Monday, September 19, 2016

Our Typical Atypical Monday

 It's hard to begin a description of a typical day because I feel like I can only describe ONE day and not necessarily show that every day will look like this, but the principles are the same to the flow and rhythm of our homeschool.  If you read my previous post you will know that I talked about how we all parent and homeschool differently and it is based on our choices that we think are best for our own family AND our own personality and what I do (and what you do) isn't a judgement on the choices of other people.

Personally, I can't homeschool in a super structured rigorous way.  I hate the detailed teachers guides that don't show WHAT the goal is for that lesson but only the 3 pages of monologue that I'm (apparently) supposed to use in teaching it.  After 6 years of homeschooling (I started getting serious about what to homeschool when my oldest was 4.... I wouldn't recommend starting then, but most of us will still do that anyway) I have finally owned my personality and style.

Our style might be totally NOT what would work for you.  That's okay!  That's the beauty of homeschooling because we can tailor it to fit our own family! 

Perhaps the following will still have some nuggets of encouragement, a smattering of ideas, or at least it could be entertaining.  Anyway, the Grandma enjoys reading this so there you go!  FYI, my Mom was MY teacher as I was homeschooled all growing up too!  My admiration grows for her as I travel this journey of home education for myself. 
The start of the school day started the night before with this handy dandy "spiral notebook method" that I talked about in my last post called "Choosing Joy and Not Planning Too Much."  Basically you just write down a little check list of what books and pages and such you want each child to do the following day.

Big picture with the spiral checklist -- 
*Keep in mind how long you know a child will take with that page or activity
*Plan less to make the most room for creativity and spontaneous learning
*Think of the basics to cover so you don't pile on too much - Reading, Writing, Math
* Put a star by the ones that they will need to do with you or near by
*If they don't get it all done in a day, simply write it the next day

My personality also really just doesn't do so great with the big "master list" type thing.  In my head I have planned subjects and ideas and am always gathering more ones!  I have resources ready and waiting to be used.  But they aren't written down.  Ug.. Just.. no.  RATHER, I have shelves and baskets devoted to subjects and games.  Some of these resources are handier to get to because I'm planning to use them sooner and some are in other locations that will be rotated in later.  So when I write the check list for each kid I can flip through some books and look around at what I already have handy and right there!  Though still much of it is open to their choice as well, I usually rotate who might get to pick a game for instance and they can choose one right off the game shelf.
 Big picture with planning-
*If you feel confident with master lists and they make you comfortable use them!
*If boxed curriculum is your comfort zone and makes you happy totally use it!
*If master lists make you shudder and you'd rather do a more visual approach to resources do the shelf or basket or drawer method like me.  Organize like subject with like subject and label if you can.
*There is also a combination of the above where you buy books from a set curriculum but don't use the teachers plan.
*You likely already know what stresses you out and if you are more of a visual hands on person or if you are the sort to find freedom in a detailed list.  If you don't know this about yourself then try stuff and observe what brings peace and what brings stress.  Throw out the stressful stuff!
Today, these books were in our morning basket, but it changes pretty quickly as we go through them.
 It looks like I started my day with our "morning basket" and I did start our school time with this, but I didn't start it right out of bed.  I'm just not a morning person.  I groggily woke up and tried to keep my eyes open while poking on my tablet to get to   Julie Bogarts Facebook live video Highly recommend!  Such a great way to get the non morning person in a positive mood for educating and interacting well with the kids.
I talked about morning baskets in my previous post, but just to do a re-cap.....

