Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How we do school...

I thought I would take the time to discuss how we do school in our home. I thought it could possibly be helpful to others new to the Charlotte Mason method-especially if you are more on the secular side, 0r like me find that you prefer not to do a lot of European History-or do not follow AO or one of the other online free curriculum's.

Note: all the subjects I mention-I've listed the books we are using in the post below.

Beginning our day..

I find it easier to keep a cabinet in our living room that holds all our school books and supplies. Inside the cabinet are two large yellow square fabric containers. These are large enough to hold all the books we are using, as well as supplies. We find it fast and convenient to pull these out and sit them on the table after breakfast. That is all the prep we need to do, school wise.

Before school I make sure the toddlers and preschoolers are settled. This is one of my most important tasks-cause if the toddlers are not happy-nothing is getting done! The little ones ages three, three and two play in their room in the morning hours. I often go in and set up for five minutes. I just make the room appealing by setting up a reading corner, put baby dolls with a few play diapers and supplies and maybe set up a car track for my boy. Changing the room just a bit, and picking different toys to highlight every day keeps them interested. We have a smaller home so I can hear what is going on-I imagine someone with a larger house might use a playroom or even purchase a camera monitor to keep an eye on things if you have any toddlers.

I like starting the school day with prayer. This is the point where it changes from being home to being a school day. If your not religious, starting with the Pledge of Allegiance, or meditation, or morning meeting can work too. It's just a quick way to say "let's start our school day."

We begin with a short bible reading, followed by a short reading from our world religions book.

Literature is very relaxed. Basically, I read to them. I am usually nursing the baby while we read. I save the last five minutes to ask one of the boys to narrate back to me what we just read. Even though I have a twelve and seven year old-literature can be done together. I like to find language rich books for them, that I know they both will enjoy.

On Mon and Thur, my twelve year old, Matteo does creative writing. He has a book idea of his own that he is working on. Because he reads so much on his own, he does very well with sentence structure all on his own. On Tues, Wed, and Fri he does spelling and handwriting. Spelling are ten words from our literature book, and handwriting is practice pages from a cursive writing handbook.

While Matteo works on his own I am doing reading lessons with Nicko, my seven year old.

Our next subject is poetry. Matteo is good at memorization and goes off to his room. I help Nicko with his. I find that this ten minutes is plenty of time. By the end of the week they have memorized their poems. They both recite their poems to us on Sunday's. On other days we have Shakespeare. I am reading a kid friendly book to them right now, but later in the year I'd like them to memorize some scenes.

Geography or History is next depending on the day. For geography we read whatever book on the state we are studying, and I make a few notes in a geography notebook. I will have one boy narrate back to me what I just read, then I will do a quick quiz on the notes I've made. For instance this week the questions are:

What is the capital of Texas?
Our current Governor?
Major cities?
The state tree?
The state flower?
Name three important rivers?
Name three more rivers?
Where and what date was oil first discovered?

We also take a few minutes to fill in a detailed map we are working on.

History is similar. I or Matthew read from our History book, one boy narrates back, and we do a short oral quiz on notes I've written. Unlike a lot of Cmers, we are not doing a timeline. I just have not found a way I prefer to do this yet.

In most public schools, history is often repeated..just in more detail as the child gets older, which is why I am comfortable with both boys using the same book.

We have foreign language next. This consists of listening to a CD followed by us practicing phrases together, and playing the games in the books, and singing the song. We've learned a ton this year, more than ever before! Learning a foreign language at home is hard, but we just take it one step at a time. Because Matteo is older I have him practice writing the phrases we learn as well.

Art and Music appreciation we alternate these and it is quick. We do as CM suggests and pick one artist a week for six weeks, and one composer. I try not to speak during this time. Art and music is objective. I ask them to narrate or tell me something about the art or music. I've found that after school hours, both of them now go off and draw or paint using the art and music as inspiration!

Science is another subject we do together. Right now we are using a living book on natural science called "Wildlife Watching with Charles Eastman." Not only do we read the book-we do the suggestions. Thanks to the idea of using a field guide, my boys can now identify all the trees in our yard, bushes and species of insects we did not know before. Like some of the other subjects, this is one that I think can be taught to varying grades and ages. Matteo, I require to keep a notebook of notes. I think this book was a great way to ease into science gently after our summer. I should mention-by this time the younger kids are bored and often join us for science. They enjoy listening to me read and enjoy it when their older brother's teach them about what they are learning. I have many baby carriers so the bay is often on my back, and gets some sunshine too. :)

Preschool is next. I will make a separate blog sometime and list what we do for this. The older boys both do Copy work during this time. I stress good handwriting skills for them. I tell them to give me one well formed, well written sentence rather than a paragraph of gibberish. This has been really working. Both have improved their handwriting greatly as well as both learning writing, sentence structure and grammar skills. Copy work is such a simple but effective idea.

Grammar/English and math for both boys follow this. I use ten minutes to give Matteo instruction from his English book and give him his assignment. Then I watch Nicko's lesson with him on his Math U See video-then he does one work page.

Matteo finishes his day with Math while I am making lunch.

One of the things I am most thankful for about finding the Charlotte Mason method is having the confidence to do short lessons, in the subjects I find important. Before, we were so bogged down by textbooks and workbooks that we were all resenting it. Now, the pace moves quickly, both boys pay extra close attention because I ask them to narrate, and they are learning like never before.

Although we do not do everything as some CMers do, it is the right mix for us. I am so super happy already with how this year is turning out!

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