04 August 2017

Planning for the new school year

We're not remotely ready to start school yet, which fine as far as I'm concerned because why in the world are some school districts starting classes the first week of August? What happened to summer? Maybe this is just an Alaskan mentality, but we have so few months without snow on the ground, we need that whole 3-month break to get gardening and outside projects done, and get the kids outside as much as possible!

Plus, this year, first trimester ick has me thinking that waiting until the beginning of September really doesn't sound unreasonable. I do have a plan, though, even if I've only just finally finished ordering materials...

Okay, it's less of a firm "plan" at this point and more of a "well-considered list of materials". Good thing we've already established that I have several weeks left, right? 

We enrolled with one of the state homeschooling organizations this year, the same one I was enrolled in 7th through 12th grade. It is great: in exchange for agreeing to submit an Individualized Learning Plan for the year, a work sample for each subject each quarter, and progress reports at the end of each semester, parents are allowed to select the curriculum that works best for their students, and each student receives an allotment that can be used to reimburse purchases of non-sectarian materials, art supplies, music lessons, PE lessons (sports, swimming, martial arts, etc), field trips, etc. There are caps on how much you can be reimbursed in some categories, and you have to have at least four subjects—at least two of them core—that don't use religious/sectarian materials, or the allotment amount gets reduced. I sat down with our contact teacher from the organization a couple of weeks ago and wrote out Little Bear's ILP, which mapped out what subjects we'll be doing, what topics he'll be covering in each, and what our books/curriculum will look like. So for kindergarten, we're listed as taking Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Art. 

I expect to break Language Arts down into about three subjects on the weekly lesson plan: handwriting, reading, and circle (Waldorf-style song/storytelling/imaginative language development). For the latter, we're using the kindergarten curriculum from Lavender's Blue, a secular Waldorf-style program. I have high hopes for it, so I'll have to report back on it as we go. Handwriting will be the first grade book from Handwriting Without Tears, which just came in the mail today and honestly it looks waaaaay easy, so I'm going to have to keep on reminding him that the challenge is to do it neatly and carefully. I have a hand-me-down copywork book as well, which we may wind up using some of. And for reading, we will continue with Catholic Heritage Curricula's Little Stories for Little Folks, along with hopefully-frequent trips to the public library and the homeschool organization's library.

Math is straightforward this year: we'll be using RightStart Math, level B, with a book of Mind Benders logic puzzles from the Critical Thinking Company as a fun reward for getting other things done.

Science is a little more all over the place. He wanted to learn about "everything" this year, so we're planning to go through a couple of Magic School Bus science kits, starting with their Human Body Lab and going on to volcanoes and magnets. He reads so much on his own, and much of it nonfiction/science-related, that instead of working through a big science text this year I want to put more of a focus on nature study, spending time outdoors and learning about plants, animals, weather, seasons... We will see. I have a few Waldorf-style natural science books full of ideas.

Social Studies is going to be heavy on geography, because I love geography and he's going to learn to. :-) We have the first Maps Charts & Graphs book, which introduces the idea of reading the titular infographs with a focus on the local community. We'll also be going through a kids' atlas of the US and another of the world, reading through them and finding other resources to continue learning about any places or cultures that catch Little Bear's interest. We signed up with the Raddish kids' cooking program again, and that will also tie in with our learning about different places and peoples.

Art has never been my strong suit—I would go out of my way to avoid having art project disasters in the house—but I know it's important and I know Little Bear will enjoy it, so I was glad to see art projects included in the weekly lesson plans for the Lavender's Blue curriculum. 

And this won't be one of our classes for the state organization, of course, but we'll also be using the Who Am I? Kindergarten religion curriculum from Ignatius Press.

Writing things out is so helpful... I guess I  do have a plan for the year. Writing out weekly lesson plans is not going to be quite as simple as it was last year, but I think it's going to work out well. Little Bear just asked me to read this post to him, and now he's all excited about starting school; I convinced him that we need to wait until at least the week of the 21st.

If you have kids, when will (or did!) your school year start?


  1. Andrew is doing mostly Seton. He's enrolled there for Religion, reading, and English. We're using their spelling, vocabulary, maps charts and graphs,health,and math books as well. We're also going to use an online typing program to get him started with the keyboard.

    Peter will be working through All About Reading and Math U See. He also has Seton's kindergarten handwriting book. On top of this, I have a variety of workbooks for him to practice pencil control, coloring, scissor work, etc. as he asks for more to do.

    Both boys will be doing the other subjects together. We're using Stratton House for science. We got the insects, magnets, and light kit. Music is learning abut composers and then listening to their music throughout the week. Art is using Usborne Art Treasury, learning about an artist and then doing a project based on one of their works. Social Studies we will be learning about cultures around the world. They also have a journal for writing in from a daily prompt.

    Elizabeth has a bunch of workbooks to do as well as her own journal to color in. Because "you don't have any schoolwork" is not an acceptable answer to her!

    We do a daily circle for reading aloud, singing a weekly song, praying, Spanish vocabulary, learning the liturgical day, and memory work.

    We started last week. July and August are just so hot and humid down here, so we spend a lot of time indoors anyways! At this age, schoolwork only takes a couple of hours anyways. Plus we quit for summer March 1. 5 months was plenty long for a break!

    1. That sounds great! How did your first couple of weeks go? I'm wondering whether Little Bear will still be as happy about starting school again as he thinks he'll be, once we are back into a routine.

      What do you use for Spanish? We've been talking about introducing some foreign language, possibly in the spring semester, but I haven't even begun looking into what's out there for this level.

      Elizabeth sounds like Kit! We just arranged school books on a shelf today, and it made Kit very happy to see a corner of the bottom shelf designated as "her school": coloring books, half-used notebooks, etc. :-)

    2. Spanish is super casual. We're using Usborne Thousand Words in Spanish and just learning some vocabulary. John still remembers some of his high school Spanish and can pronounce well, so I will sometimes get out familiar books from the library in Spanish.

      The first couple weeks have been good! I think the kids are happy to be back into a routine. Andrew mentioned that he had not been looking forward to school, but then once it started, he was enjoying it. Of course things will get tossed around again in a month. Peter and Elizabeth will go to a once a week preschool, and our co op every other week will start up.

      Yes! When I tell the boys to get their books, Elizabeth comes running "Me, too??" I started to work on scissor use with her, and she is thrilled!