Tuesday, November 22, 2016

{This and That}

A little late, but -- are you still thinking through your Thanksgiving plans?  I have some of my favorite activities and resources from previous years here in the archives!

My personal favorite: Cooking Up A Thanksgiving "Feast" .  Even if you have nothing but your grocery shopping list ready to go and are already feeling overwhelmed, you can still have a lovely, fulfilling, CM-ish Thanksgiving weekend with your children.  Take a peek!


We have been enjoying some chilly, wet, green nature outings lately...

...and some slightly warmer days!

from a few weeks ago -- warm enough for swimsuits at the beach!


Reading around the web...

I just finished Shadows on the Rock and much appreciated Willa Cather's Answer to Exile.
For all you fellow Fabre fans: The Sacred Beetle: Fabre's Book of Insects.
A brave post about a difficult topic: The Hard Truth.
Kinda neat to show the kids these Historical Presidential Elections.


I updated my School Plans page so that all our current plans are at the top and previous years are organized underneath by grade.  I'd like to eventually make this page a bit more user friendly, but this will have to do for now!  I hope it helps you more easily find what you're looking for.


Very late with this share, but for those of you who don't follow the Joyous Lessons Facebook page or my Instagram account: our (super blurry) line-up of saints for this year's Halloween trick-or-treating and All Saint's Day party!

left to right: St. Agnes, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Joseph, St. Ignatius of Antioch,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Juan Diego, St. Brigid of Sweden

And some better (daylight!) pictures taken by a friend's husband...


Grateful for Catholic friends who host parties even though a handful of families means dozens and dozens of kids! :)


Justin turned ONE!  This little sweetie is such a joy...and such a challenge!  Super independent and determined, into everything, and my first honest-to-goodness-CLIMBER.  I have had feisty babies before but he takes the (donut) cake! ;)  He is also affectionate and adorable and gets spoiled by all his older siblings.  A sweet little love.


This Sunday is the beginning of Advent!  I've written a lot about how we keep Advent over the years.

I haven't quite nailed down how we'll be keeping the season yet (I hope to get some quiet time to sort my thoughts this week), but I do know that we'll be praying the beautiful St. Andrew novena each day, one of my favorite spiritual practices of the liturgical year.  You can download your own printable prayer card here.  Enjoy!


Answering a reader question:

How do you handle short school weeks?  Do you spread the week of school work over two weeks, or try to cram it into a couple days, or something else?  We have lots of weeks pop up that leave me with this problem.  Sometimes the kids are sick for the first half of a week, sometimes there's a holiday or special event that will take one or more days of our school week, etc.  How do you stay on track while accounting for these interruptions?

Since it's Thanksgiving week, it's a great time to answer this question!  Local schools have the whole week off, but my husband is working Monday through Wednesday, so I didn't want to do that.  When we have a short week, we aim to cover most weekly items and skip all daily items -- pretty much the opposite of what most people do on a "light week"!

So, for example, this week my Big Kids aren't doing any math or copywork, only one lesson of Latin (rather than two), no grammar, no written Italian.  That frees up their time to do all four days' worth of readings and narrations in three days.  Together, we will still do some daily assignments: Morning Basket, Italian, and memory work/recitation, but only on the three days of "school."  And we will do weekly assignments, like readings we do together, picture study, and composer study.  My younger students have the same schedule: no math and copywork so that we have more time for readings and narrations.  I am especially careful about overloading my young students, so I will often pick a reading or two to skip and pick up during a later week.  (This year, that's A Wonder Clock, since I didn't formally schedule that out -- we're just reading for two 15-minute sessions per week.  We may also shift half of the chapter from Wind in the Willows to the weekend since that's their favorite.)

We could just take the week off, but that means sacrificing a week of our summer break, and that's not worth it to me.  I'd rather get a "short week" in now and maintain a long vacation time.

When kids are sick, we do much the same schedule, because it's a lot easier to read and narrate from a comfy sofa than it is to sit at the table.  Obviously, if my kids aren't well enough for that, we just take off and lie around and rest -- while we enjoy audiobooks, usually.

One other note: does this put us "behind" in math? I don't pay any attention at all to beginning and finishing one math book in one year.  We just work where we are and move ahead from there.  We also do 1-2 days of math during the summer, so I feel like we have quite a lot of wiggle room it that area.


That's all for today!  Pre-reading and planning post coming up next. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This Year's Paper Plans :: Schedules, Chore Charts, Checklists, and More

Instead of my annual monster post on our schedules, I'm going to break this post into three parts.  Today I'm sharing our routine and checklists, and then next week I'll chat about my Weekly Planning and Pre-Reading Session and our Weekly Meeting.

