I will add to this bit by bit, as time and inspiration hit me.  I want to use this page to outline exactly what we do when we homeschool, just the nuts and bolts.  I’ll add more interesting content on posts, but if someone wants to see exactly WHAT we do, this is the place.

MUSIC: I have a songbook that my mother-in-law gave me dating from the 70’s.  I pick one song per week, and we sing it together each morning.  On Friday, I accompany either on piano or guitar, depending on how hard the guitar chords are.

U.S. HISTORY: We do U. S. history all together.  It’s not a skill subject, and the material works for both ages.  For our main text, we use This Country  of Ours by H. E. Marshall.  It is a good general overview of history beginning with the Vikings and going through WWI.  That should keep us busy for awhile.  I read about 10 pages to the boys twice a week.  That usually gets us through one chapter.  After each reading, I ask Cool Guy to just tell me what I read about, and I ask Encyclopedia to write a summary for me.  Sometimes, the boys draw from the Narration Box instead of just giving a straight summary, and sometimes Encyclopedia gives me an oral summary instead of a written one.  The language of the book is fairly elevated and sometimes archaic, but there’s no comprehension problems, and it is written in a way that captures the boys’ imaginations.

In addition to the main text, I add an additional book for each boy to cover during the term.  Cool Guy is reading, with my help, Pocahontas by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire.  Encyclopedia is reading This Dear Bought Land by Jean Lee Latham.  Both are excellent retellings of the Jamestown adventures, and it has been neat when readings from both the main book and the additional book work in tandem.

NARRATIONS: This is following the Charlotte Mason approach.  I mentioned narrations above and thought I would clarify.  After one of the boys reads or is read to, he tells me what he has read, either orally or in written form.  He is not supposed to look back at the text, as going from memory makes him pay more attention the first go-round.  I am not supposed to interrupt or lead him in any way, but just let him tell me what he understands and has processed.  If I keep the reading from being too long, it works wonderfully.  I know when we’ve bitten off too much to digest at once when the narration gets sloppy or skimpy.

Sometimes, to mix things up, we use the narration box, which is a box full of slips of papers with different ideas on ways to tell me back what has been read.  Examples would be to act out the reading using stuffed animals (a favorite) or to relate three things from the reading.  I’ve slipped in a “no narration” choice, which the boys always want to draw and never seem to.  I got this idea from another blog, but I can’t for the life of me track it down.  If you’re out there and read this, drop me a line, so I can give you credit!

In theory, if a child reads, processes, and then gives back the material in his own words, then he has made it his own and has truly learned it.  It seems to be working well here without creating a lot of busy work to hassle over, and the boys seem to be retaining most of the material.  I like it when things work the way they’re supposed to.

MORNING PRAYER: We usually start our day with morning prayer.  Sometimes, if we are going to Daily Mass that day, we will skip this.  We have an altar next to the classroom.  We light a candle and incense, say prayers, varying from “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” to something more spontaneous.  It really does help us get the day going in a meaningful way.

ANCIENT HISTORY: Again, this follows the read-then-narrate approach.  The difference is that boys are working separately.  Encyclopedia is reading Famous Men of Greece, a little bit each week.  To supplement this, he is also reading Alexander the Great by one of my favorite authors, Nikos Kazantzakis.  He reads a chapter per day on this, but each chapter is very short.  Cool Guy is listening to me read a Children’s Bible.  He loves the stories.  I have a couple of children’s Bible encyclopedias to expand the studies, but we have used it seldom.  They are nice, but I just forget.

GEOGRAPHY: I think this is my favorite subject.  The boys do this one together.  We are studying Europe this year, and focusing on these countries: Sweden, The Netherlands, and Italy.  Why these?  Because we have books for these.  Term 1, we did Sweden by reading The Children of Noisy Village.  Term 2, we’re doing The Netherlands by reading The Wheel on the School, one of my all-time favorite books, and Term 3, we will do Italy by reading Vendela in Venice.  Other ways we “do” these countries is by trying out some recipes, spending some time on Google Earth, examining paper maps of the area, and finally, Encyclopedia is assigned to find out some facts about the focus country each week.  At the end of term, he will compile his information into one presentation.

Once a week, we do mapwork.  For Cool Guy, this means messing around with the neat Montessori wooden map puzzle.  Cool Guy is very good at puzzles, so he enjoys this.  We are learning to identify some of the European countries and capitols.  Encyclopedia is keeping track of places mentioned in his readings during the week, and then he locates these on maps or Google Earth.  He enjoys doing this.

The third aspect of geography is Earth studies.  We love this.  We use The Earth as our guide, and an outline of lessons from Mather Amibilis.  We have been studying rivers and oceans, but we are fairly through these lessons, so I’ll find something else for us to do for the rest of the year.  Any lesson that has activities attached is a favorite of the boys.  I’ll have to try to involve more activities in other subjects.

Math: I have two polar oppositely abled sons regarding math.  Encyclopedia is a math whiz, and Cool Guy struggles mightily.  I play math games with them each day, one doing lots of mental gymnastics, and the other practicing basic addition.  I got a really great math games book, and it is a fun way to learn and reinforce the skills.

The other thing I do for math is the MEP program, which is free online.  It covers everything efficiently, and if one son or the other is having a struggle, I stop and work with him, usually printing off some extra practice workseets at Dadsworksheets.  My main goal for Encyclopedia is to teach him to take his time, do it neatly, check his work, and think through problems.  My goal for Cool Guy is to not be afraid of numbers and to learn the math facts without aid of fingers.

Reading: This is only for Cool Guy, as Encyclopedia is an excellent reader and does read.  Cool Guy struggles mightily, not only with the words, but also with staying focused and keeping his eyes on the right word/line.  For 10 minutes each day we read together from any book on a shelf full of books that are the right level of difficulty.  First Cool Guy reads, and then when he feels he needs a break, he gives me a signal (something like “yo-ho-ho) and I take over.  I only read a sentence or two, and then I yo-ho-ho back at him.  He is SUPPOSED to be following along with his eyes what I read, but he usually doesn’t.  As the year has progressed, Cool Guy has gone from reading only 5 minutes to now 10 or even more when he is caught up in the story.  Also, I have started requiring him to read at least the first page alone before asking to be relieved.  This way of reading works well for us because Cool Guy doesn’t feel so daunted by the task, knowing that I am there to help out.

One thing, though: I do make sure that he reads all the words exactly right.  No skipping words, no putting in almost the right word, etc.  Cool Guy has trouble keeping his eyes on track, so this is practice in reading the exact word that is there, not a close approximation.

After a book is finished, Cool Guy draws from the prize bag, which has 12 numbered poker chips.  Then we refer to the prize sheet, which has prizes like “no room cleanup” or “stay up 30 minutes later” or the Big Kahuna, “rest of the day off.”  Most of these prizes are cost-free.

In addition to actual reading, we also do some phonics.  I make up cards (about 50) of a particular letter/sound, such as “ai” for the long A sound.  I write the words on index cards, with all the letters in black except for the focus sound: rain, complain, sustain, etc.  We work on a combo for awhile until he seems to have it.  It has turned out to also be great vocabulary learning, since Cool Guy asks what the word means when he doesn’t know.

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