September 4th saw children across the nation heading out of bed earlier than they had for months and boarding the school bus for the big first day. Around here things were a little less formal. I’m filtering our subjects in over the next two weeks, adding something extra each day and building up to what will be our regular schedule for the coming months. There will be ‘days off’ for a myriad of reasons I’m sure, perhaps a trip out, a family day or sickness will throw us off track, but other than that we will be doing school each morning, four days a week.
This is the first time I’ve properly tried to integrate both boys into our learning. Neirin isn’t going back to preschool this year so I’m balancing his needs with Huwyl’s 2nd grade curriculum. They are both at really different points in their learning so I’m trying to take that into account as I plan activities and resources.
We began our first day in a bit of a muddle, the clean up from the honey was still evident, as were bowls of the amber liquid all over the kitchen counters. The ‘school’ table was covered in art projects and I hadn’t uploaded some of our resources onto the i-pad as I’d planned. But the joy of homeschooling is that you can simply say ‘ok this is going to take a bit longer, go play and I’ll call you when we’re ready’, I find the boys will usually comply with this instruction pretty happily.
It didn’t take too long to get it all sorted (with a bit of phone coaching from my much more tech savvy friend) and I was able to call us all to order. We started, as I hope we will every day, with some movement. Today it was yoga using our Yoga Pretzels cards; Huwyl chose two postures and we working on them for a little bit with Neirin joining in as and when he could. Over time I know he’ll gain the patience to participate more fully, but for now I’m grateful that he shows any interest at all. I’ll need to vary our activities over time, I’m intending to include Brain Gym movements too, supporting connections in the brain necessary for learning. But for today we started small.
Then we moved to the table. If I’m honest I’ve been dreading this part for a while. The moment where we shift from our free floating summer to a ‘sit down and write’ activity that I really think we need right now. But luckily I had a plan that I borrowed from a Ms Charlotte Mason and it worked very well. Rather than focusing on the amount of work I just allotted 15 minutes for each activity before moving on to the next; short and sweet as they say. This strategy works really well for Huwyl, it gives him a clear time frame that he knows is relatively short without having a ‘goal’ that creates anxiety and stress for him. If I had said ‘do four pages’ I would have had push back and complaining, but instead the instruction is ‘do what you can’ in the time. In fact he did about 5 pages!
Explode the Code 3 was our first table work of the day, I’m planning to work through this and the 4th book this year. Huwyl honestly doesn’t really enjoy the work but it really has supported his reading and writing so I try and get it out of the way quickly. Next we moved onto Writing With Ease which will be our writing programme for grade 2. I really like the Peace Hill Press resources and the mix of copy work taken from literature and narration activities really mesh well with our Charlotte Mason influenced approach. Huwyl raced through the lesson much more quickly than I thought but I resisted the temptation to push onto the next lesson and we stuck to our time limit. I think you can see that the timer isn’t just for the student but the teacher too!
After that we went to Art History using the Harmony Arts Grade 2 programme. I have it on the ipad so I am able to click directly on the links and go to the art works referred to in the plan. Huwyl really enjoyed being able to zoom in on the pictures and look in a little more detail. We talked about the pictures and what we noticed about them, he made some great observations and we looked at various pictures by Cimabue, a painter from the Byzantine era. The paintings were religious in nature and Huwyl was really distressed to hear the sad story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the resulting crucifixion. He’s not been desensitized to the crucifixion images so we spent a bit of time talking about that and getting over the shock of such a horrible punishment being inflicted on another person.
This gave me a bit of a jolt because we’ve been reading historical stories about battles for quite some time. I think it was the personal nature of the art, a face to the name, that made the experience more immediate. I discussed the Christian stories a bit and why Jesus is seen as important to so many people, hopefully I’ve given him a good overall impression. Perhaps we need to do a little religious studies module in the near future!
In the meantime Neirin pretty happily played with his playdough, making long snakes and cakes to cook in his play oven. I’m planning on creating a little Neirincentric table that he can work at more easily and where I can place appropriate activities. I was really pleased with his ability to play contentedly while we worked. I’m sure this won’t always be the case and I do have activities planned for Neirin as he develops a little more, but for now his work is his own play and imagination.
When we finished I threw the boys outside for an hour before lunch after which they happily settled down to their own projects. Huwyl went off to collect eggs and then had some Brainpop time, feeding his ever growing appetite for scientific and historical facts. Neirin played for the best part of an hour with his bricks, a full tummy allowing his mind to focus happily. He joined me for a bit of outside time and then returned to his own games, chowing down on home made smoothie lollies the whole while.
In the background classical music was playing, right now a mixed selection, but over time it will reflect the composers we’ll be reading about in our Harmony Arts programme. For a moment I paused and looked upon the scene every home school mother dreams of, the children happily occupied in educational recreation, classical music playing, dogs asleep on the floor. Sigh. Not all days will be like this, not all will go relatively smoothly or happily, but when they do it makes me very grateful that our version of back to school means that we don’t have to go very far.