I'm sorry it took me so long to get to part 2 of this series. I pretty much hibernate in the winter, and my brain is just starting to shake off the winter fuzziness. Has it actually been five months!?! Golly, I'm sorry!
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Part 2: What I'm doing with my younger children
Last time I wrote about these basic elements that made up my older children's school year:
- plenty of outside play time
- Nature Study
- Bible, history, and literature
- talking about what we're reading
- classical music
Probably the biggest change involves their time spent out of doors and Nature Study. In 2005, my husband retired from the military and got a job in rural Virginia. We bought a house on a little over three mostly-wooded acres. Over the years we've accumulated goats, chickens, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, cats, and a dog, so my younger children have outside chores that my older children never had -- we never even had a pet while Mike was active duty (except for a tankful of fish for a few years) because of moving so often, and having babies regularly, and my husband being out of town for a week or more at a time on occasion, including one time when he was gone for a year, and I just didn't want the added responsibility of looking after an animal.
Having the animals has been a good thing in many ways, besides the obvious benefit of having fresh, raw goat milk, fresh eggs, and meat we've raised ourselves. The biggest benefit is giving meaningful work to my second son, who is nineteen years old and profoundly delayed in many ways. He'll never be able to read, to live on his own, to drive, or to do most of the things that an adult needs to do in order to fit into our society. I doubt he'd be able to hold down any kind of a job, and anyway I wouldn't really want him working away from home unless it were with a family member since his ability to communicate is so limited -- if he were ever mistreated he'd have a hard time letting us know about it, and he wouldn't be able to defend himself.
Second Son has faithfully milked the goats every day for two or three years. We bred the does last fall and they're expecting in another few weeks and we dried them off (that is, quit milking them) last month, so he's getting a break right now, but he loves this work. He also collects the eggs each day, makes sure all the animals have food and water, and just generally keeps an eye on them. If they get out of the pasture the other children have to round them up for him because he doesn't have the speed or dexterity to handle them when they're on the loose. Mike and two of the other younger children keep the goats' hooves trimmed, and doctor them if they need it, but Second Son is the one who looks after the animals' daily needs.
Whenever we butcher animals (which hasn't been very often this past year) most of the children help their daddy with the processing, and he's good about letting them do a lot of the work themselves, and teaching them the names of the organs and pointing out other interesting things.
Hopefully, learning to pay attention to the animals and anticipate their various needs will help them grow into the righteous man of Proverbs 12:10, who "regardeth the life of his beast."
I still occasionally ask them to describe something they've seen, and we've been in the habit of watching the song birds that visit the birdbath and the feeders ever since Ambleside Year 1. We've even added Nature notebooks, though checking them just now I see that they've only got one entry each. One August day I put a pretty little bird's nest that my youngest daughter had found that morning on a dish and sat it in the middle of the table and had them sketch it. A pleasant activity, and I don't know why we haven't done anything more like that. Always room for improvement. :-D
Bible, history, and literature have been very much influenced by our use of AmblesideOnline. I used Years 1 through 3, and by then had gotten over the rough patch I was going through with my health, so I'm mostly branching out on my own, while bringing with me what I learned from AO and still using some of the suggestions.
Our Bible readings are included in our Morning Prayers, which I've blogged about here and here. In a nutshell, we start off with the greeting and response: "The Lord be with you." "And with thy spirit." "Let us pray." This is followed by a selection from Psalm 51 ("Open my lips, O Lord / And my mouth shall proclaim your praise. . ." ). Then we read the passages for the day. Some years we follow the lectionary, but lately we've being going straight through the Psalms, reading a passage from Luke, and a chapter of Galatians. Then we say the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and finish with a benediction, followed by "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." "Thanks be to God." We say this even though they're going to be sitting down and starting school, not actually going anywhere. When the older kids are home, they join us for prayers and stay if they have time, or leave if they need to. Eldest Daughter particularly likes to stay when it's a Plutarch day.
Next on the agenda is poetry. I read one selection and then we talk about it. The conversation is always better when Eldest Daughter joins us.
These two things we do each school day. The next three items we do once or twice a week, depending on how much time we have. My third daughter's violin lessons have been moved from Tuesday afternoon to Monday morning and I haven't really adjusted to the change yet.
Plutarch -- we're using Anne White's study guide from AmblesideOnline as we read the Life of Nicias. I have to stop often to let someone narrate. Generally I ask, "What's he talking about here?" or "What just happened?" Stopping often while reading Plutarch is necessary because the sentences are long and complex.
Then we move to Homer. We're about half way through The Wanderings of Odysseus. At the end of the chapter I ask, "Who would like to tell this part of this part of the story?" Usually someone volunteers, but if needed I'll just tell someone to do it. After the narration I'll usually ask whether anyone else wants to add anything.
I don't really know how to categorize this next item -- history, music, art. . . It's all that. We're studying through Professor Carol's Early Sacred Music course. If #1 Son is home, this is what he's most interested in. Much of the early part was filmed in Jerusalem and describes the worship at the Temple during the time of Christ.
Next is math. I think I will need to write a post just on this subject since we're doing a lot of different things. I've been learning a lot about teaching math and I'm pretty excited about it. But one of the things I'm doing with my two youngest and with Second Son, is reading through the Life of Fred books. There are math games that I play with the two youngest, together or one on one. Also, the two youngest do a lesson from the Teaching Textbooks most days.
Something new we're doing is oral composition, using James Selby's Classical Composition series, which isn't meant to be done orally, but I don't see why delayed reading and handwriting skills should stop a child from thinking about stories and composing variations in his head. So far I'm following his order fairly closely -- I'll write a separate post on how it works if anyone's interested. When it's time to "write" the assignment, my eleven year old daughter wants to type it on the computer, and my thirteen year old son wants to recite the story into an audio file which I then transcribe. So far I like the way it's working.
What we're missing -- we haven't been singing hymns much lately and that's a shame.
Also, I've been using the cursive handwriting program from The Logic of English, but we haven't picked it back up yet since Christmas break. This doubles as reading lessons because phonics instruction is built in to and I can easily add more phonics practice to this time if needed. Obviously, as we progress with the program, it also serves as spelling lessons.
I mentioned in the "Different children read at different times" post that my then-twelve year old son had suddenly started reading, and over Christmas break, my daughter turned eleven, and started reading too. Youngest Son has been reading several books for school on his own, but Youngest Daughter isn't to that point yet.