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.
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.