This is not like me. I tend to be much more of a "seat of the pants" kind of person. While I recognize the value in a good plan, I prefer just to jump in and do it. This has both advantages and disadvantages, as you may imagine. For example, when I decide to start big backyard projects, I tend not to think about what the job will take to finish. If I did "count the cost", so to speak, I'd probably never start in the first place. I explained this strategy several months back in a comment to my loyal reader Chris:
Start your project by digging a really big, really ugly hole in your yard. Note: it has to be really big for this whole thing to work.So, we can probably chalk up the fact that our backyard looks nice, in no small part to my impulsiveness and lack of foresight. :-)
There! Now any time you get bored with the project and want to quit, you keep getting pulled back to reality by the presence of this big, ugly hole in your yard. You can't ignore it. It's driving down your property values. It's driving down your neighbors' property values. And eventually your wife (who normally wants you to spend more time with her and the kids), will actually start saying things like, "When are we going to do something about that big hole in our yard? It's really ugly."
And I also find it helps not to "count the cost" before you start the project. Geez Louize, I had no idea how much this blasted walkway would cost when I started digging that big ugly hole in my backyard! But once it was there, the only thing to do was to keep dumping more money into it. (And I still don't know quite how much more it's going to take to finish it, but I know that at least fiscally, we're finally over the hump.)
After a while your motivation comes from a sense of guilt, which is one of the most powerful motivating forces around. Works every time, which for me comes around usually once every two years or so.
On the downside, I often have to rip out my first attempt or two at whatever I start.
So Tonya is the one around here that handles such things as budget books, lesson plans, and the like. She's also the one that draws up multiple versions of diagrams for how she wants the garden to turn out. (By the way, the carrots, radishes, spinach, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and grapevines are doing well; the peas, cabbages, onions, chives, and parsley are AWOL).
Since she enjoys doing this sort of thing (or at least, loathes it less than I do), I'm perfectly happy to let her do it. And she does a much more thorough job than I would ever do. When I do the planning, I tend to think, "I'll just cover a little of this, and a little of that, and play it by ear when the time comes." The results tend to end up a little like I explained in this old post of mine.
But I do try to provide Tonya with good input, when she solicits my opinion and advice.
So Tonya (with a very little assistance from me) has been putting together a very detailed lesson plan for the Pillowfight Fairy's first grade year, which starts next fall.
We have decided to follow a Classical Trivium-based educational model, based on the outline in The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. This method advocates a course of study that is very academically rigorous, with lots of practice and repetition of language and math skills, and heavy emphasis on history and literature--with these latter two taught as much as possible from what Charlotte Mason would refer to as "Real Books" as opposed to textbooks.
Now, this will be our first year teaching a "grade level" to our child, since the Pillowfight Fairy is finishing up her Kindergarten year now. So while the Fairy has been going through a fair amount of formal study already (and has been doing well at it), things are definitely looking to ramp up next year--both in terms of the difficulty level of the material covered and the sheer quantity of it. We think this is comparable to what happens when traditional half-day kindergarteners become traditional full-day first-graders. Still, we expect that it'll be a sizable transition for everyone involved, and we've been thinking about how to go about making the transition without burning everyone out or causing rebellion in the ranks. Mainly, we'll be ramping up her instruction prior to the "official" start date, which Tonya is targeting sometime in August. We are aware of the truism that in homeschooling, the first year is always the hardest.
We are also aware that most homeschoolers start out with very structured curricula and lesson plans, with timelines and milestones in all the various subjects; and that by the end of the first year, or the first month, those plans have often been chucked out the window in favor of something much less structured. Will this happen to us? It might; we have learned never to say things like "I'll never do something like that," because we know that God has a sense of humor, and he's into slapstick. (Tonya's mother once said, as her family was driving through the middle of the Mojave Desert, "I could never live in a place like this"--and within a year, the Air Force transferred her husband to Edwards Air Force Base.) But with this important caveat in mind, I suspect that we'll be staying with the rather structured curriculum--or at least, we'll be staying with it longer than most homeschooling families. It's just part of the way Tonya's brain works: everything in its place, and a place for everything. It's also the way the Pillowfight Fairy's brain works: she often becomes very unsettled if things aren't familiar. She has a rather sensitive streak that way.
So, what does the Lesson Plan look like?
Each subject will primarily be taught in short chunks of time, since the Fairy won't quite be six when she starts her first grade year. However, if a lesson is going really well, and if the Fairy is favoring those subjects and making breakthroughs, Tonya will allow the lesson to continue as long as the Fairy appears to be learning. At any rate, it's expected that her daily work will take somewhere up to four hours per day; but when breaks for lunch, potty, and generalized goofing off are included, we expect this to go closer to six hours.