Also, if you really looking for more nitty-gritty details beyond what I have here, you might take a look at my scheduling post from last year. You'll find that they're very similar.  :)  I have changed bits here and there, but our routine really is roughly the same.  You can also take a look at my Year 5 and Form I plans from earlier this fall for more information.

As usual, my organizational strategy consists of a series of paper forms that keep our home humming along:

:: A Weekly Routine / Average Day Schedule / Average Day Chart.  I put a little more time into forming our weekly routine this year since I added another student and wasn't sure how I would fit it all in. We follow this time table roughly on the days that we are home.

Why schedule down to the quarter hour when I'm a mom with lots of littles in need of flexibility?  Because it gives me assurance that it is possible to meet all our goals for the week: there can be short lessons, outside time, chores, and free time, all without chaos or stress, if I'm inclined to stick to this.  This schedule provides an order to rest in and a set of guideposts on which to peg my day.  For example, I plan math and copywork with my Form I kids first thing in the morning and aim to stop for prayers and breakfast at 8:30.  I don't care what order we do math and copywork in, and I'm changing diapers, pouring milk, and snuggling littles during that block too.  But I have a guideline that keeps me from overdoing morning work while holding me accountable so that we're not left with unexpected to-dos at the end of the day.

That said, I built ample margins into our routine.  Not listed on here are bathroom breaks, stops to switch out the laundry, feeding the baby, and so on -- those happen within the school blocks.  That means my kids are actually schooling for less time than this suggests.  So in one sense it is representative of our assignments and our time table, but in another sense we are much more flexible than an "average day schedule" can express.

:: My Weekly Checklist.  This has all the work that I am responsible for.  That includes all my Form I kids' work, since I don't require them to be independently responsible for anything but chores.  And it includes a small bit of my Year 5 kids' work, since I do require independence of them.  Listed here is the Year 5 work we do together, and then the rest of their work is on their weekly checklist.  Last year I had everything on mine, but this year, it made more sense to streamline my own lists so that they represent what I personally am responsible for.  I just print out a new one of these each week and spend a bit of time during my Weekly Planning Session filling in any blanks and making any adjustments.

:: My Term charts. In the past, I typed the assignments for each book for each week onto my weekly checklist.  Now that I'm juggling three years, the extra time that takes isn't worth it to me.  So I just have the book listed and I look at the actual reading assignment in one of two places: our schedule bookmarks (in every assigned book) or my term charts (in my school folder, and the Big Kids have copies in their binders too).  These are taken from the AmblesideOnline website and adjusted for our needs -- they have editable Word documents at the top of each year's booklist that I download and tweak for our terms.  So easy!

:: My kids' checklists.  My Year 5 students have a robust weekly assignment sheet that our homeschool couldn't run without.  It lets them know what to do and suggests when to do it.  I divided it into days this year because now that they're managing their own time, it is a help to them to know how much to get done on a given day rather than confronting an overall list of weekly items.  And they also don't need as much flexibility as I do since they're not taking care of the baby, working around naptimes, and such. (As you can see above, my checklist is not broken into days.  I need the flexibility since I'm managing the littles.)

My Year 2 student also has an assignment sheet, simply because she begged for one. ;) I think it's probably a good habit for her anyway, as she is more productive and cheerful when she sees what needs to be done.  But it's not technically necessary since she does all her schoolwork with me.  (My Year 1 son doesn't have one, though now he's asking too.  Maybe next year.)

:: A Pre-Reading and Planning Sheet.  This is the bit which I have gotten lots of questions about this fall since I have been posting about my weekly planning session on Instagram.  It's going to get its own post next week.  Lots of details to come!  Simply put: this is what I use to structure my weekly planning session (for both school and home) and my weekly meeting with my Year 5 kids.  I also keep my reading notes on the back.

:: Last, our Chore Charts.  We adjust chores every summer so that we can iron out the kinks before the school year rolls around.  The weekly schedule is posted on the fridge for easy reference.  Yes, this is a very thorough list.  Yes, it needs to be that way for things to run smoothly!  Everyone knows his job and things get done much more efficiently.  When I didn't spell things out so clearly, I was constantly sorting squabbles, bossing around, and just generally having to micro-manage.  Now the chart micro-manages for me while I play with the baby. ;)  I also built several inspection times into my day for when I'm noticing my kids are slipping in their habits and need some oversight.  And that "Bi-Weekly Chores" list at the bottom is for a bi-weekly slot in our chore schedule and for assigning extra chores for misbehaving kids. (Let's just say I have to use those more often with some kids than with others.  Ahem.)


