Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lesson Plans

Pre-made lesson plans are awesome.  Someone takes the time to gather all the stuff you need then divides it up to fit neatly into a 36 week experience, and if you are really blessed they will include question, answers, & vocabulary needed to teach each lesson.  The problem for us comes when our days do not proceed neatly according to a 36 week schedule.  Always before this year (we are roughly ten years into homeschooling) I have used pre-made lesson plans and something like the Well Planned Day to jot down what we completed, after we completed it.  However since my kids rarely learn on the time line of someone else, we have been habitually behind/battling discouragement on top of everything else.

So this year I have scrapped the pre-made lesson plans across the board (I've already been doing this for math, so this year I asked myself, why not do it for all topics?).  So on Sunday nights I print out my lesson plan form and each lesson I classify as one of three things - introduction, practice, or mastery lesson.  I only plan one week at a time.  I work from a list of learning objectives/goals I make for each child in June and (update/make changes as needed in December) using books like Home Learning Year by Year and Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.  I make sure I am clear on the learning objective for that topic, that day, that child.  Then I write a quick introduction to clearly communicate to my child what we are learning/reviewing/mastering that day.  I list out EVERY thing I need on hand for that lesson.  Practice sheets, examples/illustrations, anchor charts I need to make, index cards, books, websites, videos etc;  I list ahead of time what questions (LOVE Bloom's Taxonomy for this) I will ask to check understanding/comprehension, what practice activities I will assign to do together and independently, and perhaps the most important thing I've added in this year to close each lesson/each topic, I ask the child to sum up in their own words what they learned today.

If it's an introduction lesson then I introduce the new topic and tie it in with previous learning, if it's a review day then we practice, practice, practice in as many different ways as we can - hands on, visual, audio, taste/smell.  Then on the mastery days - they teach it to me or someone else.  We also make yearly math notebooks and grammar notebooks.  Any definitions or step by step instructions go in these books as a sort of reference book to turn back to as needed.

I hope these ideas help someone else.

Special Needs

I've hesitated for so long to post about this, it is something that is hard for me to talk about, because it is (still - almost seven years into it) such a vulnerable, touchy topic.  I have three children who were all born healthy and then as time went on have been diagnosed with various struggles, issues, health concerns...they fluctuate from being mild and unnoticeable to completely hijacking our lives for long seasons that feel hard & awful.  Since we homeschool, these issues sometimes spill over into our learning days.  I have found so much encouragement and solace from other moms being brave and humble enough to say 'this is our reality' that I decided to share ours a bit.  I do not feel comfortable talking about the health issues themselves, but I will share broad areas we have or are struggling in & what has helped us.

Reading - I have had late readers, regressing readers, and really, really late readers.  We have tried a lot of different reading programs, but the two that have made the most difference are The Writing Road to Reading (Spalding Method) & the Logic of English (this made the most difference for me personally in how I approached each lesson and although I have a strong background in Reading/Grammar/Writing - I needed to go even deeper so that I could turn around and equip my kiddos).    The Spalding method doubles as spelling and vocabulary.  It also has a literature appreciation and writing instruction...we use that loosely.  The reading/spelling is very much an everyday focus for us - review, review, review.  Progress is often times slow, but progress is progress even if it creeps and crawls forward.  I heard a quote recently that I love (I cannot remember it exactly, nor who actually said it - but the gist of it is...) Do not judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you sow.  .

Grammar - Steps to Good Grammar - hands down the best if you have a kid who learns sequentially - this grammar program is so good.  We have gone really slow and we do it Monday through Friday, but it is the only thing that has worked for us.

Writing - we are still experimenting in this area.  This is a tough one.  I love, love, love to write, love to teach writing, love to talk about writing, love to listen to talks about writing...but it has not been easy for any of my kids. 

Math - I have basically had to write my own math curriculum because I just couldn't find a math curriculum that helped my kids.  It's embarrassing to tally up how much money I wasted over the years trying all the major suppliers...but oh well.  After each of my kids have learned the basics of numbers (what they are, how to write them, add, subtract, multiply etc: them) then we dig deeper. I take a scope and sequence type book, (my favorite go to one is Home Learning Year by Year) and I go through and list out everything my kid(s) need to know about___________ (example fractions) - starting from kindergarten up to the current age/grade they are now.  And then I search a math dictionary for any definitions they need, look on Khan Academy or you tube to line up some teaching videos, make any worksheets that I need that will help aid in the learning/mastery of the topic, and gather any hands on things that will really drive home the topic in a real world way.  And of course make any anchor charts I will need. 

History - I absolutely love the Story of the World Series and Kingfisher's World History atlas - we make notes on the book as we go and once a week or once every two weeks we drill what we have learned and place out a timeline on the ground and walk through time - start at one end and walk/talk about what we have learned.  Last year we used our long hallway and made an index card timeline on the wall, that worked, but not as well as I had hoped.  We are probably going to give the Mystery of History a shot within the next year.  The way it ties into the Bible is something I am really, really excited about trying.

Science - we are still really struggling in this area.  I will let you know what we figure out.

Literature/Read Alouds - a large portion of every afternoon is spent reading aloud.  We have used Sonlight and Classical Christian Education 1000 Great I love Sarah Mackenzie & have gotten so many awesome ideas from her.  This is our most favorite part of homeschooling.  I absolutely love when it is time to pile on the couch and get lost in our favorite stories.

Extras - we did a cooking class last year, I have an awesome friend who came to our house to teach us art/art history, we go to a playgroup thing when we can, and go on lots and lots of walks.  We visit the library and museums and the zoo a lot throughout the year.  This year we are going to do an in depth music study - composers, hymns, piano. 

Bible - right now we are slowly reading through the Children's Pilgrim's Progress & Missionary Stories with the Millers.  Starting in January we are going to add in the Then & Now series as read-alouds and have a mission focused year (& we are going to tie in a geography review with this)  I also am going to slowly introduce Tom Bradford's Torah Study for homeschoolers (it's on kindle - yay!)

Last year my husband did something incredible.  He used his Christmas money and bought our kids Kindle Fires.  They have been awesome (we have had to set in place some boundaries because the kids thought they were REALLY awesome - ha!)  We also use the Writing Wizard app (you can edit each letter and use it as a phonogram review!  Love that.  You can also add word lists and we use this for spelling review.  We use the CC tutorials app, math drills app, & phonetic birds app.

Memory - this one is hard for us.  We have mnemonic books, jingle cd's, flash cards..,  It is hit and miss.  One thing I have found that does tend to work for us is when I make anchor charts for my kids.  I used to use poster board, but they got torn up through the years so now I purchase a sketch book (usually 11inX14in) one for each of the four main topics: history, science, math, & language arts.  I use different color pens to help my kids learn step by step how to do something, or mnemonics for memorizing definitions. 

Next Post I will share how I have changed my lesson plans this year and we use Bloom's Taxonomy to help us review.