Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reflections on learning around here

I've given it some thought and decided that I will do a Monthly homeschool review rather than a weekly one. I'm just trying to simplify and put less pressure on myself. If I can find time to write each week, that is fantastic. But, if we get busy and I can't, I need that to be okay, too. Last year, having that pressure to document each and every week of school became somewhat of a chore at times. I'm thinking that once a month, I can recap what we've learned, what we've read and what we've experienced in the past month. That is a commitment that I hope to feel a bit less pressure about meeting. If you really want to see some of what we're doing as we are doing it, check the three reading logs across the top. I'm trying to update those daily or every couple of days with the books that we read aloud and that the girls read themselves. A book doesn't make it to the list until after it's read, so that is your record of some of what we have actually done.

Anyhoo. Even though I don't intend to do a "Week in Review" for the past two weeks, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on some of the things that have been working for us and some of the things I've already decided to change a bit.

What is working for us?

Music in the morning.
   Monday morning I made a point to stop my quiet time at 8:00 am on the dot. I put in our "Masters of Classical Music: MOZART" CD and headed to the kitchen to start breakfast. When the girls came out (excited to start school) and smelled homemade pear cinnamon oatmeal on the stove, heard Mozart on the speakers and saw Momma in her apron, putting dishes away, they said it felt so good. I made a mental note of that and have since done the same each day ~ 8:00 am on the dot, my computer time ends, Mozart is turned on and I'm in the kitchen doing the work of the day. It works for us. It feels good to me. It signifies the start of the day. It signifies that Momma is plugged in (or rather that Momma is now "unplugged") and ready to hold the rhythm of the family. Plus, I can stop worrying about "scheduling Composer Study" ~ it's now on the agenda each and every day and doesn't take up a bit of our lesson time! The Hippie and I planned out the months of the year with our 10 CDs and we will have a new composer each month. I know that is a bit shorter than the typical "one composer per term" Charlotte Mason recommendation, but if we're hearing the music every single day I think one month is enough. We like it this way.

Ten minutes of copywork and no more ... and from books we are actually reading.
   I spent most of the summer thinking I just wouldn't be able to come up with my own copywork each day and that I needed to just buy something. I'm so glad I didn't do that. It really was easy to sit down the Saturday before and pick out four days worth of copywork from books we are actually reading, plug short sentences into this worksheet maker (cursive for the Hippie and print for the Princess) and be done with it. I really believe they are more interested in the writing when it is something they recognize. They get excited about it. Another key, though is that I have set the timer for 10 minutes and made them stop wherever they were at the end of 10 minutes. Period. I want ten minutes of perfect handwriting instead of 15-20 minutes of sloppy mess. Each day the Hippie was able to finish and the Princess finished about half. But, both were beautifully written and that is what matters!

Dictation with the Hippie. 
   I cannot express enough how beautifully this went this week. My oldest child (up to now) has hated copywork and anything to do with writing (when Momma requested it). Charlotte Mason says not to begin dictation and written narration until the child is in 4th grade or about 9 or 10. Boy, did she know what she was talking about. We did our first dictation exercise on Monday and the Hippie loved it. She wanted to do it every day (she's only going to do it once a week, but I love the enthusiasm). Again, I agonized over buying something, but in the end decided on the more natural route and am so happy that I did. On Monday morning, I asked her if she'd like to do her dictation exercise (she didn't even know what that would be) from Bambi or The Last Little Cat (two books we happen to be reading aloud at the moment). She chose The Last Little Cat because her copywork that day had been from Bambi. I chose a paragraph for her to look at, told her to pick out any words she might have trouble spelling and wrote those on the board. She then took mental pictures of each word and spelled them orally. I asked her to look over the paragraph again, looking at capitalization, punctuation and spelling. I told her to listen closely because I would not repeat myself ~ she would only get the sentence one time. I then dictated one sentence (she did not know which one it would be) a few words at a time for her to write. She ended up doing it perfectly ~ no mistakes at all. She was so proud of herself! Awesome.

Written Narration with the Hippie.
   Just like I said above, I really thought this was going to be met with whining and complaining. But, again the girl totally surprised me ... in such an amazing way. I expected sloppy handwriting, 2 or 3 short sentences and major complaining. What I got was beautiful, carefully written handwriting, an entire wide-rule page and even more detail than the original story. She blew me away, big time. We had just used The Dog and His Shadow in our oral English lesson, so she chose to do her first written narration on that. As I said, she wrote it better than the first one. Double awesome!

