Friday, July 31, 2020

New Work Plan Style




2019-2020 work plans, New style


The work plans/journals the boys used last year were different than those they used in the past.  For about five years they used laminated, card-stock work plans combined with paper clips that they could move from one side of the card to the other as they finished their work.   I wrote a post about this style of card five years ago.  To summarize it quickly:

  • The cards were usually divided into daily and weekly sections.  
  • The paperclips for the daily work needed to be returned to the left side of the card at the end of each day.  
  • The paperclips for the weekly work were refreshed at the end of the week. 
 Here is a photograph (below) of Me Too's work plan as it looked in June of 2019.  


Work Plan:  Old Style

The boys' cards were just for work they did individually, whether independently or with me.  I had my own card like this for the work that we did altogether as a family, and still do.  Their individual work last year generally took 2-3 hours.  I try to limit the work we do altogether as a family to 1.5 hours.  Each year a little more of the work on the family plan seems to slip off and make its way onto their individual plans.  There is also, of course, work that isn't on the plan but would be considered part of the school day if they went to a traditional school:  field trips, music practice, physical fitness, literature, etc.,

This worked well for us for a long time because I am what I call a "thread" homeschooler.  We decide which "threads of inquiry" will be active, I organize my resources, we start, I keep track of where we are, when we decide it's time to stop we stop, the next time we pick up that thread we pick up where we left off.  I've never been the type of homeschool mom who has an urge to fit things into a school year or stop and start things on certain dates.  I own an staggeringly large number of magnetic bookmarks, my favorite way to keep my place.

Out with the old, in with the new

We've liked these paperclip work plans for so long I never thought I'd move away from them.  So why did we?  Kal-El will be considered a high school freshman in the fall of 2020.  Two years ago I started to research what some of the colleges he may eventually consider will expect him to have studied in high school.  Working backward, I had a pretty good idea of a few things he needed to finish before the end of eighth grade.  To that end, there were just a couple of things that I felt we didn't make enough progress on during seventh grade, and we had to make up some lost ground during the summer of 2019.

When the boys caught on to the new idea that I might have some timing goals they quickly expressed an interest in having some control of their own.  They wanted to see "the big picture."  They wanted an idea of what I expected in a year, an idea of how that might break down into a week, and the ability to be ahead or behind within a single year as they saw fit.  I took this to be a good sign that 10 years or so of mostly-Montessori education had done what it was intended to do.

For these reasons, I tried something different last year, and it worked out very well.  I'll admit there was a time around March when I looked at Kal-El's progress and was concerned.  He was drastically far ahead in a couple subjects and significantly far behind in a couple others.  I must say, he sounded JUST like his father when he said, "Mom, I know what I'm doing, I've got this."  And as it turns out, he did. 

I started by printing 36 weeks worth of weekly work plans like these:


They were not very different from our paperclip work plans.  They represent the lines of inquiry that are open, or specific resources we are using, and there are boxes to check that represent the number of times of week something needs to be done in order to make the amount of progress we have planned.  Because our records don't disappear daily or weekly like they did with the paperclips, the boys have greater control over their own ability to work ahead or behind.  As always, what constitutes a "day's work" has been verbally established by mutual agreement, usually over a long period of time.  We do not tend to start a bunch of new things at once.  New things are feathered in, and figuring out the expectations is not a sudden or painful process. 

 All of this went into a  2" binder I prepared for each of them. I bought and made tabs for each week of the year.   Behind each weekly tab went a copy of the weekly work plan, the week's scope and sequence for   subjects that are using multiple resources in a week, and any printables they needed that weren't already bound by subject.  We use Everbind binders because the lay-flat design doesn't seem to crack at the seams like other binders do.  A 2.5" would have been better, but I already had this size.  I also like the sleeves on the front so that I could personalize each boy's binder with their favorite things on the cover (below).  




Five years of tweaking our paperclip work plans had given me a fairly good idea of how much we can accomplish in a day, a week, and in a year. Last year, for some subjects it was as simple as figuring out how many lessons we needed to do in this year and dividing by the number of weeks. I try to never schedule anything for more than four days a week.  This doesn't mean the boys don't have school work five days a week, it just means they don't have every subject every day.  It also makes it easier to leave a day for a field trip or necessary life appointments.   


