Semi- regular update to how we "do" school

I like to post at least once per year with some descriptions of our approach to homeschool.  As our children grow and our family changes, so does our understanding of the best ways to help them learn.  What hasn't changed much, are our basic beliefs on the best ways that children in general learn and what they should learn.  We ascribe whole heartedly to a Montessori philosophy of experience based learning and we believe in the importance of *living* history and science.  None of that has changed.

What that looks like at any given moment, however, can change a lot!

We are always on the lookout through reading, experimentation, and listening to speakers and other homeschool families, for things that will help us implement those philosophies in the best way for our family.  There was a time (when this blog was born in fact) that I had a new, non mobile baby, and 2 preschool aged children.   We had this *extra* bedroom where we could display all of our materials in one place and allow for large amounts of freedom within limits in the use of that room.  How spoiled I was and didn't know it!

Since that baby became mobile, and is now a preschooler herself, and we have added a toddler to the mix.... not to mention those original two preschoolers being solidly into the elementary years... things don't look the same as they once did.  There is a practical component of continuing to have the space and range of materials available at all times for all children.  There is also a practical component of having the time in one work period to present all of the necessary lessons to each child.

And thus our little homeschool evolves.

I like to have a plan before implementing changes.  This is for my own sanity and for the kids, especially Caleb.  (For those who are interested, I will be doing a dedicated post to the nitty gritty of homeschooling Caleb in the coming weeks- watch for that!)  When I went to the Minnesota Catholic Home Educators Conference a month ago I had a mental list of problem areas I wanted to work on.  The first one was the time for such a range of lesson presentations, especially with wanting to maintain the quality of preschool education I was able to provide for Aidan and Caleb now for Kylee and Logan.  The second one was the continuing problem of what to do for Math and Language.  Tim and I are in full agreement that the Montessori Math approach is unbeatable but have struggled for the last year implementing it.  The space has been an issue for awhile, as has the time involved in presenting and planning.  We also had issues last year with paper clutter for the first time.

What to keep, what to trash, and what can we skip altogether?

I attended a presentation at the conference that answered many of my questions even though it had little to do with the methods we use, This Old Homeschool by Cathie Baier.  (You can view workshop handouts from this an other sessions on the conference website.)  The main premise of this workshop is how homeschooling moms are much like the one room schoolhouse teachers of ages past.  A few of the things that I took away:

1- It is ok to do basic fact drill and spelling "tests" out loud.  There goes a huge amount of my paper clutter right there!

2-  Block scheduling.   Everyone works on language or math for a set amount of time and I rotate lessons during that time.  Harder with preschoolers, but the big boys for sure have done well with this so far.  This is almost like breaking our full work period into mini work periods for each subject area.

3-  Progress, not planning.  Quality, not quantity.  I don't have to set goals of certain numbers of pages. The kids can have their language or math books that they are working out of, without me giving assignments and setting deadlines.   This was a scary one for me, but so far we are all liking it.  In the one room school houses, grades were based on what book they were in not age.  When a child mastered one book, they advanced to a new grade and a new book.

I am going to stop here for now and share more in the next few days about what a typical morning looks like (aka specific changes), with sample lessons/assignments for each kid.  I promise there will also be practical photos of typical things that don't go exactly as planned!  I am also going to do a few additional posts in the coming weeks focusing on individual subject areas and teaching methods, along with reposting & updating some philosophy related posts from the archives.

I'm a teacher nerd...love me anyways ;)

(Or not, I'm ok with that too...  No one is forcing you to read my madness.)

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