Monday, August 25, 2014

A Trial Run

   That pretty new schedule I have all planned out for our school year is looking like it will need to be totally revamped! Ugh!  While I do enjoy planning, I'm not looking forward to sitting back down and re- figuring everything out.  Before I chuck the whole thing and start anew I decided to at least give it a try and see for sure where the tweaks are needed.  We were supposed to spend this week going on various field trips and start fresh with our school year after labor day.  But, after talking it over with the boys, we decided to start a somewhat shortened day of school today and give our schedule a trial run.   Today I had all three boys down for Verbal math lessons and while I love that we're rotating different methods of math I realized it's probably going to pretty difficult to find time to sit with each one of them individually.  I realized last night as I was pulling everything out I should have a schedule for EACH boy.  That way I could rotate the boys through the different types of math-- for example on Monday I could do verbal math with Ian, have Evan work in his workbook, and put Alec on the computer on Kahn academy, then on Tuesday we'd rotate and I'd work with Evan on verbal math, Alec could work in his workbook and Ian would have his turn on the computer... you get the idea.  They'd all still get some one- on- one time with me but it wouldn't be as time intensive on my end.  Not that I mind spending time with them all on math but I'm starting to think that's going to make for some really long days.  Especially when I take into account that we're introducing a few new subjects each day too.  I'm already unsure how to do spelling with three different kids who all have a different list but we decided to dive and in and see how it goes.
    I left the boys on their own until 9:30 and only gave a few reminders that they needed to be ready (including having had breakfast, gotten dressed, brushed teeth, and made their beds).  Imagine my surprise when they were all ready. I called them all upstairs and we started in with our round of house cleaning.  I'm trying to get us all in the habit of cleaning for 15-30 minutes a day, all working together to clean different areas of the house as needed.  My hope is that keeping up on the housework will make it less time intensive and we should be able to get it down to a 15 min. cleaning each day without living in fifth and squalor!  They grumbled a tiny bit but all pitched in and actually said "that's it?" when we were done.  I took that as a good sign!

    Since Evan was one of the first one's done with cleaning, I offered to sit down with him and go through Verbal Math lesson book 1; lesson 1 with him.  He thought it was super easy since it dealt with adding zero.  He was quick, accurate, and attentive.  As soon as he was done I asked Alec to come work with me.  I used the same book but started him on lesson 23.  As you get further into the books the lessons are longer so we only covered half of it.  I wasn't really sure what level to start him out at and found that lesson 23 was actually a pretty good fit.  It was a little bit challenging but not too hard for him.  We counted to 30 by 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 6's, 7's, 8's, 9's and 10's and then we counted down from 30 by 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, and 10's.  We added like digits together (4+4, 14 +14, etc.).  He added strands of numbers together (3+3+3, 5+5+5+5, etc.) and then he added numbers like 14+16 and 17+ 11; stuff like that.  A nice gradual, easy review with carrying numbers in his head and working out problems mentally.  Seeing how Alec did, I decided to try the same lesson with Ian.  He too, did really well and I'm thinking this might be a better starting off point for verbal math than the fractions level three book, which seemed a bit too difficult at times for both boys.  This way I feel like I'm giving them a running start.  Imagine my surprise when math was done in just 15 minutes!
    I sat the two older boys at the table and we did a trial run on their division minute quizzes.  Ian was so bummed that he got 11 out of the 16 questions right and I thought that was fantastic!  Alec only got 5 right but he realized we hadn't studied or done any division for awhile so he was happy with his score and knows we'll practice and do the tests again. 
   I pulled out each boys spelling lists.  I found these lists on Spelling Connections and decided to start Evan out with a first grade list, Alec out with a third grade list and Ian out with a fourth grade list.  I figured that would give me some idea of where they're at spelling wise and I can adjust as needed.  Evan's list dealt with short u sounds and I picked it specifically for the book I Like Bugs that we're working on reading this week.  I had him read the words to me, helping him sound them out as needed and then pulled out some Play-Doh and alphabet stamps for him to practice "writing" his words.  This is a spelling strategy I've uses in the past and I knew he really liked it.  The older boys thought that sounded like fun and so I told them they could do that too.  First I asked them to read their lists and since they were in cursive this was a bit tricky for them.  They decided to re-write each word in print down the side of their list so I felt like they ended up getting a double lesson in spelling.  I hadn't thought about how hard it might be for them to read them in cursive but I love that we'll be getting some adding learning in with learning how to read in cursive.  They thought their lists were easy and they had fun stamping the letters in the Play- Doh.  All three boys wanted to play for a bit when they were done and so I let them. 