Some boxes have a line where they can record a chapter number or exercise number.  I plan include a little more of that on our 2020-21 work plans. I keep a bookshelf in our classroom stocked with books that coordinate with our lessons.  The boys recorded what they read at the bottom of the page.  I can put the book names in myself if I have something in particular I want them to read.  This year that will look a little different and be on a separate page because I needed a little more room.

This style lets us keep what we liked about our old work plans:  the ability for the individual child to decide which days to do which works and do them in the order they wish.  The switch to paper plans lets them keep record of working ahead and keeps them aware of when they are in danger of falling behind.   

You may have noticed that there are a couple of subjects that are scheduled five days a week.  Last year was the  first time ever that I used some resources that were both intended to take one school year and have a schedule that had not been prepared by me. Unfortunately some of these were designed to run five days a week for 33-36 weeks.  I am not a fan of this.  It only takes one bad day for the pre-printed schedule to be an absolute mess.  I prefer a timeline that is not tied to a particular day of the week.  I like to call them "day one," "day two," etc., and never schedule more than four days. I also prefer a 32-week schedule. We still work 36 weeks, but we prefer the last four weeks to be lighter so we can take advantage of nicer weather when it comes.  However, if I want these resources to truly only take one school year, the idea of defining the work, dividing it into segments, and completing each segment on a shorter timeline of one week is valid. I knew the curriculum was like this when I chose it, but liked it enough otherwise to choose it regardless.  When faced with this type of schedule monster you have four choices:  ditch the curriculum, ditch the schedule (so you are not confined to a year,) do some extra work (homework, weekend work), or find parts to eliminate so it fits.  The first couple of weeks the boys wound up with the first "homework" in their lives, as they had to spend some of their weekend doing work they didn't complete. We suffered through some long Fridays as they cleaned up work in areas where they procrastinated.  After a while they started to do a little extra on their lighter days and/or remembered not to skip a day in certain subjects.  Due to differences in personality and experience, some kids would have a hard time emotionally not sticking to the schedule.  Some kids just delight in doing Monday's work on Monday and Tuesday's work on Tuesday.  My boys are so used to those paperclip plans that the flexibility is just spilling over to this as well.  My oldest practices his violin many hours a day and finds he would rather do a little work on the weekend to give the weekdays a little more breathing room.  He doesn't even feel compelled to comply to the idea of "week" versus "weekend."

Where applicable, I put one week's scope and sequence at a time behind each week's tab.  Below is one week's worth of Anatomy. The boys put an X in the box when they complete a segment.




Sometimes the scope and sequence was formatted in a way that didn't split up behind each tab, such as the grammar scope and sequence below.  In that case I made a separate tab for "Grammar" at the front of the binder and the boys referred to that when they did their work.  I could have made extra copies of this, cut them up, and put them on a separate piece of paper for each week but didn't want to take the time.


For your reference, I've made a list of some of our resources from last year.  Remember this was the 2019-2020 school year, grades six and eight.  I plan to write a post with the resources we will use during 2020-2021 soon.

Math:  Life of Fred, 4x/week . Montessori presentations 2-3x/week
     Kal-El:    Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
                     Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics
     Me-Too:  Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics
                     Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
     Both:  Montessori second section of squaring and cubing
               Keys of the  Universe album.

    
Science:
     Anatomy:  Guest Hollow Junior Anatomy Curriculum 5x/week
     See Also:  Life of Fred above.  Thanks to Fred we are doubled up on science this year.

Grammar:
     Guest Hollow Beowulf's Grammar.  

Writing:
      Kal-El:  Writing With Skill, Level 1.  Second half.  Did the first half in 2018-2019.
     Me-Too:  Intermediate Language Lessons, Part 2

Other Language Arts:
      Editor in Chief Level 1(both boys).

      All About Spelling
     Kal-El:  Level 6-7
     Me Too: levels 5-7

     Copywork: The Founding Fathers: Quotes, Quips and Speeches

Geography:

      Pin it! Maps.
           World and Continents bundle
            USA and US History bundle.

