Back to School 2014-2015

School started back up for us the same day that school started for the public school kids.  I didn’t plan it that way, but I needed a break from the chaos of summer vacation and new baby recovery.  So out the school schedules came!  Since I can easily teach from my recliner with a baby in one arm and a book in the other, starting school less than a week after having a baby was no big deal.

Lest you think I’m supermom, ask me if I’ve done the dishes or made a meal?

Nope.

Anyway, our plans for this year are grand as always.  Over the last year or so we have made some adjustments to our school routine.  My lack of mobility while I was pregnant with Alice forced us to adopt a more structured approach than we are used to.  Fortunately the children seem to have thrived under the new process.  Emma, who has shown herself to be reluctant to enter into the next phase of her education, has especially blossomed now that we have encouraged her to “step it up”.  Now that I’m on the way back to my old self, we have decided to keep the structure and see how it treats us now that I can be a little more hands on.

As a family we will be studying

  • History – This year we plan on picking up right where we left off, just after the end of the Civil War.  This year I hope to make it through the Great Depression, but considering how much I love to linger on every decade, that might be a lofty goal.
  • Geography – In addition to whatever geography comes up in our history, we are going to focus on World Geography with Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Expedition Earth.
  • Science – This year we will be going through either Science in the Beginning or Science in the Ancient World by Dr. Jay Wile (I haven’t decided which yet).
  • Language Arts – I’ll be covering selections from the Core Knowledge Series (aka What Your _ Grader Needs to Know) including, but not limited to: poetry, idioms and other common sayings, grammar, parts of speech, famous stories and speeches, etc.  When possible I will tie these in with our other subjects (i.e. last year we studied O Captain, My Captain during the lesson on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination).  I will also be using Teaching the Classics as a guide.  We will also start working our way through IEW’s Fix-It.
  • Literature – Reading books together as a family is a nightly tradition we all adore.  The other night we finished the fourth Janitors book (review forthcoming).  This year we will be reading House of Hades, The Blood of Olympus, Sky Raiders, Rogue Knight, and Michael Vey 4.  I will also be asking the designated reader (and final book choice maker) to read The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Little Britches, Laddie, The Freedom Factor, The Book Thief and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Keeping my priorities in line, I was officially ready to start school once I had taken acceptable “Back to School” pictures (since the lighting on the last set wasn’t quite right).

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Alice – 2 weeks

Our goal for Alice this year is short and sweet.

  • Sleep through the night or at the very least, in four hour increments.  I don’t expect this to happen any quicker than it did with my other children, but it’s nice to dream.

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Henry – 2 years old

Our goals for Henry this year include

  • Continue being cute
  • Coming when called
  • Not eating dirt
  • Not mauling his baby sister whenever the opportunity presents itself
  • Sitting still

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Jack – 4 years old, Pre-k

Our goals for Jack this year include:

  • Anti-bully training (three and four years old is about when my children’s inner bully begins to show… we need to nip that in the bud).
  • Word pronunciation.  Jack has grown leaps and bounds since he began talking a year and a half ago, but his pronunciation can use a bit of work as it’s still relatively difficult for people outside of the family (and sometimes within the family) to understand him.

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Spencer – 7 years old, 2nd Grade

  • Reading – All About Reading and Now I’m Reading books.  We haven’t really pushed reading so far with Spencer because I felt he wasn’t mature enough to go through the process without an incredible amount of frustration.  I didn’t want to damage our relationship by pushing him too early as I did with Emma.  Over the last several months he has shown an increased interest in reading, so this year we are going to really buckle down and learn to read.
  • Math – Saxon 2 – Spencer has proven himself to be a wiz at basic arithmetic.  With little or no instruction he can navigate his math worksheets with ease and has several tests with a big fat 100% on the top taped on his bedroom wall to prove it :)  So we will be continuing with Saxon.  There is so much overlap in the first three years of Saxon that we can easily move on to Saxon 2 without having finished Saxon 1.  We will also be reading more Life of Fred together and he will continue to play Math Rider, which is a huge success in our home.
  • Writing – Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive – I’m less concerned about writing for Spencer.  I feel that while it’s an important skill to learn, it’s not worth forcing the issue at the age of seven.  If he wants to do it so he can use the fancy pens, great, if not, I’m not going to push it.  I use it more as a way to give him something to keep him occupied when he’s beginning to act up.
  • Language Arts – We are focusing on spelling this year.  It’s not something that I have stressed in the past and it has come back to bite me.  My children are horrendous spellers.  I downloaded free k-6th grade spelling lists from k12reader.com.  Spencer’s goal is to finish the spelling lists for grade 1 and 2 this year.