These are the paper plans that help me hold myself accountable and let my kids know what to expect.  Our household couldn't run without them!

But I can't forget my usual caveat: the truth about organization is that there is no one solution to your organizational problems.  Effective organizational strategies have to do with knowing yourself and your family really well: your needs, your home, how your mind works, how much you can handle, how your kids thrive, your personality, your goals, your vision of success.  If you start there (rather than with these forms here!), you'll be much more likely to find a plan that works for you.

Still, I share our plans because I think examples can be very helpful and give curious moms a place to start.  And because I enjoy gleaning ideas from others! :)  I hope this gives you a glimpse into one way of structuring a busy home life.

Back with lots of pre-reading, planning, and meeting chat soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Keeping Company :: November

Hi friends!  I'm here a on the second Tuesday rather than the first because last week I took a break for All Hallows Tide. (That's the three-day observance of All Hallow's Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day -- a Holy Day surrounded on either side by a day of penance.  Whatever the form, I love liturgical triduums!)  Luckily, it's a five-Tuesday month so there are plenty of days to link up here in November.

There were wonderful submissions for October, and I'm excited to point out some of my favorites.  But first, a bit about what we've been up to...

Starting the Discussion

We had a couple chilly, rainy weekends here and my body went into hibernation mode!  I didn't feel like doing anything with my leisure time but lie on the sofa reading.  That has meant lots of catching up in my commonplace book and lots less work in my nature journal.  Is everyone else as seasonal in their keeping habits?  This is actually why I schedule my keeping: I have small personal goals so that I'm always stretching myself, just a bit, encouraging myself to grow in understanding and in practice. But I absolutely do embrace those seasonal shifts beyond that!

This week I spent most of Sunday reading Willa Cather's The Shadows on the Rock, which is a beautiful novel that I highly recommend.  (I stumbled upon this first edition hardcover in a bookstore years ago and it has been sitting on my shelf unread since then!)

I came across this relevant quote about the practice of keeping a Calendar of Firsts:

Another fun bit from our keeping this month: I did a progressive peek at my weekly nature journal entry over in my Insta-story...

I think I might do more like this now and then because it was kinda neat!

This Month's Round-Up

Some beautiful moments captured over on Instagram this month -- I especially love that fall leaves have nearly taken over the feed!

aolander - jeffsjessie - italianfarmgirl19 - athena_amidstthereeds
theycallmemommy618 - all.saints.academy - beuniqueheather - angelaboord
ambervanderpol - vlcjrogers - sarahjokim - dove_tania




Melanie shares bits of her keeping life: notebooks, posters, pressed flowers in the window, and a mother's snapshots of her time with her children -- because that's what we do as mothers, isn't it?

I found Nancy's suggestions toward a citizenship notebook to be tremendously inspiring.  Even though I'll save the formal keeping of this nature until my kids are a tad older, her comments here affected our Plutarch discussions this past month very fruitfully.  Don't miss it!

Looking for some fall fun?  My Peace in the Puzzle is leaf stamping into nature notebooks with her littles.  (Right alongside The Iliad and Til We Have Faces -- there's a lot going on in her home!)

Lisa notes some favorite Amy Carmichael passages that are both beautiful and convicting.

Carol is always drawing such interesting connections among books she's reading, and this month is no exception: peeks at heavy-hitting commonplace entries from Chesterton, Tozer, Wallace, and Chambers.

I cheered at Gina's post: I am a CM student too.  (I am!)

And now it's your turn...

The Link-Up

:: For bloggers: Click on the "Add my link" button below, and it will prompt you to include the information for your post.  Once you submit it, your link will be added to the list, and others will be able to click over and read what you have shared.
:: For Instagrammers: Tag related photos with #KeepingCompanyCM to join the link-up.

:: Remember to link to a specific post and not to your blog's homepage. 
:: Any posts about CM-style Keeping are welcome!  The prompt is optional.  Your post can be as simple as a photo of your commonplace book.
:: Feel free to add more than one post.  The link-up will be open for a month, so you can come back and add more if you are so inclined.
:: You can grab the button over there on the sidebar if you'd like to add it to your post or site.