   
Scripture:
       Herein Is Love, Vol. 3: Leviticus

       Bible verse memory system.

        hymn study (see "music" below)

History:
     Story of the World:   Volume 3: Early Modern Times.
                                       

     Beautiful Feet Books:
              Intermediate Early American History just the end, then start
              Modern American and World


Spanish:
     Somos Asi:  En Sus Marcas

Music:
     violin
     piano
      The History of Classical Music.  Beautiful Feet
      Federation of Music Clubs Music Theory Test (level six this year)   Practice tests are available 
       here.
     Hymn Study:  All volumes of Hymns for a Kid's Heart.  I discussed these in detail in  in this post.
     American Music:  Sing for America by Opal Wheeler.

Habits:
     Boyhood and Beyond, Bob Schultz

Government/Economics/Civics:
     Tuttle Twins Series 


Art:
     Art Lab 
     Drawing Lab 
     Paint Lab 
     Clay Lab 
     Art for Kids: Drawing, Kathryn Temple

     Picture Study portfolios by Simply Charlotte Mason.

Shakespeare:  
      Shakespeare in Three Steps.  Twelfth Night.

Poetry:  
      The Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier: A Readers' Edition



Monday, September 18, 2017

Went to Bed Montessori, Woke Up Charlotte Mason


Kal-El, Once Upon a Time

A funny thing happened to me last year.  I went to bed one night a Montessorian and woke up the next morning in Charlotte Mason Land. (Is there a word for people who use the Charlotte Mason method in their homeschools?  Like "Masonites" or something?)

Those of you who follow me on Instagram @whatdidwedoallday are probably not surprised.  For those of you who only follow the blog, I am much more active on Instagram lately than in this space.  It is a much easier place to share the little moments from day to day.  This space is good for the "big idea" times though.

Anyway, this was all a big surprise to me.  I didn't even know it was "Charlotte Mason" until I had been doing it for months and months.  It certainly wasn't a planned transition although it was certainly a child-led transition based on observation and response.  Last fall I wrote about how our school year started out with a funky feel and how I fixed it.  I provided the boys with more of the types of learning experiences they were craving and asking for and less of the types they weren't.  All of a sudden they couldn't get enough literature-based learning.  At the same time, all of the things that seemed like "peripherals" in our Montessori-inspired homeschool started to take on a starring role.  Our day was chock full of history stories, literature, composer study, poetry, narration, dictation, copywork, picture study, drawing, notebooks full of little bits of our "favorites" from everything we were learning, a notebook full of interesting vocabulary words, Bible reading, hymn studies, Bible verses memorization, living math books, and the study of virtues and/or habits.  ALL of these things are things I introduced to the boys because of my study of Montessori.  All of them are part of a Montessori environment.  In fact, I'm not sure that what we are doing has "left" Montessori at all.  Maybe this is what Montessori looks like as the children approach adolescence?  As you run out of "presentations" that have "materials" the elements that remain have their day in the sun.

I don't know for sure and the days of "dying to know" what happens now in a "real Montessori environment" are behind me.  Kal-El will be twelve this December and is nearing the end of "Montessori elementary."  Maria Montessori had some very interesting things to say about adolescents, but the path isn't mapped in the same way that it was for the previous developmental stages.  We have no plans to move to a farm this year either.  If you would like to learn more about how Montessori can look in adolescence outside of an Erkinder program I recommend looking at the Montessori Rocks website.  But even beyond the Montessori crystal ball going dark, I've been teaching the boys at home now with Montessori observation of the child and preparation of the teacher and environment at the heart of our homeschool for many years.  I feel good going forward with that observation and preparation as my guide regardless of what the result is called or whether it matches what someone else would do.  However, I can tell you this, it matches a WHOLE LOT of what the Charlotte Mason method does.

I searched to find resources to fill our new needs and little ways to make my life as a their homeschooling guide a little easier.  I wasn't confident that I would find any because all of these were areas where I had never found a lot of resources via the Montessori literature I was reading or the Montessori companies I was used to frequenting.  I have a theory I am nurturing that these elements play a big part in a Montessori environment but are talked about less simply because they lack special "materials."  I wonder if because they take up so few album pages in relation to presentations that have "materials" they look less important on paper.  I have a feeling trained Montessori elementary guides have been taught the place of these elements in the environment but their training, specific to multi-age classrooms of thirty, wouldn't translate to the homeschool if they did try to pass it on.  I don't know, it's just a theory.

