I know I've been quiet this week. I have been busy planning for our second term at the same time as starting it. And since that's what I've been thinking about, that's what I'll write about.
Ambleside Online - This is our main curriculum. There were a few books last term that were quite challenging for us, and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about whether I should persevere with them, or find substitutions.
Burgess Bird Book was difficult for SA to narrate last term, and he frequently lost interest before our reading was finished. I think the problem was that all the ideas are conveyed in conversations between Peter Rabbit and different birds, and there is very little actual action. I too find this book hard to like because of the cutesy names and the way human attributes are ascribed to animals. I considered substituting the much more straightforward Bird Stories from Burroughs, but thought I'd give Burgess one more chance first. I had two reasons: Burgess gives quite a bit of taxonomic information...a child should end up with quite a bit of knowledge about which birds are related to each other, etc. Second, while the conversational style may be challenging for narration, perhaps it is a good challenge. As long as he is not completely frustrated by it, SA might grow in his narration abilities.
So this week we tried again. I chose to read about the cowbird, because we have had several of them at our feeder these last few weeks. The cowbird was also mentioned in Flute's Journey, a book SA enjoyed greatly last term. We looked up the birds mentioned in the chapter on allaboutbirds.org, and I printed off a colouring page for each of my boys. To my surprise, the narration went quite well. I did not have my timer on, and I think it ended up being a bit long. (He did complain towards the end...) I will therefore continue with this book for now, taking care to split up the readings if they are too long to complete within 15 minutes including narration. I will still consider substitution if he never gets any joy out of these readings, because in my mind, that would defeat the purpose. I want him to know and love...
Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty was another challenging read last term, even using the modern English paraphrase from Ambleside Online. I am choosing to continue with it, perhaps making a little more effort myself in preparing for the readings.
Trial and Triumph is the one book I've decided not to continue with right now. I love church history myself, and I do want SA to be familiar with it, but I think it will go much better with this book if I wait a year. In the meantime, I plan to find some of Simonetta Carr's picture books to see if they might be more suitable for this year. I have also heard of the History Lives series and wondered if the writing style might be more accessible than Trial and Triumph. Has anyone seen them or used them?
We love all our other Ambleside Online books. Shakespeare has taken some getting used to, as I'm a complete Shakespeare newbie myself. After comparing Nesbit and Lamb, we've decided to go with Lamb. Nesbit was a bit too stripped down for us...narration did not go well. Lamb is very challenging for this age, but not unworkable. I draw little pictures as we go along to keep characters and places straight, and we usually take a week to go through a play. Narration often ends up being a collaborative affair between SA and me, but I'm confident he will grow into more independent narration. Our library has a few (too few) of Coville's Shakespeare retellings, and we will definitely be using them whenever we can.
Math - As our focus shifted to learning the new skill of narration last term, I found that far too often in math I was resorting to just setting a worksheet in front of SA, setting the timer, and getting on with it. This, despite all the wonderful things I've learned about math. It is time for me to repent. I am going back to the Miquon First Grade Diary. This wonderful book details all the math activities done in an actual first grade classroom in a Miquon school. I used it quite extensively last year. This time I will start in January of that book and use some of the ideas to allow SA to explore math concepts and figure some of them out for himself, something he dearly loves doing. I will also go back to using Family Math or Games for Math once a week, just for fun. SA is quite a bit "ahead" in his Miquon workbooks (Blue book, beginning of grade 2), so I'm going to relax quite a bit on the worksheet side, using them when they flow naturally from our regular lessons.
Phonics, Spelling, and Copywork - Since SA's reading took off, I have not paid much attention to phonics or spelling, choosing rather to simply have him read increasingly more challenging books. I do not regret this. However, I do think the time has come to encourage him to look more closely at the words. Normally this would be done in copywork, and later in dictation, but as SA is "behind" in learning to write (he is still working through basic letter formation), I would rather not tie his spelling to the (to him) hard work of writing words. So I have decided that we will play with word families using scrabble magnets on a cookie sheet this term. He has been enjoying that this week. We continue to do five minutes of copywork per day using Penny Gardner's Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children.
The "Extras" - Aside from poetry, which we enjoy every day, and music and art appreciation, which we do steadily week after week, these are the things I am most likely to slack off on in the course of a busy week. This term, I am hoping to post a weekly update about the things I am most likely to drop, just to keep myself accountable. (Keep in mind that I have a baby due sometime in the midst of this term, so we'll see how far we get...)
Handicrafts - My greatest weakness. We're doing finger knitting this term, possibly progressing to loom knitting. We started this week, and the boys and I enjoyed it a lot. We looked up the instructions on YouTube, which turned out to be very helpful.
Drawing - Another thing I am not so great at. I plan to continue using Drawing with Children, and at least sitting down with paper and markers once a week with the boys.
Nature Study and Nature Journalling - We actually do enjoy nature a lot, but with the cold weather coming on, and me not quite as energetic these days, I anticipate this might be a challenge. Our focus this term is weather and climate, and we've started a chart with clouds, wind direction, temperature, etc., for our nature journals this week.
Poetry - We continue to focus on A.A. Milne, and this term I plan to memorize a few poems again. We're starting with "Wind on the Hill" because SA has been wondering about where wind comes from and why it comes from different directions.
Music Appreciation - I want to listen to the Messiah during the next month and a half with the boys. Then we will continue listening to Handel for the rest of the term. We simply take a weekly break from our normal poetry teatime and watch some music on YouTube instead.
Art Appreciation - We will be doing our picture studies on some of Edgar Degas' paintings. We put him on our timeline this week, and found him on the map.
I haven't mentioned Bible or our Bible/hymn/catechism memorization because at our house, that's part of our everyday life and not really tied to our school days. I do have plans, though. We have begun reading and narrating from the New Testament, and will continue to steadily progress through the gospels. We do three questions per week in our children's catechism, and will continue with that, too. I have chosen a Christmas carol, a psalm, and a hymn for the next three months, and am planning to review all the passages of Scripture learned so far.We do well with memorization, but are not so consistent with reviewing what we have memorized.
Those are my plans. I have a baby due on January 26, so I have no doubt the plans will be modified. For now, though, it's full steam ahead!