(Sort-Of) Back-to-School

It’s (sort-of) Back to School Time! What does that mean? you ask. Well, it’s fall, so its full on Back-to-School sales (yay!). It’s back to fall sports (really? Soccer already?!!) It’s time to really be sure I have planned all our fall schoolwork. I’m mostly ready, but have a few things to finish and to account for what schoolwork we’ve done over the summer.

Wait a minute! Summer school? you ask. Yep! We had a super busy April-May and none of us felt like doing school any more. The kids had really mostly finished their math and spelling books, reading and writing were coming along and… well, everything else is in elementary school is just gravy, really, isn’t it?

Sky SwimSo I decided to try a summer school experiment this year, (with the kids’ fully on board). A bit of school here & there, (mostly in June & July). In between quite a few field trips and summer camps. Oh, and don’t forget our daily swim team practices.

Mainly we focused on beginning our history reading, keeping up with Devin’s Hooked on Phonics, working on fun math & some games.  It was light & mostly fluffy as we spent the month doing our unit on China. But, as usual for us, it dragged on beyond it’s scheduled 5-6 weeks, and we are still plodding along with one last reader, a few stories and folk tales, and half a read-aloud to go. Deadlines are hard to manage and stick to at God’s Path School, summer, fall OR winter!

I went with the summer school thing for a couple reasons. First, I just wanted to try it. To see if we could manage a year-round school experience. I found that the kids didn’t seem to mind too bad, as long as I didn’t ask too much of them. My goals were to at least do the first 6 weeks of history, so that during our regular school year we would be a bit less pressured to ‘fit it all in!’ (I’m sure none of you ever feel that pressure!)

(I call it the ‘Git-er-done’ need. The check-the-box need. The must-complete-the-book compulsion. I’m trying to break myself of this feeling, but it is so HARD! I like that box checked, that list ticked off and getting smaller. It makes me feel so HAPPY and so accomplished! )

I digress. The kids didn’t really seem to mind school this summer, but man, this MOM did! I hated having to keep reminding them to do school work before play. To have to sit with them and work while I would much rather have been getting my I’ll-do-it-in-the-summer list accomplished. (Yep! there’s another list again!) I would have much rather been sitting at the pool relaxing while they played, than trying to motivate the kids to read, spell or do math.

It became the school year that never ended. NOT a good thing in my mind, and I’m not sure it was not healthy for Skylar and her distractible tendancy as well. She really struggled with choosing to do school, rather than wiling the days away with her dolls and legos. & I struggled with forcing them to work because it was distracting for me as well! (She doesn’t get the distractibility from a stranger, folks!).

The current state of our schoolroom. Of course the kids wanted to re-arrange again this year, and I'm still trying to finalize choices for curriculum, reorganize and clean!

The state of our schoolroom. Of course the kids wanted to re-arrange again this year, and I’m still trying to finalize choices for curriculum, clean and reorganize!

The main problem for me in trying to school this summer, is that in my changing over from last year’s curriculum, to this year’s stuff, my schoolroom and half my house became a DISASTER. Book piles everywhere, trying to get sorted and organized, to be put in the garage so I know what I have and where to find it for the next time around. Deciding what to sell knowing I won’t use it again, and sorting through all the awesome deals I found at the end of year curriculum sales, that won’t be used for a year or two.

Sorting books in the foyer... at least they are not in the school room, but not where they need to be either!

Sorting books in the foyer… at least they are not in the school room, but not where they need to be either!

My schoolroom is still a mess, but gaining. My foyer is still a book repository, my garage is insane. But we got some of a headstart on history. (hear the load of sarcasm there). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t worth it, but by next spring I may feel differently.

Koala at the zoo

Snoozing Koala at the zoo

But, summer school does have it’s advantages. I like the unstructured learning fun of trips and camps, the learning while doing, the family togetherness. We’ve had a lot of fun adventures even if my to-do list hasn’t gotten shorter. And really, what is life as a parent if you aren’t having adventures, enjoying time with your kids, and being silly?! Learning takes place all over, and though I know our school is not meant to be in the unschooling style all year, I do enjoy the unstructured learning we get in summer.

Holding up the Balancing Rock

Holding up the Balancing Rock

Along with a few books, God’s Path Summer School also consisted of Nature Camp, AHG Camp & Bible Camp, VBS, Trips to the Zoo and Science Centers, Hiking and Camping, and Swim Team. I think we had our fill of extracurriculars!

A few Swim Team Ribbons

A few Swim Team Ribbons

Now we’re taking a break, a mini-vacation of sorts, before the reality of our fall schedule kicks back in, in early September. I realize that keeping a set, more regimented schedule each day works better for my kids. They know what to expect, what comes next, can sit and work in a better mode if we are not trying to “squeeze in” some school. Distractions aside, school works better for us.

Muddy Day at Nature Camp

Muddy Day at Nature Camp

Summer school experiment: I rate it a 5 for getting ahead, a 10 for fun extra stuff. Not sure I like it, not sure I hate it. What do you think? Have you tried Summer School? How does it work for your family?

Shira

Creating Critters at Camp Wannacombac

Creating Critters at Camp Wannacombac

Singing at VBS

Singing at VBS

Trip to the Strawberry Farm

Trip to the Strawberry Farm

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Year 2, Week 1 complete!

IMG_1947So we made it through our first week back-to-school! It was better than I thought it would be & worse than I had hoped it would be. About par for the course, I suppose.

Our schedule worked pretty well, I need to adjust some times, and move some things around, but overall, I think it will work for the most part. Our circle time routine was the most successful part of the day, I think, and it set a nice tone for the day. (See my post on Circle Time Routine for more details about this).

