Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Peek At Our Morning

A side note: 
Well, no followers for this blog.  Ha!  The funny thing is that I have a ton of pageviews.  Very interesting...and not all that surprising.  :-)  Number one reason...Pinterest.   I've fallen for it too!  I very seldom follow blogs anymore.   Those that I am "following" I very seldom get to anymore.  I 'follow' the boards of the owner of the blogs I'd typically follow.  Second reason is that I'm not providing a bunch of free printables, but that's besides the point.  This blog is mainly way to keep track of what we try, what works, what doesn't, etc, and answer some questions that people connected to me have.  Some day I'd like to get more into the activity's a hobby I've enjoyed but right time!  So we'll use this blog as a "record" for now.

I'd like to share a bit my feelings, as of this moment, of "schooling at home" and a bit of our schedule as I know there are some that wonder how one earth I do what I'm doing.
A relatively small house + 6 kids ranging from 3 years old to 9 years old=necessity to be pretty structured and organized.  :-) 
We have a  more flexibility than a brick and mortar school but not as much flexibility of a true homeschooling family. 
I love the peace that I can get from the curriculum being provided for me and the support of many, very helpful, teachers. 

I love that the curriculum they provide tends to connect from one subject to the next...and that they touch on each subject in each grade so we can often converse about a topic and everyone knows at least a little of what we are talking about!

I love that my kids now love history!  We are learning so much in history! 
I love the fact that the children are learning so much from each other and that we have a bit of flexibility in how long we spend on one topic vs. another topic.  If a child is struggling in an area, we can take a break from it.  Maybe they just aren't ready to take on that concept...we just go back to it at a later date.
I love that the children do not have to wait for the rest of the class if they have mastered a topic. 
I love that children are more than welcome to sit in on another child's lesson(time permitting)!  History, Art, Social Studies, Science is often the subjects they like to sit in on.
I love that throughout the day I hear about "what I learned" vs. "I don't know" when I asked about it while they were in attendance at a brick and mortar school.  Also, because I'm directly in the center of their education, we can apply the material immediately in every day circumstances.
I love that we only have to do the basic practice sheets if that's all we need and not have a bunch of repeated/unmeaningful/time filler pages to do. 
I love that I can change a worksheet into a hands-on activity and not have to have the actual worksheet because I'm right there with them seeing if they understand or not. 
I love that each of the grades get a good background of history... their science is much more hands-on and for the first time they have a formal art program! 
I love that 2 of my students, and eventually all of them, have the option of learning Spanish at a young age (when they SHOULD be learning a language). 
I love that the children are excited about their learning and they connect it with whatever they are doing.  This is a first!
I love how much I'm growing as a mom and teacher.  I'm still learning patience. After working with kids for approx. 15 years, I'm still learning patience.  It is not a natural thing for me...definitely learned.  So as I'm learning patience, the kids are learning to be patient with me also. :-)
On the downside are the typical "homeschooling" cons.  At this time the pros definitely outweigh the cons.  We chose this program for the basic education it provides, individualization, accountability, etc...not because of gym, music, and the social aspect of school. 
We understand that gym and music is a lovely chance for many a student...and may be their only chance of participation of that type of thing.  However, when a family understands the benefits of gym/music, but still choose homeschooling or schooling at home, they can make adjustments in their child's overall education as needed.  Place their children in music lessons, sports, join a gym etc.  One can also teach the basics of music...but more importantly teach music appreciation.  One can also teach the basics of physical education and health and more importantly show by example the importance of healthy eating and taking care of one's body.  Let's be honest here...what do you remember from gym...or music for that matter?  All stuff that we can do at home.  Yes, it's nice to have a large indoor space in which we can play group games and etc...but it's not necessary...years ago in a one room school house, they surely didn't have organized gym/health and music.  It was incorporated in the day and plenty of time was spent outdoors...either at school or at home...chores or play.  Who was healthier?  We would have to admit that generations before us were much more healthy.  So as long as we are doing our part in fulfilling the basics of those electives...all will be well.  :-)
So, to the schedule...
We've explored with many different ways of doing our schooling...we'll continue exploring as the children grow and develop.  At this point, my oldest, 4th grade usually does his work that can be done independently in his bedroom. This keeps distractions down to the minimal...and truthfully, he wants to do what every one else is doing and so though I would like for him to do that...that would mean that I'd be having school after school every day just to get his own work done! (And most days we already do!-we're almost caught up and so his daily work load will start to lessen.)  The other children are in the kitchen with me...doing the 'around the table' approach.  Is it working?  You bet!  I thought there would be quite a bit of distraction for each other but there really isn't that much.  The benefit...they talk amongst each other (conversational skills that aren't often taking place in brick and mortar) and they are learning patience!  I really do only have 2 sets of ears, 2 sets of hands, 2 sets of eyes.   :-)  So yes, they do learn patience and they learn independence because more often than not if they reread what they are questioning...they will figure it out on their own...while they are waiting for me...or even better, they help each other! 
 My job isn't over when school is over...just like a typical teacher.  But, my planning is a little different than a typical teacher.  :-)  After school is out I'm correcting papers, answer input, and reading and preparing lessons, prepping "extra" activities,  and the biggest job is to coordinate who does what when.   
This is our general schedule, subject to change.
8:00-8:30   Group Lesson 
8:30-9:00  3 year old:  tray work
                  1st grader: PhonicsWorks (the activities that require me)
                  2nd graders:  online portion of math-by the time they are done I'm usually done with
                                       1st graders and can implement math learning and provide help as needed.
                  3rd and 4th graders:  independent work (typically spelling/literature/language arts)
9:00-10:00  3 year old:  tray work 
                  1st grader: "independent work" (not always completely independent but doesn't require
                                    me to sit right next to him.)  Sight words, spelling words, penmanship, reading,
                                    and math-as soon as I am available to assist.
                  2nd graders:  vocabulary (online), spelling, HWT's (printing review, beginning cursive)
                  3rd/4th graders:  continuing in what they are working on in language arts/literature, also
                                     writing, finish art lesson, cursive, etc.  I'm available for them at this time if
                                     they need assistance.  Typically they need assistance in math and writing.
10:00-10:30  Snack/"recess" 
                    About 2x's a week we do organized games to teach basic physical education components.
10:30-11:15  3 year old:  educational DVD, free play, and/or Great-Grandma play :-) 
                      1st grader:  art project, language arts (after I'm completed with 2nd graders), finish up 
                                         or "extra" activities, slip in science or art. 
                      2nd graders:  Literature (with me, as soon as we come in from outside), writing skills,
                                          and finish up or 'extra' activities. 
                      3rd and 4th:  math and writing, science/history/social studies
11:15-11:40   Free play and finish up activities.  If someone is needing extra help or had a hard time
                      staying focused...we use this time to "catch up".  I also slip an extra science, history, or
                      art with the kiddos every once in awhile...but I find that they need to know they have
                      this "free time".
11:40-12:00  A very basic bible lesson.  We do a memory verse, learn songs, and read a story
                     throughout the week.  At the moment, our actual formal music lessons have been put on
                     the back burner.  As you can see, our morning is pretty full.  So, at this time, I have my
                     own children enrolled in lessons and do encourage the other families to do the same and
                     in the meantime, I slip in a bit of "music" during this time.  But more importantly...we
                     are working on music appreciation at this time.  Off and on during the morning we listen
                     to various types of music and discuss it informally.
*  1st grader does science, history, and formal art lesson (usually minus the project...he usually does it the next day during the morning) in the afternoons that he is here.
*  Group lessons vary.  We typically have done History2 since all the children haven't had the opportunity to learn  K12's history curriculum.  All of it is new!  So we are building a's awesome!  We also slip in Social Studies at this time.  So far they are on the same general topic guideline...just go into the material a little deeper the older they are.   On Tuesdays, most of our class connects are on this day so we usually do Draw.Write.Now on this day so that they can get started into their work right at 8:30A.  This week we did an Art1 lesson together because I knew it would be interesting and fun for all.  They loved it!  We learned about Wassily Kandisky... and we created art along with fast and slow instrumental/classical music.  In all art lessons, all students have the opportunity to use the materials that are out for a specific lesson...even if it isn't their lesson.  They love this!
*  Class connects.  These are once a week running from 30-60 minutes.  This is a time for them to meet with their teacher and classmates, work on some concept that the children may be having difficulty with.  There are also, extra class connects for students who need more assistance in reading, writing, and math.                      
*  We do monthly conferences with learning coach (me), assigned teacher, and student.
*  One struggle I have is slipping in science/history (both require me completely) for 3rd grade.  We have slipped it in rather well in our morning with 2nd grade and 4th grade does his in the afternoons with me.  So we're working on finding out how we can slip that in. 
*  One afternoon a week I have the children into the afternoon.  One child has a class connect in the afternoon...we had been doing group art then but I don't want the child missing out on that so we are working on independent work for 2nd graders and I'm focusing on doing a history and science lesson for 3rd grader on this afternoon.  We still need to slip in another history and science lesson during the week though.  :-)
Another concern I had and I know others had was just how much of the time are the children sitting in front of the computer since this is a "visual" academy we are enrolled in.  Surprisingly, not much!
Left:  note the phone...E. is taking his DIBELS test with his assigned teacher.
Right:  C. is doing a math lesson at the computer.  They often start with an intro lesson and then move to the table for hands-on practice.

