Today we will finish our second full week and goodness, I cannot tell you how AWESOME the past two weeks have been.
Despite schedule challenges last week, I decided to start because this curriculum has therapy/doctor time factored into the week!!! Might as well put it to the test and see how well the lesson plans work around our medical side of life.
Monday and Tuesday went swimmingly. Then on Wednesday one kiddo woke up at 4am puking and continued to upchuck for the next 24 hours (and then nothing, the rest of the kids have been totally fine since that one incident.)
Wednesday was supposed to be a long dr appointment day but of course I called and rescheduled those visits. Even though Angelina was not the one throwing up, by that point I did not know what we were dealing with, and Angelina’s appointments were in specialists offices in a hospital about 1 1/2 hours away. Not only would I have worried about her getting sick during the trip, I also try not to bring potentially contagious kids anywhere during the flu season. I have too many friends with medically fragile kids, I know they need us to not “power through” on sick days by taking germs around with us. By 7am I had declared a hydration and movie day. This is when kids snuggle on the couch, sip water or ginger tumeric tea from water bottles, and movie marathon their way through illness. We watched Song of the Sea, The Adventures of Tintin, and Reading Rainbow. I spent the day washing all the bed linens in hot water and catastrophizing about all the kids getting this stomach bug. Fun times.
By Thursday, kids were well enough to do another day of the curriculum. The lesson plan is designed so you can do everything in 4 days, do an extended lesson to stretch to a 5th day, or use the 5th day as a review day. We ended up doing about 1 1/2 days worth of work on Thursday, making up for Wednesday but not completely finishing lessons for the week.
Friday was another long doctor day for Angelina. Not every week is like this, it seems to come in waves. We will have 3 or 4 weeks of no doctor appointments, and then 3ish weeks of quite a few appointments between Roman and Angelina. I try very hard not to schedule anything in January every year because of the weather and flue season, but that brilliant plan clearly didn’t pan out this year.
Dad works on Saturdays every week (pastor family life) and my kids are currently at the age where homeschooling is fun (yay!). Giving them a weekend off makes for kids who are far from gruntled. So we rounded off the week by finishing the bits and bobs of curriculum that hadn’t been finished during the week.
The second week we really hit an awesome groove. Kids wake up on their own, Della gets breakfast for herself and her sisters, they pick out play clothes, and get dressed. Dad does morning prayer, family reading time, and then it’s free play until 9am. At 9am we all gather at the table and do our first session of homeschool. Kitty has her lesson first with Della and Angelina acting as my teacher’s helpers. This is ideal because most of what Kitty is learning is new to Angelina, but a little too easy to be teaching Angelina directly, so she gets all the learning and repetition all while helping mom and being a big sister. Kitty’s lesson is about 15 minutes. Then she is free to wander about and play, but so far she has always opted to stay at the table and color and participate with her sisters. Her attention span and focus is astonishing for a 3 year old.
Cheryl Swope, the creator of Simply Classical, starts out the curriculum much like you start school with a new class. You don’t jump in to everything right away, you slowly build up your routine, adding a new component every few days. That meant the first few days were fairly short. Now at the end of the second week we are working through a Core Skills phonics program, First Start Reading book, Arithmetic, and Copywork for penmanship.
It is clear by now that the challenge level for Angelina is spot on. The work takes mental concentration for her, she gets slightly frustrated but not to such a degree that she gives up, and her accomplishments come with real pride because she has worked through hard concepts. The morning session is about an hour long, we generally do two subjects during that time. By the end she has reached saturation point and is ready for a break, but eager to come back in the afternoon for our second session.
For my child without learning disabilities, the pacing may be a tad too slow. Della gets each lesson in a heartbeat and zips through the work. However, I am able to make good use of the lessons by working on other areas of her character development that certainly could use some practice. Things like not interrupting others, taking time to finish a task well, waiting to listen to directions, following the directions instead of doing whatever she wants. Yeah. There is a lot she can learn in this program. And temperament wise, she is my child most likely to give up when frustrated; perseverance is a skill worth developing.
Okay, so I’ve told you how well this works with our busy medical schedule, and how great it is for all three girls academically, but here is the best beessst BESSSST part! During the “down time” between our morning session and afternoon session, my kids are so incredibly creative and happy! I started this curriculum because the spontaneous, child-led learning approach wasn’t taking root. Now I walk into the living room to discover the girls drawing portraits of one another (after we talked about Michelangelo and sacred art, one of the lesson plans). They make complex magnatile structures trying to identify all the shapes and patterns they can combine. They dress up as bugs living in their natural habitat (nature lesson). They try to sound out words and make up poems. They whirl and twirl to celtic music on pandora while trying to count their steps. Wheeeee! THIS is what I was envisioning when I wanted to homeschool. Turns out my kids need a little structure and a dash of intentional wholesome beauty in order for their creativity and joy to take root and BLOSSOM.
And my joy in teaching them has blossomed too. There are so many little suggestions in the lessons plans for how to intertwine lessons. All the multisensory, tactile, and play concepts mesh with my occupational therapy background perfectly.
I don’t follow everything to a “T”. For example last week we read How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World while looking at our globe and finding the different countries. The book is in the curriculum plan, but will come up sometime later, I read it out of order. When it does come up again, I’ll probably read it and make a pie. I rummaged through our fruit drawer and found as many different apples as we happened to have. For snack we sliced up the apples and had an apple tasting. I got to talk a bit about botany, the technique for grafting apples, why we graft apples, and how to plant an apple seed. Then I pulled out Mamushka, a Ukrainian cookbook I just got in the mail, and made a Ukrainian apple sponge cake. We had the single serve apple cakes for snack after our second session in the afternoon.