Here's our chosen curricula. Again, it's heavily based on the recommendations from The Well Trained Mind.
- Spelling: We're using Spelling Workout from Modern Curriculum Press. We'll be using Level B, because the Fairy is just about finished with Level A now.
- Grammar: We will be using First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise, three days a week.
- Reading (Literature): Primarily we will use library books and a few anthologies, with a heavy emphasis on the myths, legends, and historical tales of the peoples we will be studying in our history lessons. (For example, if we are studying the Sumerians, we'll dig up an age-appropriate retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh.)
- Memory Work: We will have her memorize Bible verses, miscellaneous poems, and those items to be memorized that are built into the Grammar program we're using.
- Math: The Fairy is finishing up Horizons Math Level K right now, which is a very rigorous program. It has her adding one-digit to two-digit numbers, and subtracting one-digit from two-digit numbers, with no carrying or borrowing--among many other things. Next year we will start Horizons Math Level 1, which mainly appears to solidify the skills built in Level K and extend them a little bit.
- History: We will be following Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World (Volume 1) with the activity book. This curriculum starts with pre-history and continues up through the fall of the Western Roman Empire, covering both Western and Non-Western civilizations (such as the Indus River civilization, the Chinese, the Olmecs and Mayans, early African civilizations, and so forth). We will also be drawing material from The Usborne Book of World History, and whatever on-topic library books we can find (that are age-appropriate). For example, this week they brought home a children's book on Aztec technology, and a book on Phoenician history and culture; these are the things I'm talking about here. History will be done three days a week.
- Science: During the course of the year, we will go through three units. The first, drawn from the Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Natural World, will cover animals. The second, drawn from the book Human Body (Usborne Internet-Linked Library of Science) and from Carson-Dellosa Publishing's Body Systems and Organs, will cover the human body. The third, drawn from the same book as the animals unit, will cover plants. We will be doing Science two days a week.
- Religion: This will mainly be readings from the Bible and discussion thereon. Note that this section is intended to teach the Fairy about our own faith and devotions; other religions will be covered as part of our History curriculum.
- Art: For the most part, the Fairy loves to work on art so much that we don't have to make it part of the regular curriculum--she'll do it herself when she's done with the rest of her schoolwork. But twice a week we will give her something a bit more structured. On Mondays, we will give her instruction from the book Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. And on Fridays, we will be doing picture studies from great artwork with her.
- Narration: We think that Charlotte Mason was on to something, that you don't really learn anything until you have to explain it to someone else. So Narration will be a big part of our educational method. That is, with pretty much anything the Fairy reads--or has read to her--from literature, history, religion, or art, she will be expected to tell it back to us, in her own words, in as much detail as she can manage (or until Mommy cuts her off, as she can get pretty wordy). This will be a big part of her everyday routine.
- Writing: Since the Fairy is only first grade, we're not going to try to make her compose a whole lot of extemporaneous writing. We feel that forming complete sentences of complete thoughts and putting words down on paper are two different skills, both of which are difficult for a first grader; and doing both at the same time is very hard for someone that young. So the first of these skills will primarily be taught through Narration, mentioned above. To teach writing, Mommy will take dictation of a few of the Fairy's narrations each day, and then have the Fairy copy them out longhand. Additionally, we will have the Fairy write weekly letters to various members of the extended family.
- Music: This one will be my responsibility, and will happen in the evenings when I'm home from work. Four days a week, I will teach her on the piano. In addition to building up her finger-skills, I hope to teach her the basics of musical notation--how to tell what key you're in, which lines and spaces go with which notes, and so forth.
In addition to all this, we have been eying the excellent suggested reading lists at Ambleside Online. While they don't exactly match up with our intended scope and sequence (and we're not taking a pure Charlotte Mason approach to our homeschool), we've adopted many of the ideas suggested there, and we consider the site a worthy resource.
Well! All this looks like a lot, but bear in mind, no one activity lasts for more than a half-hour, and a bunch of this stuff overlaps: Narration and Writing are covered during the course of the Literature and History lessons, for example; and Memory Work happens at the same time as Religion, Grammar, or Literature, depending on what's being memorized. And for that matter, Music happens in the evening, well after the "school day" is over. So we think the formal education will easily fit inside a six-hour day, of which no more than four will be concentrated instruction.
And again, there's the chance (as many homeschoolers have testified) that we'll get a few months into it and say, "This isn't working. Let's sit down and have a big re-think," and do something completely different. But Tonya--who has been teaching the Fairy to read, write and do math this whole last year, and who will always be doing most of the instruction--is feeling confident about this plan, and we're looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
That is, so long as our illustrious state courts don't decide that we non-credentialed parents aren't qualified to do any of the above...