First day of school in Germany, take 2

Starting our year of homeschooling today was like a kick-off meeting for a big project: give them a little information, get them engaged, show them a plan, have them leave the room excited. Start and end on time.

And as will happen in kick-off meetings, there were things we didn’t plan for. Like, Charlotte fell down the steep, 15th century steps on her back (she’s OK). Ginger came into the room and looked like she was leaking something out of her side, forcing us to decide if dogs are allowed in the classroom.

Three out of four of us were sick, with the cleaning lady running the vacuum, but we got through it and both Charlotte and Lily were skipping their way up the street after, for a celebratory ice cream.

Town centre of Besigheim, up the street from mom's

Town centre of Besigheim, up the street from mom’s

The days go like this:

9 – 9:15 | Morning overview, school starts
9:15 – 10:15 | Math for Charlotte, Reading/Writing for Lily
10:15 – 10:35 | Recess
10:35 – 11 | Snack, read aloud time
11 – 11:30 | German
11:30 – 12 | Lunch
12 – 1 | Math for Lily, Reading/Writing for Charlotte
1 – 1:30 | Wrap-up

And then three days a week, we’ll go somewhere to tie in our learnings to a local destination. Fridays we’ll pretty much be out all day, after morning Math. Tuesdays and Thursdays, they’ll do either a Science or Art project in the afternoon, from 1 – 2:30.

I have the Reading/Writing focus with the kids. So I plan two different lessons for each of them, using some workbooks we bought in Seattle as a guide, and leveraging existing books Lily’s already reading or story ideas she’s drafting — focusing on spelling with Charlotte, reading Grimm fairy tales aloud, off her Kindle.

We’re using an online program my step-mom recommended called the Khan Academy to augment the workbooks, and since it’s fun and easy to monitor as a parent.

In the kick-off this morning, we drew up some posterboards that had our Class Contract (basically how we treat each other, ground rules) which we all signed by outlining our hands, a Goals sheet that lists what we want to accomplish, and a Curiosity Corner that serves as a place to capture questions about things we’re interested in, such as why the sun always seems to go down just as the moon is coming up.

Dawn’s made the point that we have the opportunity with them this year to inspire a real curiosity in learning, where they can help design what we learn and how they get to the information, which is a lot harder to get in public schools given the sheer volume and challenge of working with so many kids.

And I had to look up this morning the meaning of naked dreams — that dream I sometimes have where I look down and realise I’m not wearing anything, but I’m going to work or getting on a public bus. And the meanings are pretty obvious: you’re feeling inadequate, exposed, possibly called out for pretending to be somebody you aren’t. Haven’t had those dreams since I was working, which is funny it’s come back now, before the first day of school.

But with Lily and Charlotte both, they said it was the best Reading/Writing class they’d had. Lily read a passage on Claude Monet from her workbook, to work on her reading comprehension. We talked about annotating text, how to take notes or highlight key points as you’re reading so you can later explain what it meant in your own words.

I showed her some paintings by Monet on my laptop to augment the text, but she underlined just about everything in the exercise. So I pressed her for the key details, if she were describing Monet to someone who didn’t know anything about him. Is it important we know he’s from northwestern France, or just French?

In the writing class, we talked about what makes a good story good and why she likes to write — because when she sees things, she immediately thinks how she’ll describe them in words.

We agreed we’ll focus on character this week, and I asked her to write down and describe three characters from her favourite book, Harry Potter.

She completed Hermione and Ron, but said Harry was the hardest — there wasn’t enough room to describe him — and I asked why that’s so, and after she blurted out some ideas and seemed to get it, I told her to write down in her journal the fact that he’s conflicted, and that’s what makes him interesting, the conflict.

Dawn and I went back and forth about how much we put into this homeschooling thing, wavering between the feeling we’re either going to screw up their development if we don’t put enough into it, or we’re over-thinking it, and possibly missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel as a family. Hopefully we’ve found a good balance. And teachers are gods, in case you didn’t already know.

Categories: homeschooling

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16 replies

  1. This sounds like a solid plan with the flexibility to accommodate accidents and ice cream. I am curious, what prompted you to divide the math/reading and writing from each other for each child. Why not have both Lily and Charlotte do math at the same time and reading/writing at the same time? Or, do you need to keep one quiet while the other one learns a different level of math?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s funny – the comment about ice cream and flexibility. We actually have the girls separated for the Math and Reading/Writing in different parts of the classroom. So Dawn (my wife) is teaching Math, and develops different content for each girl, as I do with Reading/Writing. In other words, since she’s the Math teacher she can’t teach both girls at the same time. We’re doing 1:1 with each of them, on opposite sides of a room that’s big enough to where we can have private conversations without too much distraction to the other – that seems to go well because they’re competitive and can get knock us off-track with quibbling, or what have you. Lily’s 10 and Charlotte’s turning 8 next month. But heck, we’re making this up as we go – which is why I’m having anxiety dreams about being naked on buses with past co-workers! So please, any ideas/questions, all is up for grabs! Thanks for reading. Life is the job interview you didn’t know was a job interview, that’s one of my favourite quotes. – Bill

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think you nailed it. As with many things, of course, the key will be not so much execution as endurance.
    – Debbie Downer


    • My friend Walt Walker sent me something from a former manager/mentor about persistence, that it kind of kills everything else (like talent, skill, etc.) — like rats and cockroaches, mould. Persistence. Why do you people from England countries put a ‘u’ in mold? I guess I should ask why we Americans took it out? Too cheap with the ink, or what?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was cold.


  4. as a teacher, a mother, and a life-long learner, this sounds wonderful to me! i know you are on the right path, and it will take turns here and there, and that’s as it should be. that’s how life and learning intersect. and i have a feeling you will learn as much as the kids.


    • Darn right, I was thinking of you when I wrote this too — how much newfound appreciation we have for teachers, and how dialled-in I hope this will make us, with their learning going forward…thanks Beth.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is awesome! It sounds so interesting it makes me want to come be a teacher, although I’d probably suck at it. (But maybe not?) Anyway despite it seeming new and unknown, it sounds like you’ve got it nailed. Amazing photo.


    • Good luck to you on your travels to your new abode, looking forward to hearing more. Glad you liked the photo and the story, Cali — we have a long, long way’s to go. Booked our first property in Scotland though, and scouring out our tour there, so looking forward to getting into those notes you sent me on Edinburgh! – Bill


  6. I love to hear more about your home schooling and ideas I can.use when come to teaching my oldest son. What made you choose home school. Ps3 I loved germany as child.I lived there for three years


    • Thanks Julianne, glad this may have triggered ideas for you. Homeschooling for us was a roundabout, not altogether deliberate choice — but because we wanted to live in Germany for some time and travel, it was necessary. We originally wanted our kids to attend school here but it’s a bit too complicated with us not having a visa, and having to leave the country for 90 days right in the middle of a nine month visit. We thought we’d have to homeschool some anyway, if our kids were to attend school in Germany, and the Germans are strict about not missing so school, so it would have also limited our ability to travel, tethering us to their holiday schedule (which isn’t bad, of course). So, that’s the story. Thanks for visiting. – Bill


  7. Good plan! And now I know I have to visit Besigheim – looks like a lovely town, and I actually live not so far from it 🙂


  8. I very like this road and town. It looks like my Hanoi


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