Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Looking Back on Year 1, and Looking Forward to Summer

Our family was on vacation at the beach for the past week, and I have so many places from our trip that I want to share here!  A teaser...

Yep, it was pretty fantastic! :)

But first, I wanted to talk a bit about our previous year and the year to come now that we're well into our "summer" break here at our house.

Summer break for us doesn't mean we're totally "off"--like Angela, we'll be continuing a light schedule year round, particularly for skill-based work:
:: Math - We'll be doing math 3x a week, which will have us finishing up RightStart Level C just before our new school year starts in July or so.  I'm also motivated to add more of the games into our days--particularly on the weekends, when my kids can play with my husband.
:: Memory work - Still doing this 4x a week over breakfast, using our memory "notebook."
:: Foreign language - Working on this casually through songs and games.
:: Reading - Both read-alouds and independent reading daily, obviously!  Poetry and religious reading a few times a week as well.
:: Nature Study - Nature walk and journal entry at least weekly, just like during the school year.

Other than that, there will be lots and lots of free play and park days--the more time the kids spend outdoors, the better, I say!  The children also have their own projects they want to do: my daughter wants to make some simple doll clothes out of felt and is currently copying all the illustrations from the Therese stories in the Catholic Treasure Box series to make into her own little book.  My son is occupied outdoors catching and caring for ladybugs and dictating questions for me to email in to My Nature Friend magazine. :)  And we are almost finished up with The King of the Golden City in anticipation for their First Holy Communion this weekend.  Busy!

That said, I'm hoping to use this "summer" break as a chance to think through some of the subjects I'm hoping or needing to tweak for this coming year.  The exams gave me a good idea of where to start--

:: Italian.  They were very timid and unsure about their Italian answers on this past exam.  Their comprehension has definitely improved but their speaking skills haven't yet.  As I think I said last term, more casual conversational work is in order!  I found Kids Stuff Italian (strange name, but it's a fantastic resource!) at our local library, so I'll be spending some study time refreshing my memory so that I can talk with them about a larger variety of topics.  And some games are definitely on my list as well--I have some plans for Italian games based on our Italian songbooks (which we are still loving, by the way!), and I will post them here once I have a chance to write them up.  I'm also going to use our summer break as an opportunity to preview some Italian curricula for next year--maybe something a bit more formal, now that they're a bit older.  (If anyone has a non-video, primarily aural/oral Italian program to recommend, please do share!  I'm looking at this one or this one right now, as well as some other audio options.)  I'm also going to pick up the other songbook in our current series, which should be a perfect fit for our winter term next year.

:: Penmanship.  They did make good progress this year, and this isn't something I'm concerned about overall, since I think their writing is pretty average for their age.  But I would like to just mix things up a bit with their copywork--it's feeling a little stale.  One difficulty I have is that my two students have very different issues they're working through: my daughter is a super-perfectionist and melts down when her examples aren't absolutely perfect.  She would erase and redo all day if I let her!  But I can see her frustration build up and I usually stop her after a very short time of practice (5 minutes maybe)...and then she gets upset because she didn't finish as much as she wanted to.  My son, on the other hand, has a nice balance of attention to detail and realistic expectations, and his letters look fine (as do my daughter's), but I have to watch over his shoulder the whole time, correcting some of his bad habits in formation.  I'm not sure how these bad habits started, since I have been vigilant about his copywork since his kindergarten days.  But the instinct to start several letters in the wrong spot is still there and don't seem to be going away.  I think we need to mix it some more "fun" kinds of writing, just as a break from the process--writing in sand, large-scale with sidewalk chalk, on dry-erase boards or with different colored pens...summer seems like a good time to try something new.

I also want to use our time off to build some new habits and work on some new skills:

:: Teatime.  This is a habit that has fallen by the wayside over the last term.  I hope to resurrect it at least weekly this summer (iced tea, naturally!) and cover some religious reading and poetry, which we're casually continuing through our break and need a "home" in our summer-school schedule.

:: A Day Out-of-Doors.  There will be many days out-of-doors this summer, but here I'm referring to a Charlotte Mason-inspired day outside a la her recommendations in Volume 1.  Foreign language practice, mental picture painting, dry brushing in our journals...I want to make a small amount of our outdoor time more intentional for my older two children, and I'm hoping that trying more of these activities during our down time will help make them a habit that will continue into next year.

:: Chore lists.  Our chores have gone smoothly this year, but we'll take a bit of extra time this summer training in new chores.  First will come the 4-year-old, who is ready to take on some of the big kids' responsibilities.  Then I'll be training the older two in a few new tasks.  By fall, I hope to have this place running like a well-oiled machine! ;)

:: Visual memory.  Now that my children are reading so well and starting to write quite a bit on their own (nothing formal--just notes to each other, letters, lists, and whatnot), I'm noticing that my son isn't a born speller.  This doesn't surprise me at all because though he did learn to read very easily and early, he has always had trouble with visualization, which is so key to a Charlotte Mason education.  I hope to stretch those mental muscles, building up his visualization skills with some simple games and activities.

:: Art!  Summer is our time to hit all the messy, best-for-outdoors art projects: finger-painting, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, watercolors...I'm going to have my art-loving 6yo daughter help me plan it out.  I also have some drawing exercises lined up, which slipped off our schedule when the baby arrived in the fall--both my children have been begging to continue them for months.

:: Nature study.  I plan to touch base with our nature study group to see what goals we all have for the summer and this coming year.  As for our family, we had a wonderful time at the beach this past week, and we have some special day trips with Daddy planned to a few new local sites.  And lots of time for nature journaling, I hope!  

And for Mommy: besides arranging Italian games, visualization exercises, and chores, I'm hoping to...
:: Finish up Volume 1 and keep up with the 20 Principles Study going on over at the AO forums
:: Arrange music lessons for fall
:: Choose books and lessons for the subjects I plan on my own (Italian, religion, geography, and art)
:: Prepare our materials for art study, music study, music, and memory work

Okay, so that doesn't sound super restful, does it?  ;)  But school planning is a bit of a hobby for me--hardly a chore at all.  So I'm giddy with the extra time I have to read and plan, even if it is all "schoolwork"! :)

Enough about me: what will be keeping you busy this summer?

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