After months of thought and planning, I feel like I finally have our plans for the upcoming year as finalized as they are going to be. I’m not sure how useful they would be to anyone else. These aren’t the kind of plans that get pinned all over Pinterest so that moms can breathe a sigh of relief that someone has done all their planning for them. That would be nice, but what I really have here is my own sketched out plan that I think will work for my own family. I use this blog as place to record our family’s days, and as a place to store my own thought processes in regard to mothering and teaching my children. If they are of any use to anyone else, then I thank God for that, and please feel free to use what is useful in your own family.
Before I get started, this is our overview for September (PDF). There are a lot of abbreviations that might not make sense, and it is still a work in progress, as this is a document that I change frequently as we go through the week and month, but at least you can see how I’ve organized the overview.
Below I have detailed the various aspects of our home education for this year of the Kindergarten of the Good Shepherd. If I were to label what “kind” of home education it is, I would say it is inspired by the Charlotte Mason philosophy and Waldorf kindergartens, with a few habits that we hope to form as we move into a more classically-inspired education as the children get older. My priorities are hands-on exploration and creativity, lots of time outdoors, and hours of reading aloud of good children’s literature.
The Daily Rhythm
Here is a PDF of our daily schedule. I’ve changed it a bit since I posted it last time to make room for an afternoon hour together outside before quiet time. I like to paint alongside my children when they do watercolor painting, and so I painted two sheets of watercolor paper and wrote out our daily and weekly schedules on them to keep at my desk. I posted about how I came up with a daily schedule that matched our natural daily rhythms here.
The Book Basket
I’ve added to this since I posted it last too. Click to open a PDF of our September book basket books, including the books that live there permanently. I’ve got an October book basket list going too.
It works best for us to have a period of “learning time” before we do normal things like get dressed and eat breakfast. Mostly, Mama needs time to drink her coffee :) So our “Morning Time” will consist of reading whatever chapter book we are reading together (I keep a running list of chapter books we are reading here), and then morning prayers, with the daily life of a saint from the Horologian. What will be new this fall is reading a chapter from the real Bible (as opposed to only reading from the Children’s Bible Reader), learning verses and prayers by memory (memory work plans are below), and learning a hymn each week. I’m excited to have this CD to learn the hymns of the great feasts through the year, especially since we are re-learning a lot of hymns in the translations and melodies used by the Greek Archdiocese.
One of the very best homeschooling talks I’ve listened to is The Long Haul, by Cindy Rollins. It is the talk at the top of the page. It is all about Morning Time and using it to fit in the parts of an education that are so easily pushed aside but are so crucial – faith and scripture, hymns, art, poetry, music, literature, Shakespeare. I found it applicable even for kindergarten, as it inspired me to make sure my children were surrounded by the true, the beautiful, and the good from the very beginning of their educational journey. Cindy has sadly taken down her excellent blog recently, but most of her writing on morning time is still archived here at Morning Time Moms. This series 31 Days to Morning Time is a great place to start.
We’ll also be sprinkling a little memory work throughout the day. During Morning Time, we’ll work on learning scripture by heart, using this method from Simply Charlotte Mason. Making 31 tabs for the days of the month was a bit much for me, so I made daily, even, odd, and weekly tabs. After the weekly tab, passages will go in to general “review.” For a really great introduction to this form of memory work, and on why it’s important to do memory work at all, listen to this talk, Memorization and the Soul: Why, What, and How (free download). Really, you won’t regret listening to it.
For many, memory work is a subject unto itself, and anything to be memorized is memorized together. I didn’t want to put scripture, poetry, and, say, political documents (um, not that we’re doing those in kindergarten) all together. Scripture will be memorized as part of morning prayer. We’ll do hymns then too. Hymns have their own place in the memory box, but they are divided up by month. It didn’t make sense to do hymns the same way as scripture, since they are tied to the liturgical year. So we’ll just sing the same hymn every morning for a week, and then move on. They will get memorized over the years. And we can just start again with the same set of cards next September. I had all sorts of angst over where to put hymns for Lent and Pascha, since that part of the year is moveable. Should it have its own section, in addition to the 12 months? Should I put them in March and hope that sort of covers it? And then I realized there was nothing stopping me from moving the index cards around to whatever month I wanted them to be in. Seriously, sometimes I really make things harder than they need to be.
Poetry has its own section in the same box, identical to the scripture part. We’ll memorize poems as part of circle time, later in the morning. We’ve been reading and reciting poetry during circle time for two years already, so this just formalizes it a little and keeps track of what we really know. I think I’ll make a page here on the blog for scriptures and poetry we’ve memorized, so look for that if you’re interested. I do know what our first poem will be, as it perfectly encapsulates something I think is true about education and our homeschooling journey:
Little drops of water
Little grains of sand
Make the mighty ocean
And the beauteous land
Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above
And the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages.