English in Momma's bed
   Grammar is another subject I agonized over. I originally planned to have the Hippie just do Intermediate Language Lessons from Emma Serl in the workbook format. Again I was thinking "easier for me" ~ just do it. But, again (even after purchasing and printing over 200 pages ~ ugh, hate to waste paper and ink like that), I ultimately decided to go the gentle,natural route of doing English lessons orally and with me and only having her write the dictation, copywork and written narrations from books we are actually reading. Again, I am so glad I did. Twice this week, the Hippie and I curled up on my bed and went through several English lessons orally and then called it a day. She loved it and it was simple and natural. I'm telling you, natural is better! Once this week, the Princess and I did the same (only going through one or two lessons instead of several). Again, that bonding time is so special. I chose English for the Thoughtful Child because I already owned it. Keep it simple, right?

Fresh air and movement
   This is so important. We started each day with a short walk and I am convinced that it made things better. After breakfast and chores, we headed out the door for just about 30 minutes. We walked and talked and looked at all the nature we could see (tons, by the way). It got each of us some fresh air, some sunshine, a little bit of exercise and got the wiggles out so that they could concentrate when they got home. Success!

Candle and prayer
   In Waldorf circles, school generally starts with "circle time". Well, the typical "circle time" just isnt' me, but we do signify the start of our learning time and this works well for us. We have a special "school candle" (that the girls picked out at the Farmer's Market last week) that we light. We then hold hands and say a prayer ~ going around and letting all three of us speak. We say "Amen" and blow out the candle and get to work. It centers us. It bonds us. And, we always start the day by Giving Thanks to He who deserves it. What could be better?

Tea time after lunch
   What is "tea time", you ask? Well, I had originally planned to do it after quiet time and before they went out to play. I wanted to have a dedicated time, make them some tea and fit in things like Picture Study and Composer Study and Poetry and Shakespeare at this time. Just some time together over tea (theirs was caffeine-free, of course) reading together. Well, as it turns out, no one in this family is coming back to anything "schooly" after rest time. The Princess had suggested doing it before rest time anyway because then the tea could relax her (as she said). So, I thought ~ great idea. We ended up doing our tea time after lunch and clean up. I fixed up tea for each of us, we took it outside and we read aloud. It was great. We read the classic story of Paul Bunyan one day and the next day we took turns reading TONS of poetry to each other. Blissful.

German and typing 
   Again with the subjects I fretted over "scheduling" and didn't need to. The Hippie asks to do her typing every day even though I only "scheduled" it twice a week. And, our German CDs and songs have been on as much as Mozart (by request), again, even though I only "scheduled" it twice a week. Some things really are better left to the natural, Unschooly way. I'll still keep them on my schedule just to remind me, but I don't think I'll have to make it happen!

Scheduling the hair brushing to audio or video
   Sounds silly, doesn't it? Well, we have a lot of hair in this family and although my girls are good at many things, keeping their hair free of tangles is not one of them. In recent history, we had a habit of letting it get pretty bad and then once in a while, Momma would spend an agonizing hour removing dreadlocks from each child's hair. Well, no more! I take a stand, lol. I actually scheduled hair-brushing time! The Princess is on Monday and the Hippie is on Wednesday. We listened to audio history while brushing, so it was part of our school day. And, the girls' hair is beautiful now. Can't beat that! I figure that as long as Momma hits the hair once a week and they continue to brush and fix it each day (which they've done beautifully), then hopefully it will never get that bad again. Let's hope.

God and memory at breakfast
   We started doing our "God readings" at breakfast last year and really liked that. I have their attention when they are eating and can read a bit from the Bible or Wisdom and the Millers (our Proverbs for Children) or something of the like. We can discuss it. And, it doesn't take any time out of our lesson time. It is perfect. This year, I've added Memory to that time slot. We're working on memorizing "Come Little Leaves" by George Cooper at the moment. Perfect for fall.

Keeping the rhythm!!! 
   I cannot stress this enough. It is imperative that Momma keeps the rhythm! If the children come out and find Momma sitting at the computer, not dressed and ready to go, they will follow suit. If they come out and find Momma doing what she is supposed to be doing, they will as well. It's that simple. Whether we like it or not, Momma's make or break the school day right from the start. Whether I feel like it or not, I must get up before them, have my time to get in a good place for the day and be ready for them when they come out. Period.