 Despite my misgivings I did find a lot of help, but over time I realized all the help I was finding had "Charlotte Mason" written on it.  So, I found some things to read about Charlotte Mason.  I have to say I am confused.  How did she know how *I* was going to want to homeschool *my* kids?

I have no intention of attempting to become an expert on Charlotte Mason, but I do enjoy reading about how to do the jobs I do as a mother, wife, and teacher better.  I am finding myself continually excited to find interesting writings that apply so specifically to the things I do with my boys every day.  As I do this reading I keep thinking things like "I wish I had know about that resource/company when I was looking for Montessori picture study help," "I wish I had known this information about fitting habit formation into a Montessori homeschool," or, "I wish I had this training in teaching my Montessori child narration."

So, I will continue to share on Instagram and, when I have something bigger to say, here on the blog.  Is it Montessori? Is it Mason?  I don't know.  I have to say that I think that anyone who carefully observes children is bound to reach some conclusions in common.  I've also said it before that a Montessori homeschool isn't going to look like a Montessori school and maybe that makes it look a lot more like Charlotte Mason sometimes.

I'm not actively "trying" to emulate a Charlotte Mason homeschool.  We have been a Montessori-inspired homeschool for a very long time and this is just what grew from that.  There are hints of all the Charlotte Mason we do in the Montessori literature and there are hints of Montessori things we do in the Charlotte Mason literature.  There are Charlotte Mason purists just as there are Montessori purists and I'm sure I will make neither of those groups happy.

For those of you who have Montessori-inspired homeschools or even Montessori classrooms, I plan to share those resources that I wish I had earlier in our Montessori primary and elementary journeys.  I hope they can be some help to you if you can get past the fact that the books and companies may have the words "Charlotte Mason" in the title.  There are probably some of you who have been following Charlotte Mason's methods all along and taking some inspiration here regardless.  I love hearing anyone's Montessori story or Mason story or any story in-between so I hope that some of you will share those with me in the comments.




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Family Work: Our Scripture Reading, Memorization, and Hymn Study Resources


This photo is just snippet of one of the bookcases in our family room.  As indicated in this post, our Montessori homeschool is following more of a Charlotte Mason structure this year.  Our work period now consists of three distinct blocks of time:  family work, guided work, and individual work.  We start our morning with our family work which some call morning time.  After our Family work is completed the boys eat a quick snack.  Then, one child starts independent work while the other child starts guided work with me.  Then, we switch. Kal-El gets mom first on even days, Me Too on odd.  Most of this work consists of things that have been on their work plans in the past.  I just restructured things this year so that all the things we can do together are lumped at the start of our day.  I also separated the things they needed to do separately from each other but with mom or things I wanted to keep an eye on from things they could do completely alone.  

In January I talked about how we added purposeful time with scripture to the beginning of our day.  Today I wanted to share some of the resources we've been using during that time (affiliate links are included with most for your convenience).  

This segment of our morning time/family work includes scripture memory, reading from the Bible, hymn study, and prayer.

We start with scripture memory.  We are by no means keeping up with the Awana kids, but I did want a more organized approach to our memory work than we had in the past.  I decided I wanted to start with perhaps the 100 most-beloved Bible verses.  To keep it simple, I went with a a list of "The 100 Most -Read Bible Verses at BibleGateway.com."


We are learning them in order.  Everyday the boys take turns reciting the one's that we have mastered.  The verses on the page I linked are NIV.  We read daily from an NIV Bible but prefer to memorize Old King James because the rhythm makes them easier to memorize.  So, I copied the verses by hand on to index cards using the King James and numbered each card at the bottom. I keep them in the pink index card box on the bookcase in the picture at the top of this post.   Kal-El recites the odd cards on odd days; Me Too recites the odd cards on even days.  Kal-El checks Me Too's work and vice-versa.   Right now we only know about 13 of these and it only takes a few minutes.  We'll have to see what happens as the list gets longer.

