Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oh, the nerves are starting...

I tend to get a little nervous with the beginning of a new school year. This year is going to be so different from last year, the butterflies are very much aflutter in my stomach!

I am trying to have a vision for our school weeks, how I'm going to make it work with a CM (in the morning) approach for my son (and his narrating orally to me until at least Christmas), my daughter having to work on English and math (which she ought to be able to do mostly alone), German (which we can get a year extension on, thank goodness), music, phys. ed and a sort of life skills class (the first two need me to provide some guidance and set weekly criteria that the school course doesn't provide), but otherwise should be able to do on her own), plus her potentially being at the outreach school one or two days a week AND another girl who will be working just on an English distance learning course for the first while and here 3 days a week. I think there are too many unknowns that I can't control that leave me realizing that I can figure out a vision all I want, but I need to be realistic and be prepared to change the vision.

Mixing in my son's CM work with the others is the big challenge. I had initially envisioned my reading to him a bit during the day, him reading one of the readings to me and his doing the rest on his own, but my asking narrations of him here and there. Is all this oral work going to work well with two high school girls present who are going to be trying to focus on other things? I think I need to be prepared to not be as involved in his school work as I thought I would be. Be prepared for perhaps delayed narrations when he can do a few at a time. And then I had this vision of afternoons being more open. If my daughter gets her academics done in the morning and so does my son, then afternoons were open for music, art, phys. ed., nature study, Montessori-type research and self-directed/group studies... With the other girl here, that changes things a bit. Well, I suppose it doesn't have to, except perhaps the nature study. But I could do that with my son, at least, on days where the other girl isn't here. Or take the occasional break with her here and do it with her, too. :)

But I also had this vision of reading certain books right before lunch. Do I still do this with the other girl here? I suppose it's not a bad idea. Should just make sure that I keep the same books for the days she will be here. But butterflies flutter more at the possibility that it could be a flop to do so.

I have figured out one thing and kind of told my daughter, but realized today just how important it will be: She needs to create a schedule for herself. I just found out that she can have the year-long extension on her German course (for a small fee), and to be able to get this course done properly, and to do the necessary review to recall everything previously done and keep practising with me (the course is pitiful in the area of practice), she needs to have at least 3 times a week scheduled for this course. End of story. She has music to practise I would say 5 days a week, plus the aural skills and theory to work on. She has the life skills course to work on and phys. ed hours to track (I ended up doing the tracking last year; I won't be this year) and even to plan and phys. ed assignments to do... She has to have a schedule. Maybe not a stone-carved schedule about specific times she's starting, but at least a "30 minutes Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons" kind of thing. And I think I will work with her on GTD principles so that each week, she's sitting down, thinking about the things she has to get done, should get done and wants to get done and to adjust the schedule or daily checklists as needed.

Just writing this all out helps with the nerves! :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

School! Have you started already?

We aren't officially starting here until Sept. 3, although I saw this past week that my daughter's high school courses (through a form of distance learning) technically start next Thursday. Given her English course isn't even available with that school (and we're likely switching that course to a different school anyhow because of our current school's English teacher), she won't be starting it. There is a possibility of switching her math course, too, which means she won't be starting it. Part of me wants to throw out there the other logical possibility that if she's not switching her English to this other school, then she needs to pick social studies or biology to do this first term. But my stomach does something at the thought of her enduring another semester with this particular English teacher. Or perhaps it's the thought of me having to edure another semester of this particular English teacher. (The guy seems nice enough; just lots of issues with inconsistencies, sudden changes...)

I have not yet completely figured out my son's first week. lol. I have the subjects decided, but not necessarily the books. I had bought The Book of the Ancient World by Dorothy Mills, but having looked through it, I might use both the first volume of Story of the World and this other book. And perhaps other biography fillers or something as we go along.

I'm slowly sorting out religious education for the year, with the help of Mater Amabilis, a site for Catholics using Charlotte Mason. I don't want to follow their plan exactly, but it does have me thinking of things I need to consider incorporating! We will have Bible reading, naturally, and will be taking their advice for Level 3 and covering a single Gospel this year: Matthew. We have Faith and Life already and I've worked out how we can get book 4 finished and cover books 5 and 6 this year. (My son's starting grade 8...) For apologetics, I'm thinking of Why Do Catholics Do That? which maybe doesn't quite fit with apologetics, but it's a good book, and I also have Mere Christianity that isn't Catholic, but it's recommended in the AO curriculum and is really aimed at the most common elements of the Christian faith. I don't know that we'll do the Church history, largely because I don't want to add yet another English resource for religion and I'm not able to find something that seems truly living bookish in French. I do hope, however, to find some good resources in French for learning about saints. That, at least, I should be able to find easily enough online.

