Saturday, August 28, 2010

Atmosphere Schmatmosphere...

Schoolroom or no schoolroom. That is the question...

Our school has played out in many rooms of the house over the years. I've never felt the need to set up like they do in schools with actual kids desks and a large desk for the teacher. The closest we came was some posters on the wall in the dining room when it was my art room, and part of the art shelf held our books. The rest of our supplies: school pencils, art supplies, etc.. were in an old wood jelly cabinet in the hall. We used the art table to do our work.

Now the dining room is back to being a dining/computer table room with a nice sideboard that is stuffed to the gills with last year's school books, papers, reports and all my bills stuff. Yes, I have not cleaned up stuff from last year. I'll get to it eventually. 

The room has been recently painted and artwork has been added to the walls. No more homeschooling posters, no more charts. I found that we didn't use them mostly EVER. So what was the point. Just to look like a schoolroom?

This year, seeing as I'm down to one kid and we're trying the new Charlotte Mason method, we have less  items to use. I'm not using textbooks right now, just books from the library, bible, hymnal and some printed sheets. We keep doing school on my big king size bed so today while cleaning up the week's schooling, I gave in and dedicated a drawer in my dresser to the homeschool cause. 

(See the second large drawer? I shared it for storage.)

(Current homeschool 'table', my bed.)

However, lately I've been seeing pictures of all the homeschoolers around who are getting their homeschool years started. Some have posted pics of their school rooms. It makes me think, is atmosphere important for a better learning experience? If things are organized by containers instead of shoved in drawers, will they grow up to be little organized beings? If a child is sitting at a desk surrounded by schooling papers and books does their knowledge grow exponentially? Am I stunting my children's growths by not providing this atmosphere? Just curious...

I've always tried to let the children find the space that was comfortable for them. Beds, couches, tables, floors. There have been a few seasons where I made them both sit at the kitchen table to actually get stuff done because much dilly-dallying was going on and we were behind. But for the most part, any room was game for some schooling. But seeing everyone's pretty rooms, I keep thinking maybe my little one would enjoy having many manipulatives on hand, and being able to find a pencil without having to dig through a drawer. We do have a designated spot for library books, let me tell you, this idea was a lifesaver. I don't know how many times I would get all set to go to the library and we couldn't find half our books because they were stuffed under beds, piles, laying on tables, under pillows, in the bathroom, stuffed among the cookbooks or hiding in drawers. Now, they can be found. This also means I pay less of the librarians' salaries since we're late less. Don't get me wrong, we're still supporting them with regular 'paychecks'.

Here are some examples of wonderful homeschooling rooms:
Pioneer Woman (last year) and this year
Child Led's Homeschool Room
Molding Minds Room
Heart of Wisdom Dining/Schoolroom (they have my cat!!)
Learn As We Go's Classroom
Our Tidbits of Learning Room
Satori Smiles Homeschool Room Photos
Joyful Chaos Room
My3Boybarians Homeschool Room (I want the built in shelves!!)
A Wise Woman Builds Her Home Classroom
Counting My Pennies Room & Organizing Tips
The Painted House's Before & After (stunning!)
Warm Cup of Coffee's Rooms

KatieScrapbookLady's Pics of her room are great!

Seedpod's room is scrumptious!

Okay, this might come out wrong but should I set up a classroom if I only have one child to teach (the teen is off to college during the day)? I see the benefit of having a room for multiple children since they have different programs, curriculum, supplies, etc... but for one child it seems frivolous. But then am I penalizing her just because she's a classroom of one? Hmmmm, so many things to think on.

I asked this question of my homeschool comrades at the HomeschoolSpot forums and here are some of their responses:
Jenny: Well, we will soon be moving into a new house, & today my husband suggested using one of the basement rooms as our classroom, and it really got me thinking. I was thinking about how dingy & dark the room was, how cramped it felt, how creepy it was... & I decided that I would much rather have school stuff cluttering my dining room then making my kids go down in to the dungeon. lol. I do not think my ds would have done well down there at all. We will have a classroom space set up upstairs, where it's bright & sunny & you just feel like you're living. We also do a lot of reading on the couch, etc. I think comfort, good lighting & a positive feeling in the room are key to having great things happen during at home homeschooling.

Birbitt: Sure atmosphere matters, the more comfortable the child is the easier it is to learn! We often do our reading snuggled on the sofa, or my bed. They write at the dining room table or on clipboards on my bed, or their bed, or the sofa. Many days we have school in our jammies just because we can. They learn better when they are comfy, and what's more comfy than your own home?