       Evan came and sat with me on the couch and we started through lesson one in The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons.  It's a bit deceiving since lesson one is 14  pages long and you're only supposed to do a few pages each day but I figured if Evan was willing to work with me, more exposure to reading strategies certainly wouldn't hurt.  We easily went through the first 3 pages in lesson one and he pointed to the letters and pictures on the page.  We then read through I Like Bugs and talked about decoding, picture cues, and making good guesses.  He happily went back to Play- Doh when we were done.
    I let them play for a bit while I looked up and printed out some division flash cards for the older boys to practice with.  We cleaned up and headed out for a morning walk around noon.  It was a bit later than I had wanted to head out but I didn't want to make them clean up Play- Doh the minute they were done with spelling.  I know the downtimes and playtimes are important in our day.  We all grabbed an apple to help ward away hunger and headed out into our woods.  I was surprised to find out how overgrown the path was that we had planned to take; unfortunately we were pretty far into the trail before it became overgrown and rather than turn back the boys decided to just stomp right through it.  We did see a toad, a few unusual fungi species, and many spider webs-- one even had a spider on it tying up a dead bug.  The boys ran through the sprinklers on the way home and we decided to stick to more defined paths from now on. 


Sap running down the tree

We loved this purple globe mushroom

Spider web-- looking up through it

    I took a quick shower while they all made their lunches (I had the pleasure of walking right into a spider web and getting the webbing stuck in my hair).   We sat down to eat together and I read part of our Harry Potter book.  Typically, I would read an entire chapter but this was a very loooong chapter and I knew we still had geography to finish up our day.  I offered to read our geography books once the boys were done eating.  Alec and Evan were bummed I was stopping our Harry Potter reading and I promised to try and find time later on to read the rest but I know Ian wanted to play outside and in order to do that we had to finish our school day. 
    Our state study for the day was Rhode Island.  Living nearby we often visit Rhode Island and we even have family in Rhode Island so we started with my asking them what they know about Rhode Island-- they knew ALOT!  I had coloring sheets for the older two boys and I offered a sheet to Evan too, but knowing he hates to color I figured he'd pass on that (and he did).  The older two boys had fun coloring while I read aloud form R is for Rhode Island Red.  We stopped on each page to make connections to our lives; placed we had eaten or been to that were discussed in the book.  It was a great way to start our 50 state study!  We made it more than 1/2 way through the book when we were interrupted by the doorbell.  My mother in law stopped by and offered to bring the boys on a jet ski ride.  It was a gorgeous and sunny day so I told them I'd finish reading after jet skiing. 


      We cleaned up the house and headed outside.  They all went on jet ski rides, looked at the snake skin Ian found in the water, and watched as Ian caught another fish in his net.  Once they settled down outside we finished reading R is for Rhode Island Red and then we read The Bravest Woman in America; which was all about Ida Lewis and her job as lighthouse keeper in Newport, Rhode Island.  The boys loved the story and I loved that Ida was mentioned in R is for Rhode Island Red too.  Somehow it just tied all our studying together!  I declared school officially over for the day but was a bit dismayed to see it was 3:00 and we never had time for art (at least not a real art lesson). 

    Ian scrounged around in the house and found an old board and I helped him pin the snake skin down to it to try and dry it out.  Never having done that before I warned him that we could end up ruining it.  I wasn't sure how many pins we needed, where to put them or how much the skin would curl and/or shrink as it dried.  We worked together, slowly and carefully to stretch the skin out as much as we dared to without breaking it and hammered in some small sewing pins to hold it in place.

   The younger boys went off and played on the swing set and around the house while Ian cooled off in the water and I pondered what to do about our schedule.  I love all the topics we're covering and I know the boys didn't complain at all about the length of our day, since we added in plenty of fun things to do, but I know we can't keep up a full day of school 4 days a week.  We have homeschool get togethers, grocery shopping, field trips and other assorted errands that are going to get in the way occasionally.  I'm thinking one day a week as a catch up just isn't going to be enough.  Perhaps I need to plan an entire field trip week each month and we could use that as catch up time when we don't want to go anywhere?  I just don't know.  I just know I like our schedule, but I don't LOVE it and I'm much more likely to stick to it if I LOVE it.  In the meantime we'll keep it as is, I guess and I'll make changes as I think of them I guess.  All in all I'd say we had a successful trial run. 

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