Monday, October 3, 2011

School With the Three Amigos---Goals for 2011-2012

The Three Amigos 
(Ladybug, Cowboy, and Firefly, ages almost 8, 6, and 4)

My overall goal this year for these three is to work on developing good character (especially obedience, initiative, diligence, kindness, consideration, responsibility, respect, and self-control), improving habits, training for new chores (such as Ladybug taking over the care of the chickens and Cowboy taking over the dogs...Firefly will begin helping me care for the bunny), and getting the three of them into a solid "homeschooling groove." 

A lot of that depends on me, and how well I do, so I am working on developing MY character, habits, and organizing my completion of chores better. Funny how that works. ;-)

Our secondary goals are academic, and here they are:

  • Bible: daily readings from Long Story Short...this study is laid out so that there are five readings per week, which gives me two "bye" days. So far, I have not managed to do all five in one week. It is my goal to become consistent in this area. I try to read while they are eating supper (I am usually not hungry because I taste-test while cooking). We will also complete various Old Testament activities as they arise with our history studies. I want them to have a solid familiarity with Old Testament history, people, and a general idea of the timeline (and how events relate to each other) by the end of the year. Both Cowboy and Ladybug have asked Jesus into their hearts. We are praying for Firefly and Boo (they are four and two, so it is early days yet).
  • Reading: Ladybug and Cowboy use Reading Eggs on days when I have a headache (which is, unfortunately, not rare) and do not have the ability to orchestrate all of their activities. We also have a subscription to Click n'Read Phonics (it was very inexpensive at Homeschool Buyer's Co-op) for Firefly. Over the summer they really got motivated to read (we did our own Summer Reading Program), so just moving them from having to read "carefully" to being able to read "comfortably" will be our goal for this year.

