Monday, July 26, 2021

Five Fun Additions to Our School Year

Hi there! It's hard to believe, but we have just a few short weeks left until we begin a fresh year of homeschooling. Before we do, I thought I would share a few fun highlights from last year! In no particular order...

Family Century Charts

Because we are all studying the same time period in history, we chose to do a large-scale collaborative century chart for Forms 1-4 this past year! This was in addition to the various other history tools my students were keeping, depending on age: timeline, Book of Centuries, small century charts, etc.


We used some large colored sheets we had on hand (different colors for each century), but I think posterboard would be perfect for this project! Another option would be to use a roll of butcher paper and do the centuries on one long sheet (which is what we will try this coming year, I think!).

I assigned entries weekly by Form. I had two students in Form 1, two in Form 2, and two in Form 4 last year. Each Form made an entry each week, switching between the older student in the Form and the younger student in the Form. So each week, three entries were made on the charts. My students were free to choose whatever they wanted to add from that week's reading -- usually history, but sometimes literature, composer study, picture study, biography, religion, etc. (Occasionally, my Form 1 kids did not have any new events or people to add since we spent several weeks on the same story at times. So it wasn't a hard-and-fast rule.) 

It was neat to see how the different ages chose to represent their selected people and subjects.

Art, Art, and More Art

Thanks to the support of the CMEC, we had a blast in art this year! It was the focus of our Fall Mini-Retreat, so we took it up in earnest. We dove into chalk drawing, brush drawing, and clay modeling. We loved the variety and the calm, delightful process of working through these lessons week by week.









One of the best things about the PNEU's approach to art instruction is that the assignments are free enough that students of various ages can all work to their ability. This is so helpful in a large family -- or in a co-op setting, where we plan to do some art lessons this coming year. I can't wait for continued work in each medium!

Weekly Paintings

Speaking of art, this was our fourth year keeping small painted narrations weekly using Artist Trading Cards. (I have written about this more here: Our Weekly Paintings.) We had to start a new binder to house them all, and soon I will need to give each student his or her own binder because our collection is growing as the years pass and as I add more students!

A few pages from this year's studies...






These are a real joy to look through at the end of the year. Each student's particular interests and style shows through so clearly. And we get to see year-by-year growth in their artistic abilities as well!

The Kitchen Arts

My older girls (and my older sons too) have lots of practical experience in the kitchen and have been helping with family meals for years. But their repertoire has been mostly limited to our regular family rotation of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts.

My older girls have been especially motivated to learn some new skills and recipes as they have gotten older. It is so nice for them to gain not just experience, but also independence in the kitchen!

We decided to get them this cookbook for Christmas. I like America's Test Kitchen's approach, but more than that, I was looking for a comprehensive cookbook that included recipes for all the basics. So many cookbooks feature specialty ingredients and fussy methods on every page that make them challenging to scale up for a crowd (and with a family of 12, we always have a crowd!). This one has a nice balance of new and classic options. I previewed it from the library before grabbing a copy to gift them. (This one is out of print, but ATK has other basic options that have great reviews.)


Since then, they have been cooking quite a lot! They have handled all the birthday desserts so far this year and have added several delicious dinners to their rotation.







I also got each of them a set of recipe cards and a pretty recipe box. They have been adding recipes as they master them for easy access -- a different way of keeping an Enquire Within Notebook, if you have read The Living Page. Hoping this fun addition to handicrafts/life skills continues into the new year! 

And my second son requested his own recipe box this summer! I opted for a regular 4x6 index card box for a boy-friendly version. ;)

Handicrafts From the Stash

For handicrafts work, I have always aimed for (1) progress in skills we already have and (2) development of new skills or work in new media.

This year, we took up paper modeling and needle felting in Term 1 and paper modeling and raffia in Term 2 (CMEC video resources). 

For Term 3, I decided to have them work from our stash. So everyone had a chance to dig through their bins for...
:: kits and projects waiting to be completed
:: materials for new plans they wanted to try out
:: ongoing work they could take up week after week

This led to lots of handicrafted gifts for winter and spring birthdays! For example, here is what my littlest, Emilia, received for her January birthday, all crafted by siblings. I love seeing how creative they can be when given the tools and the time.


And gifts from the middles for Mother's Day (left) and Father's Day (right):


So much worthwhile work in so many different crafts...


My kids are constantly doing some handicraft or another in their free time, but there was something about having a scheduled afternoon block for this work that really invigorated everyone, including my high schoolers. And everyone had the time during the block to organize and cull old supplies too, which was great for us all. I may make this a Term 3 practice every year! 

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The real life in our homeschool comes from living materials and living methods -- these are my tried-and-true and make the biggest difference to "joy in living" in our home! But we always seem to have a couple experiments or unexpected additions that blow fresh air into our days.

As you look back at the past school year and plan for the next, what were some of the fun additions that brought joy to your homeschool?

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