Me Too planting a tomato in our square foot garden bed
I see a lot of homeschooling blogs are winding down for the year or shutting down for the summer. It doesn't feel like that at all here! We are in a great groove and I don't want to stop. However, while we continue steaming full ahead this is also a big planning period for me in getting ready for summer and next fall.
Next fall we will officially be a fully ELEMENTARY Montessori-inspired homeschooling family! This year we've definitely had one foot in primary and the other foot in elementary and I think the vibe of the blog has reflected that. One thing I learned last year is that I have to have the *core* of our work fully in place before "school" starts. So, I am taking some time RIGHT NOW to plan the important pieces, order materials, and decide what (if anything) we need to change.
On the whole, this type of homeschooling has worked REALLY WELL for us. There are no battles...just lots of fun and learning. That doesn't mean that there is no room for improvement. Two things specifically come to mind, both are relatively minor but one FEELS major.
The first thing I'd like to do in the fall is reign in the couple of "threads" that keep slipping out of the fabric of our day. Grammar, Geometry, and Spelling...you know I'm talking about you! I think the solution is for me to "schedule" presentations a little more diligently and change the work plan requirements so that they don't keep slipping off. Otherwise the boys have been doing deep work in every other area very nicely.
Kal-El planting a tomato in our square foot garden
The second thing feels major but is really rather minor. Everyone thinks that it's the first Great Lesson where Christian homeschoolers are going to run into conflict, but we sailed through that with flying colors. It was the second and third lesson that just didn't work with our beliefs. This led to a big flop. I presented the second great lessons with great dissatisfaction, was even more dissatisfied with the follow-up which led to not presenting the third great lesson at all. I did present the fourth and fifth lesson, but I used the Cultivating Dharma versions that have images right on the iPad like reading a book and when the boys didn't choose any follow up work I didn't suggest any. It's funny, I used to worry that without 30 other children doing inspiring work that the Great Lessons would not be enough to inspire ongoing work in a homeschool setting. However, the first Great Lesson alone kept the boys going for the entire academic year!
The good news is, I have a great plan for amending the second and third Great Lessons to match what the boys are learning in Sunday school. I will be using completely different timelines and different stories and different follow-ups. I also look forward to using the traditional Montessori timelines and stories in upper-elementary when we are ready to introduce other creation stories. I will be posting all about this of course, but right now I am in the middle of receiving materials and writing! So, all that work makes this feel like a big change. But, in reality we will still be using five Great Lessons as the heart of our "curriculum" and I will write lessons that stay true to the underlying purposes of each lesson. The only things that will change will be the text of the story and the images on the timelines. Wish me luck!
What about summer? You may have noticed, we have a VERY relaxed schedule during the school year here at What DID We Do All Day?. Part of what makes this work well is that we don't stop for summer, we just get more relaxed. I have been busy prepping the entire elementary Botany album for a full on attack this summer. I've been busy at night cutting and laminating all of the nomenclature materials.
Above you can see the fruits of my labor. You are looking at something like 31 charts, 30 definitions booklets, and 30 envelopes of three-part cards (picture, label, definition). I already got all of the impressionistic charts for botany put together back in October. As you can see from the pictures throughout today's post, we've put in a good-sized vegetable garden. The boys have been helping me garden for a few years and they help with some perennial flower gardens as well. This means we have plenty of live specimens and real work to do!
Both boys planting pole bean seeds
I want to get through most of the album this summer. There is a lot of information in there. Getting as much of it as possible under our belts now gives us five or six more years of elementary ahead of us in which to make observations through all the seasons and review what we've learned. Another reason summer is a great time to do botany is that we are eating so many more fruits and vegetable because they are in season. This is a wonderful opportunity to put all of those nomenclature materials to work as we learn about the types of fruits for example and can classify what we are eating. Speaking of eating, the boys did all the work putting together this great planter, filling it with dirt, and planting 20 bare-root, day-neutral strawberry plants.
The boys are great little gardeners. They've helped with every step since they were quite young. We gardened in pots before we moved to our current home in the fall of 2010. In the spring of 2011 the boys built our first raised gardens with their own two hands. In the spring of 2012 they helped me double its size. This year we worked together to build hoop frames and trellises.
Almost all of the botany presentations can take place outdoors and we don't schedule any time in the school room (that doesn't mean they don't wander in there). The boys still have to practice their violin everyday. We've set up our summer schedule so that violin practice takes place right after breakfast otherwise the day gets too fun too fast and it doesn't happen. While I work with one boy the other boy works on math in the school room, then they switch. Also, any time there is rainy weather or it's just TOO HOT to go outdoors we pop in the school room and do some other work with the Montessori materials. I'd LIKE to pick up the most basic grammar presentations for the parts of speech we didn't get to this year so we are ready to dive into grammar boxes in the fall. I'm not making any promises when it comes to grammar.