I have other things figured out, but it is best I got moving with my day. What about you? Have you started school already? If not, do you have your plans in place?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

School starts in a *month*!

Oh my... School starts in a month! (A month minus a day, actually!) Some things have gotten decided and somewhat worked out and planned; other things, not so much.

Schooling for my 16yo... Not figured out. She wants to go to school full-time; I have said no and husband agrees with my concerns. Long story in all of it, but basically, had she wanted to last year, I would have said yes. The emotional vulnerability I think she is dealing with right now has given her a skewed idea of what school will bring to her and my gut is saying no to full-time. Other possibilities: Going to school part-time (she has said no); going to an outreach program (other homeschoolers we know have used this) that would be up to 15 hours per week (office doesn't open until Sept. 3; we don't know if she's even eligible); continue doing what we've been doing (online high school credits) and toying with different ideas for scheduling (5 weeks done intensely followed by one week off, for example, or do only English (rather than both English and math) intensely and get it done by early October, math instensely after that and done before December, giving her 2 months off core subjects before 2nd semester core courses begin). That's my attempt at making that part short.

For my son... Lots figured out! After reading a great deal of volume 1 and various parts from volume 6 of the Home Education Series by Charlotte Mason, joining a couple Charlotte Mason groups in Facebook, reading lots from the Ambleside Online site and some from the Simply Charlotte Mason site and other things online, I have, to my surprise (given I was about to sell the CM series in early June because I was "never going to actually use it"), really created a CM plan for him. It was a bit of a convoluted process, but I think I've found a point I'm satisfied--and rather pleased--with!

I had been looking seriously at Sonlight's Core G (this year; Core H next year) or Core W. I ended up scrapping that idea because it would all be in English and it was way too hard to find suitable books in French to substitute. I had in my mind that I should still do history like the Cores G&H sequence, but after reading in one of the CM volumes that they covered ancient history every year on the side, not part of the main history sequence, I then changed my thinking and came up with a plan to cover ancient history in two years AND some world history over the two years. (Why two years? Because he can start high school in 2 years and to get recognized high school credits here, he will have to do the provincial curriculum, which means no more me guiding the curriculum.)

I also read somewhere in the CM volumes (or perhaps it was one of the original school schedules) how they covered the history of two and eventually three different countries in addition to the ancient history. Canadian history was a given and I decided that US history made the most sense. At the same time, I had thoughts that English and French history up until the colonization of Canada and the US, at least, could be very useful in terms of understanding the origins and development of our countries. What I've decided upon now is to cover that part of English and French history this year, and then do Canadian and US history, at least up until and including WWII (adding in additional things specific to WWI and WWII beyond just Canada and the US) next year. No, this is not entirely how CM suggests doing things, but it's what makes the most sense to me given my timeframe. I could technically do ancient history, English history, French history and North American aboriginal history from the same time period as English and French history, but it feels overwhelming to be adding on another subject right now. Especially one where I have not seen anything that remotely easily covers it. BUT it's something I can think of adding on later in the year, even if it's just one book on a particular aboriginal nation or even just adding in short biographies.

Once I had that worked out, it became a matter of deciding on resources. I flitted around between different ones, had new ones suggested and finally made some decisions:

*History: An/Our Island Story for English history (recommended for AO pre-year 7) which, afaik, can be easily done in a single year, a French book I have not seen the inside of and am crossing my fingers about (it's on sale for $2.08 at least!) for the French history and Dorothy Mills' Book of the Ancient World. Supplementation (perhaps) with Plutarch's Lives (in French) and a biography I have yet to choose. (I might just Montessori-ize it and pick a few different people and let my son choose; I do, however, already have Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, as well as Hellen Keller's). The first three are more important to me and, truly, if that's all we did this year, it would still be more than he's been doing!

