Monday, August 23, 2010

And So It Begins ~ Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 1, Day 1

Academic Work Today: Assigned Reading, Literature, Grammar, Math, Health, Spelling, Free Reading, U.S. History

We had a wonderful first day of lessons!  This is our morning rhythm:

Awaken early and eat breakfast
Hygiene and chores
Assigned reading
Daily Grammar
Guided lesson work
Focus lesson or project
Computer lessons

We eat breakfast together as a family; this is our gathering circle after the separation of sleep.  In general this is a meal that I prepare and serve, although there are times that it is as simple as homemade granola and milk.  Today we had toast and fruit.

We begin our "school" day with assigned reading because it allows me an extra 45 minutes to devote to homekeeping chores such as vacuuming and laundry.  I find this very important as living in a clean and tidy home is nourishing to us.  If I had younger children I would begin the day with a more structured activity such as a formal circle time or nature adventure walk and would shift the homekeeping chores later in the day.  Indeed, we'll resume talking nature walks in the morning once it cools down around here, perhaps in October (we hope!)

Today the boys read the first two chapters in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and also read the first two chapters in Life of Fred: Fractions.  The math reading takes very little time but I can see that we need another copy of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and have put one on reserve at the library.

Daily Grammar is an online resource that can be done completely free of charge, or you can order a hard copy or e-book copy.  I ordered the e-book and printed out our pages for the week.  Oddly, the answers for each lesson are right there at the bottom of the page, so I covered those with sticky notes.  Our plan is to spend 5 - 10 minutes on grammar daily.  Today the boys enjoyed it so much that we did lessons 1 - 3.

Our guided lesson time (which includes the above-mentioned grammar work) is the period of the morning that I spend working with the boys on their basic academics such as math and science.  Today we did the problems for Life of Fred: Fractions chapters 1 and 2.  We're still using grid paper lesson books from Paper Scissors Stone, which is good since we found ourselves reviewing long multiplication.  The grids really helps students keep their numbers in tidy columns.

Each day we will also have what I am referring to as a "Focus Project" or "Focus Lesson".  This could be weekly lessons such as health, music, or art, or it could be a project based on one of our academic subjects such as science or literature.  Today we began our study of human development and sexuality using It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.  We could go through the book fairly quickly but my goal is to open a dialog about these topics and create an environment of honest communication about puberty and sexuality, free from embarrassment or shame.

This year we will be using the computer for spelling lessons and testing and also for French lessons.  I paid for a premium account at Spelling City; as a program it reminds me a lot of Phonetic Zoo except it removes the physical writing of words (spelling test answers are typed in) and it keeps records for me so I can see where the boys are excelling and where they need help.  For example, I know that today they both got 100% on their pretests and should be tested on the next list.  I can also see what games they played to help them learn their spelling words.  If they do miss words on a test I can see exactly what words they missed and whether or not they passed them on a retest.

Our goal is to spend about 3 hours homeschooling in the mornings, focusing on our state-required subjects: English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies/History, Health, Fine Arts, and Physical Education.  I wondered what exactly the state/school district would consider a "full time private day school" and I figured if the tutoring option requires 3 hours then that is what we would aim for.  This leaves our afternoons free for park day gatherings, free play, and other enrichments activities such as listening to audiobooks, going on field trips, etc.  U.S. History is done in the evenings with Papa.

When the boys were younger this would have been spread out more over the day, with perhaps only 90 minutes of "school" in the morning, and practice work and projects done after quiet time in the afternoon.

After eating lunch together as a family the boys and I headed over to the park for our annual Not Back to School Celebration with our homeschool friends.  It was 105°F (!) out there but supposedly only felt like 98°F.  Whatever, it was hot!  The moms sat in the shade and tried not to move while the kids created a fantastic tree limb fort.

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