So, this is a good time to think through the good and the bad; the challenges.
Almost everything is good.
I've posted an update each week in which I've gushed about how much we're enjoying school:
- Weekly Report: The We Start Back Monday Edition
- Weekly Report: January 12-16, 2015
- Our Weekly Amble: January 19-23, 2015
- Our Weekly Amble: January 26-30, 2015
- Our Weekly Amble: February 2-6, 2015
- Our Weekly Amble: February 9-13, 2015
- Our Weekly Amble: February 16-20, 2015
But, I thought for this post, I'd think about things in the order I wrote my 2015 Homeschool Changes series:
1. Spiritual Changes: This is not our rousing success. However, I have enjoyed the Bible reading we've done as part of Ambleside Online - We're reading through parts of Joshua and Mark and the children narrate. This is a challenge because we're using the KJV for this. We've also reviewed our memory passages and catechism which has been very good. Following the reading plan? Didn't make it out of January. Time to pick back up and not try to catch up. Maybe during Quiet Time and not first thing in the morning when we're not at our best?
2. Philosophy Changes: This has been fantastic. I'm so thankful for our CM Group that we've begun, the first meeting was amazing. The shorter readings have been great. I'm enjoying reading Consider This and For the Children's Sake and even CM herself in A Philosophy of Education. Brandy's book Start Here is a nice guide for our group's reading and discussion and the extra readings she includes are wonderful.
One of my dear friends from our CM Group said something during our meeting that has stuck with me. She said, "CM isn't a method, it's a philosophy." It's a way of thinking about education and cultivating what God has instilled in persons that's so beautiful and fitting.
3. To Ambleside or Not To Ambleside: We decided To Ambleside and it is the best decision I made. We have always kept our children mostly together in the content areas (history, science, and last year literature) and I knew M-girl and N-boy would be able to handle AmblesideOnline's Year 4. I also knew that R-girl could keep up mostly, especially if I modified it somewhat for her. I asked a lot of people. Had discussions with some others and we decided to go for it. Some of the readings are a stretch for R-girl and she tunes out and doesn't narrate but the beginning or end of a passage, but we're working on that.
For me, I love that Ambleside offers pre-planned schedules for the readings and I just plug them into our weekly schedule grid. I've had planning done each week ... or can get it filled in really quickly Monday morning if necessary. Knowing what to do when has been a huge help. There isn't the decision fatigue, the last-minute scramble to set assignments, the too-much to do everyday assignment sheets. It's accomplishable. As I learn more of CM Philosophy, I think it will be that much better.
As for the work that is scheduled, it has almost all been a hit. I asked the family Friday night at dinner how they thought the first six weeks went. The children were all very happy! They like this so much better, it's fun! (While fun isn't what I'm going for, enjoyment is). They like most of the books. They like knowing the expectations. They like math being limited to 30 minutes a lesson. There are some books they haven't liked as much, but some - like Age of Fable - have grown on them once we got past the introductory information.
4. Narration Changes: My kids like oral narrations. The older two are (somewhat) less resistant to one written narration per week than two per day (for each reading). Their written narrations this week were good, obviously could be improved (we all could work on the idea that critique isn't personal), and saved for the last minute (procrastination comes naturally).
Narration is still an area I need to improve. I need to improve teaching it, modeling it, and varying it. This week, I hope to do some more study of narration, reading through those links in my original post and the AO Forum. We have loved reading Poor Richard at dinner and Daddy has modeled narrating it (he's really good at narration!)
5. Schedule Changes (Big Blocks of Time): Knowing that six weeks was a finite period of time was huge to our success, I think. The children knew this off week was coming. I was able to schedule all kinds of appointments for this week without feeling like we were "wasting" school time with them. We are going to get hair cuts this week. I can learn more myself, we can rest, we can read some Robinson Crusoe at dinner and do some catching up, but I don't feel pressure to catch all the way up.
Before, when we took breaks when I thought I needed them, we either never took a break, or took too much of a break. Having them pre-planned is going to be wonderful, I think.
6. Physical Changes: One of the best things I did was plan to start our day with exercise. The children continue with their sports, it's basketball season for two more weeks. I need to sign N-boy and R-girl up for baseball this week. Soccer signups are done. But from 8-8:30 almost every day we do school, doing our pilates video has become a favorite part of the day. (Plus, I get a shower almost every day) I'm excited for nicer weather when we can go outside in the morning.
7. Habits: A wonderful thing about habit-training in CM philosophy is that it is to be done slowly. Our habit for the first six weeks was keeping our table and the area around it neat and clear. We mostly did a great job with this! There were a couple of nights we had to go back and clean up, but so much better than it used to be!
Our next six weeks habit is going to be to refer to your own assignment sheet (to-do list).
And I can learn more about Habit training again.
8. Schedule Changes (Small Blocks of Time): Our Weekly Schedule, with only some school work on Thursdays, mostly Circle Time and our Extras (composer study, art study, Shakespeare, Folk Song), has gone well. Except for getting to the library. I would really prefer that be a regular part of our routine. I was listening to the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, and was reminded how important regular visits at regularly scheduled times are. My kids love the library and always ask to go, we need to get back into the habit and I want it to be on our schedule.
Getting moving at 7 isn't always easy. Jason usually awakens the children, but we all struggle with up, dressed, grooming, breakfast, and chores in an hour. This week I want to make a breakfast (and lunch) schedule for every day.
I already talked about how exercising first thing, about 8 am, is working great. The children love that they get a break while I shower.
Circle Time from 9-10:30 is wonderful. I'm thinking about moving Latin into Circle Time and snuggly read alouds to after lunch and right before Quiet Time during the next six weeks. The children seem amenable to that idea. This past term, Circle Time was mostly review, I hope it will remain as successful when we're working on new studies. The children have *loved* having Circle Time notebooks with the things we're studying and memorizing.
Knowing that they get a break from 10:30-11:00 is also helpful. They like getting a break. I don't hate it because it is scheduled and planned. I know that they work better both before and after their break at least partially because they know they have to for it to continue being in the schedule. It is supposed to be a break and snack. During our off week, I hope to get some snacks packed away and ready to go. Making Homeschool more Homey, to use kort's words.
Limiting 30 minutes of math is helpful. There have been few days any child hasn't completed a whole lesson in that amount of time. I would like to set a timer to better be sure I'm limiting it more carefully. Toward the end of the six weeks, I made a schedule for our lesson time and that has helped us direct our time. Of course, I'm already thinking of making changes to it.
This exercise has been helpful to me, thinking about what has gone well and what challenges we need to address. You will note - as I do - that almost everything that needs to be changed pertains to things *I* need to do better. Yikes.