What do you think?

I found these interesting articles:
A Homeschool Room
This is NOT a Schoolroom
Homeschool Room Makeover
How to Design a Homeschool Room
A Video on Organization for Parents & Homeschoolers 

Do YOU have pictures of your Homeschool Rooms to share? Feel free to add a link to your blog post and pictures here!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Week 1: Charlotte Mason & the Newbie

Can you say sleep deprivation?! That's what the first week back to homeschool always means to me. We're night owls and its hard to switch your body from staying up til 2 am or whatever all summer and now getting up at 830 for homeschool. I am still going to bed way too late and wanting to take naps after our day is done! Hopefully I work that out soon.

Charlotte Mason method is a new concept to us. This was our first week trying it out. I was thinking it would be more like unschooling but I did a fair amount of prepping for our first week. Although now, I have us all set up for several weeks in advance. Okay, I say that, but don't have any illusions it won't all fall apart next week.

Enthusiasm Level:
Very high right now. We worked well for 4 days and now she has today (Friday) 'off'.' We did make plans: library visit in the morning and all afternoon board game playing but to her, that's 'off'. ' I know I will still be counting this day according to what subjects the games covered.

Week's Questions:
"How do you draw an ankh?"
"How would a mist come up from the ground? Is that like fog?"
"I was practicing J and F in typing and it says I have trouble. (me) What did you miss? (child) J and F."
"What is a wretch?"
"Can I learn Dari language? What about Greek?"
"Can I look up the Egyptian god of death?"
"What does ren-dez-vooz mean?"

What's Working:
Shorter lessons. Genius! My daughter may not like to do cursive (copywork) practice but she knows its only for a 1/4 hour so she is able to handle it. She's really enjoying the learning of new hymns, the foreign language and latin and the history book we're reading: The Door In The Wall. I also ordered some books on monks, nuns and a disc on gregorian chants we are going to listen to.

What's Not:
I find our hardest obstacle to overcome is the get up and go hour. We set a goal of up by 830, school by 900 and be done with everything by 245. That way the little one would have several hours in the afternoon for more reading, playing, inventing, baking, outdoor playing, library visits, etc... We are so not morning people! But we've stuck to the plan almost every day. Except for one day I woke up with a migraine and the little one did 2 hours of reading in the morning before I finally started her on the other schooling. She also did some of the things we have scheduled to do on her own, such as foreign language, typing, grammar and piano. All are on the computer and the piano. I like that there are subjects she knows exactly what to do and doesn't need me. Not that I don't like helping her and working along side her. But she is learning independence.

I'm thinking math time might need to be extended from one 1/2 hour slot in the morning to two 1/2 hour slots, one at the end of our day. I printed out worksheets covering the topics we learned last year. Kind of a review to get us ready for the next learning but at this rate of one sheet per day, we won't start 6th grade math until December! Gotta speed us up a bit.

Being a definite CM newbie, I'm only cautiously optimistic about how this week turned out. I'm praying that next week will hold even more exciting times and discoveries for us. I'll report again after week 2.

Some helpful Charlotte Mason links I've found:
Ambleside Online (free curriculum that closely follows CM methods)
Charlotte Mason & Dictation (also list of links)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thrifting With Attitude

Yesterday was a whirlwind day spent with family, lunch and dinner out, running errands, thrifty shopping, grocery shopping, party planning. I'm dead on my feet and we have 40 guests coming in a few hours for a fun birthday party for the 11 yr old. I'll have all afternoon tomorrow to recover I guess and then Monday we start school! Yay! I think I'm excited again! Sorta. I was getting all jazzed about homeschool because now I've got a PLAN and we're trying new things (latin and french being 2 of them) and I think it might all work out.

And then... duh duh duh dun... (insert scary music), the child has had about 4 days of terrible moods. I'm getting scared she is moving into the horrifying stage of hormones! Someone save me! I don't think I can go through puberty with another girl. I'm so not worthy! We've already had to have a talk about attitude. Like when we were in the middle of the thrift store trying on clothes and she really didn't want to do this, especially in the mood she's in, so anything with any pink on it (her favorite color) she announces loudly that she HATES pink and doesn't WANT to try it on. I finally said, 'You're gonna', because me, being the mom, knows she is just in a mood and will love the pink clothes later. So she stomps off into the dressing room where I (and all the patrons around me hear) 'Well, I'm not gonna wear it even if you buy it!' Such sass! What a mood! What a chuckle this got from several moms, who nodded their heads and one said "I know what you're going through" laughing while she said it. URGH!

