Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Homeschool Thursday: Back on Track

We started working on focused home school work in September, and I'm just now getting around to compiling some pictures and putting together a post. Forgive the run on descriptions of each child's interests and talents--its how I keep track.  Hopefully I'll be back on schedule for my regular "Homeschool Thursday" posts, which can be more concise and less list-like than this.  I know a few of you enjoy a peek at our more structured school routines, but even more so, these posts are helpful to me in noting the work we've covered and what the kids are focused on in their play.  Not only that, but it is immensely gratifying to look back on a week of what most certainly contained lots of laundry, whining, errand running, shuttling children, and other boorish work and  realize , hey, look, we did learn something!  And it was fun!

Based on Wylie's experience at school last spring we learned a few things about his learning style. While the public classroom was not the best place for him, he did appreciate the very clear schedule and expectations.  So, this fall we started out on a much more structured homeschool schedule than we've ever had.  We have a formal daily schedule, and written, consistent assignments due at the end of the week.  I discuss any changes in work expectations a week or more ahead of time so he and Juniper know to expect a change.  The formality of it all is nearly killing me, but all of the kids seem to like it. And despite the structure,  I am enjoying the rhythm of our days at home.  I only wish we had more of them.  Between homeschool coop, 4-H, and an outdoor nature camp, we end up with 2 and a half days at home doing focused work.  I remember a quote from some book once that said, "Yes, homeschoolers do have a problem with socialization--they get way too much of it".  
Seems to be true in our case.   

At the beginning of each season we always fix up the seasonal or nature table.  This table has been around since Juniper was a toddler, though has moved about quite a bit and morphed through the years.  It was once a big activity to set it up for the season, with all the kids helping gather artifacts, create artwork and design the space.  Recently it has become something I've done on my own.  I appreciate both scenarios.  This way I can add new things quietly, that the kids can discover on their own.  

I made these cards with Wylie and Juniper 5 years ago, before Kale was born.  It is a memory set where you match the tree with its seeds.  Favorites such as these live in the drawers below and get pulled out year after year.

Last summer we transformed the "tunnel" space below our stairs from a hide out to a preschool work space.  Most of the everyday art supplies live here, and it is just the right height for Kale.  

                                Hard at work on "the Northern Hawk Owl"  

We also changed the studio/guest room into a learning studio, where we do spelling lessons and project work. This is an experiment.  In the past no matter what space I set up for learning, all projects and lessons ended up back at the kitchen table.  So far the studio is working nicely. And, even when things to end up at the table (which I don't mind) they have a home to return to before we need to serve dinner.  

The bulk of our focus this fall is on reading, writing, and history.  Nature study is covered through Tanglewood 4-H camp each Monday, and a more loosely structured 4-H club that meets in town on Fridays.  We do a bit of math here and there, but plan to focus on that later on in the year.

Kale still leads all his own learning, and enjoys counting and writing. I pulled out our 100 board from when Wy and Junebug were little, but it turns out he's already taught himself to count to 100.  Who knew?  He is not very interested in letter sounds, but enjoys writing everything and will happily sit and make letters as I slowly spell out each word for his card/story/letter/sign etc.  He's beginning to be able to do some copy work and likes anything to do with knights, war, and weapons.  Despite this fascination he is extremely tender and loving with our animals and is still the best joke teller in town.

Fridays when we are not at 4-H are dedicated to child-led project work.  Kale's focus has been on Blue Whales and he works in spurts.  He's done some drawing, reading (me to him), video watching, painting, and a whale sculpture.  

Wylie has so much excitement for all kinds of projects that he has had a hard time sticking to one. He worked for a month or more this summer on a family tree project, then launched into a nature study observation project, which was dropped in favor of an online coding class.  I'd love to see a bit more follow through from him, but I do see a lot of learning happening in each case, so I trust the rest will come.  A few weeks ago he discovered James Patterson's "Middle School" books and has been reading more than ever before.  He stays up late reading in bed, reads in the morning, and happily sits with a book for 20 minutes or so after lunch. He's also been biking far and wide since all of his training for the Parkinson Ride in August.  The experience has given him the confidence and ability to widen his biking radius significantly.  The independence and physical outlet cycling gives has been crucial to his focus at home.  Throughout all of this, Wylie's main focus this fall has been on music: listening, creating, and producing.  He's also psyched to be working with a friends' father on small electronics projects each weekend.

Juniper has been playing piano quite seriously.  Her favorite thing is to learn a new piece.  She'll work and work at it until she can play it through without mistake, and then drop it like last week's compost.  She sees very little need to revisit old pieces, but will do just about anything to please her piano teacher.  She also has been hard at work on an ongoing story for writing.  She is a patient reader but still doesn't feel fluent.  The independent project she chose is on Penguins and she has done some penguin art work, a penguin poem, and some reading.  But doesn't actually seem to have a lot of interest in the subject.  Her biggest hurdle may be that she would like to read more about penguins but most of the books are above her reading level.  I never seem to have enough time to read all that everyone wants me to read.  (Maybe I could get Wylie to read them to her?)  She loves helping with the toddlers at our homeschool coop, and is taking an astronomy class about constellations, a martial arts class, and participating in a team building workshop.  Her favorite way to spend the day is deep in the throws of pretend play with Kale, usually involving baby dolls, or Play Mobil guys, crafting tiny furniture and other scenes for them out of random things.  

   Kale's whale sculpture--wire and paper

   Curious chickens

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