For how excited and ready I felt as we stepped into our school year a few weeks ago, it sure didn't go at all the way I'd planned. I thought that since I was relatively on top of things (for once in my life) that we would transition with ease into learning and that the whole year would run smoothly. If you've been reading my blog for awhile you already know that I'm delusional, and this is actually just another example of that. Our school year started out horribly. The first day was a nightmare, the second day started out okay but within a few hours the nightmare from the day before was repeating itself. I realized how terribly far behind both girls are in math, despite hiring a tutor last year. They worked on multiplication ALL YEAR last year and still neither of them knows their times tables. Like, at all. If their brains are little compartments of knowledge, like little rooms lined with bookshelves that are all filled up with the things they've learned per subject, most of their rooms have pretty full shelves. Their English/Grammar/Literature shelves are quite full, their art/music shelves are packed and the whole room is bursting at the seams, Nature Room is filled up, Science is looking a little sparse, but THE MATH ROOM IS EMPTY. TOTALLY DEVOID OF LEARNED THINGS. THEY REMEMBER NOTHING.
This was disheartening. For all of us. So many tears as they began their new math books only to discover that--how shocking!--we are moving BEYOND multiplication now! They can't handle it and there are many breakdowns.
So, my solution has been to just not do math these past few weeks. I found them some really fun workbooks in a series called "Math Adventures" and I got a book for each girl, but Anja's hasn't arrived yet so we're waiting to begin until we can all start at the same time. I'm hoping that the cuteness and fun activities in these books will offset the fact that they're doing what they despise the most. (Except Elka. Elka LOVES math and is really good at it, and has refused to wait for the rest of us as she just plows ahead through her math book. I'm beginning to think she's not actually my daughter... even though the other two sob daily over their times tables and I get really frustrated, at least I can understand since I did the exact same thing when I was their ages.
So, anyway, no math yet. We've been focusing on other things.
Nature is a big one because this is the BEST time of year to get outside and observe! Our garden has exploded with monarch and swallowtail butterflies, caterpillars, and pupae. It has been so fun to find and track the caterpillars, and at one point we had four that we were monitoring--three chrysalises and a "j" shaped caterpillar. Well, the J-shape died and fell off his spot, probably to get eaten by ants. The chrysalis on the house was okay for awhile but has since turned black and has that string on it that is bad news, as did the other one we found in the garden--which then broke open and oozed out brown stuff and I was eating a croissant when I saw it and I had to run into the house screaming and spit out my croissant and throw the rest of the way and sit down and recover. It was rough. It wasn't just the gross factor, it was the heartbreak that I had been watching "Big Hungry" the caterpillar for so long and I was so excited for his metamorphosis. So to see him be eaten by a parasite inside his capsule and then ooze out was a little heartbreaking. But we still have one healthy monarch chrysalis we're watching hopefully! And we have a swallowtail on the side of the house that has been extremely interesting to watch, and I really hope we get to see it emerge. The girls decided not to bring anything inside, but to just take our chances at catching the moment where it happens naturally. I feel so emotionally invested in these little larvae, I'm having a hard time with that level of risk, but whatever.
We've been reading aloud A LOT. This has been what's getting us through the transitional days!
And we've been copy working and Word of the Week-ing as well as adding in weekly essays on a topic I choose. Anja and Greta have all week to think about, write, and re-write their essay and at the end of the week, I read and correct any spelling or grammar, and help them work on writing form through that. I think it will be a good little activity once we find our groove with it.
I'd really like to start a book club for kids their ages. Looking back on the idea of "book reports," I remember a lot of the joy of reading AND letting the book soak into my mind was robbed by the forced report I had to write afterward. Sometimes I feel like the best way to process your comprehension of a book is not to just write a bland regurgitation of it, but to discuss it with other people, hear what the people got out of it, how other people related to characters, share how YOU related to characters, or how the story touched you. Also, I've noticed that with homeschooling the art of good discussion is easily ignored. I want my girls to know how to discuss things--how to state their views clearly and patiently/enthusiastically/compassionately hear the views of others. I think this is so important! And I feel like a middle school aged book club would be a good place for that.
We haven't gotten into science yet, but when we do, we'll be doing what we ended last year doing, which is studying scientists and what they are best known for. I like the idea of having a person to go with a concept, and my girls learn well under this style. Also I'm going to veeeeeeeerrrrryyyyyyyy casually introduce them to the periodic table of elements, just so they know what it is. I'm thinking of hanging a poster of it in the bathroom so that they can passively experience it on the daily. It would be a good thing to stare at while waiting for the turtle's bathtub to fill up. (A boring job, but one from which, once the water is on, YOU CANNOT WALK AWAY.)
Elka is doing a lot of writing and drawing on her own this year, and I'm she is invited to participate in everything the big girls do, but is not pressured. She likes to do school with them, but some of the stuff is just too old for her. She's really enjoying reading chapter books (very slowly) so that's how she spends a lot of her school time. Naturing is her favorite, and she still is the tender of the gardens. Mostly with her we are working on behavior still. Controlling her temper. Calming down tactics. Today I tried something that worked really well for her! She'd been kicking her cousin and so she had a little time out. Her time-outs and usually on the bench by the bathroom because she can see me and talk to me while I'm cooking, but she is removed from the other kids so she can't hurt them. Today she was having a super hard time with that (and with everything) so I told her that she could work off her time by helping me--I needed to get some sage from the garden but couldn't leave the stove. She joyfully helped me, and it was exactly the reset she needed! She ended up taking so much time to help me, then quietly went back to the bench, and I told her she didn't need to, she was free to go back to the kids and play. Up until that idea, she had just been sitting there screaming, unable to control herself. She is so unlike my other kids that I have a super difficult time finding things that work with her--but working off her time is a definite winner. Yay!
Oh, the other fun thing we're doing this year is learning German as a family! Anja has been working on it independently since last year, and we had all learned a little bit with her (Martin and I took German in high school, so this is the best language for us to be able to teach them... I remember less than Martin does, but I can manage pronunciations and can read it pretty well) and had learned some German songs, but this year a homeschooling friend passed on to us an audio Learn German for Kids pack, and everyone is enjoying it so much!
One treasure I got for our History this year (in American History we are pre-civil war/women's suffrage/gold rush, but will be moving into the Civil War, where we'll really concentrate for much of the year) was from the free cart at the library--it's a 1913 book of the military history of the US. It has timelines and maps that explain the explorers, territories, which country owned what at which time, it's AMAZING. It's basically what I've been searching for on Amazon for YEARS, found in a beautiful edition from 1913 FOR FREE on a "please take this off our hands" cart outside the library. I did a major happy dance that day!
For Ancient History we are finishing up Rome, then moving on to China. I know very little about Ancient China, so this will be me learning alongside the girls. I'm excited! Sometimes I think the girls learn best when I'm learning with them because I tend to get REALLY EXCITED when I learn new, cool things. So I expect when they're in college talking about things they should be familiar with, they might think, "Oh, I remember learning about that snippet of history--Mama got really loud and started dancing around the room! How could I ever forget?!"
Is that all? That's all the formal bookwork, I suppose. We do a lot of learning "organically," as they say, when the kids ask questions and we zoom on from there. Also memorable. Also often results in me being loud and making many excited hand gestures.
This is homeschool for us in a nutshell. What are you up to around your tables and in your yards?