The thrift store shopping was still successful as evidenced by the pile in the picture above. The clothes episode went okay. We came home with 4 brown shirts, 1 black shirt, 1 khaki skirt, 1 pair jeans and shocker... 1 hot pink shirt. No meltdown when I put it on the counter either. Needless to say, it was a long day.

The books were a great find. Here is what we found:
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Vol. 1 (to replace a ruined copy)
Star Wars Galaxy of Fear, Nightmare Machine (dd loves reading Star Wars)
Angela Carter's Book of Fairytales (to be used for copywork/dictation)
The Fables of Aesop (to be used for copywork/dictation)
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (on my reading list)
Igraine the Brave (Cornelia Funke is a fav author of the teen, this is one of her younger books)
ROAR! A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia (Someone just mentioned this on a forums board I frequent and that its a great supplement to reading the Chronicles of Narnia series. You can get this book at right now in clearance for $0.99!)
Learn At Home, Grade 6 (I just bought this as a supplement of occasional workpages for reviewing)

Wish us luck on the party. We invited 6 families over to our house, plus 5 teenagers to keep the teen busy. About 40 people in all, with plans to just plop chairs down in the backyard, play games in the grass and have a good ole' fashioned fun time. DH informs me tonight that the mosquitoes in the woodsy backyard are running rampant and its not wise to be outside. Great. Where am I going to put 40 people in my house?! Help!

P.S. Can you guess the theme of dd's party? I've given you a hint (in a roundabout way. hehe)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Charlotte Mason Scheduling

Uncharted waters. We're attempting something new this year. It takes a bit of planning but I think I have us all straightened out on the path to following Charlotte Mason's way of learning. Exciting times! 

9-915 am - Scripture Memory
915-945 am - Math
945-10 am -(M/W) Dictation, (T/TH) Hymn Study
10-1030 am - (M/W) Science, (T/TH) Copywork
1030-1045 am -RECESS
1045-11 am - Bible
11-1130 am - History
1130-12 pm -  (M) Poetry/Music Study,(T/TH) Latin, (W) Geography
12-1230 pm - (M/W) Typing/Foreign Language, (T/TH) Grammar
1230-1245 pm - Piano
1245-145 pm - Lunch/Literature (reading aloud)
145 pm - ?? Assigned Reading

This evens out to about 22 hours of school work for the week. For the amount of weeks we're taking off, I need about 33 hours a week. Counting Fridays, evening reading/games, weekend activities and church, I'm sure we'll be able to count an other 11 hours. Our state requires 1000 hours so I don't have to worry about how many days we're in school.

My plan right now is to alternate GAME Days and ART Days. Game days will be spent playing math games, word games, Yahtzee, Life, WordUp, Smath, etc... Whatever is in the game closet.  Art days will be spent learning about a new artist, attempting their type of art, learning about new techniques, supplies, etc... On either of these days we might go on a field trip to a game place (such as miniature golf, arcade, laser tag, marble factory, bowling, swimming, etc...). Art days we might take a class, meet friends for an art day, or go to a museum. Any number of additional field trips could happen for history and or science as well, on this day.

Subject Details:
Scripture Memory. I'm just winging it here. The bible is so big and so good, I'm just picking favorite passages right now such as Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, Love chapter: I Corinthians 13, Psalm 100, Psalm 23, a lot of Proverbs, Romans 12, the Christmas chapter: Luke 2:1-20, and so on. 

Copywork/Dictation. I'll pull from various books, the bible, poems, etc... for this content. There's a good article here about dictation with links at the end.

Bible. I used this link for daily stories, alternating old/new testament.

History. We're starting with The Story of the World, Vol. 2 about the middle ages, and going out from there. I'll share a list of the books we have on order through the library and ones to order, later.

Science. Since we get bored quickly on one subject I'm ordering quality books from the library (some bios on scientists) and will supplement with similar books. Not sure is we'll do a notebook this year on our science studies or now. I'll share my list of books later too.

Literature/Assigned Reading. I'm compiling a list for the year. Literature will be us reading a book together (right now we're working on the Hobbit)  and Assigned reading will be things she can do on her own. With literature we'll be sure to do some narration in written or verbal form.

