Wow, it really helps to have monthly summaries even though I never manage it for half the year.   I never think we accomplish too much but re-reading the summaries it’s not too bad.

Here’s what the kids did last month.  It may look like a lot, but this is what we did the whole day, not just during our work period.  Also, something I’m trying this year is only doing the item once a week.  I’ll talk more about that in my yearly Workplan post.  Having a revised schedule also helps in us having more downtime to do activities like reading and practical life.

In general, we had a very good 2+ week homeschooling and another 2 weeks half homeschooling half playing.  The changes I made to schedule and workplan has resulted in a little bit less frustration on my end and I like that we’re covering the materials I think we need to cover.

Thumper:

Astroboy:

Thumper

I thought about changing our curriculum cuz Thumper didn’t like the repetitiveness of worksheets.  But after some thought and experiment, we’re going back to All About Spelling and Writing with Ease.  I added the moveable alphabet for All About Spelling and so far it’s working.  For Writing with Ease, I’m asking for only once a week to ease her in before we up the number of times we’re doing it.

For Chinese, we’re back to writing Sagebook characters on top of doing Chinese writing class for 8 weeks, where we’re reading the Circuit from Cross Century set.  For learning new characters and vocabulary, we tried a week of 字的童話, but Thumper did not like the format.  (I made changes in August and it’s better.)   In her free time, she’s obsessively doing all things Harry Potter, like reading it in Chinese and listening to it in English and Chinese, and reading the 我的第一套科學漫畫 My First Science Mangawhich she just finds hilarious.  

Math didn’t really happen.  I’m easing her back into it.  Science happened because of our weekly co-op, where we’ve been doing the science experiments related to First Great Lesson.  Since we’re doing the creation of the universe, we also surveyed some creation myths each week.

For circle time, I found activities related to our Astronomy themed co-op.  So I’ve been playing two songs every day whenever I find a chance.  She actually can sing most of it now.

I managed to do about 2 days of poetry reciting.  A Morning Basket  episode kind of mentioned how memorization of poetry is good though the reasons I’ve forgotten already.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to include but never found time till I implemented circle time.  Thumper is memorizing 鳥鳴澗 which is hard compared with Astroboy’s 靜思夜.

I was going to write a whole post about our violin practice, but since that’s not going to happen soon, maybe a tad bit here.  Other than the frequent occasional frustration and other Mama teacher behavior I will not list here because I feel so horrible about them, violin in general has been going real well and the reason why I switched Astroboy over to Suzuki piano instead.

One of my biggest take away from our violin lesson is how having really good rhythm and beats preparation help, and knowing how people learn helps with practice.  Because we started violin really late and we had some musical preparation, Thumper is zooming through her practice book.  I’m thankful for that because needing to practice with my child can be very frustrating, imagine if we’d started earlier and she didn’t have the finer motor skills she does now.

The books Top Dog: Science of Winning and Losing and How We Learn have really helped me in helping Thumper practice, in addition to what I finally learned after 10 years of practicing piano.  All of these things I wished I had known when I was learning piano myself.

The kids were also obsessed with making their own fidget spinners and rainbow loom items, which I wrote about in another post.

Cerviche she made as part of reading about immigrants in The Circuit
Spelling goes so much better with the moveable alphabet

Astroboy

For Astroboy, I’m trying to be more consistent about teaching him phonics.  It’s our one “must do” for the semester daily.  I contemplated moving to Primary Phonics or Explode the Code, but after looking through them, thought I should try the very comprehensive looking All about Reading again.

What has helped is methodically following through all the prompts instead of skipping like last year because I’m lazy.  I still don’t read to him like the teacher’s manual suggests.  I have also brought out the moveable alphabet so he’s learning spelling at the same time, because I do see that having the kid write a word helps them remember how to read a word.

I also discovered Hang Man!  He now wants to do phonics because I’ve made it into a game.  I really ought to do this for all the other things he finds uninteresting.  So many brain cells needed though.

For Chinese, during class time we focus on learning to write zhuyin.  Other than that I just create reading opportunities.  Just like reading, I know the issue is consistency on my part.  This year my other change is providing multiple, different worksheets to give him variety.  So far it’s been going well.

Math we have not been focusing on as much because after English and Chinese I’m always so mentally tired.  Hoping I can do better next semester.  Astroboy is at this point where he’s got most of multiplication memorized and no math concept is pre-occupying him that makes him choose math as work.  He’s always been a boy who I don’t need to push math on so right now I’m at a loss.

