Aug 16, 2016

And So, It Begins

First Day of Our Homeschool

Where we live, the public-schooled kids have been in school since the end of July, and even the charter school where my seminary kids attend began on August 1st. You could say that the school year is in full swing around here!

And, so, after a summer full of planning, we have jumped into a new school year.

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

I think the question I get asked the most these days, is "How do you teach all of the different ages of kids in your house?"

My knee-jerk response is "Not easily," but when I think about it, I recognize that an effective system has formed for us over the years. Here's how we tackle every age from high school senior down to pre-school:

1) Foundational Years

Through my personal experiences over the years, I have become a firm believer that young children need only a few things to learn effectively: a secure and happy home, time to be outside and/or playing, lessons in faith, working together with the family, and being read to.

I consider the foundational years to be between birth and six to eight years old-- the age of accountability. I know many children who are quite gifted, and can learn many academic or musical subjects at an early age, but to me, the priorities of learning faith, work, and play are the MOST necessary for little ones to successfully navigate the world and all the learning that is to come as they grow older.

There are many child development experts (1) and studies (2) that agree with my assertions, but I won't go into great depth on this subject right now. (See the links accompanying the footnotes below.) That's another post for another day. For now, just trust me when I say that I have come to this conclusion after many years of trying to do too much, too early with my little ones.
These are my littles, enjoying their new, fun, school-time-only toys and activities.

2) Exploration Years

Around kindergarten age, I do begin to add in handwriting for my children-- even before they can read on their own. I have found this to help with the process of learning to read, and because of the law of the harvest, I find that children need TIME to learn and practice legible handwriting.

I came to this conclusion rather painfully, thanks to my older "guinea pig" children. Some of them flourished and excelled at handwriting, due to their personal interests. However, my older boys really struggled-- and some still struggle-- with their handwriting. Now that they are adults and teens, they find their babyish handwriting embarrassing, and getting them to write anything by hand is a real struggle. 

This is one area where unschooling was a big failure for us-- at least for our boys. The experience taught me that there truly are some areas where the Law of the Harvest can not be ignored or forced.

Our children between six and fourteen years old join us for what I like to call "Table Time." This is where we do our foundational learning for the day. I follow Charlotte Mason's beliefs that lessons should be short and rich. My goal is to spread an "education feast" with a wide variety of subjects and types of learning. 

I use many of the LDS Church's free and available resources, which makes planning Table Time a real breeze. And I am all for SIMPLICITY!

Our "Table Time" goes as follows:
  • Prayer
  • Scripture Recitation and Memorization (We use the seminary scripture mastery scriptures.)
  • Copywork (This is where the kids copy down the scripture we are memorizing.)
  • Reading aloud of a scripture story. (We use the Church's scripture readers for this.)
  • Poetry reading by Mom (This term's poet is Robert Louis Stevenson.)
  • Reading aloud of a classic book.
  • Swedish Drills OR a Dance Party, depending on the mood. ;-)
And then, we do some learning in our weekly subjects. For example:
  • Mondays are History (American History this year)
  • Tuesdays are Music Study (This term's composer is George Friedrich Handel)
  • Wednesdays are for Art Study (This term's artist is Jean-Francois Millet)
  • Thursdays are for Nature Study/Science
  • Fridays are for Shakespeare (Edith Nesbit's Stories of Shakespeare is great for reading the stories. I am a Shakespeare purist, but there are some themes too vast for younger children. We DO watch a Shakespeare play on video once a month. See this link to find family-friendly versions of the Bard's plays to watch.)
Math is then done by taking turns on the computers, using my two favorite resources:
  • CTC Math- This is a very affordable subscription (non-Common Core!) website that teaches math concepts and gives the students math exercises. As a homeschool parent, I have a LOT of control on the back end, which I really appreciate. I am not paid to promote them at all-- I can't rave about them enough!
  • XtraMath- I use this for my younger kids. It is FREE, the lessons are short and it is just good, old-fashioned math drilling.
As big as this list may seem, we are actually pretty much done each day by noon! 

Some days, we may want to take longer reading aloud in our current book, and so that can flow over into the afternoon hours. Also, the kids twelve and older have extra assignments for their history and science that they work on independently in the afternoon.

Our Scripture for memorizing and copywork

3) Scholastic Years

I consider this stage of learning our High School years, and students can begin work at the high school level from the age of twelve to fourteen. (Girls usually start early, and boys usually start late.)

I'd like to go more into depth on homeschooling through high school in a later post, but for now, I'll just say that they mostly work independently. They do counsel with my husband and I about their educational path, and they are accountable to me as their mentor, school counselor, and teacher.

New Beginnings

It is so nice to get back into the routine of a new school year! I hope all my readers have a great new beginning to their school year, as well.

Happy learning!