MATH/LATIN - I'm still deciding on a math book/program or whatever. We still have some catching up to do from last year, namely percents so that will keep us busy for a bit. Latin is a new subject to me. I've been researching but don't know what is the best program out there. I've ordered a few books from the library so we'll see if those help get us started. 

That's enough talking for now. There's more to share about this process; its a different way of thinking. Kind of feel like you're juggling but they say (whoever 'they' are) that it seems so simple once you get going with it that you think you're doing something wrong. I'm hoping for that. I'm tired and done with the years of feeling frustrated and inadequate as a teacher.

** The girls are making up a batch of Ginger Snaps for grandpa for his birthday. We're eating lunch with him tomorrow to celebrate. We also have a windfall of 10 lbs of tomatoes so its time to start canning salsa. I'm off to supervise! **

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I've Got Plans!

I think I have our school schedule all planned out. Oh no, not the schooling, just the holidays. lol 

August 23rd - School starts
Sept 6th - Labor Day Holiday
Oct 4-8th - Break
Nov 22-26th - Thanksgiving Holidays
Dec 20-31st - Christmas Holidays
Feb 7-11th - Break
Mar 21-25th - Spring Break
April 29th - Last day of school

This is my PLAN anyway. You know the saying... best laid plans of  mice and men. I wonder what that is from? The book? OH, I found it: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men" from Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I'm adding that to my list of books to read.

This accounts for 36 weeks of school with  6 weeks off interspersed. We'll do school for 6 weeks, have a week off, 6 weeks, have Thanksgiving week off, 3 weeks, have 2 weeks for Christmas. Then we'll have  5 weeks of school and a week break. 5 more weeks and a week break and then finish with 5 weeks of school. I am determined to finish by the end of April. If we get behind I'm sure we can keep schooling in May but by then we're usually done with looking at books, etc... The bitter cold winter and spring are always a hard time for us.. 

Hopefully I'll be dd's hero for throwing in so many weeks of holidays! LOL

It's just like me to think of scheduling the holidays first isn't it! lol I don't want to have burnout this year though. What is your schedule, for those who visit my blog?

Finding My Way...

(Pic taken by my mom working in Alaska this summer.)
I'm pulled in many directions these days with our homeschooling. We haven't even started the school year and I'm already questioning my decisions.  

On the one hand, do I focus on a more enjoyable school year? I've been reading up on Charlotte Mason. Love her idea of short bursts of learning, 30 minute increments per subject. I'm afraid that it won't be enough. I appreciate the concept though because I've seen many a time that the child is still blankly staring at her papers, drawing doodles in the margins because she has lost focus. But I'm worried about the content. Sure, I can do math in 30 mins. But we won't get a lesson done. Do I stretch out a lesson over several days? We won't get near the end of a book if we do that. Just so many problems with this approach, not that the hour long approach to math was working though. What to do, what to do?

Last year we used majority Sonlight. I love their programs. Probably too rigid for us but I may slip some of that into this year's planning if I can. The books alone are always a great start.

I hate the way dd is counting down the days to school and a big sad face is drawn on her calender for the day. That makes ME sad that she is already hating a year we haven't even started. It has so much potential to be a phenomenal year. I always start out pretty good but when we start to get behind I get more rigorous with the schedule, the hours of pushing the subjects so we can get it all in and I become the fun-sucker. It's ridiculous. I don't want to be the hated homeschool mom.

Another issue we are constantly addressing is the attitude. No, I was not blessed with a quiet subservient child who loves to be good and follow orders. I'm sure that's genetic, if you were to ask my mother. I never like to go with the flow. I like to do things MY way so I can't fault the child for being so like mom. But sometimes we border on the disrespectful and then I get upset. I'd rather not even get to that point. But how to get a child to respect the process of homeschool and that mom is also teacher and that things just have to be done sometimes? You can't bonk respect into a person... This is probably why I'm always worrying that the schooling is not 'fun' enough. In my brain I think if its fun, she will WANT to do everything, even math! This is a pipe dream, I know. I'd love to find a few lessons on teaching respect and responsibility that actually work. I've read some on it but none of things they suggested seemed a long term effect. She is a good helpful child, don't get me wrong. But she has her moments.

Boy is this a rambling post! Just wrapping my head around this year's school year. I always head into it with determination, resolve, a happy attitude but this year is different. (I think I have an attitude problem of my own! lol) I waited too late to plan, I've been sick for weeks and this set me back considerably. Now I'm rushing.  I need to pray, that should help me focus...

to be continued...
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