The rest of the stuff he’s doing the same as his sister, except he hasn’t been practicing piano and he is learning a different poem.

Next month I may need to start a bit on grammar.  For Astroboy, he’s going to have all subjects thrown at him, basically schooling the more traditional way, than his sister.  I think for his learning style, he does better with little bits of knowledge, practiced daily.

Learning geometric shapes
Cursive moveable alphabet for learning to read.
Obsessed about fidget spinners. Learned about it in summer camp.

What I learned this month

After we returned from our summer vacation, we slowly eased back into a homeschooling schedule.  We started first with a chore list meeting and I made new work plans and schedules.  So we only homeschooled with our new schedule for 2 weeks.  But so far, I’m loving it!

I do always have a ton of energy and ideas in the beginning of the semester.  This summer was even more fruitful than last because I learned about Morning Basket and learned a bunch of new ways I could homeschool.

Over the summer, I realized that despite things going better schedule-wise and routine-wise, I was not enjoying my time with my children.  I missed the feeling when I mindfully spend time with them and we end up learning something by just following the flow of a topic or interest; versus constantly telling them to hurry up and do this work and that work, many of which are boring to them.

So I made a few changes to our school day.  This is what I’ve loved about our new routine.

1) I love our Morning Basket routine, which I will call Circle Time.

It happens before lunch because Montessori philosophy wants kids to be excited about just diving into work rather than a teacher trying to help kids focus or transition by having circle time.  I’m often too busy doing house chores anyway first thing in the morning.

Having that Circle Time has given me back the feeling that I’m connecting with the children and we’re learning something fun together.  It is also a way for me to introduce items we never get to, like poetry memorization and learning Chinese songs or reading books on 老子. 

2)  I made one day a week Project Day.

On this day the kids spend the morning working on big science and history related projects instead of their typical language and math.  Science is the base of a Montessori elementary education and I always feel so horrible we never get to it in our quest to learn to read in both languages.

Now we do.  It provides a change in routine and allows the kids to work on the more “fun” stuff at least once a week.

3) We started a themed co-ops that last 7 weeks.

It was super hard running a co-op before because it was one continuous weekly meeting. This year, Eclectic Mama and I decided to run it as a class instead.  To my surprise, having a limited start and end time (1.5-2hrs weekly) and a set number of weeks (6-8) really freed me from the pain of planning.

I decided the first set of class will be centered by the Montessori First Great Lesson on the creation of the Universe.  Once that was set, I was able to plan a few weeks of required science experiments and then a study on various Astronomy topics.  With that set, suddenly we could do art, music, language all related to Astronomy.

Just like the circle-time, I felt so satisfied with how we’re learning.  That the kids can see everything is connected, science to art to music, etc.

In fact, 6 weeks doesn’t feel like enough time.  But it’s okay, the co-op is just a way to hook the kids, we’re doing more followups at home.

4)  Starting our school day earlier

Though I set our school time at 9am-12pm, I’ve been letting the kids wake up naturally which means 7:30-8am for Astroboy and 8-8:30am for Thumper.  This means they were actually never on time and we never managed to things like morning exercise or chores in before school started.

They then do these during the work period and drag things out, never leaving enough time for actual work.

Now I’ve been getting the kids up at 7 or 7:30 and they need to be in bed by 7:30 and lights out at 8pm.  School runs from 8:30-11:30 and circle time from 11:30-12:00.

What a difference.  I get more time after the kids go down to work before I head to bed.  Though I tell the kids school start at 8:30, having an extra 30 minutes in our total work period allows all of us to have off days.  I am learning that while I like schedules, I don’t like tight schedules, it doesn’t work for me.

5) Actually spend time homeschooling

Gasp.  Yes it’s true.  Often, I’m busy researching something on the computer or lacking sleep or need to wash dishes and don’t actually get to homeschool other than throwing worksheet at the kids.  Last semester, I finally got my morning routine down, where I wash dishes, clean house while the kids prep for the day.  Now I try really really hard to not sit in front of my computer during work period.  It’s still a struggle but much better than before.

The other 2 epiphany I had last year is, 1) I love learning about things and that’s why I insist on doing science and history instead of just language and math, because I want to share my love and I cannot unschool and 2) if I want to make learning interesting and fun, I need to think like a real teacher.  Teachers prep, and don’t just throw worksheets at the kid.  They provide a variety of ways to learn.  Of course, I just have two kids and I can tailor lessons to them even more easily.  But I have not been providing variety and no brain is happy with no variety in the learning process.

 

 

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