Monday, September 3, 2007

Time for School!

Okay I finally caved in and admitted that summer vacation is nearly over. Bah Humbug.

For the kids, tonight was the last official "summer camp out" so after devotion they all toddled off to the tent in the yard (actually they ran out there like monkeys in the zoo being let out of their cages to run free through the crowds - but I think that's what you're supposed to do when you're 4, 7, 8 and almost 10, and it's your VERY LAST NIGHT of summer vacation before [cue music of doom] "okay kids, it's a school night, time to get ready for bed"). For me, it was finally time to start rounding up books, paper, pencils and making lesson plans. Tomorrow I have to get the girls to track down the missing spelling workbook, but other than that, we're set to start for Tuesday.

I had the most fun putting together the books and supplies for Ruth. She just turned 4, but she's ready to begin real live school days just like the big kids, but in a smaller version. I remember when the older kids started this phase of schooling and how much fun it was to see them actually learn to read, learn to write, and really "get" the basic building blocks of learning. Here's Ruth's lessons (for now, we'll adapt - add or subtract - depending on how she does):

Bible - Studying God's Word - Book A: Kindergarten students will be blessed by this colorful workbook. Many of the major events in the Old and New Testaments are described in detail, and are enhanced by helpful illustrations.
Each lesson is accompanied by simple exercises.
This is a non-reproducible, workbook for Kindergarten.

Math - we don't have a workbook for her since she's really not ready for kindergarten math. Instead, I'll be using manipulatives (pennies, shaped erasers, etc.) and printed worksheets for her to be visually exposed to numbers and simple mathematic concepts. One of the websites I've used for years that has been a big help is Handwriting for Kids. They have a wide variety of printable worksheets in printing or cursive, numbers, word/pictures, etc. It's a great site and has blessed the kids in big ways. I've also printed a number chart for the wall so that she can see the numbers all the while she's working, as well as a number tracing guide for her folder, for easy reference.

Phonics/Spelling - Hearts & Hands: This book is intended to develop your student's skills in numbers, letters, handwriting, phonics and hand-eye coordination. This is not a teacher's workbook, but a book of interesting exercises intended to lay the foundation for your child's future development in the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Reading - Noah Webster's Reading Handbook: When Noah Webster first published his Blue-Backed Speller more than 150 years ago, it was an instant success. Why? Because it gave young Americans a solid foundation in reading, phonics, and spelling. You'll find the same holds true of this updated edition of Webster's classic. Appropriate for any grade level, it's an effective tool for teaching basic phonics skills and principles. 138 pages, softcover from Christian Liberty Press.

This is a GREAT little book. We'll be doing the daily alphabet memory work, then as she's ready we'll progress to each new lesson. This book worked really well with the older 3, and I would strongly encourage any parent to get this book & use it with your kids whether you homeschool or not. If your kids struggle at all with reading concepts, this book WILL help. If your kids are just learning to read, you'll LOVE this book, and so will they.

Science - The World God Made: The God's Creation Series is designed to give young students a greater understanding of and appreciation for the handiwork of Almighty God. This book has the following special features: Interesting facts to engage the minds of students, colorful pictures to stimulate a greater understanding of scientific concepts, helpful review questions for each chapter, and hands-on experiments and activities to encourage student participation.
She may be only 4, but I haven't met a kid yet that isn't just fascinated with how things are made, where things come from, how they work and why they work.

I wont be starting her on history this year since I'm going to focus more on the foundational, hands-on learning for her first year. Once she has her basics down, then we'll introduce the kindergarten history book for her when she turns 5.

For the older girls, the one thing I'm really looking forward to is the Beautiful Girlhood lessons. I have the book but I still have to order the companion guides, one of each of them. From the publisher:
"First penned decades ago, this classic primer for becoming ladylike has been gently edited and improved with today's conservative Christian girls in mind---though the elegant prose and timeless morals remain the same. Preteens will learn about friendship, modesty, honesty, ambition, and much more. This edition is widely embraced by the homeschool community! 206 pages, softcover from Great Expectations."

Jessica and I went through this when she was 13, and for a variety of reasons, much of it already seemed too young for her. I decided then that I'd use it with the younger girls much earlier than 13, and so this year as they turn 10 and 9, they're a good age for this book. The companion guide she used is written in, and I can't seem to locate new ones (it may be out of print). So, if I can't find new ones we'll just do the lessons via blank journals and I'll use the used companion guide as a teacher's reference guide. Homeschoolers are so easily adaptable.

There is also a book for boys very similar to this one called Boyhood and Beyond that we plan to get for Samuel in the next couple of years.

As for Jessica, this will be her last year of homeschooling, and she'll be focusing on adult doctrinal studies, math, biology, English and Canadian history. She doesn't have plans to further her education just now, except for the possibility of computer graphics courses at the local college. She's come such a long way from where she was when we took her out of the public system, almost 8 years ago. She struggled so much with academics and never did develop a love for learning, but she's managed to pull herself up to her public schooled peer grade level (with a lot of input from me, the mean teacher who refused to let her slack off all the times she really wanted to).

So its the first year for one, the last year for another, and a mixed bag for the middle three. they're in a variety of grade levels, depending on where they excel and where they struggle, but they're each progressing well and actually look forward to some subjects! It makes teaching so much easier when you have students who like to learn.

So a new school year begins. I'm actually looking forward to it, and I only hope the Lord will be gracious and give us all wisdom and diligence.