This has been taking about an hour so far, which is a bit long for my preference, but it is a nice gentle start to the day. We are getting through several subjects at this time too (poetry, bible, music, rhymes). I think we’ve all enjoyed it as a good way to start the day, and we immediately focus on God & our Bible study, which is nice.

Skylar:IMG_1944

I had hoped Skylar would be more independent with the new binder system this year, but she hasn’t fully bought in, or doesn’t fully understand the system yet. She is still relying on me a lot to get her assignments, so I need to get her more in tune with the binder & schedule. I hope it is just because it is new, and she will get into it after a few weeks or so!

Skylar did pretty well overall. We completed most of what I had hoped we would accomplish. She got knotted up on her math, having forgotten some big sections of her math facts over the summer, so we will be working on getting those back in speedy shape with some card games the next few weeks. She loved her history and science, notebooked like a pro & colored like crazy. She loved her new cursive copywork book (I Can Write Cursive). Mixed in with the Bible verse copywork and science copywork, it was a good blend of cursive and print.

We started her in All About Spelling level 3 and she did great with that. Some of the rules were a bit confusing, because we haven’t done Level 2, but most she knew. When tested, she knocked her spelling list out of the park!  Rod & Staff 3 was good, but not as much of a hit with her as the AAS, but I think it will be good once we get into it.

Blanket ball

For reading we began with Pedro’s Journal as read-aloud, and A Lion to Guard Us as independent reading. We enjoyed Pedro, but Skylar didn’t like the early part of Lion (b/c the mom is very sick and dies). She has such a sensitive heart and since her brother died when she was young, any books with death just get to her heart. We decided to set it aside and maybe read it later in the year. I had pre-read the book and hadn’t thought it would hit her that hard, but I was wrong!

I was pleased with how well she settled back into the routine of school. It really did help with their behavior this week; the structure of school was definitely needed and worked… yay! We even managed to do some sort of PE each day, including a game of crab soccer & a rousing game of blanket ball!  Overall, It was a pretty good week.

IMG_1951Devin:

Devin did great on his phonics this week! He absolutely LOVED the Phonics Museum story so I think that program will be a hit. He knows almost all of his main alphabet sounds & can segment easy words quite well already. I worked with him to read the HOP Book #1, and he did that pretty well. It’s a little hard yet for him, because he isn’t recognizing the words from page to page, but I have faith it will come soon. He is definitely going to be a reader; he will sit for quite a while just paging through his picture books over and over. It’s so exciting to see his progress already!

He slammed through his Early Bird Math, and I think I will need to supplement this quite a bit. He did almost all of the first 3 units in one sitting, but then would not sit and do it again. Stubborn boy. But I am okay with that, because he was doing it well and figuring it out with ease.Math Class

One problem we did have is that Sky is still very distractible with Devin around, and his behavior hasn’t helped much. He has been fighting me a lot on doing a specific task (math workbook, writing, or such) so much so that it goes to a full out tantrum! Then he finally gives in, and ends up loving it so much he does WAY more than I was asking him to do. But I can’t get him to stop once he starts. So that’s good, but I hope this week he will remember that the books are fun, and NOT throw the tantrums. I do have lots of breaks built into his day, and he likes that, but getting him to switch back to “teaching time” from playtime was difficult.

I was not super pleased with the Little Hearts guide for him. He didn’t like the Rhymes much; I didn’t get too much interest in that at all. We didn’t try the history, but I might work on it next week. My concern is in trying to teach history to a child who still is unclear on the concept of yesterday/today/tomorrow… how do you do that? I don’t think he is ready for that, so I may just drop that piece. We’ll see. I hope he is more ready to try things next week, but I just didn’t want to fight him on that subject this week too! And he is only 4, he has years to learn history and that other stuff anyway. I don’t want to wear him down with subjects that are too hard. I want him to like school and look forward to it!

Other fun stuff we did! 

crossing the stream

In trying to keep it lighter this year, we did a park day Thursday afternoon for some Nature Study. I wanted to let D play while Skylar read. Then we were going to go for a bike ride/walk, find a new playground, and a bit more reading. But after our walk/bike ride the kids found a creek they wanted to explore.

It was supposed to just be a few minutes, but it became quite an adventure, including some slips on the rocks and a very wet boy! We looked at bugs and fish and tried to find tadpoles. That was fun and okay, but no reading occurred!

I guess exercise, nature exploration & recess was all I could ask for from that outing! We’ll try it another day, but maybe do a bit more school on a blanket before we begin the walk!

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Then, Friday we ended up taking a spur-of-the-moment Field Trip Friday! I heard thru the Homeschool grapevine that Discovery Place was having a Homeschoolers Day so we decided to take the opportunity to go. It was a super fun time, but not nearly long enough for the kids! I’m sure we will have to return another day! We were able to see a very cool IMAX movie called “Flight of the Butterflies,” which was about studying the migration of monarch butterflies, and I think it covered that life cycle quite well. It was an amazing movie, go see it if you are able!  We also learned all about poop, blood, slime and vomit at the ANIMAL GROSSOLOGY exhibit. Very fun, hands on kid-friendly stuff. It was funny and fun!

IMG_2051

IMG_2052

So that was our week! We need to finish our art project tomorrow (I’ll post our picture once we do it). We are working on a Leo Leonni style painting of Lobsters (footprint) & seaweed, to relate to Devin’s reading of “Swimmy.” It also goes nicely with Skylar’s unit of crustaceans from her Apologia Swimming Creatures. On our field trip we were also able to see a lot of crabs, jellyfish and other sea creatures, which was great to apply to our science and seashore learning as well.

It was a fun week, I’m looking forward to week 2!

Shira