|The compass experiment from Lesson 5 in Apologia's Astronomy book.|
Since it was the kind of week I wish we could have all the time, I have taken the time to describe what our "ideal school week" looks like, along with the curriculum we do.
Most days we start school between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. We are not early risers, so this is a reasonable time for all of us. Over breakfast, we read and discuss our Bible curriculum and pray, and review any Bible memory work that we are working on. This year we have been working through Apologia's Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?
It has been a very thought-provoking program for my nine-year-old son, and my 5-year-old girl has listened and discussed it as well, though she is probably not grasping it on the same level. I would give this curriculum a definite thumbs-up because of the level of thought that it stimulates, and the kind of discussions we have had because of it. We have delved into the problem of what it means to be separated from God, the problem of sin, the difference between flesh and spirit and the struggle that results...Invariably my heart is full to hear what my kids are thinking about with regard to these issues. We are nearing the end of the book, and the interest level for it has not waned on any of our parts. We did not use the journal or the notebook because we have used it more as a devotional, but we have memorized the recommended passages of scripture, many of which the kids already knew!
So far for us, we have been very satisfied with Apologia's science products (we have also done Zoology 1 and most of 2). The presentation is very conversational and lends itself to good snuggle-on-the-sofa time. I also appreciate that at every turn God is given the glory for the marvels of the universe, and often scripture is used to illustrate a point. The experiments are fun and easy to implement using household products.
After math, we generally do Language arts, which includes writing, grammar, and spelling. This is my favorite part of the day, and I love all of the curricula that we are currently using for both kids. For Matty, we are using mostly Peace Hill Press's curricula. We had successfully worked through First Language lessons for the Well-Trained Mind 1 / 2. I discovered it a little late, so we finished it in his third grade year, and now this year we are working through FLL 3. At first it seemed a bit too scripted and a little dry, but now that I have become used to it, I can give it my own flavor and spin, and we actually have a lot of fun with it. I appreciate the thoroughness of it and the constant review, and I know that we are not missing anything important. We don't always need all the review, so we do what we need and skip what we don't. My one complaint with the program is that the student workbook uses way too much paper. I think that smaller print could be used and fewer pages taken up to demonstrate the same concept. Small complaint which in no way diminishes my appreciation for the quality of the curriculum content, but it drives me crazy how much space it takes up in the notebook! Overall, I highly, highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to be sure that their child is getting a proper education in grammar.
Our other language arts thread is spelling, and for Matty we are currently using what I hope will be his last spelling curriculum, All About Spelling. Spelling has been for us something akin to torture until now. He is not a natural speller, though he is a very good reader. The theory that "the more they read they the better speller they will be" simply is not true in every case. We have tried Abeka spelling, Spelling Workout, Sequential Spelling and Megawords. In every case he could memorize the words, spell them for his test, and then have seemingly no other relationship with the words in any other context. Whenever he has needed to spell a word, say for a dictation, he would revert to guessing and spelling however he thought the word sounded. Finally, at long last, we have come upon a curriculum which he likes and I am seeing his spelling improve already, after only a few weeks of using it! He enjoys the lessons are very hands-on and interactive, and sees / feels the improvement himself. I have to give a shout out to the ladies at The Well Trained Mind forums because they steered me in this direction after my moaning about my situation to them. Thank you, thank you!
The Phonics Road with Molly. Both programs are based on the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching phonics. Both Molly and I are enjoying Phonics Road. I enjoy it because it is "open and go"--I watch the included instructor videos to see how it should be taught, then deliver the lesson as prescribed by the author, Barbara Beers. Molly loves having her own notebook and clipboard and the lessons are engaging for her. She loves to practice her handwriting, and this program has many opportunities for her to do so. It is a little early for me to give a full assessment of the program, but so far, so good. I chose this for Molly because I didn't want her to fall into the same gap of reading / spelling ability that Matty has experienced. Already she demonstrates more of a natural spelling ability, but even so, I want to give her a very thorough phonics foundation so that we don't have the same problems later. My one reservation about using the Phonics Road in the long term is that I love the Peace Hill Press Products so much that I don't want to regret not having used them with Molly. After we complete level one, I will then decide whether or not to continue working with her in The Phonics Road based on the merits of this program or switch to All About Spelling and the PHP products. It is a hard choice--I'm surrounded by excellent products and what it boils down to is personal preference.
Sometime around 11:45 we are all ready for a break, and so I head upstairs to make lunch while the kids play. It affords me some head-space and gives them a chance to work out their wiggles. They are usually very rambunctious at this point! We break for about an hour, and then after lunch the kids practice their piano lessons (30-40 minutes for Matty, 15 minutes for Molly), and then I work with Matty for another hour or more, depending on what kinds of assignments we need to complete. Sometimes we will not have finished all the language arts, or he may need to do some study questions for science, or do some research for a history lap book. Generally speaking we work until 2:30 or 3:00. School is dismissed when all his independent work is checked off, the basement is picked up, and piano is practiced. Then they may use their media time or play with neighborhood friends. Then it's upstairs for a little Facebook time for mom and solving the never ending question..."What's for dinner?"
I should note that it is ideal for us to have three good study days like this a week because on Wednesday afternoons, both children have piano lessons and Matty has art class for two hours, during which Molly and I work on her art curriculum together. On Fridays we attend Classical Conversations, and after that our school work for the week is finished.
Working in this way with some degree of consistency this year has rendered this our most productive school year yet. Both children and I have enjoyed ourselves immensely, and I feel that there is a healthy balance of rigor and fun in our learning. Certainly we aren't perfect, and we have our weeks where tired, cranky, moody, sinful, and ill throw us off, but when it works well, it's great!