Mid Year Update...

We have been working steadily since the first week of January and it has come as a bit of a shock that we are in June already! Late last year we changed up our routine a bit by working for four weeks followed by a week off, rather than following the public school terms. I did experiment with a five-week block, but it was just too long for all of us. I decided that the four week block worked so well that we would continue it for this year. The week off is not really a holiday and I call it a Project Week because the children use that time to work on bigger projects that require much more time that is afforded during a regular school day. This timetable has made our lives much easier because we know we only ever have four weeks at a time, which is totally doable and goes surprisingly fast. We still take Wednesdays off from formal lessons and save this day for excursions, appointments and doing the necessities of life. It means for the other four days a week there are very few interruptions and we are managing to learn so much! Also, from a planning perspective a four week block is great for a thematic approach. We have been reading a great book called Prisoners of Geography, focusing on one or two chapters a block. I have also been using this book to teach how to write essays as well as a focus on geography and history of one region at a time. For our daily map work, we use the Seterra online map site to practice learning all of the countries of the region we are studying. This block we have learned all of the countries of Africa and Zoe can do the little quiz in under two minutes! Prisoners of Geography is giving us a geographical and historical lens through which to look at how each country acts on the current world geopolitical stage. It is fascinating to understand why each region has become the culture it is today. Unfortunately there is no chapter about our own antipodean region, but I will forgive the author because we can use what we are learning about the other continents in terms of geography, to understand our own historical development.

During our Project Weeks the children have worked on a number of endeavours. In the first week, Henry and NannyO worked on creating a Minecraft tapestry while the Zoe worked on a horse tapestry. One week the children cooked dinner every night for the family including recipe sourcing and menu planning and Lily made the table beautiful each night. Lily loves to bake and has made our teeth hurt with her sweeties. She also created 3D structures out of cardboard for Henry to use in his little games, put together a few stop motion videos and made some hand stitched toys from felt. I do require something of them during the weeks off schooling, but they still get lots of play time. Sometimes their play time goes on while they are making things. I can honestly say they are never bored!

During a regular school block, each day the children get a list of tasks that they seem to enjoy ticking off. They can choose which order to do the tasks but they must complete the list. It really is surprising how this strategy reduced the amount of whinging! I say reduced not eliminated because well, they are kids! They have the morning to do as much of their list as they like, because after morning tea they must do lessons with me until lunch. They know if they get all of their individual work finished before 10am, we will be done by lunch and they will have the afternoon to do their own thing. It does mean that some mornings they are doing Latin or grammar before breakfast!
We have been doing copywork since they could hold a pen. The girls have been learning cursive for some time now but Henry only this year. They all copy good penmanship for at least 10 minutes a day and I can see the results in all of their hand writing.
They are also required to read on their own every day and to someone as well. Reading is a huge part of our day with their own reading, me reading to them and audiobooks. They have learned to read, now they are reading to learn. I consider myself very blessed to have three readers. The girls and I really like dystopian fiction and I am looking forward to them being a bit older so we can enjoy stories like The Hunger Games together.
Violin of course is required for 20 minutes a day and their half an hour lesson each Monday morning with our lovely teacher. They can all play well enough now that it is no longer a chore for them, or the listeners!
We are still using the All About Spelling for our spelling curriculum and some days I mix it up by having them teach each other the lesson. I find Lily is a hard task master and doesn’t take any rubbish from her siblings! I don’t think she will end up being a teacher, but you never know.
I try to give them art lessons but they don’t like them very much. Who knew that my four year art teaching degree means nothing in this house? They would much rather watch a Bob Ross video on Netflix. On the days they get out the acrylics and water colours, they do their best to recreate what he does in oil paints. So our art lessons are not very regular but I don’t really mind because when they are teaching themselves, they enjoy it more. Rather the same way I learned about art.

We use the play room for our together lessons after morning tea, including science, geography, language arts, history and Bible studies. We don’t spend hours on each subject because I have found that Charlotte Mason is correct, short lessons often work the best, certainly for my three. Our science this year has been in biology, specifically zoology using the Exploring Creation series. We do a few of the hands on activities and a few of the worksheet but we basically just enjoy me reading the information and learning about different animals. We add to this learning with various documentaries and we compare the information from the different sources.
For geography we are going through a really low level book called Geography From A to Z where the children write about one or two geographical terms and draw a matching picture each day. It’s an easy way to learn the terms and we talk about where in the world each picture might be at home. It goes well with the Prisoners of Geography book when understanding basic geographical terms.
For language arts this year, I am going through the text book Figuratively Speaking that I picked up somewhere cheap. It is quite dry but for some reason the children quite enjoy going through a couple of lessons a week. In fact these are probably our most enjoyable lessons together. We are usually reading a classic sort of novel (King Arthur at the moment) as well as a bed time reading (The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper) and everything we learn in language arts we can look at in our reading. Not only that, the children love making up their own poems and short stories. This text uses lots of classic literature to highlight particular terms and I love that we have read much of the literature that is used.
For Latin we are still using Getting Started with Latin, just a few sentences translated a day and one or two new concepts or words a week. Zoe is also using Visual Latin 1 which we all enjoy because the guy in the videos is really funny.
For grammar, we are using the Get Smart Grammar program and daily practice with diagramming sentences. I love this program because it has taught me more than I ever knew existed on the topic of grammar and that the children can now diagram almost any sentence. But there is still so much more to learn! I think we will be using this program for some time yet.
For maths, Zoe is using Maths U See pre algebra and at the start of this year we were sailing along and both enjoying this maths. Then we hit a wall and neither of us was understanding what we were doing. So after some searching about what could be done, Zoe and I decided to begin the level again. That is probably one of the greatest things about homeschooling, there is no rush to do anything. We are doing much better going back through the level at a slower pace with more practice. Henry and Lily are both nearing the end of Epsilon, which focuses on fractions. I did this level with Zoe a bit over a year ago and I seem to have forgotten most of it. Luckily I get to do it all agin with the other two! The Maths U See program really is the best I can get for my kids and most of the time maths doesn’t make us cranky.

Of course all of this schooling doesn’t get in the way of life! We have had time for painting, bead work, chess, writing music, playing rummyO with NannyO, being with our fur baby Basil, going to the museum to see the Nasa exhibit, hanging out with school kids at UQ for a day, catching another Shake and Stir theatre performance - this time The Fantastic Mr Fox, or just hanging out with me for a treat morning tea. Life is certainly not passing us by, we are living it :)

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This picture kind of says it all!