field notes from a new learning year

The picture has nothing to do with today, although I think this it sums up nicely how I feel about learning and independence and the way a child's world should be.  (That's bull kelp around his waist.  We had to take a loooong shower that day.)We've wrapped up day two of our learning year and things are going along nicely.   I mentioned earlier that this would be a bit of a different year for us after a season of interest-led learning - which was a life saver during some hard years and I'm incredibly thankful for.  We've always had a few must-do's, like math and reading, but this year sees us return to a more formal schedule.   It was time.  The children themselves were wanting structure and measurable goals, so in many ways, this is simply where their own interests have led them.

Charlotte Mason helped me strike a balance between the two worlds:  she encourages the parent to lay a broad and nourishing table before the students, teach them to work diligently, carefully, and efficiently and to make the most of every opportunity.  As I explained to my students, I won't waste their time with useless busy work and they mustn't waste my time with poor effort and lack of attention.  Think of it as nutrient-dense learning.  Less = more. 

My sixth grader and one of my high schoolers (the one who has struggled with school the most) are both using the same basic curriculum.  Because we use living books and not text books (except for math and some science), it works.   The lessons are short, the expectations are tailored to their individual skills and learning hours are done by noon.  That leaves a lot of time in the day for the interest-led learning that has made our homeschooling so precious to us.

For those who are interested, here's what the boys are doing this year.  Everything on the list was chosen carefully to develop some part of the student.  Nothing is optional.  (This is a change from the years when I overscheduled and added and dropped things at whim.):

History, Science (biographies), Literature, Free readings:  Ambleside Online Year 6 (Ambleside can be overwhelming, but we simply pick and choose what we want and build our year around the timeline.)

Math:  Teaching Textbooks (Math 7 and Algebra 1) - It's new to us this year, but we love this curriculum.

Science:  Real Science-4-Kids (Physics and Chemistry) - This is a little young for my boys, but it is one of the few homeschool science curriculums that is worldview neutral.  (I am not a YEC and have struggled to find a text that allows room for differing viewpoints.)  These texts will be a spine for us to launch our own studies.

Nature study:  School of the Woods, The Sea Around Us and nature journals.

Studied Dictationweekly.  The boys receive the passage on Monday, we identify difficult words and punctuation and study these on a white board through the week.  On Friday I read through one time slowly and ask them to write it out perfectly.

Poetry Study and Recitation:  One poet, one poem memorized per term:  Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Alfred Noyes

Artist Studies:  One artist per term:  Georgia O'Keeffe, Wolf Kahn, Rembrandt.  The boys will also sit in on their sister's online drawing class once a week.

Bible and Scripture memory:  Reading through the Old Testament a chapter a day (The Message), SCM scripture memory system

Shakespeare:  The Tempest (using MMV's method found here.)

Handcrafts:  hands must be busy with something productive during read alouds (or movie watching, etc. for that matter)  I have a seasonal list of ideas to keep them occupied.  Right now everyone is interested in learning to crochet.

PE:  daily walks and/or soccer

Narration:  oral narration after all readings, written narration once a week (both boys are late writers, so no pushing them yet.)

Music:  guitar lessons

It seems like a lot, doesn't it?  But it's not, so much of it is just the natural part of our everyday lives, like reading aloud and taking walks and talking about what we've read.  I'm incredibly happy with this schedule. I knew we were needing some good routines and discipline, but I firmly agree with Susan's latest post on leaving kids broad margins to create and explore alone.  Today we worked hard and were done with everything (and done well!) in two hours and there was time for an independent exploration of King Tut (with a movie script in the works), hours of play in the woods, baking cookies together and watching a series of videos on making movie special effects.   One of those days that makes me so happy to be living this life.