As always, thanks for sharing!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Morning Basket 2016-2017 :: Term 1

First, a note: I use the term "Morning Basket" to refer to all the work we do together as a family. Even though I call it Morning Basket for organizational purposes, it is really broken up into two parts: one done over breakfast, and the rest done at the end of our Naptime School block and into lunchtime. Our Morning Basket is still very much the same as we have done it for the past few years, so if you'd like to read more specifics about how it works for us, you can read about how we structure it and prior selections.

A look at our Morning Basket plans for Term 1 of this year...

Over Breakfast

Italian (daily) - The school-aged kids and I cover new concepts and hands-on games during naptime, but we usually do our Italian memory work and simple conversation practice with the littles around:

:: Rhymes - "La Vispa Teresa," "Filastrocca dei Mesi," and "Lucciola" from Filastrocche Italiane Volume 1 and Volume 2
:: Songs - "Nella Vecchia Fattoria" and "Girogirotondo" from Teach Me Everyday Italian (littles didn't know these yet)
:: Series -  Big Kids taught the littles one of our previous series: "I have breakfast"

Poetry - one poem from each of our poets for the term, Rudyard Kipling for Year 5 and Walter de la Mare for Form I (daily)

Short Readings - from a couple of the following:

:: The Gospel of St. Matthew from the Douay-Rheims Bible (roughly a chapter a week)

:: Old Testament stories from Schuster's Bible History (one per week)
:: Illustrations for the Old Testament Stories: The Dore Illustrations, The Raphael Bible, and Stories from the Old Testament (tied in to the OT story from that week)
:: Dangerous Journey (a bit a week)
:: Lang's Book of Saints and Heroes (a bit a week)
:: Long's Home Geography for the Primary Grades (1-2 chapters a week)
:: Father Lovasik's Catechism in Stories (a couple a week)

Read-Aloud - With any breakfast time I have left before the babies start fussing, I read from one of our scheduled read-alouds: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch or Pinocchio.

In the Afternoon

Memory Work (daily) - includes review of that day's items from our memory "notebook" as well as time spent on our current selections:
:: Hymns - Bring Flowers of the Fairest, Fairest Lord Jesus, St. Michael Prayer in Chant
:: Folk Songs - Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Blow the Man Down, Jamaica Farewell
:: Bible - The Parable of the Good Shepherd (Luke 15:3-10)
:: Prayers - the Words of Consecration; Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love
:: Poetry - Walter de la Mare's "Someone" (Cate), "The Horseman" (Xavier), and "Trees" (Vincent), AA Milne's "Sneezles" (Gianna)
:: Shakespeare - The Winter's Tale 5.1 for a performance with our homeschool group

Family Riches - roughly one of the following each day:

 :: Nature journaling lesson with The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling (once weekly) read a section together and choose a challenge for that week.

:: Picture Study on Jacques-Louis David (once weekly) - two weeks for each piece, alternating between observation/narration and a picture sketch or tableau, along with a reading from
 Hillyer's Child's History of Art the first week.

:: Music Study on Children's Classics as listed on AO (once weekly) - including attentive listening and discussion

:: Shakespeare - A Comedy of Errors, first in Lambs' Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, then along with Arkangel Shakespeare, then to see it performed at a local theater.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

{This and That}

First up, the bit I'm most excited about: if you haven't heard already, CM West :: Conference in the Redwoods is open for registration!  We're actually more than half full already, so if you'd like to secure your spot, head over and sign up soon.

I am highly anticipating this conference -- it's going to be a refreshing, educational weekend with lots of opportunities to dig into Charlotte Mason's principles and practices and forge connections with other homeschool moms.  Brandy Vencel and John Muir Laws are our featured speakers, and I'll be doing a workshop too, along with other enthuastic and experienced moms.

For speaker bios, lodging information, our tentative schedule, and registration information, head over to CM West and read more!  (Really, click on over and read more!  You can come back here and finish this post later. ;))


This week's {From the Archives}...

Picture Books We Love :: Five Favorites for Fall

Are these your favorites too?  Or are my picks for this season new to your family?

It's still fairly summery here, but we did get our first real rainstorm of the season last weekend (the view above is from my hill run right before the rain started), and I've got the clothing switch-out on the docket for the next few days.  So we're getting there!


Last week was Exam Week in our home!  Honestly, we kind of limped across the finish line, not because we didn't enjoy Term 1 but because we were all down with colds the week prior.  The kids rallied and had a full, fun week, despite my only having half a voice.

We always have some kind of treat -- in both culinary and literary form! -- to celebrate a term well done.  This time, it was pumpkin scones and a stack of books, all related to Term 1 in some way...

