2016-2017 School Year Plans


Is it just me or does putting 2017 in writing as this school year, just somehow seem wrong?  Believe it or not, it is back to school time around the country this month and our little homeschool is no different.   Actually, we started back in July as we have always done best with a year round schedule. We take lots of breaks for a week or two here and there, but it works better for us to just keep the momentum going.

Each year I try to do one big back to school post with my plans/goals for each child, along with curriculum specifics.  I do this for a couple reasons.  The first is to give myself a path.  I know that we will leave the path at some point, but if I have already thought through my big goals/themes for the year it is easier to make choices about where to go once we depart.  The second reason is because people always ask me so I figure I should probably at least have some idea what we are going to do, right?

In general we are trying to again return to our Montessori roots.  I'm going to be brutally honest and say that Montessori is hard with six kids and the kind of age range I have.  I was anxious to return to the method when we moved from Utah to Minnesota in 2013.  We did great our first year and the beginning of our second year, but then...well, Siena.

And then, Tomas.

There just is no substitute for a fully present and organized guide with Montessori.  I can't hand lesson plans to a friend and let them take over for me.  Montessori can't come with us to Dr. appointments and more.  So we went back to a more traditional, blended approach for the last couple years.   But always there was this pull, this feeling like yes we were moving forward but that it was not what it could be.  Montessori doesn't work for everyone, but it does work for us.

At the Minnesota Catholic Home Educators Conference this year, Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival encouraged us to think about our minimum.  If we did nothing else, what would our minimums be?  At the end of the day, my minimum is Montessori.  That's a big answer to the question and I struggled with what such a complete curriculum could look like in a bare-minimum kind of setting.  I thought about it a lot.  I prayed about it.  I poured through my materials brainstorming, making notes about how to make this work.

So this year, we are returning to Montessori, yes.  But we are going to do it in a way that takes some of the adaptations I have made in the past to account for a larger family and takes them to the next level.  We are going to take some of the things that I think I can compromise on with the older kids and let them stay more traditional intentionally rather than out of desperation in order to keep the core as pure as possible (particularly at the younger ages).  I've already tweaked the way I am organizing our materials and presenting lessons.   It is, as always, an experiment and we will see how it plays out.

Group Work/Morning Meeting

Daily dictation for older children, copywork for younger using the daily responsorial Psalm as spelling and grammar review and practice.  We will still cover spelling as it applies to other work and will do our annual grammar topics review, but this is going to be the backbone for those areas of study.  For example, last week the word pour was included in the sentence.  Three children gave me three different spellings of pour- insert quick review of homophones and the three spellings and meanings.  Done.

Daily group subjects.  Science:Natural World/Classification, Science/Geography & Culture, Religion, Language Topics   

Summer Themes have been:  Nature Journaling with species identification/Backyard Biome, The Give Your Child the World Summer Reading Book Club, The Works of Mercy, and Christina Rossetti Poetry.  I tend to pick new themes every 2-3 months and rotate through a solid variety of topics.  Looking ahead I'm thinking

Natural World/Classification: Birds, Insects, Coral Reef Biome 
Geography &; Culture:  US Geography & Government, Korea
Religion:  Continue Works of Mercy, Liturgical Seasons, Personal Prayer Habits
Language: Intensive grammar review/spiral (with Coral Reef Biome), Shakespeare

For each theme we have group reading/activities and then individual projects.  For example, with Christina Rossetti we had a volume of her poetry and each person memorized 1 poem (actually Caleb memorized 5 because he memorized every else's just for "fun").  We practiced our reading and expression and talked about themes and style within her poems.  Since he is older, I assigned Aidan to find a biography of her life and read it, present a summary of her life to us, and add her to his Book of Centuries.  The last thing we did was the older three each wrote a poem in her style (I'll share those in a separate post).

On a typical day, the morning meeting/group work takes between 1-2 hours.  I know that sounds like a lot, but we are working deep in our subject areas and often I am done out of necessity before they are. We do read aloud, sometimes during this time if it is relative and sometimes just whenever.  I don't schedule our read aloud time and that works for us.  We have seasons, but since we've never stopped and I don't really consider it *school* I didn't include it here.

Individual Work

After morning meeting/group work, kids work individually.  What they do varies and I shoot for weekly language and math lessons with Logan and Lucie during this time.  There is no set time, but I am trying using our 2-3 month "terms" as assignment deadlines this year.  The three readers each get a list of 3-5 books that they must finish during the time frame and then come talk to me about.  I'm going to make some selections from the Connecting with History booklists, but not actually do any history beside the reading and what comes up in our other areas of study.

They each have a notebook to write down their daily assignments from group work and any term-long assignments (mostly my way of taking 8th grade and making it harder than 5th grade and 3rd grade).  There is no set work time, but before they can be excused they have to bring me their planner so I'm checking in each day and know if they aren't making progress towards their longer goals.  This is one of those procedures-in-wait: so far its working but the final verdict is still out.  In addition to their reading lists, here are the rest of the individual work topics.

Aidan (8th Grade)
Math:  Math U See PreAlgebra. 
History:  Maintain Book of Centuries across Subject Areas
Supplemental Reading & Assignments in Religion and Science Themes
The Fallacy Detective (with Aidan)
Continue Trumpet
Homeschool Gym Co-Op

Caleb (5th Grade)
Math:  Teaching Textbooks 5
Computer Programming (with Tim)
The Fallacy Detective (with Aidan)
Supplemental Assignments across Subject Areas
Continue Piano & Clarinet
Begin Japanese Karate-Do
Homeschool Gym Co-Op

Kylee (3rd Grade)
Math:  Math U See Gamma
Continue Piano
Irish Dance

Logan (Kindergarten)
Begin Piano
Begin Japanese Karate-Do
Homeschool Gym Co-Op

Lucie (PreK 4)
Montessori Math
Continue emphasis in Practical Life & Sensorial Life
Creative Movement
Homeschool Gym Co-Op

Tomas (Infant/Toddler)
Probably some Speech/OT/Feeding Therapy

Mom (She's the crazy one)

There you have it!  If it looks ambitious, it's really not.  It just looks like so much because of how many kids I have, I promise.  We will still be done by lunch time 90% of days.  

Other Resources

What are your plans for this year?  I'd love to hear about them so leave me a note.  While I try to respond to every comment, I promise I read them all even if I don't get back to you!

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Meredith said...

I'm going to do the Well Read Mom book club with a group here, too! Are you doing it alone or with others? Good luck to both of us! (I have read some of the books before, so I might not read every single one...)

Meredith said...

Also, did someone mention The Fallacy Detective on a RAR podcast or Morning Basket podcast that you know of? I remember hearing about someone who did logic and loved their book, and I'm thinking that might be the one. Let us know what you think of it!