit on light, and she is continuing with her recorder using the nine-note recorder book.

There are some other chapter books she will read this year set in South America, and she will begin studying the countries there on maps.  She will also continue exploring the United States - learning capitals, locations of states, general information about the states, and doing a project/report on one specific state of her choosing.  I have tons of fun puzzles, kids' atlases, games, etc. for learning about the states, and once a week she will select something to work with from the crate full of this stuff.

Doing a states puzzle with Lucy

Cecilia's Stuff

Cecilia will be using these books this year:
* New Catholic Picture Bible
* Little Angel Readers A and B
* The Earth (water section)... and this is hilarious, but this book costs $260 now used on Amazon.  I, of course, paid much, much, much less than this a few years ago!
* Math U See Alpha
* Draw Write Now (water animals)
* First Timeline and corresponding booklist
* Aesop's Fables
* This is Our Family
* St. Joseph's First Communion Catechism
* other books all mentioned in morning basket plans

Cecilia works with "Decimal Street" for a Math U See lesson

She is also excited to be starting a journal this year where she can write and draw about whatever topics she chooses.  She is making a book about Rivers, Lakes, and Oceans in which she will draw or put photos of visits to a local stream/pond area plus things such as drawings of the water cycle as she understands it, water-related experiments, etc.  Another fun thing she is doing is Family Geography - learning about her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents and where they lived.  This maps maps relevant to her life as she begins to grasp the idea of what the United States looks like and where we are in the world.  She is making a book for this with her family tree, old photos of family members at their homes or in their hometowns, recipes from family members or regions they were from, saints who lived in those areas, etc.  Google Earth has made this so cool... we were able to find the house where my mom first lived as a baby, just for maybe a year, and compare the street view to an old photo of my mom outside the house with her mother... it had the same awnings over the windows!!!  My dad recently showed me the lot where his father's childhood home was in Superior, WI and the bar his uncle owned around the corner, the church near their house where they went, etc.

She will also be hearing several picture books... each week she will hear at least one from Catholic Mosaic related to a saint whose feast day is celebrated that month, as well as the First Timeline books - lots of good ones there.

Some of our liturgical year and first timeline books, plus a story about Handel, our composer for the first term.  Yay for interlibrary loans!

So, we have completed a little over a week, officially.  I have to keep days marked off for attendance-reporting purposes, but other than that, we are pretty free to school as we wish here in Georgia.  That means a day in the field of nature study plus a book on CD on the car ride home are a school day.  I know all the books listed above look like a lot... but the great thing is that every lesson takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes.  We might read just a short chapter at a time and stretch a book over an entire year.  For Cecilia, her first grade lessons are no more than about 20ish minutes for each different book or topic.  Now, she will spend another half hour illustrating her Old Testament story, but that is fine - her own interest is leading that.  By having short but focused lessons, it leaves them with plenty of free time - all afternoon, pretty much, after a bit of book work right after lunch when Lucy is napping/resting (meaning I can work with the older two relatively undisturbed!)... and they can explore their own interests further, draw, write, play outside, read whatever other books they want, create things using art materials and such...

illustrating Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Lucy tries out the watercolor crayons while the older girls do an Artistic pursuits lesson

Fridays are "fun days," I say... they have fewer lessons in books and get to do an art project that day, plus we try to have "tea time" when we can, where they have a fun snack and tea, and they listen to me read a book aloud.  last year, we read the entire Catholic Treasure Box Book series.  This year we have started with The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball that Floats in the Air

Tea Time last Friday, celebrating the Feast of the Queenship of Mary with a "crown cake," aka apple butter cake made in a cathedral cake pan that was Almost a Big Mistake (see explanation of random caps further below in this post).

So here is a bit of what we have done so far...

This is one of Caroline's language lessons.  Her sense of humor shines through in her work so far... wonder if this would be frowned upon were she in school?  Note what she has written in #3.  We had just read and listened to Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne on CD:

Caroline picks up on the humor and other interesting quirks about author's writing styles now that she is older and rereading books that she had read aloud to her in previous years.

This one is her retelling of the story of Saints Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents.  She adopted Milne's writing style in her own writing, as well as her own quirkiness in her description of Joachim's age and what the temple leaders may have thought about him:

"Not Having Any Children at the age of Probably Past Thirty," "Ponder About This," and "What Had Happened to Joachim"

Greek history narration of The Children's Homer... and here she includes pronunciation keys to say the Greek names, as well as writing a forward which you should "keep in mind" as you read the rest of the book...  She also adds footnotes to her own writing and references previous things she has written or defines terms that may be unfamiliar.  Like I said, quirky.  How did she get this way??  I'm going to guess genetics/personality plus tons of reading of good literature.  She is very self-motivated when it comes to reading and breezes through books every time we get some at the library.
Caroline has a notebook in which to keep all her written narrations.

This is one thing I am most excited about:
We got a set of maps that go with the books Paddle to the Sea and Seabird and some lesson ideas for using them.  These books by Holling C. Holling are fabulous... they teach science concepts and geography in a way that is not at all boring, but instead through engaging stories.  We are reading Paddle to the Sea first.  In it, a boy living by a small lake in Canada just north of Lake Superior carves a wooden canoe which he sets in the melting snow.  He knows that the Great Lakes flow into each other, "like great bowls set into a hillside," and wants his canoe to flow all the way down into his lake, through all the Great lakes, and eventually into the ocean.  So by reading this book, we follow the canoe and learn all the states, cities, lakes, rivers, and other geography along the way.  Just by reading the book and coloring/labeling the map, we will learn the Great Lakes region.  Another of Holling's books will take us down the Mississippi River.  So cool!  After reading the first few pages, this is what Caroline did on the map.  In the top left corner, you can see the small lake, Lake Nipigon.  Then she found Canada's border and labeled it and colored it.  For some reason she got carried away and randomly labeled and colored Maine, even though the canoe has gone nowhere near that far yet, ha ha.

Caroline decided that all our Mary statues needed crowns for the Queenship of Mary.  Our Lady of La Leche already has one, so the others got paper crowns.

We are working through our second full week of school now and have upcoming travel, hands-on family geography study, field trips, and the start of dance class, religious education classes at our parish, and our first Catholic homeschool Friday Mass and get-together.  This school year is officially underway, and I have been enjoying the calm (somewhat - I do have a red-headed two year old, after all ;) settling into of a rhythm for the year.

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