Audubon's Birds of America
Mammals of California and Nevada (for my Form I Burgess Animal Book readers)
Lester's The Last Tales of Uncle Remus and Further Tales of Uncle Remus (my Year 0s have been reading Uncle Remus in another version)
Robinson's King Arthur and His Knights from Landmark World (for my Year 5 Pyle readers)
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, another Landmark (ties in with our This Country of Ours readings for Year 5)
The First Book of Horses and The First Book of Cowboys (ala Tree in the Trail)
The First Book of Maps and Globes (for our Long's Home Geography readings in Morning Basket)
The Illustrated Atlas of Hawaii (my parents just moved to Maui a couple months ago)
Best-Loved Christmas Carols (not Term 1 related, but to work on during Term 2!)

A few more items from my pre-Term 2 shopping list:

:: A couple more timers.  We use timers quite a bit, but up until now we had been sharing the two kitchen timers, toting them around the house as needed.  Now we have two for the office/schoolroom, which will make our schedule run a bit more smoothly.  The deal I got (and linked above) is a two-pack, and I think I'm going to order another pair because they are easy to operate, read, and hear.

:: Another book stand.  We already have one of these and use it all the time for copywork and commonplacing.  But now it has been useful for holding open the exercise book for Latin and Italian as well as field guides the kids are drawing from and so on.  Having a second one around has been so helpful.

:: Art prints.  I just order ours from our local Kinkos, printed on cardstock, and they come out sharp and durable.  We have Giotto's "The Raising of Lazarus" hanging on our fridge right now.

:: Henle!  I was looking at diving into First Form Latin after finishing Getting Started With Latin last week as sort of a bridge to Henle, but a friend recommended just jumping in with Henle now, taking it at our own (very slow) pace.  We finished the first lesson this week, and I think it's a good fit.  (On a side note, with Henle, the Big Kids and I will be doing Latin mostly together, unlike GSWL, which was independent work for them. Fortunately, we just finished up Winston Grammar Basic last week, which was a together subject, so I've got a free slot in my schedule.  Very convenient timing on that -- which I totally didn't plan!)

And a couple other orders I put in with our charter school so don't have in my hands just yet:

:: I want to get each of my older four kids a proper nature journaling set for Christmas.  I've ordered them each a smaller watercolor journal (unlike the larger ones we usually use and love -- these will be more portable and better for directly painting on), a Winston-Cotman pocket sketcher's box (like I have and love -- as well as the materials needed to "pimp their palettes"!  LOL), a set of Pentel Aquash brushes, white gel pens, drawing pencils, an erasable pen, waterproof drawing pens, and a loupe.  I'll post further details about this little kit nearer Christmas time in case you're thinking of doing something similar.  I have a neat idea for how to store them, but I haven't quite figured it all out yet -- so more on this later!

:: Blank Strathmore cards for our annual homemade Christmas card crafting.  The kids are working on some icons with their art teacher, and I think we might use one of their completed projects for our cards. Christmas cards and gifts are our handicraft for this term!

(Links above are affiliate links.  For every purchase you make through a link on this site, I get a percentage from Amazon. Thanks for your support!)


Someone asked on the AO Facebook page about Catholic homeschool bloggers that are using primarily AmblesideOnline.  I know there are a lot of Catholic AOers out there because I hear from you all the time via comments and email! :)  But are any of you blogging about how you're using AO as a Catholic?  Leave me a comment here and I'll be sure to check out your site and share when I can. :)

Okay, that's it for tonight -- have a great week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

What We're Reading :: October

Enger's Peace Like a River (finished last month for book club -- but it's on the AO list too)
Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich (for this month's book club)
Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter (slooowly making my way through the first volume of the trilogy)
CM's Parents and Children (for an ongoing video book club)
The Story of Charlotte Mason (I planned to finish this over the summer but didn't have a chance)
Please Understand Me II and Gifts Differing (dipping back into some MBTI)

As a Family:
Latham's Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (started this as a read-aloud, finishing it on audio -- you can buy it for much cheaper through Peace Hill Press as an mp3 download)
Ransome's Swallowdale (our car audiobook -- I can't recommend Larkin's versions highly enough!)
Lewis' The Silver Chair (just finished and on to the next Narnia audio)
Collodi's Pinocchio (in Morning Basket)

I have three September birthday girls, and they all got books...

Gianna (newly-10):

Tolkien's Mr. Bliss and Eliot and Le Cain's Growltiger's Last Stand (she loves quirky books)
A lovely hardback Anne of Green Gables (which she read for the first time over the summer)
Estes' The Alley (as you can see, the bookmark is already in that one -- ha!)