Big picture for a "Morning Basket"- book topics to consider
* Something sciency (could even be a kids encyclopedia!)
* A Bible story book or missionary stories (if you are religious at all and that would be appropriate for your family.  You could add a passage or song to memorize if you wished in this category as well.)
*A book or two that enjoys some part of our language.  This could be a poetry book, limericks, tongue twisters, joke book, etc.
*That book that you thought would be amazing and have had on your shelf and never got to.
*One chapter book (these can all come in any order, but I like the chapter book at the end of the reading!) that they are excited about.
*They can color, play with silly putty, do lego, or mindlessly (appear) to not be listening while you read these.  I basically just want them in the room and not being too disruptive.
*Read short short bits from each book.  Maybe a page or two.  Play it by ear, but if the whole time takes longer than an hour or your kids attention is seriously flagging just cut it shorter for that day!
*Consider the younger kids in this if you need to.  A few picture books for them can help and you can  interspersed in between the other books.
*If your child is writing poetry or their own picture books of any kind you can add those to your basket and read it along with the other books! 
*Library books are great to throw in here because if everyone hates them you don't feel like you have to finish that book!  Just take it back and get a different one.  :) 

 I still need to sew the spine for my 8 years old's poetry book, but she was so excited to add it to our reading basket today!  I think she has about 10 pages in there now with drawings to go with each short poem and I read them all aloud along with our other books.

My favorite of the ones she's written so far is this -
Racoon, Racoon.
Sleek, sly,
your tail's a lemur. 
your mask is a weasel.
Racoon, racoon.
in a log, in a tree,
in a hole, in a patch
of grass.

I had this spiral bound myself.  It doesn't come that way in case you wondered!  The original - "Kitty Doodle Curriculum
 Before I started the reading time, I checked the girls list of what to do and showed them the coloring and so forth they could start to work on while I read.  I love how the Thinking tree books ease them into school work as they can start with coloring while they listen.  The book above is one my 10 year old is half way through.  She has started a Minecraft journal as well, but likes to switch occasionally.

I recently wrote a blog post about all the thinking tree books we have (and some that we don't have!) so people can get a peek inside some and understand more how they can work (or not) for your family.  -- "Thinking Tree Book in Categories (& Ideas for how to use them!)"

 This particular one has date pages so 10 full pages roughly in one day.  She doesn't like the to-do list (maybe she gets that from me?) but my 8 year old loves to write to do lists!
 She easily did these pages while I read from the morning basket!
 And the nature study page while I read and also the illustrations from the reading time.  As she isn't a strong reader we do the reading page a little differently.  I've been having her practice reading for only 10 minutes.  Her glasses and eye therapy has helped a lot, but I'm not pushing it.  Just want her to practice enough to get over that hump of it being a struggle to reading being more enjoyable.
The spelling time on the left says to find 20 seven letter words, but it has been stressful for her to do that with the eye issues.  Instead she chose a letter and found 20 (different) words from books that all started with that letter.  Easier on her eyes, but still had the benefit this was going for.  Finding and copying words in context is great for learning how to spell!
 The spelling page above she worked on after the morning basket reading was over and I was helping her younger sister write a story in her journal, but the meal plan page she did while I read.

My 8 year old is enjoying this one as she really likes to work with me when she does school.  You can find it at this link.
I loved how much time she spent coloring this picture while I read.  She doesn't always do her school with patience and do the best work she can.  She's been known to be sloppy on purpose so it's lovely to see her work so carefully on her picture

Gel pens are seriously fun, am I right?  My 8 year old finished coloring the picture above by the time I'd finished reading from our books and then we wrote the story together.  I started with a sentence and then she wrote a sentence!  (While we were doing this my older daughter was doing the word search shown previously by the meal planning page.)

The Big Picture for the story writing part of school-- 
*Writing original content isn't about learning spelling and grammar. 
 Learning to spell happens in copy work and spelling practice time. The purpose of the story writing is to connect the thoughts of the writer to their pen. If your 8 year old (or 13 year old!) Doesn't spell a word right when writing original thoughts don't worry about it, and there isn't even a need to bring it up in that context right then. *Focus on the creative side "what do you want to say?"
The parent can act as scribe for the child so that they don't have to dumb down their language to match their mechanics. 
*Children almost always can read and understand at a higher level then they can write.  This is normal growth for learning to read and write.
Sounding out, invented spelling, typing rather than handwriting, dictating to someone else what they want to write, cutting up typed or magnetized words to manipulate are all valid ways to express their inner voice (and this is as long as they need!  7 to 14 even!)
 *If we can keep spelling and grammar lessons separate from the emotions and sharing of their inner thoughts and person hood they will eventually connect the two without trauma and hurt feelings. 
 Creative writing and editing use two different parts of your brain, and if you insist on the editing side to work while doing a first draft of original writing to make it all perfect, then the creative side will often get stuck and creativity and original thought will almost always stall.