Reading every day
   The girls have read every day. Period. Some during our "lesson time" while I was working with the other and some more during "quiet time". I made a nice little log for them to record books they read (we all love lists, don't we?) and they read. Period. The Princess also reads aloud to me for 10 minutes each day. I had only "scheduled" that once a week, but she requested it each day, so I'm following her lead. Again, it's a lovely cuddling time on the couch. It's working.

Squirrel math
   This is working well because we have squirrels in our yard that the girls named over a year ago, so I can easily talk about Nutmeg and Peanut Butter (yes, those are two of the names) collecting acorns. If Nutmeg has 8 acorns and Peanut Butter has 4, how many do they have together (8 + 4)? If Cinnamon comes along and they want to share them equally, how many will each one get (12 / 3)? Okay, so they each have 4 acorns ... a new friend comes along with 4 more. Now, how many do they have (4 x 4). Uh oh, winter is here and they have forgotten where they hid 7 of them. How many are there now (16 - 7). You get the idea. Tons of fun. And, it works.

Switching bedtime reading to single stories instead of chapter books
   I decided to change up our bedtime routine to include single stories like fairy tales or picture books instead of a continuing chapter book at this time. The reason was simple ~ too often we would end up not reading before bed, so the chapter books would drag on forever and really not be that great because we barely remembered what was going on. With this new system, I can read the chapter books during "school time" (hopefully following through much more often so that we can actually make some progress) and we have time at night to fit in all the great picture books and fairy tales we love so much but never had time for. It's worked well. With this new plan, we read bedtime stories much more often! I think one story is less pressure or doesn't sound as daunting as one chapter. Whatever it is, it works for us.

Family time and family learning
   Lessons are important, yes. But so is life. Our family bike rides and family beach walks and Nature Study with Daddy and our family Zoo trip and our visit to a local fort and historical Native American preserve and our impromptu night at the Art Walk have been fantastic and have been just as educational as our Squirrel math and dictation and copywork! It is so important not to get so bogged down in "lesson plans" that you forget the good stuff! Get out there and have fun as a family ... and learn a thing or two!


Wow. If you are still with me, you must be a homeschooler, lol. No one else in their right mind would read this much chatter. I had some ideas to talk about the changes I've made or our daily or weekly rhythm, but I'm thinking this post is long enough. I'll put those into another post for you. If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll do my best to get back to you.

What is working so far in your homeschool this year?

Until next time,



  1. I like the monthly idea. It really does seem like you could see such growth in yourself and your homeschool. I might try that, as I think I did only 3 week-in-reviews and stopped!

    How do you pick out sentences or paragraphs from the books? What are you looking for in the sentence? This is where I got a deer-in-the-headlights look with AO -- I had no idea what to do for copywork (and dictation)!

    Classical/baroque/etc in the morning -- BRILLIANT!

    Just read the paragraph about the dictation -- GIRL, I wish I had read THIS PARAGRAPH months ago! It stressed me the heck out and MG is near 12, 6th grade age, and is only this year doing dictation. With the HEart of Dakota book I have her in, it's so super easy-but I was having her do it to teach us how it all works. It's not rich language, thoughts from great minds at all....I might try looking up something...hmmm...books she's reading....good idea!

    Grammar....per Heart of Dakota, MG is using Rod & Staff. Text.Book. my friend, textbook. I *think* she may actually like it, but I am seriously thinking about ditching it for Queen like last year....or not doing anything. The girl picks may not know the names, but she has a keen sense of what goes where, just from her reading. Look forward to seeing how this unfolds for you!

    (can you tell that I am writing as I read? :D )

    No school after Quiet Time? Same here, sister, same here.
    The hair on the schedule -- it's a hoot, but you do what you gotta do! (now ask me when was the last time I brush EK (my 8 yo)'s hair. or mine, for that matter.....)

    How do you do the bible time? and facilitate the poem? It seems that whenever I do any of that, it feels like I am teaching, kinda formal-ish feeling, ya know?

  2. Ha, ha. I laughed at that last paragraph about only homeschoolers reading your whole post. I so enjoyed it. So, so many good ideas packed in there. I especially like your morning music signaling the start of the day. I may just have to steal that. While I don't start at a specific time, I do start around the same time, but it is always me saying, "OK guys let's get dressed. I love the idea of music signaling that instead.

    Glad your trip was so wonderful - and glad to have you back blogging.


  3. Hey Irie,
    Mind if I link to this post next week? I have been doing a variation of your music in the morning and wanted to credit you with the inspiration. LMK

  4. Of course. I'd be happy if you did. Thank you for asking. Link away. :)


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