Tomorrow is our official “first day of school” for our oldest, and we have a yearly tradition of taking the first day of school photos. As I mentioned in my last post, this year things got a little messed up with summer vacation and some kids starting their lessons before others, but it is what it is.
Since we aren’t in our old house where all of our other photos were taken, I decided to just let the kids have fun and pick out their favorite costumes for their photos this year, as a way to avoid any feelings of a need to recreate what we can’t at this point in our life. I also opted for the night before, because I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON.
I actually feel the most prepared this year, although I’ve got more to juggle. I’ve been spending hours for the last several weeks reworking rhythms and rearranging our rental house to try to make this flow smoothly for us in our tiny space. And I’m so optimistic about how well my planning will go, which is slightly unusual for me. (I usually barge into school years slightly panicked with papers flying behind me.)
This year our third grader will be using Ambleside Online Year 3, studying the age of exploration and the Renaissance through to just before the American Revolution. We have a fun (and challenging) year ahead of us. He’s looking forward to building some models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions with Daddy. And I’m trying to preread everything for the year so I can know everything before he does! (eek!)
Our first grader is finishing up what literature unit studies we haven’t finished up in Five In a Row volume 1 (which is sneakily more for his younger brother) and then will be moving on to one semester of Beautiful Feet Books’ Around The World With Picture Books (volume 1). In February he’ll begin Ambleside Online Year 1, studying an introduction to world history and famous people throughout time. He’s well on his way to learning to read, and we will keep working on that. This year, he’ll also begin oral narrations of his school lessons.
These two kiddos are going to be participating in our daily morning time where we do our Bible reading, Bible and poetry memorization, composer and artist study, Shakespeare, and French. (They’ll be allowed to bring some toys or activities to our morning time for when their attention starts to wane, but I’m pretty sure tea and treats will entice them to stay involved.)
They’re also following many of the ideas from A Year of Playing Skillfully. With our third oldest, I needed something intentional and playful to allow me to see what gaps he has in his development from his time spent in institutionalized care. I’m finding little areas that I’ve missed while using this curriculum, and we’re starting to hear a pronounced difference in the amount of language he uses. (Adjectives!)
Our youngest is a smart cookie. She’s learned all of her letters and begs for “copywork like the big boys” every day. She also has been begging to be let in on our second oldest’s reading lessons, but we’re just mostly playing letter games right now, drawing letters in sand and on the chalkboard, playing musical chairs with letter cards.
These two are my biggest challenge right now: finding a way to delicately balance some of the ways that she’s passed him up due to his second language learning and also to allow him to feel pride in his almost 5-year-old activities. They are constantly trying to “be the teacher” to each other, and the desire for leadership is something that is *not* lacking in most of our kids. Heaven help us.
Other Tools We Use
We have a few other learning tools that we use throughout the year. I’ve always been a curriculum cobbler, often mixing and matching based on my whims. I don’t think that will ever change. But this year has been a lot of learning about what I can “outsource.” For instance, I don’t need to MAKE my own copywork books if there are good enough ones out there. Obviously, I’d love to spend time coming up with passages of literature to have my kids copy out, and maybe that will happen again someday like it used to. But this year, I’ve chosen to outsource that.
I don’t feel the need to go into all of the additional items we use, but here are the highlights.
Xtra Math (both older boys use this alongside their math curriculum as a daily “flashcard” game.)
Hoffman Academy Piano Lessons (Because they just don’t think I’m as funny as Mr. Hoffman, oddly enough.)
Apologia Science Zoology 1: Flying Creatures (Million. We’re finishing this up from last year. Our move derailed this one subject for him. I’m not sure if we’re going to continue with Apologia for science or not after we finish this. It’s something that remains to be determined.)
That’s a bit of a preview of what we’ll be doing in the next year. I do have realistic expectations that some things will tank and need to be revised or rewritten completely, but at the same time I have full confidence that some things will soar beautifully. I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to teach (and learn alongside) my children. Every year, I learn more things about how to be a better teacher and a better mother. Oftentimes this is a humbling process which requires apologies to my ever-forgiving children. I am excited to see where this year will take us and who we are going to become because of it.