*Literature: I haven't entirely decided, although I thought I had my mind made up when I started writing this post yesterday. I was planning to alternate between English and French literature throughout the week. A typical AO program has only one or two literature books going on at a time, but the AO pre-year 7 has 5 different books going on each week. I had decided to have 4 books going on, but now I'm rethinking it. A little article about someone's experience at a PNEU school said that the author studied one literature book per term. I have no idea how long the books I have in mind might take. I already have three of the books recommended for pre-year 7 (King Arthur, Robin Hood and The Hobbit) and will have him choose at least 1 of them to start; the others will get put onto the free reading list. For the French book(s), I'm thinking something like The Three Musketeers (which will undoubtedly take a year--tough French when you're not used to traditional literary French and LONG! Over 800 pages in my version, although lots of footnotes; I chose it because he's seen The Man in the Iron Mask and I think he would like the backstory!) but also something easier to not completely turn him off French books. lol. I need to think of free reading lists (Jules Verne and Perreault come to mind for free readers, or a 2nd literature book to read in French) for both languages and figure out how we'll work that out (does he get to choose how much of it he reads? do we just have a free reading time and he reads what he can? does he need to alternate between English and French?...)

*Science (aka natural history): My plan is to have some each day, at least to start. If it's too much, or if we need a larger time slot to do some of the activities, we'll figure out a different plan. I'm going to give The Story of Science a shot as the "spine", then have the other days of the week be specific lessons (translated into French) from Montessori elementary albums I have (physics, chemistry and functional geography) and/or doing activities from the various science kits we have and don't seem to use! At least one kit has to have something done from it each week. As the year goes on, we may tie in more books for the different subject areas rather than mostly the hands-on stuff. Of course, there's once-a-week nature study to somehow figure out how to add in.

*Math: He never did finish Life of Fred: Fractions, but his math tables are weak, so the plan at the moment is to have math every day with one day of arithmetic work, next day with Life of Fred, and keep alternating. When he finishes the fractions book, he'll move onto the next book (name escapes me at the moment; something to do with percents and decimals). And at some point, I'll be changing the math schedule a bit so that he'll have one day a week of algebra (he does fine with the pre-algebra work we've done) and geometry and whatever else needs to be fit in to at least meet the school curriculum standards here.

*Geography: There's map work to do with the history that is covered, plus I found the Marco Polo book recommended for pre-year 7 online--and in French. Woot! That's just one day a week.

*Poetry: I think it's the pre-year 7 that says to read a poem a day. I'll do like with the literature and alternate between French and English poems. I have a few poetry collections I can use for English. I still have to do some researching for the French. (Oh, have since researched: Jacques Prévert is now on the list!)

*Foreign language: He has expressed an interest in both Latin and Irish. Yes, Irish. Why? Because it's different. "Ce serait cool." (It would be cool.) lol. My long-term readers might remember he's my "funny" one (his whole learning to talk, learning to crawl and walk, how he learned to read, his serious desire for a very specific pet monkey when he was 3...). My plan for that is to start with the Mango program and if he gets through that, we'll see if he wants to continue (I'd probably get Rosetta Stone at that point) or pick a different language. One of the CM schedules showed that each foreign language was done twice per week, and two foreign languages were done in the same term, so he'll alternate between the two.

*Other stuff: I still have to make some more specific plans about studying a composer, studying an artist, nature study, music and art practice, handicrafts/life skills, Shakespeare (might hold off a little on that one) and some books I'd like to fit in (Power of Positive Thinking; Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens, How to Read a Book, Socratic Logic), phys. ed, phase in things like recitation and dictation.... But those are extras that will either be for the afternoon or I will start fitting in as we adjust to this new format. I have things in mind, too, just not necessarily written down, like a year-long art practice plan where we have at least a month where he's doing cartooning, an area he enjoys. (I might start the Power of Positive Thinking with both of my kids very soon here! A good dose of learning to think positive is in order! lol)

My idea is to have the morning quite structured and the afternoons more open, more Montessori-style. Still with lessons (the "extras" like picture study, music study and practice, etc.), but opportunities for project/research work and him choosing what to do. He's not been choosing, or rather he's been choosing to take the easy way out and read comics and easy books, so I think providing him with a "feast", as Charlotte Mason called it, and in a structured manner while help. Over time, I might be able to loosen the reins a bit and he can pick the order for the morning schedule.

Someone in the one CM Facebook group gave their recommendation of what to start out with to slowly transition into CM over the span of 2 months. I'm taking that recommendation but modifying it a bit to meet my son's personality and experience. My son loves science, so I'm not waiting to add that in. I'm also starting narration, at least one a day, right away,  with a "warning" that as we go along, I'll be expecting him to narrate from every (or nearly every) book. He's not new to copywork, so that's also part of the early plan, and he wants to do Irish and Latin, so I figure we might as well start it right away.

Blogger doesn't seem to have a table feature, but I've come up with a rough schedule for our first week, which is only 4 days--and then realized we might be out for the first day. lol. I'll see later about typing it up into a table (I did it by hand) and taking a snapshot to post.

Was this long enough? lol