  • On good days, the kids do various reading and phonics activities with me, such as reading books from our "Reading Suitcase" (an old box suitcase full of easy readers like "I See Sam" and the "Bob" books), reading leveled readers or other picture books silently or to each other and adding the titles to their reading lists, listening to me or Tex read them books out loud (you can see some of our Read Aloud list here...I just started adding titles, so all of the picture books we've read together are not on there is a work in progress), and doing pages in various workbooks when they have an area they need to work on.
  • Writing: The two older Amigos have Reading Response Journals  they are required to use for every five books they read. They must choose one of the five books to write about. We use various forms I find online to give them a suitable format to fill in. I usually have Firefly draw a picture of a story she heard during the week while the other two work on their journals (she might copy the title, if it is not too long). Since I am working on getting organized this year as a main goal, keeping their work for each class in easily accessible notebooks is important to me. They keep each of their notebooks in a lapdesk, which you can see HERE
  • The Three Amigos take turns using the Writing Suitcase once a week to write someone a letter, or write a story or poem to add to their writing notebook because learning to write good sentences, as well as learning to reach out to others (to make them happy and to be polite, as in the case of thank you notes), are important goals. I think letter-writing is a fading art, and I want my kids to learn it. E-mail (or texting!) just isn't as personal. Letters can be any relative or friend. Sometimes I give them a topic for their stories, other times I let them come up with their own. They write these stories in a Primary Composition notebook...the kind with primary lines and space for a drawing.
  • Handwriting: The kids have handwriting books for when they need to practice a certain letter. Most of their writing, though, is done in a "practical" way, as in they write stories, write letters, and write reports. I feel that when you are writing for "real" reasons, that is enough writing in a day. They generally use their handwriting books when there is a problem area, or on days when I am ill and most of their other work is done online.
  • Spelling: Ladybug and Cowboy use Big IQ Kids. As it was a review item last year, we have the premium membership until spring, so they get to use customized lists I make. I basically liked many of the lists they had...I just added more words to them when I felt they were too short. They both keep a spelling notebook (in a composition book...this is our choice for most of our written work), and they take turn playing the games they earn by completing exercises. We aren't really nose-grinders when it comes to spelling, as I feel lots of reading of quality literature leads to good spelling (eventually), but Big IQ Kids is fun, and the work on letter families is valuable (plus it is an area in which Ladybug excels, so it is good for her to have that boost...Cowboy needs the practice).
  • Math: Ladybug uses Mathletics to do her math online. We also do various worksheets on targeted areas as needed. Cowboy uses IXL to do 20 daily free problems. We also have Math Facts Now!, a review item from last year, to use for math facts, and Quarter Mile Math, which is also online for timed tests. I'd like them to be pretty quick with their times facts drills by the end of the year. Both are on grade level and I expect them to continue on that path.
  • History: Our history spine is Mystery of History, though I must admit that I am a colossal failure at regularly reading and progressing through any one resource. I am one of those "go off on a tangent and explore" sorts of people (does that make me a "delight-directed learner?"), and basically we worked on the story of Creation and the initial few stories in Genesis (our Bible study does do a good job of covering these and intermingling how the Old Testament prophecies lead to Jesus), then we got interested in the Egyptians and we are still there, having done quite a bit, but none of it out of the book (it all started with the Flat Stanley Worldwide Adventure kits our library offered this summer...he took a trip to Egypt and we went along). 
  • I suppose we will get to the exercises in the book eventually, to connect all the dates (and help us fill in our timeline), but we aren't there yet. Right now we are having fun reading lots of living books about Egypt, watching videos that tie in to that topic, and coming up with projects with Egypt as a theme, such as hieroglyphic writing and building the pyramids out of Legos.
  • Our overall history goal for the year is to complete studies on Egypt, Greece, Rome, and perhaps the early Americas (the Mayans and Aztecs are rather gruesome, though) by finishing a lapbook for each and filling in our History Through the Ages timeline book for those time periods (we have the clip art cd to use). How we get to that point is likely to be a collection of living books, activities from various resource books, videos (usually from Netflix), and numerous Internet resource sites. I am trying to keep track of the resources we use for each time period as we go HERE (but I just started, so the list is small) to keep myself motivated and organized. This is a work in progress.
  • Science: Our science studies center around Nature Studies. I mostly just want the kids to maintain their interest in all things scientific, so they can develop their gifts in their later years. Ladybug likes to collect, document, and classify, Cowboy is an explorer, and Firefly enjoys tagging along for the ride. For times when it is rainy, or I am not well, I have A Nature Walk With Aunt Bessie from Queen Homeschool Supplies to use. It has stories and activities to go with the stories about bugs, nature, etc. The Amigos complete each lesson in their own Nature Notebook (a Primary Composition notebook...the kind with primary lines and space for a drawing). For weeks when I'd like to get some science in and am feeling under the weather, we can also check out Simple Schooling and do some science on the computer.
  • When it is fine to go outside, the kids are veteran Bug Hunters, Rock Collectors, and avid birdwatchers. I usually just send them out with their collection equipment (magnifying glass, bag, jar, Nature Notebooks, pencils) and they find something interesting and either draw it at the picnic table or bring it inside to do there. We've had a lot of "visitors" this year already, and even have a cocoon we believe will be overwintering with us. By the way, one video resource I have discovered that I love is the dvd Your Backyard narrated by three kids and an animated owl. It's about birdwatching and the best part is that it is a God-honoring video! We got this for the kids last Christmas and it is one of their most requested titles. It's a good one to put on when traveling in the car. I don't get tired of hearing it and I feel they are learning something...I'm learning something, anyway! The Amigos often say, "Oh, that's a ?? (I am drawing a blank, but they know)  because he is saying 'drink your tea tea tea!'" or something similar. It's great. 
  • Art: We are using Meet the Masters this year which we purchased through the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. Ladybug, especially, loves it. We also have our Artistic Pursuits book from last year, which we dive into now and then. Our goal is to do something formal with art once a week, though the kids do draw or "do a craft" every day (when they do their Nature Study drawings, that counts as art, too). 
  • We also have art lapbooks from Practical Pages and Confessions of a Homeschooler (both FREE!!!) that I hope to complete with the kids this year, which will help us focus on certain artists and techniques. My goal is to choose one painting a month and leave it on display on our piano easel and let the kids see it when they play in that room or practice the piano. We will talk about the artist from time to time and I will find resources online to tell them more about him or her when there is interest.
  • Music: We signed up for Classical Composers Monthly as a way to formalize and organize our study of music and musicians this year. It was very inexpensive and seems well worth the small investment, as it saves me the time of finding those resources and putting a unit together. I am hoping we can participate in the Study of the Classical Composers Link-up on Thursdays, once we really get going this month. I also have a music lapbook from Hands of a Child (it was on sale) and we want to finish this by the end of the year. Honestly, it is more likely to happen in bursts than being evenly distributed over time, but it WILL get done. Ladybug is taking piano from me (she is not going to get far with that, since I don't know much...but for now it is enough). We have new neighbors with musically talented daughters, so I am considering asking if we can arrange lessons over there once a week as her "big" Christmas gift (we like to give each child one gift that develops their talents each year). Cowboy and Firefly are not ready for lessons, so they will just continue to enjoy listening to classical music and their favorite music cd, Stand Up! ("swing"-style's really a lot of can see my review HERE). I'd eventually like to add in a monthly hymn study, but I am not there yet.
  • One of my goals this year is to add some variety to our weeks, so this year we are trying to do school Monday through Thursday, then have Fridays on which to do things a bit differently. The plan is to use our Museum membership sometimes to take a field trip (my parents gave it to Cowboy as his birthday gift...awesome!!), sometimes we play learning games all day, other times we take a walk or just play outside with the horses. We have been participating in the Friday Fun School link up at Ben & Me. You can see a few of my Fun Friday posts HERE. When it works for us, we like to chime in at the monthly Lego Quest Challenge. Playing with Legos always makes for a fun Friday!
Since I do have migraines with distressing frequency, over the last year I developed a blog that is for the kids' use on those days to guide them to their online learning opportunities. I use it to showcase sites I have decided are appropriate and useful on those days I can't do much more than turn on the computer and point them to it (and keep track of Boo, who is know what that means). On those days they usually do Reading Eggs, Mathletics or IXL, Big IQ Kids, Brain POP!, Big Bible Town, and they use Tumble Books and other sites to listen to books and do activities online (you can see their learning blog and their links HERE). It's not an ideal set up...of course, I'd like to always be on top of things, doing enriching activities with them, but I just can't right now, so this works in the meantime. 

