Friday, September 26, 2014

2014-2015 School Year, Part 3

This is the final post of our monster 2014-2015 School Year series.  Part 1 introduced our school-aged kids and jumped into what we're doing for Language Arts this year.  Part 2 focused on our major shift in how we do math in our homeschool.

I hadn't intended on being so long-winded, but without trying to be concise I tend to run on and on.  So, today we will conclude with the secondary subjects - Bible (not at all secondary in our lives, but academically speaking that's where it fits), science, history, music, and read-aloud (my favorite!).


Bible Reading
Sample from Hannah's Bible Reading Notebook.
Claude does a great job making sure we are all hearing God's Word each and every day.  He reads before meals and each night the kids have Bible Time with Daddy.  However, we don't consider these to be part of our "school" day.

The older two kids, however, have an added subject in their school assignments - their own Bible reading.  The original thought was that Claude and I would read along with them in our own quiet time.  Claude is much more disciplined about this than I am, and the kids...well, let's just say they are whole books ahead of us in the reading plan.

Anyway...they read three chapters a day and will finish up the New Testament in the next several weeks.  Then they will jump into the Old Testament.  After completing their reading assignment for the day they write down a verse or summarize the passage they just read.
Science and History

Samples of Joshua's narration pages.
Currently Joshua and Hannah spend 30-60 minutes each school day reading books on various history, geography, and science-related subjects.  We find books from the library that sound interesting – usually they will each choose a topic (or two or three) that they are interested in and we look up the call number at home, find the books on the shelf, and go from there.

After they are finished reading, they are required to write what we call a narration page.  I can’t remember where I heard of this, but it’s certainly not unique to our homeschool.  Basically, the kids write 1-3 sentences about what they learned and if they have time or feel up to it, they draw a picture.

These are pretty simple, and for the moment I don’t get too worked up about the narration pages.  Often times I find that they have copied sentences directly from the books (with a few punctuation or spelling improvisations).  For now I don’t mind.  They are learning what clear written communication is like.  If it helps for them to copy a sentence, that’s fine.  The standard will be higher as they get older, so I’m not too worried about it right now.

At the moment, Joshua is expected to read 30 minutes each for science and history/geography.  Hannah is expected to read 30 minutes on one subject.  She is almost to the point of adding the second subject each day and soon the reading time will be increased for Joshua.

Samples of Hannah's narration pages.
My goal for them is to be able to spend a total of one hour reading in science and an additional hour reading in history in the next few years.  At some point we will most likely have them in a more formalized history and science curriculum, but for this stage they are learning a ton and having fun to boot. 


We are trying to memorize the countries and capitals of the world.  We stalled somewhere in Europe a few months ago, but we may have a few days in the upcoming months to cram in a little more of those gazillion European countries.  After last school year we had completed all of North, Central, and South America including the Caribbean Islands.  It’s a bit hit or miss, but we are still moving forward…slowly. 

Joshua and Hannah are still going strong in their Koine Greek curriculum, Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!  It is super simple, super slow, and has proven to be very thorough.  They like to use the Greek words they have learned in every day speech.  “I γινωσκω (know) that you can βλεπο (see) me!”

They are currently in Level 2 and will continue on until the end of the program, which I believe is about 8 levels in total. 


I’ll admit, as tragic as this is for two people with music degrees, Claude and I are struggling to keep up with music lessons in our homeschool.  Recently I have been thinking that having music teachers who are not the parents is probably an ideal situation, but seeing as how the budget does not at all accommodate for such an expense, and also how we are both pretty convinced that if we can teach them we should, we are still trying to find a way for music lessons to progress even as we have zero time to do it.

Claude is decidedly better at making the time than I am.  He will take 10 or 15 minutes before Joshua and Hannah’s evening Bible time to teach them a measure of a piece or quiz them on their note reading skills.  The best I can do is that I tuned their violin a couple weeks ago, just in time for Jeremiah to drop it and break the neck.  Nice.

One thing that I am noticing, though, is the aptitude that the kids have for music.  I’m pretty sure that Joshua has an ear as good as his dad – he will sometimes tell me what pitches he is hearing, whether that’s someone singing or something humming.  He picks out melodies on the keyboard with ease.  And he gravitates toward the music area when he is looking for something to stimulate his busy brain.  I think the kid needs something more than what we’re able to give him at the moment.

Time will tell what opportunities God opens up for our kids in the area of music.  I am increasingly convinced that this just isn't the season of family life for us to focus on it.  Perhaps a couple years down the road we will have figured out a host of other pressing issues and will be able to better hone our musical abilities.  And maybe not.

For now we are encouraging all of them to play the piano as much as possible and I’m looking (in all my free time) for some resources for learning both piano and music theory independently.  I even had an idea to make a video of each new violin lesson with the kids.  Then, they can practice right along with the video every day.  Just as good as having mom sitting there in person, right?  Well, that was the idea.  And then the violin had a great fall from which neither dad nor mom could put it back together.  :(  Maybe in the future this could be a solution for us - affordable, consistent, and able to work at each students' pace.  We shall see... 

Read Aloud
Once upon a time I spent countless hours, toddlers in lap, colorful picture book in hand, reading to our oldest two children.  It was beautiful.  It was picturesque.  And It almost stopped happening when I became swamped with three kids three and under.  After a while the reading was infrequent.  I was sad.

Then I met a friend who let me borrow a couple of books filled with lists of suggestions for read-aloud books (picture books and chapter books) and books for children of all ages.  Initially I was just looking for suggestions beyond Little House on the Prairie for Joshua and Hannah to read.  It's hard to find appropriate material for a 6- and a 7-year old who both read well above grade level.

Anyway...reading these books about reading books rekindled my excitement for read-aloud time.  Now we have two read-aloud times every day.  The first is with my cuddle crew - Abby, Jeremiah, and Rachel (if she isn't in a nap).  We are having fun reading every picture book about vehicles we can find, twisting up our tongues with some Fox in Socks, and discovering new favorites from the library shelves.

In the afternoons (most days) the older three kids - Joshua, Hannah, and Abby - spread out around the living room and we read a chapter or two from our current book.  Our list for the year consists of Stone Fox, Homer Price, The Year of Miss Agnes, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Sarah Plain and Tall, The Matchlock Gun, and currently we are nearing the end of Caddie Woodlawn.  The kids love read-aloud time - it seems to be a highlight of their day.  I'm enjoying reading with them again, as well.

We have made a lot of changes to our homeschool curriculum for 2014-2015.  While our school structure remains basically the same and our overall goals have not budged, we have found that the most important factor in choosing what to do for each subject is our ability to work consistently.  How easy is it for the kids to get their schoolwork done?  How much can they do on their own?  How much is dependent on mom or dad to accomplish?  If it's too parent heavy, it's not going to fly in our household.  But, if our students can take it and run, then all the better.  They tend to move faster without us holding them back, anyway.

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