I am so happy to see my daughter wanting to write her own thoughts! The fact that she can read them and I can even figure out what she is trying to say too is a huge success!

Note our little homeschool helper "Pumpkin" the hamster who is put on pages of books or in a play grocery cart and pushed around the house for about 10 minute increments through out the day!  She is super sweet and fun.
My oldest doesn't feel comfortable trying to invent the spelling of words, so usually doesn't like to write her thoughts out.  I talked in my last post about how she used magnetic words to come up with her own writing and then she copied that!  The picture above is her writing page and she wanted to copy a funny poem from our chapter book.  She laughed about it and kept repeating the verses for quite a while afterwards!
 The picture above on the right hand side was what my 10 year old drew while watching the documentary "The Story of Tea" which I'd gotten from the library a few weeks ago and started while we were having lunch today.
Really interesting show by the way!  It is on Amazon at this link.  
      Of course, if you incorporate something like this you can work in an interest in geography and history!  After we finished lunch we all colored while we watched it.

My 5 year old found a page with tea cups in her Coloring book for two! 

Such a sweet book!  It also has places to write in it so if you were taking dictation for your little one you could totally just use this book like a journal of your teaching interactions and color together!  We have a lot of the thinking tree coloring like this books, but this is totally near the top of my favorites list.  :)
 My girls love to drink tea and coffee and so on, so it was fun for us all to learn about where tea came from.  I should point out that they weren't all into putting on the movie... at first!  I just did it and said we were going to watch this because I wanted to watch it.  They asked to watch other things actually, cartoons of different sorts, but I just decided to go for this.  Sometimes they lose interest when I do that, but more often then not they will find something that sparks their curiosity as well.

 I sat between my 5 and 8 year old girls while we watched the show so I could color with both of them (they both really like that) and my 8 year old finished her math when the documentary was over.  She was excited to use a calculator for the multiplication part, and I always point out how we say it and what it means "2 times 10.  That is ten, two times."  Or ten twice, and so on sometimes adding in manipulatives or other visuals to help.  It's been great to see math click for my girls as they grow and we talk through these concepts.
The second page I had on the check list for my 8 year old was this one, but it was actually the page before the writing.  Yes, we do them out of order as we need to.  It wasn't convenient till later to do this page so we went with the flow and just came back to this.

 The 5 year old had a game on her check list and chose the one above!  I'm happy to say that they have been choosing a variety of games when they get a chance.  I think I am probably the one who gets in a bigger rut with games then they have, so it is wonderful to let them choose the game from the shelf themselves.  :)
I'm loving our little "coffee table" that came from the dumpster!  Well, it was next to the dumpster at our apartments here anyway.  I brought it inside and cut off the legs at the exact height to work with the kid chairs I had.  You've got to get creative with multiple purpose areas when you homeschool in less than 1,000 sq ft apartment!
 Such a sweet game for herb and natural remedy lovers. (The "Wild Craft" game can be found at this link.)  I also love the story that goes with it and the parallels to my girls Grandparents house. Climbing up the hill by her house and pulling carrots out of her garden and being with cousins and huckleberries and such.

 The tea documentary combined with the herbal game right after that got everyone inspired to take care of our own herbs and pick some mint to make tea!
 That big round pot in the middle there is my peppermint patch!  My container garden is growing and I'm loving it!
 Fresh mint tea?  Yes and yes.
I'm not necessarily super thrilled with her choices at this point, but just look at her enthusiasm!  Totally read them to her with excitement and interest and talked about the points of view in the frozen book (which tells the same story from Anna's first person perspective and then from Elsa's.)
The school day was dwindling as it was about 4pm at this point, but my 5 year old had been doing games on my tablet (school games, but still) while I did the morning basket reading so I wanted her to get her chance and let her pick 4 books (any that she wanted!) and all the time I'm developing a plan for dinner.

