Monday, September 03, 2007

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

I wrote a while ago that I would post about our homeschool. I don't write often about it because I am living it and it's just so much a part of our everyday lives that I forget sometimes that most people don't even have a clue about what goes on in that kind of lifestyle.

I don't think of myself as the best teacher in the world (or even in the town) or the best example of what to do to teach one's children in the best, possible manner, but the kids are happy, learning, and want to do it for one more year so here we go!

This year I have:
Katrina, 7th grade

Matthew, 5th grade

Analise, 1st grade

Niklaus, Wish I could send him to preschool, but hopefully we can come up with enough things to occupy his time. I did buy a new thing of play-doh the other day, and it will probably be cracked open by 9 am tomorrow! I have lots of ideas to keep him busy and the biggers will have to take breaks to help teach him. I hope they will learn a little patience in this as well.

Mariela, will bother everyone because she never plays with toys, only her brothers and sisters who will be otherwise occupied when we start school tomorrow. She does like the learning to read dvd's and I am going to borrow some of the signing time ones from Trine. Her kids love those and if the stinkin' tv is going to be on at all, they should have something sort of educational to watch, at least!

I am not a naturally organized, list making kind of person so this time of year is hard for my brain. I worked really hard last week to come up with a school plan to make the year run smoothly, but truthfully, it gets harder and harder with each little one we add to the family. I cleared a whole bunch of junk cupboards and desk drawers and even cleared a "curio" cabinet and made it into sort of an art and activity center because the hall closet was getting awfully cluttered and crowded! When I get overwhelmed, I constantly have to remind myself that GOD is in control of our school year, not me.

I just finished (well, not really, we kind of tweak our plans all year long) the final copying that I had to do for this week. We run a four day week and if they get all of their work done and with reasonably good behavior, we do something special on Fridays. The four day week might seem lazy, but we pack a lot in during the week and with five children, we need possible free days for special things like field trips, dr. and dentist visits, various appointments, illness or family emergencies, you get the picture! I have pretty much done this the whole, seven years and it works well.

Here is Analise's desk with her books for the year all lined up, and ready to go! Also, is a closeup of her schedule so you can get an idea of how we order the day (all three biggers have these, I only do one week at a time because our plans can and do change from week to week. Basically, this will be the format for the year.)

I did realize that this week is off by one day because of the holiday, so I'll have to adjust a teeny bit, but we will still attend Mass on Friday morning. We'll come home and get our school done and try to go somewhere fun. The kids haven't decided any suggestions (Keeping in mind it can't involve the out of doors yet, because Analise is deathly afraid of being stung by a bee. Today she folded multiple loads of laundry with a smile because Butch said if she did that, she wouldn't have to go outside!)?

Here is Katrina's desk and a view of her "corner of the classroom" with her drafting table desk that she inherited from Anna who has graduated college and has no place to put it (we can't wait 'til she comes home from Alaska!). Analise inherited Trina's old desk and Niklaus got Analise's. I love family recycling!

Here is Matthew's desk and his fish, which lives there. I'm surprised that thing is still alive considering Niklaus' easy access to him and the funny things he likes to plop in the tank on occasion. One time, the water was pink. I'm still not sure what caused that anomoly, but I'm pretty sure it involved a certain three-year-old who likes to bug his brother. A LOT. I wonder if the fish is smarter for being so near all of those books and learning?

Here we have the dining room/library. I had to move the bookshelves out of the classroom because of too many desks! We have such a small, broken up house for so many people to fit in, so I can't have a lot of clutter or junk taking up space and need every available nook for useful things. I just love maps, can you tell? I need some more framed maps for my walls. Maybe it's my secret (not anymore!) wish that my kids will absorb good geography skills through some kind of visual osmosis? Oh well, it certainly can't hurt to have lots of maps around!

Okay, if I haven't ho-hum bored you too much by now, you're in it for the long haul so I'll show you two more pictures!

This one is of my corner, kitchen "closet" which used to be a huge, hodgepodge MESS until I cleaned it on Friday. Now, it is a media cabinet/sewing cabinet/toy cabinet. I hope to clean Mari's and Niklaus' toy boxes that we are tripping over in the living room, reduce their toys down to the things that they actually play with, and tuck them into this cabinet and Niklaus' desk drawers. This will free up a lot of space in the living room for wrestling, and fighting, and tickle torture fights.

Back to our school work. I have some extra books that all of the kids will be working on. These are books that I keep on my shelf that we will work on every day, time permitting and that I have to guide them through by reading and asking questions appropriate for age and skills.

The Mad Minute is a math book that acts a little like flash cards and charts their basic skills. I'm excited to do this because they are a little rusty after summer and this challenges them back into the swing with less pressure than a huge math lesson right off the bat. The American history book is one we did two years ago and I think it's so important that they understand how this country was founded that I am doing it again for all of them this year (especially since the trip to D.C. is still fresh in my mind and we can look up so many things that I remember on the internet as extra study). I hope to develop a time line for them that we can post around the classroom or down the hall (or maybe up the stairs?). I think they will think that is fun!

Butch asked the other day, "Hey, when do they learn the periodic table?" so I found this book all about it. It presents the idea in sort of a novel form so I will read it out loud for all of them and post a periodic table for them to learn the symbols. It will be good and relevant for them because they also have a big interest in geology and mining because of all of those Discovery channel shows they watch!

I didn't show it, but I'm starting to teach them Latin this year. I will be learning at the same time, so it will be an adventure, for sure! I hope to get some cds for the van of some Latin church music or repeat-after-me-type ones for reinforcement. I won't start this until next week. I am bringing the lesson book to adoration with me this week so I can make a plan for the year and figure out how it will fit in with their schedules as they are now.

Okeydokey, now you have the story. I do want to add that there are some really, handy things that we like to have around for our schooling:

-Tabbies for marking where we are in our books and notebooks (3m)

-Dymo Letratag labeller for multiple uses. I got this for about 5 bucks last year at Target when they were clearancing their school supplies. I'm hoping to find some clearance re-fills this year!

-3 ring binders (for loose art drawings so they don't take over the house...they are ALL so important, you simply CAN'T throw any of them away, you know!)

-Staplers, mechanical pencils (I hate sharpening and hearing, "I can't find a pencil...I can't find a sharpener!" so I buy them in bulk), multi-subject notebooks, folders, rulers, manymanymany pairs of scissors (they always seem to disappear), copier/printer paper (we use it for everything, it's so cheap that I don't mind wasting a little).

Bigger things that I find invaluable are:
-paper shredder
-Copy/printer/scanner (an absolute necessity!)
-High speed internet
-laminator (just bought one super cheap from Walmart, about 26 dollars and about 7 for the sheets)
-LOTS of easy to prepare/healthy groceries for breakfast, lunch, and snacks (3pm tea/snack time will be new this year, I hope it goes well)

These are the rules for the school year:
-set our our clothes the night before/shower or bathe either the night before or before going down to breakfast in the morning.
-mom sets alarm for 7am every morning and we try to start school no later than 8:30
-we get dressed, eat breakfast, do morning cleanup, pray, then start school!
-1 hour of TV only per day
-NO Nintendo DS before chores or school are finished for the day and behavior was good.
-We end the school day with prayer and snack time (at the same time) and then find out if our friends can play or talk about what we will do with the rest of our day (or finish things we missed earlier).

One, more thing! Every morning, the kids will wake to find a little surprise on their desks. Tomorrow morning (oops, today!) they will find two chocolate kisses. I stocked up on chocolate for just this purpose! Sometimes it will be something non-chocolate, but I love surprising them. I'll be sure to blog about their reactions!