Check out other free links we use to supplement our curriculum on our homeschool-for-free site.

So that's our plan. You can see how much work I have to do to get where I need to be...but these are just goals, and if all of them do not get met, then there must have been something more important that came up (like a tea party!).

Looking back at all we have listed, it actually sounds pretty impressive...Maybe one of these days, I will stop feeling as if I am not doing enough! I think we all need to realize (myself included) that God is in charge of our homeschooling, and He will make the right opportunities and resources available when they are needed. What I have listed above is a lofty set of goals and a listing of resources we have been blessed with to use and explore. I would like to wake up each day with a precise plan and execute it perfectly, getting most, if not all, of our ambitious projects done with enough time to still stop for tea and freshly baked scones at lunch, a ride on the horses before dinner, and some time to snuggle in front of the fire with a good read aloud before bed.

But the truth is, that first of all, we don't have a fireplace, so reading by the fire is definitely out. (Boo hoo). Then there is the fact that many days I wake up in terrible pain (migraines), barely able to think. I generally manage to get the kids fed and dressed, maybe I do the same for myself, and I send Tex out to feed the animals. Then, if I can think well enough to realize I really DO need a plan, I write out the kids' work on their marker boards, and send them off to various areas of the house to do what is listed. At the end of the day, we are all happy to see their various accomplishments checked off, we add the best of their completed work to their notebooks (or send some off to their grandmas), and then we get busy with our chores.

There's always something I wish we had done more of, like art or music, but I try to focus on what I did do instead and believe that there is always tomorrow for the rest. The kids are not going to be unemployed transients just because we didn't do math one day. They are not going to fail to achieve a perfect score on their SATs because I didn't do enough grammar with them. BUT they might become hard to employ if I don't teach them diligence, initiative, and responsibility by helping them stick with something and doing their best even when it seems tough, by helping other when they see it is needed without having to be asked, and by completing our chores together day after day. Perhaps one of them might develop a catering business someday because I made it a point to take time off from regular school work to let them help me make pear butter, scones,  and bread from time to time. At the very least, they will know I love them. They will love each other and other people...and God most of all.

I guess what I am saying, is that in laying out our goals for 2011-2012, I don't want you to think that by me saying that "this is what we plan to do" means it all gets done perfectly in a way that looks like someone's dream homeschooling experience. No, it's more likely that we will do things in fits and spurts. Some days we really get into the academics, and others we will sort of wander and focus on chores or projects or playing. But in the end, it all adds up just the same anyway. The kids will still be presented the material. They will have had fun with it. Best of all, I hope they will have good memories about the time we spent together...I sure do.

Check out other homeschoolers' goals 
for the year by clicking the button.

So thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed seeing what we are up to. You can check back regularly to see what we do on our Fun Fridays and I am going to try to start participating at the Weekly Wrap Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to keep myself accountable, too. I also use Menu Plan Monday from time to time to help my week go more smoothly by planning our our meals. If only they had a Wash My Dishes Wednesday where I could showcase pictures of the many dishes we do each week, or a What a Lot of Laundry Thursday where I could show off all the piles of laundry I fold...then I might feel like I am really accomplishing something...If you know of anything like that on the web, let me know!

You can see what my almost 14 year-old, Tex, is up to on Our Curriculum Choices page and on his learning blog.

I look forward to seeing what everyone else plans to do this year.



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