Having a broad idea of what I wanted to do during the current block, I sat down Friday (when I should have been packing for our weekend trip) and did the Big Planning Session For Block One, Enki Grade 2: African American Focus. It deserve a big title because it was a lot of work.
Of course, I didn't plan it all Friday. I fine-tuned it, and I wrote it down. I had already done our calendar for the 2007 and have spent years working on our daily rhythm. I had read through the stories for the African American block. My main goal was to put it all into a format that has a chance of keeping me organized.
I started by making a list of everything we want to accomplish each week (weekends not included):
Main lessons in language arts and mathematics, held in a container of humanities content and cultural immeserion
A weekly Spanish lesson (using Sonrisas)
Crafts, cultural, seasonal, and skills-building (not all in the same week)
Modeling (as in with our hands, not John Roberts Powers as Papa thought I was suggesting)
Health lessons (16 lessons spread out over the year)
Recorder lessons and practice
Nature stories and nature journals
Daily movement and SI exercises
A small circle 3 times a week (plus the full Spanish circle once weekly)
Skills practice time
Our weekly support group park day
A weekly playdate or adventure
Time spent playing everyday, both indoors and outdoors
Visiting the weekly farmer's market
Walking most evenings
Plus of course the basics like homekeeping, personal hygiene, meal prep, reading, snuggling, and well, sleeping.
It looks like a long list. An incredibly long we'll never have a moment for unstructured learning type of list. A when does Mommy even breathe list.
So I plugged it in. The morning routine would happen even if we didn't attempt any guided learning. Wake, snuggle, eat, clear dishes, dress, brush teeth, make beds, check email (boys first play period of the day).
The morning walk is good for us, good for learning, good for the dog.
Short circle 3 days a week; T-Guy and I like this, so we'll do it, and add in 5 minutes of SI activity.
Main lesson 3 days a week. I decided not to budge on this and add a 4th day, because the boys are showing an interest in Spanish so we'll use our 4th morning lesson for that. Focused time takes 45-90 minutes depending on what we're doing. Generally it is our story curriculum work, a weekly nature story, a weekly nature journal entry, and a weekly recorder lesson.
Boys play, I make lunch, we eat, we clean up. It's all part of a normal day.
Quiet time - set in stone around here. We use story CDs, which helps fulfill their need to hear more stories than we have time to read. Once they are both reading fluently this will change to silent reading.
Tidy the room and have a snack...has to happen.
Practice time 3 days a week; I do see the importance of this. It should take 20-30 minutes with both boys practicing their reading. I listed each days' practice activities on the calendar so I'm not scrambling to pull it together. My thinking on practice is that we'd be spending far more time on this if the boys were in public school. I'm super flexible with it; if the writing practice has been met through natural activities we skip it.
Some sort of project: a craft, modeling, painting, handwork...we have something planned most afternoons. The goal is to get at least half of it to be self-guided.
Boys play outside (always need in the late afternoon); I have some time to pursue reading, blogging, etc. before starting dinner.
Dinner and the rest of the evening routine...just normal life. Papa reads to them every night (I of course read the story curriculum stories as well as nature and craft stories).
Tuesday mornings are open for our park day, Thursday afternoons are free for play dates or adventures. We can't toss the entire rhythm and still do as much focused work as I'd like, but I have learned to be pretty flexible.
Previoulsy I had taken a calendar and made an X through any day that couldn't have a morning lesson. I marked vacations, breaks, weekend trips, days before and after vacations, birthdays, park days, etc. This made planning the block easier, and showed me when I should drop the usual activity (for example, modeling on Tuesdays) for something else (making valentines on the 13th). I had already let go of the idea that things have to happen everyday or every week, based on what's happening in our real lives, so instead of modeling every Tuesday for the 8 weeks of the block, we model 5 times as fits in with the rhythm (easing into the block, coming off a weekend trip, and making valentines are all good reasons not to model). We don't paint quite every Wednesday, and at least half the time I've decided that they can free paint to take some of the control out of the curriculum.
So what work did I do? I chose specific stories. I wrote out which story (or chapter) we're reading, what we're working with, what we're practicing, which project, which nature story we're reading or journalling, etc. I haven't fully planned the seasonal circle yet. Cultural foods will fit in more organically.
Even though I didn't plan the entire year, and I still don't plan to because I want to stay flexible to the needs of my individual children (vs. planning for a class), I have a firm understanding of how it could be done, and how it would work really well for the classroom situation. I think planning the next block will go even more smoothly (especially since I can pull what I did this time to make templates so that I won't have to type as much into the computer).
I know this is probably more structured than my last few posts would indicate that I would like. Papa and I had a long talk and J-Baby really needs a strong daily rhythm, much more than he gets when we slide into nearly complete unschooling. Otherwise, when I try to bring in focused/guided work he balks because it isn't part of his "software". It's the same way with baths, errands, breakfast, etc. He needs to know what to expect, and when. All of the guided times are based on my long observation of the boys without structure. When do they fall apart (squabbling and/or crying)? What type of activity have they been doing when this happens? What type of activity integrates them at this point? When have they had enough of the guided work?
Many families would go straight from breakfast and chores into the walk, however my boys tend to get started on something during those 15 minutes I need to brush my hair, make my bed, and start the laundry, and I've learned that giving them another 30 minutes or so makes the transition to the walk much easier than trying to stop them mid-play. So I grab some computer time then, even though it isn't usually part of a strong morning.
Now, however, it is 4:30, they are outside playing basketball, and I need to start dinner. We're making some dietary changes ( as always), but that is a post for the other blog....