Next, we read a chapter of the Bible from this NIV, Life Application Study Bible.  My husband likes his Bible to have as few "extras" as possible. They boys and I on the other hand love all the footnotes.  When Me Too picked his own NIrV Bible, he was adamant that it have "footnotes"  and a soft "leather" cover like mom's (Kal-El's hardcover keeps separating from the spine).  He picked the Kids' Quest Study Bible.  At any rate,  when I am reading to the kids it is really nice to be able to glance down at a footnote when Jesus does something confusing like command a fig tree to wither and die and explain what just happened.  I feel like our family Bible has never failed to have a footnote when I've needed one.  

We are not reading the Bible in any particular order right now.  We read a chapter a day most days and we read a full book before moving on to another one.  They boys have been picking which book to read next usually based on something they are interested in.  They chose Matthew about a month ago and we've decided to continue in the Gospels leading up to Easter.  However, they are adamant that we read Judges after that.  This is the boys' favorite part of the day.  They always say "more please" when I stop reading.  I love that they demonstrate an attitude that seems to say "this is the most important book in the world and the things in it are the most important things we will learn."  I'm not even sure how that happened.  

Next we study a hymn.  One I thing I do is own a copy of the two hymnals our church regularly uses.  I take mine to church even though they have them in the pews and I put a check mark next to the hymns every time they sing them.  That way I can remember which hymns are popular at our church and can make sure they know them for when they start attending the adult service rather than children's church (seventh grade).  Our church uses Majesty Hymns and Hymns Modern and Ancient.  I used our family address stamp to mark the inside of the front cover in case I leave them on accident.  I also noticed our church only owned Majesty Hymns in red so I bought a blue one.


We have been singing straight out of the hymnals.  However I recently discovered a resource for hymn study that I really love.  I bought all four volumes of Hymn's for a Kid's Heart.  I love that the title reminds me of another favorite resource of mine, Honey for a Child's Heart (literature recommendations complied by a Christian.).  But I really love is that each hymn is introduced with a story, often a story about a child.  For example, in volume one they introduce Holy, Holy, Holy with a story called "The Boy Who Thanked God" about the composer of the hymn as a child.  There is often a separate devotional story in addition.  There are beautiful illustrations.  They provide several Bible versus that relate to the hymn and a prayer that relates to the message of the story.  They also provide the complete four-part sheet music (so your child can learn to follow a regular hymnal) and all of the verses.  Each book also comes with a CD that has children (children's choir and soloists) singing the hymns with full orchestral accompaniment.  The boys feel they are "very grand" arrangements.  They like grand arrangements.  






As part of preparing our hearts for Easter, we chose to begin working in Volume Four today,   Passion.  Coincidentally we had just read about Palm Sunday in the book of Mark and the story was about the role of children on the original Palm Sunday and the special power a child praising God has to silence Satan.  We sang "All Glory, Laud and Honor."


Separate from the check marks I make in my hymnals at church, I had been compiling a list I call "hymns I think my kids should know no matter what."  I can happily report that nearly every hymn that was on my list to date is included in these books already.

We sing the same hymn for as many days as it takes until they seem to know it comfortably but not necessarily have the lyrics memorized.  I like that these books have so many different elements so I can split them up and do a different element each day for a while.  So that we don't forget what we've learned, whenever repeating the newest hymn yet again seems a little stale I let the boys pick one of the hymns we've already learned instead (Kal-El on odd days, Me Too on even days.  Are you sensing a trend here?).

Finally, we close with a prayer.  It could be the one in the hymn book, or a spontaneous prayer said by one of us.  However, if you are looking for an unusual resource for some thought-provoking prayers I can suggest "Prayers at 8:30" by Stan Schmidt, the author of the Life of Fred math series.  It has 104 unusual prayers each with an illustration.  You can read more about it through the link and on that page there is a link that provides sample pages.

EDITED TO ADD:  Thanks to my current blog crush, Farmhouse Schoolhouse (be sure to check her out on Instagram as well), I was recently made aware of two new resources:  Rich and Rooted Passover, and Slow and Sacred Advent.  These two e-books by Jennifer Naraki look like a great way to guide some of your scripture time during these seasons.  You can view a sample page of Rich and Rooted Passover here.