Bridget (newly-5):

Caldecott's Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross and A Farmer Went a Trotting (I can't find a version to link since it's OOP)
Walton's So Many Bunnies: a Bedtime ABC and Counting Book
Lobel's Alison's Zinnia
Eichenburg's Ape in a Cape: An Alphabet of Animals
(can you sense a theme here?  she's on an alphabet kick!)

Clara (newly-4):

Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young in board book format (LOVE)
Wallner's The Farmer in the Dell and Langstaff's Frog Went A-Courtin (both of which I included in my favorite picture book folk songs!)
Wild Animal Babies (Clara adores these out-of-print cut-out books, so I'm always excited to find one)
Keats' Over in the Meadow (another for the folk song shelves)

...and she really wanted a set of Real Mother Goose miniature board books like I gave Bridget last year.  Thankfully my favorite online bookseller happened to find me one because they are out of print!

Grandma gave some great book gifts to the girls also:

The Four-Story Mistake (we still don't own all four yet -- they get borrowed regularly from the library!)
two Elsa Beskow books: The Curious Fish and Princess Sylvie
Little House on the Prairie on audio (she's slowly gifting the collection)
Sunshine and Snowballs, a re-illustrated Margaret Wise Brown

Yes, my mom has fabulous taste and totally supports our homeschooling.  I am blessed! :)

The Boys

Vincent (age 10) has been busy with some American history books in his free time:
Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence, Forts in America (yes, he's reading reference books!), and The Signers (love the woodcut illustrations).

Xavier (age 6) has requested The Kitchen Knight every day this week and has been copying pictures from Sylvia Long's Mother Goose in the evenings.

The Baby Boys (ages 2 and 11 months) have been demanding There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and Richard Scarry's ABC Word Book.

Cate (age 7) is plugging along on Milly-Molly-Mandy with me and is already re-reading Understood Betsy after finishing it a couple days ago.  She declared it her favorite book of Year 2 despite our being only a third of the way through the year. :)

In the Mail:
It has been quite a couple months for book deliveries and library finds!

The Story of One Hundred Symphonic Favorites
McGraw's Mara: Daughter of the Nile
LeMarque's All Quiet on the Western Front
Wendell Berry's Hannah Coulter (my favorite book of 2014 -- but I read a library copy)
Gombrich's The Story of Art (a hardcover in pretty good shape for 50 cents!)
Ness' Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine
Snowden's The Young Astronomer (for our reference shelf)
a tattered but still delightful copy of Poortvliet's Gnomes
In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails
a hardcover of McCloskey's Time of Wonder to replace our worn paperback

Buehr's The Spanish Conquistadors in North America (we enjoyed his Marco Polo but haven't read this yet)
The Metropolitan Opera Guild's Lohengrin (so neat! -- I immediately bought the others in this series)

And one that a friend set aside for me to buy from her at the CMI conference: Jeanne Bendick's All Around You.  I've been hunting for this one!  Charming, right?

Well, that's what we've been reading the past couple months.  What I didn't share is the gigantic stack of vintage beauties I grabbed from our little library bookstore a few days ago after popping in there on a whim -- I'll save that for next time. :)

What books keep getting unshelved, reshelved, and then unshelved again in your home? :)  What's on your nightstand?  I'd love to hear!

(Links above are affiliate links. As always, thanks for your support!)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Form I in Our Home

I add In Our Home to my planning posts because what I'm doing with my students is always specific to our family's needs and skill levels.  The same goes for my Form I kids this year -- perhaps more so, since I'm combining them in various places for various reasons.  Still, I think it helps to see that there is room to combine without losing the integrity of the programmes or overscheduling/underscheduling your students.  It requires some familiarity with the AmblesideOnline books, a careful look at the workload of each year, a sense of which children will work well together and in what ways, and a willingness to consider your reality and flex accordingly. 

It also requires an openness to be honest with yourself about what will most benefit your students and balance that with your own needs as a homeschooling mom rather than leaning too heavily one way or the other.  I could easily just throw them into the same year, but I honestly don't think that would be best for those two students, so I choose to give up other things instead -- like outside commitments, my own free time, enrichment activities I could be doing with my older kids, more picture book reading with my littles -- and only combine in ways I find effective.  Similarly, I could have them in completely separate years and attempt to read aloud more hours daily, including those with toddlers and preschoolers underfoot. But I know that will make school stressful and not as pleasurable as it is now, and I'm not willing to sacrifice that.  There is always give and take in any decision we make for our homeschools, particularly in the early years, when students are so dependent on mama for guidance and face time throughout their school day.  We have to discern what is best for now and then move along on our chosen path with grace.