 1st grader:  average of 5-10 minutes for math, 15 minutes for Study Island, class connects-1-2x's a week.  I do allow use of technology to help him practice math and sight words but really, it doesn't add to much.  Science, history, social studies, art are all "online" but I implement them so they are not sitting in front of the screen.  Yesterday and today...he didn't use the computer at all.  :-)
2nd graders:  5-10 minutes for vocabulary, 10-15 minutes for math, 15-20 min. for Study Island, 15-20 minutes for Spanish and 30 minutes once a week for class connect.  Of all my students, they are probably on the computer the most.  But really, 1 hour out of 6 hours isn't bad at all.  :-)  Between the movies they watched in school (educational or unmeaningful/uneducational) last year in 1st grade, computer games they played at school during and outside of computer lab, and whatever DVD/TV/video games they were getting at home after school......well, I'll take the 1:6 ratio.  :-)
3rd grader:  20-30 minutes for math, 15-20 for Study Island, 15-20 min. with an online reading program- again, about an hour for 5-6 hours (the 2nd and 3rd grader do about one hour of "homework" after they leave me.)
4th Grader:  30 minutes for math, 15-20 for Study Island...a bit more if he does science, art, social studies, history independently but that doesn't happen much.
So the concern about spending all day in front of the's gone.  :-P

 Here are "my kiddos" 'em!


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