See, when we started lunch and the tea documentary the handy man at our apartment complex had to come to check out our dishwasher.  Which is totally on the fritz.  My husband spent a couple hours the day before doing dishes for me and I didn't really want to make another dinner by scratch and have tons more dishes to deal with (we even use paper plates already.  It's just a lot of people and a lot of meals all at home every day!)  So after the stories and snuggles with the little one I announced my plan!

 Enter, Sushi Buffet place!  My girls love sushi but we usually make the rolls ourselves at home.  After they heard about this place from a date night the mommy and daddy had last week they were keen to try it too.  We almost never go out to eat because of the gluten allergy (and my gluten AND corn allergy) but it worked out!  I had to bring our own gluten free soy sauce, but that seemed fine and they had enough choices in the buffet that my girls were totally thrilled.
Also, hello, we had Jasmine tea!  Furthering the "Story of Tea" documentary experience.
 The 5 year old's favorite part was getting to choose anything she wanted and even getting chocolate pudding!  The pudding was the bomb apparently.  ;)
Jasmine tea!  We had two pots of this.
 Between the dinner part and dessert part I read a chapter from our chapter book "while we digested" and everyone was wonderfully full at the end and I didn't have to do even more dishes than were waiting for me at home!
It had rained while we were eating and after the grocery store the sky looked like this!  Everyone ooohed and awwed.
 After the restaurant we had to run to the grocery store.  Normally I don't plan to go ANYWHERE on Mondays.. no appointments, no driving anywhere!  It seems like every other day we have something going, so Monday has been my Saturday in many ways.  We might stay in our Pjs all day or just do what we want.  The main point though is that I don't want to plan something.  If we feel like driving somewhere that seems to work... just not the pre-planned thing.

My 10 year old saw the clouds and pulled out some information that she'd hear me read from the weather book that morning about clouds!  It's always nice to hear them talking about things that we've learned, but it usually only happens in normal conversation and not when someone asks "What did you do in school today?"  -- never would she say "I learned that the reason clouds look darker before rain is because the clouds are so full of water that the light can't shine through them.  Clouds that are less full of water droplets allow room for light to pass through."  Nope.. the usual answer is something like "We played and watched shows today."  But, that's okay.  If learning feels like play and the documentaries are put in the "show" category like any other movie I think we are doing well.

I heard about this game from one of Julie Bogarts videos!  "Sushi Go" can be found at this link.
 Of course when we got home after putting away groceries and washing the dishes by hand we HAD to play Sushi Go!  Such a cute and fun and fast game!  I don't know many kids that like sushi so well as ours.  Our family is probably pretty unique in that way (at least in our culture), but all families are different and unique!  I think it's kind of special to have our own traditions and a family culture of our own.
 After the game we watched a Star Trek Voyager and talked about Time Travel and possible outcomes from multiple choices while everyone colored and I exercised.  The little one was so into coloring she asked if we could read our chapter book so she could finish!  So she could finish that whole page!?  People are probably not going to understand why this is significant but with no screens going and an attention span that is usually quite short it was such a lovely sight to see her working so carefully on her picture and asking for me to read more!
The splat of stuff there is how the room was left for the day.  We'll just pick right back up tomorrow and at some point it will be tidy, but just long enough to pull something else back out.
Our day was left with a few things on their check lists undone.  I will likely move them to the next day and possibly assign less.  Tomorrow is our library day, but for now this is the close.  We were busy all day long, had big juicy conversations, were 80% happy and working well together, and I no longer see the parts that were undone as a failure.  We might not have done "all the things," but we did other things that I hadn't planned on and somehow everything wound together to create a cohesive whole.  What we learned was reinforced with other activities and honestly, I don't think I could have planned it in advance this well.  Whenever I try to plan too much ahead I hear more groans from the girls as they are just NOT into it right then, or I'll be too tired from the planning and prep that I can't enjoy the moment.

Big picture-
Enjoy the moments unhurried.
Slow down the orders of what to do next and look at and truly see your child.
Be curious with them. 
Be spontaneous in little or big ways.
Get the important stuff in and let the rest go for another time.
Create the routine and culture in your home that you can appreciate yourself. 

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