Okay, on to some specifics and a bunch of logistical chat. ;)

My friend Virginia Lee wrote a fabulous post about her Form I rotation over on Afterthoughts -- her plan is more long-term than mine and very well thought out.  I originally thought I too would like to put effort into creating our own formal rotation of AmblesideOnline books for the early years, but the fact that I have so many students so close together means my needs are a bit different.  I do plan on cycling through the Form I years roughly, but I'm inclined to plan that year by year rather than make a grand plan now.  There are just too many factors at play: for example, if my Year 2 student is reading fluently next year, I may spin her off to do her own thing and combine my Year 1 student with his younger sister.  I may not have another new baby in the home for a couple years, giving me the opportunity to spend a larger chunk of my day reading aloud and to combine less.  I may decide to put my 12-months-apart daughters in the same year completely and won't need to do any swapping.  And so on and so forth -- it's hard to predict what our future routine holds in a house full of little ones!

However, this year, I am using the same general categories Virginia Lee does, keeping separate for history and skill subjects and mostly combined for everything else.  And of course we're relying on AmblesideOnline as our general scheme because we love it. ;)

This year, I have a Year 2 student (seven-year-old Cate) and a Year 1 student (six-year-old Xavier).  They are 14 months apart and very different personalities. Both are reading, but neither is reading well enough to handle school books independently, so I decided to do more combining for the two of them this year than I might otherwise do.  Xavier sat in a bit on Cate's Year 1 readings last year, so for the Form I work, we're basically pulling from the Year 2 list.  That means Xavier is the one whose reading list is adjusted most from the usual AmblesideOnline selections.  Cate is getting a pretty standard Year 2 with just a couple small tweaks.

(As a side note: once Cate "ages out" of Form I, my next oldest, Bridget, will start Year 1 and join Xavier as Form I buddies.  When Xavier ages out the following year, Clara will join Bridget and I'll have a Year 1 and a Year 2 again, like I do this year.  Drew will start the year after that.  And so on. ;)  So I imagine I'll be doing some kind of Form I combining every year for the next decade or so.)

On to the schedule!  The notes below are posted with the permission of AmblesideOnline.  As you can see, I have used books almost entirely from their Year 1 and Year 2 booklists with the exception of our religion selections.  Visit their site for a complete lists with links for purchasing, weekly break-downs, study guides, and more.

Cate in Year 2
Xavier in Year 1
Understood Betsy (T1)
Grahame's Wind in the Willows (T2)
Pyle's Robin Hood (T3)

Pyle's The Wonder Clock
Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare

Poetry by De la Mare (T1), Field (T2), Rossetti (T3)  *MB
Dangerous Journey  *MB
Aesop (T1)
Our Island Story
Child's History of the World

The Little Duke 
Joan of Arc (T3)
Keeping of binder timeline

D'Aulaires' Leif the Lucky (T1)
Our Island Story
Fifty Famous Stories

Abraham Lincoln (T2)
Columbus (T3)
Holling's Tree in the Trail (T1-2)
Holling's Seabird (T2-3)
Long's Home Geography  *MB

Keeping of maps from Tree in the Trail and Seabird
The Burgess Animal Book

Weekly nature outing and journal entry
The Gospel of Matthew  *MB

First Communion Prep reading with Xavier
RightStart Level C
RightStart Level B
Using Startwrite copies of selected poems
Family Work
With the Big Kids: picture study, music study, memory work, Italian, handicrafts, physical education

Some of the method behind my madness, so you can see how specific these plans actually are to us:

:: Morning Basket.  Form I readings I'm actually reading to the whole family are labled *MB.  I am incorporating a few books that are narrated into Morning Basket this year though I never have in the past.  For example, the Big Kids have additional religion reading that they do independently, but Cate and Xave have all their religious instruction in Morning Basket right now.  (The way it works: my Form I students narrate the Old Testament and Dangerous Journey, and my Big Kids narrate the Gospel reading.)

:: Literature. I wanted to use Understood Betsy for Cate and I to read together, just us two, so he did some additional Aesop this term instead -- although he listened to quite a few Aesop stories last year and remembers them well, they're great for new narrators and I didn't want to skip them entirely. Then Cate and Xavier will be combined for Literature in Terms 2 and 3.  I'm still not quite sure how that will go: Wind in the Willows and Robin Hood are challenging books for a Year 1 student!  But those are both long weekly readings that will take several slots in our schedule, so I didn't want to devote that much read-aloud time if it wasn't going to be for at least two students. ;)  Luckily he is an eager and attentive listener generally speaking.