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Emma – 9 years old, 4th Grade

  • Reading – I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of Emma’s progress with reading in the last few years.  In two years we went from a little girl who couldn’t read and hated learning, to a little girl who could read but didn’t like it, to a little girl who wanders around the house with her nose in a book and is always asking for time for “just one more chapter!”  We are not without our literary struggles, however.  Emma is all too quick to declare a book “boring”.  I have instituted a rule that she must read at least five chapters before she can decide to shelve the book and read it at a later date.  This year we are going to foster this by offering literary choices that appeal to her interests and nature.  She is currently reading the The Spiderwick Chronicles and has mentioned that she would like to tackle Percy Jackson next.  I plan to offer her Fablehaven, Tennis Shoes, Harry Potter, Narnia, and Guardians of Ga’hoole series’ and whatever else strikes my fancy by the end of the year.
  • Math – Last year Emma skipped Saxon 3 and went directly on to Saxon 54 (for more information on which editions I am using, read this post).  This year we will continue with Saxon 54.  She will also continue on with Life of Fred and she will continue to play Math Rider.
  • Writing – I am more concerned with handwriting with Emma than I am with creative writing, though I plan on doing a both.  Since Emma finished Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive last year, we are moving on to copy work for handwriting practice.  Specifically she will be copying scripture, our Articles of Faith, and inspirational/character building quotes (my current supply came from The Teacher’s Bookbag).  As far as creative writing is concerned, she loves writing letters to extended family.
  • Language Arts - In addition to spelling, Emma will be working her way through Wordly Wise.  This will cover vocabulary, reading comprehension, and parts of speech.

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Lucy – 11 years old, 6th Grade

  • Reading – This is a girl who loves to read.  However she has a tendency to ONLY want to read things that she has read before.  While I love the idea of rereading books (see the TJED definition of a “classic”), limiting yourself to only what you have already experienced is extremely constraining.  I have established a rule that Lucy must read three new books before she can reread something (this includes audiobooks).  She is extremely resistant to this (she loves fantasy and doesn’t like to branch out) but I feel it’s important to her growth.  Lucy is also subject to the “five chapter rule”.  I plan on offering several historical fiction series to Lucy this year, including the Work and the Glory, Children of the Promise, Heart’s of the Children, Prelude to Glory, and Faith of our Fathers.  She is also welcome to offer her own suggestions but as much as I love fantasy and science fiction, I really need her to start branching out.  As she gloomily began the Work and the Glory series today I reminded her that it takes place in her favorite time period (she has a special love for pre-industraial America).  That seems to have pacified her for the time being.
  • Math – Last year Lucy was working her way through Saxon 65, which is right on grade level.  Over the summer she decided that she wanted to skip Saxon 76 and go straight on to Algebra 1/2.  I didn’t love the idea because I don’t want her to miss anything.  But I was hardly going to stop my eleven year old when she used her free time to work on math, even if it was “out of order”.  So this year Lucy is going to continue what she started this summer with Algebra 1/2.  I am also going to have her take the tests from the previous books so that we can go back and master a concept she may not have learned while skipping a whole book.
  • Writing – This year Lucy will be working through IEW’s Following Narnia: Writing Lessons in Structure and Style.  She will also continue writing letters to extended family and whatever short stories strike her fancy (which, if history is any indicator, is many).
  • Language Arts - In addition to spelling, Lucy will be working her way through Wordly Wise.
  • Science – Since it can be argued that I now have a middle schooler, Lucy is going to get a jump start on her “higher education”.  This year she will be starting Exploring Creation with General Science by Dr. Jay Wile.  I don’t expect her to finish the book in one year (she is only 11 after all) but starting a bit early allows her to take her time.  She has at least five science books (preferably six) to get through before she graduates, and seven years to get through them.  That should set her up for success!
  • History – I have given Lucy World History Detective so she can begin her own studies in history, however I am NOT pushing this.  If she decides that she isn’t interested in studying history outside of our family lessons I am perfectly ok with that.  I give her age/grade appropriate work in our family studies so this “elective history course” is only because I thought she would like it.  If she doesn’t, so be it.

So there you have it.  What are your family’s educational goals for the year?