August 31, 2010

Day Two - Settling in their rooms

We have a school room in our basement.  We have a school table, chalkboard, maps, art supplies, manipulatives, games and plenty of bookshelves.  We rarely school there anymore.  As the kids get older they seem to want to work more and more independently in their own rooms, at their own desks, listening to their own music or audio book of the day.  We have shared lesson times but even much of that seems to have moved to the kitchen table or living room couches.  Should I keep the school room?  I don't feel ready to let it go - they are only in 2nd, 4th and 6th grade. The room offers me one place to keep all of our stuff conveniently and occasionally I really appreciate having the school table in front of the chalkboard.

Still as I watch the school year start and right away everyone want to keep their books in their own rooms so they don't need to go up and downstairs to get them I really start to question if having a school room is the best use of the real estate of our home.  In some ways I think it is part of our identity, you walk into that room and it is clear we homeschool, still we rarely school in there anymore.  I could force us all to sit at the table downstairs but everyone generally ends up irritated with each other and far less productive than if we are upstairs.  I like keeping the books out of their rooms so they can't get lost in the vortex of their rooms, though last year I let my responsible and fairly neat 5th grader move them to her room with much success.

At what point do I need to let it go and allow that room to become something else?

New beginnings

Another school year is starting filled with new books, new energy and new schedules.  The beginning is always a mix of a bit of dread and excitement.  Sadness the summer and its freedoms are coming to an end and hope for what the new year has to offer.  Today was our first day back and it is very gradual : introducing our schedules, new books and plans, getting our school and bedroom work spaces ready.  As is typical the children were ready to go back before me.  This year it was our 6th grade daughter who was pushing us all to start early.  The rest of us could have been content waiting a few more weeks.

We started out with some read aloud time which is always a favorite.  This year we are starting our day reading a passage of the bible, working on the kids version of reading the entire bible in 90 days.  We also started a new book Window on the World by Daphne Spragget, recommended by a dear friend.  This is a Christian book that introduces a variety of countries throughout the world and emphasizes hard times in the country and prayer points for each nation.  I am using it as part of our bible time rather than history or geography but it touches on some of those topics.  Today our read aloud was Afghanistan and we touched on topics such as civil war, world war, freedom vs. oppression, courage, Islam and Christianity, jihad and terrorism.  We ended this time with a family prayer for the people of Afghanistan, along with the missionaries, aid workers and military in the country.  I really enjoy starting our day this way and think it will be a powerful resource in our studies this year.

This week math, spelling, and some language arts are the emphasis as we slowly move back into our school schedule.  Our textbooks and resources have not all arrived yet in the mail because I waited to order them until just last week as the school year always seems to sneak up on me.  We are starting math off with worksheet reviews I print from the website, The Math Worksheet.  I started using this website two years ago for test reviews and last spring I tried out the paid subscriber section which I have decided is worth it.  You can build custom sheets and reuse them because the sheets utilize a random generator.  It is perfect for back to school reviews and test prep topics as well as for extra practice on particular topics.

Reading seems to be our challenge this fall which is unusual for our family.  This fall though I have one student who loves reading but can't find any interesting and appropriate material to read that the child has not already read, one reluctant reader who thinks everything is boring and one reader who needs a bit more confidence.  I never really expected reading to feel like pulling teeth but it currently does.  Still they have to read an hour a day, I don't cut them slack in that one area even when it is frustrating or less than enjoyable.  Maybe some day they will thank me, or they will grow up with reading issues they can later talk about as an adult, at least I will have the confidence that they are all good readers and have been exposed to many good books through the years :)