~Mrs. J. A. Carney (1845)
And Psalm 23 will be our first scripture to memorize – the Lord is my Shepherd, perfect for our kindergarten.
Main lessons: Math, Reading, Children’s Garden of the Theotokos, Misc.
The biggest shift in for us between preschool and kindergarten will be a short period of lessons in the morning – math, reading, and activities from the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos Orthodox kindergarten curriculum. My goal is for these to be no more than 15 minutes each.
After hemming and hawing for months, I finally went ahead and ordered the primer level of Right Start math for James. No educational philosophy that I follow suggests formal math for kindergarteners, but I think James would like it and feel very proud of himself for figuring out how to manipulate numbers. This curriculum was developed by a Montessori teacher and seems very intuitive, with lots of games and manipulatives. We’ll just keep it low-key and to 15 minutes a few times a week.
We started going through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I don’t love it, but it does the trick and James loves doing “reading lessons.” He also reads the first couple BOB books and loves to spell things out, both by writing and using our moveable alphabet.
We’ve had the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos curriculum for a couple years, and use a bit more of it each year. I think this year we will be doing most of the activities. We will probably do the “unit study” activities during this time, and keep the festal activities during circle time, where we’ve always done them before, as Miriam is just as interested in these activities and they are short and active lessons.
Circle time will look more or less like what we’ve done for the last two years. In short, opening poem, Trisagion prayers, Children’s Bible Reader, Visual Catechism, short saint story from a children’s book, poems, songs, fingerplays, sometimes picture books. The only changes will be trying to fully memorize some poems. I’d like to increase our repertoire of folk songs and seasonal songs from the Mary Thienes-Schunemann books too. I consider circle time to be mostly geared toward Miriam now, although James is welcome to participate for as long as he wants!
Afternoons: Outdoors, Read Aloud, Quiet Time, Art, Handwork, Seasonal Crafts, and Practical Life
After sitting with the daily schedule for a few days, I decided one thing it was missing was enough time for us to be active outdoors. There is time throughout the day for the kids to run outside whenever they want, but I wanted a window of time for walks, gardening, trips to the playground, or just playing soccer. So I shifted things around until I made a full hour every day for “Outdoor Hour.” And what is different about this particular hour is that I am supposed to be outside with them! I send the kids outside all day long, but don’t join them enough.
We’ll move from outdoor hour to read aloud time (because reading aloud is very important to our family) and from read aloud time to quiet time. As an introverted homeschooling mom, I would be doomed without quiet time. We have always been very strict about naptime, and now that they clearly don’t need naps every day, we still enforce quiet time. At least an hour, every day. They go to various beds with books, and usually come and ask me for either a Sparkle Story or a “Dr. Chrissi” story. If they are tired enough, one or both might fall asleep.
Art, handwork, crafts, and practical life activities (just one of these per day) are planned for after quiet time. The children LOVE this but this will take a huge effort on my part to pull off. I think it is all very important, but I am usually about out of energy by this time. Just…pray for me, LOL! As an act of good faith, you can see that I’ve put art supplies within easy reach, which is a big step for this controlling, mess-averse mama.
On our schedule, I put one “free art” activity, mostly chosen from the excellent book The Artful Parent, one handwork project (see my Pinterest board for some ideas), one day of watercolors, one seasonal or nature craft, and one practical life activity. The practical life activity is just teaching them things that every kid needs to know (self-care, buttoning, tying shoes) or going over a bit of work that helps out around the house (folding napkins, washing windows, sweeping). It might also include cooking projects. It just helps me to have it on the schedule so that I remember to think of a few things they can do to be more independent and more helpful. I have a Pinterest board on that too if you’re interested.
Fridays are entirely dedicated to nature study. We’ll do our Morning Time and breakfast and then take off for the forest (we are lucky to live just minutes from the largest urban forest in the US). My rough plan is to focus on trees and leaves for the fall, weather for the winter, and birds and growing seeds in the spring (when we’ll also start our garden). These themes will be reflected in the book list, our nature projects, and what we look for during our nature walks. I’ll be getting the kids their first nature notebooks for pressed flowers and leaf rubbings. We’ll make prints from things we find in the forest or in the yard. Hopefully, we’ll all learn a little about identifying trees, wildflowers, shrubs, birds, and bugs. Fridays are our favorite learning days, I think. I have Pinterest boards for all these things too – just poke around and you’ll find lots. I’m thinking of getting this book if I find I need more ideas.
The million dollar question: What’s the plan for the
speedy instrument of destruction baby?
Um, I dunno. This might work?