In lieu of Just-So Stories and Lang's Blue Fairy Book (which Xavier remembers well and I do too! ;)), I opted to read him The Wonder Clock, an AmblesideOnline alternative for Year 1.  Cate insisted on listening in as well since she hasn't heard it yet, so I scheduled it for them both.

Instead of the original Pilgrim's Progress, we're reading Dangerous Journey since we hadn't done that yet and I think it's suited to reading as a family, with the littles along (like in Morning Basket).  We just do a few pages weekly.

:: Year 1 Biographies. Xavier loves the D'Aulaires' books.  Since he read George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Buffalo Bill with us last year during Cate's Year 1, I scheduled a different set of three for him: Leif the Lucky, Abraham Lincoln, and Columbus.  Coincidentally, Leif the Lucky  and Columbus are Year 2 history alternatives for This Country of Ours, so Cate will join us for those.  I also may add in Pocahontas if I have time since he's skipping Viking Tales after reading it with us last year.

:: Reading Practice.  I have a slot in the evenings when I sit down on the sofa and whoever wants to can bring a book to read to me.  I allot about 5-10 minutes per kid (more for Cate).  Currently, Cate is reading me from Milly-Molly-Mandy and Xavier is working through some of the later Bob Books sets.  But they're free to bring to me what they'd like to read and we do reading lessons on whatever they have in hand.  I don't do any formal reading program.

ha!  (my kids do like bob books)

:: Math.  I start my kids veeery slowly in RightStart Level B during their kindergarten year, just a few lessons a month.  This year, Xavier is working through the rest of Level B and Cate started Level C a couple months ago.  I do combine them for the math games when it is convenient.

:: With the Big Kids.  Obviously, we do much of our schoolwork as a family.  That includes our Morning Basket (both the reading I do over breakfast and the bit we do before lunch -- picture study, music study, nature journaling lesson, etc). We study the same Shakspeare plays as a family, with the Form I kids listening to and narrating Lambs' and then sitting in for whatever they want to of the "real thing" on audio. They're also working on a scene they'll be performing together for our homeschool Shakespeare Festival.  I take these four on a weekly 3-mile run as well as a bit of daily exercise, so PE is a shared activity.  We do memory work together (which comprises our folk song, hymn, poetry, Bible passages, and prayers).  The kids have been working on paper crafts together this term, with different projects scaled to their various ability levels and the older kids giving hands-on help to the Form I kids.  They do chores together: Xavier is training under all three older siblings for various tasks, and Cate and Gianna work together on lunch every day.  We may be studying different periods in history, but so much of our life and learning is together that the days run very cohesively.

:: Outside Activities.  Cate is doing piano and art weekly with the Big Kids, but I'm waiting to add Xave to those activities until next year.  We all do a weekly nature study outing with our friends. All four will also do swim lessons again later this fall and probably in the spring as well.  I have them doing semi-private lessons all in the same time slot: Cate and Xavier are taught together by one teacher and Vincent and Gianna with another.

And here's what their daily schoolwork looks like:

:: Morning Block with Mommy - First thing in the morning (as in 6:45am -- LOL), I spend about 40 minutes between the two of them: about 15 minutes of math and 5 minutes of copywork with one, then the other.

:: Naptime School - I spend the first hour of naptime working with my Form I students.  That usually works out to one reading for my Year 1, one reading for my Year 2, and one reading for them together.  In between that, we do some kind of "keeping" activity: mapwork, timeline, or looking up photos of the animals we head about in Burgess to draw on cards.  When I am reading with their sibling, they do their math worksheet from the morning's lesson and/or piano.  Then they go off to play together.  I bring them back at the end of the second hour of Naptime School to join us for family work: one "riches" activity, Italian, and recitation/memory work.

And that's about it!  We have Morning Basket (over breakfast time), Nature Study Fridays, and cover handicrafts on the weekend.  But the rest of their schoolwork is done in those morning and naptime blocks four days a week.  I'll chat more about that when I share this year's schedule, but hopefully that gives you an idea of how light their school days are.

That's a very nuts-and-bolts post for you.  For those couple of you still reading (ha!), I hope there was something there you might be able to use.  I'd love to hear how you've combined your Form I kids -- I'm always looking for ideas!