By doing this, we can add in those valuable "extra-curricular" activities, such as music and art, that often get forgotten by choosing one from our predetermined list, one at a time, depending on what day it is. In this way I also avoid the problem of feeling pressured to do art/music/writing/dancing/manipulatives/games every day, because there just isn't that kind of time in a day...at least not if we want our school days to end before Daddy gets home from work!
In any case, we came up with the idea of scheduling one "focus" activity a day, along with the usual required Bible, math, spelling, and reading/English. This allows us some variety, as well as a bit of structure, so we don't always default to our favorite activities when there is extra time (such as art for Ladybug, games for Cowboy, or reading for Tex).
Here's the sign I made for our fridge:
Our "Special Activity of the Day" sign
As you can see, we have listed one specialized area of study for each day. I will be honest here and tell you that we do NOT do every of these each week. Some weeks are good if we manage to do two or three of them, and on others we have actually done all five. My attitude about not getting to the "fun" and "special stuff" every day is that while everyone needs goals for which to aim, we should also be content in doing our best...and since we are trying pretty hard, I think our best (for the time being) is actually quite good...though there is always room for improvement.
Our "Writing Suitcase"...one of the kids' favorite extra activities, and something made using the contents of the suitcase (the lion is drawn on other paper and glued on).
My philosophy about music lessons is fairly relaxed, as you can probably tell. If my children show an interest in a particular instrument, I will offer them the opportunity to learn it at home for a while. For example, we have the Worship Guitar Lessons on dvd if they want to learn guitar. I highly recommend those. Jean Welles has a very patient manner and the format is excellent for wannabe guitarists young or old (here is another video lesson site I found for free, if you have a child who already knows the basics---check out The Guitarmann.) Once they demonstrate that they are committed to the prospect of daily practices and learning, I will support paying for private lessons, if they are desired. This is the first time Tex has shown consistent long-term interest in something musical, and should he continue along this vein with the resources we have available, I will see about getting him some formal lessons.
Another way we work in music study to our curriculum is that we like to learn classic hymns to sing together. I have enough skill at the piano to play simple versions of hymns we like (out of one of those simple arrangements hymn books), and then we sing just for fun. The kids are learning to sing Be Thou My Vision (this links to a very cool site that offers audio of the four-part harmony parts separately and together for FREE!), and once they know all of the verses by heart, we are going to look for someone at church who knows how to sing in harmony who can teach us to do that as a family (here is a link to a host of other acapella hymns for free to get your family interested in the idea). Eventually, we'd love to have the children be able to sing during offering time at our church since they like to let children and their families sing for the congregation at this time.
Incorporating art has never been difficult for us, as all of my kids love to draw, play with clay, make art projects, and paint. We don't do a lot of formal teaching, though we do have online access to Mark Kistler's Imagination Station Mini-Marshmallow lessons (through the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op), and also to Meet the Masters, if we want to do a more formal study of an artist or style. Ladybug received the dvds of Mike's Inspiration Station from her great-grandmother for Christmas, and she got a few of the See the Light dvds for her birthday from her Nanny and Poppy (you can try a lesson for free online). There is also plenty to find at Activity TV, though your kids may need help wading through the silly and not-so-preferred stuff there.
They also do Nature Studies regularly, which in my book counts as art, if you are encouraging them to be observant, practicing drawing what they see, and can give them a few tips now and then to help them improve their drawings. Two fun ways to hold yourself accountable for what you draw (and they may also motivate your kids) are to participate in Harmony Art Mom's Sketch Tuesday or her Outdoor Hour Challenge. For Sketch Tuesday, you get an assignment every week and send Harmony Art Mom an email with pictures of the photos attached by the deadline, then she posts them in a slideshow on her blog every week. For the Outdoor Hour Challenge you link up blog posts about your nature studies to Barb's blog carnival. It's a great way to keep yourself accountable for getting it done, and to see what others are doing with their nature studies (and art).
We incorporate artist and musician studies into our day as the topic interests us. We will sometimes listen to a tape, cd, or video about a composer while driving long distances, and we have an extensive collection of (bargain priced) cds of many classical composers. I try to look up a bit about whoever I am putting into the cd player to share with them before I start the "concert."
We are building a library of books about artists and musicians, and read one of them from time to time. I also keep an art book with a new picture chosen every month on display in our dining room (on an easel), so they become familiar with a variety of artists. I download pictures of favorite artists, then set one of them as my wallpaper for a while. It reminds me to talk to the kids about that work of art and the artist. Here's a link to a site where you can look up your favorite artists and their paintings . You can look up information about the artists just by using Google.
Once when we were eating out at IHOP, we saw a bunch of pictures that looked like a familiar artist, but I couldn't remember his name, so I had to find a patron who remembered his name, which led us to meeting a very nice older couple. Once we got home, we looked up Andy Warhol's works online and later the kids made their own Warhol-esque pictures. Another time, walking through the hospital to visit someone, we noticed all of the pretty landscapes on the wall, and the kids recognized some of the tunes coming from the piano in the lobby. It's always rewarding to hear your child say (when walking through Busch Gardens), "Mom...that's Beethoven!" Art and music just tend to come up in real life, you know?
One of these days I'd like to get a bit more formal about our art and music studies, but for now the kids enjoy what we do and it is working for us.
Disclaimer: I received copies of the student and teacher texts, as well as the downloadable audio files, to enable me to complete this review. The opinion you read here is my own honest opinion, based on our experiences with the product.