Preparing Tapestry: our Fourth Year

We are headed into our fourth year of our Tapestry of Grace curriculum, which means we will have completed the cycle at the end of this year. (It also means this is my last year of all grammar level.) Last year, I felt like we really made Tapestry our own and found our rhythm, our stride. It felt good, like a fitted glove. Of course, when you end a year like that, it makes planning the next year exciting. I love the aspect of homeschooling where I trouble-shoot and research and find our answers, but the Lord knew I would be doing that in several other areas of our life; so homeschooling was off the hook. No massive revamping this year. With that said, preparing Tapestry for this year went really smoothly.

In summary, I love manilla folders. I keep 36 folders for our weekly “must-do” assignments like language and math and Latin. Then I keep a second set of folders for Tapestry that are labeled by Term (we do three 12 week terms) and by topic (I don’t cover everything; instead, I select the events and topics that will best suit my learners). All of our reading lists, media lists, and project papers are printed off and filed in these topic folders.

So here’s what it looks like. At the beginning of a week, I pull out two folders: the week we are in and the topic we are studying. Within the weekly folder, I pull out assignment pages and file into the kids’ daily pockets inside their binders (we use case-it binders with the accordion file inside). Within the topic folder, I look at my list all of the books and projects assigned for that topic and the number of weeks that I’ve guessed it will take us to complete (i.e. Titanic, 2 weeks). I then allocate those assignments that will fit with our week’s schedule. Last year, this method cut my weekly prep to about 30 to 45 minutes total! Both kids filed and ready to go in around a half hour. It was beautiful.

Reading Lists

Tapestry’s reading lists are copyrighted, so I can’t share the specific book titles that we are using. However, I will list a couple of other resources I use to compare and substitute book titles. SimplyCharlotteMason.com has a book finder feature that I love. Just type in the event or person you are studying, the reading level of your students, and a great list of engaging living books is listed for you. My second resource is my local library online catalogue search feature. Again, I type in the event or person, narrow it to children’s resources, and voila! I love my local library. It has an enormous selection.

I also use SimplyCharlotteMason’s Story of America and Story of the Nations ebooks as my core. These are not Tapestry titles, but the table of contents make it very easy to assign chapters that fit what we are covering. And the books are very engaging. We love them.

I select my favorites. Depending on how long we intend to study a topic, for each week I will select one to two read-aloud titles, one to two independent reading titles per child (depending on the length of the book), and the rest will be assigned merely as reference, as in “let’s look at more pictures.”

Media List

I love audios. Awhile back I scored Diana Waring’s history audio from Answers in Genesis‘ history program. We love listening to these on the way back and forth to karate and co-op. So, on the days we don’t get to our reading, we are still getting to our history. And this is another very engaging resource.

Netflix is also a resource where I search for related films to what we are studying. We don’t always get to this, but it is great for those off-days or sick days to already have this list compiled.

Projects

Homeschool in the Woods is not a Tapestry resource either, but we LOVE these projects. I use the Time Traveler activities. We make notebooking pages using both the notebooking and lapbooking project ideas. Especially since my kids are finally old enough to do their own cutting and pasting, these have been really fun activities to assign. They work on these while I read-aloud. It keeps their fingers busy but doesn’t distract them from the reading.

I generally choose the projects that fit what we are studying, our time-frame, and my kids’ interests. I spend one long afternoon printing all of my chosen activities and filing into my topic folders. This saves me so much time during the school year.

I also have the Draw Through History titles. My son loves to draw; my daughter loves to trace. And it gives them some ideas for drawing and enhancing their notebook with images of what we are studying.

Our Rhythm

I mentioned that I note about how many weeks I think a topic will take us. Last year, this was very fluid. We moved on when our books were read and our projects were done. And I found that in the end, things balanced out. Some topics took longer than I estimated, and some topics didn’t take as long. If we read everything in a week, we moved on. If it took us five weeks, because of interest or illness, we took our time and enjoyed it all. Sometimes, it was just a dud, and rather than struggle through 3 more weeks of something we were not enjoying, we covered the basics and moved on.

I’m also sensitive to my kids’ reading interests. There were some books that my son just hated, and while I realize that not all learning can be interest-driven, I think at the younger levels, reading should be. Occasionally, I’d make a call that he just needed to get through a book. But if I made that call, I ensured that I had a very tantalizing book as a reward when he finished. There were books we didn’t read cover-to-cover. (Pause for you to gasp in horror.) We survived, and were no worse for that decision.

In spite of all that flexibility, I was amazed by how much my kids retained and learned. A little went a really long way.

What about discipline and teaching kids to push through the difficult stuff? I split my subjects into two categories: our discipline subjects like math, grammar, spelling; and our inspiration subjects like history, science, and reading. This helped me define my objectives. My discipline subjects were challenging but in short spurts (no more than 15-20 min. per lesson/subject). My inspiration subjects were kept inspiring and interesting and often took closer to an hour or hour and a half (hands-on projects take awhile). But again, I watched my kiddos. If they were engaged, we took our time. If their eyes were glossing over, it was time for lunch.

Want to know more specifics? I’ve listed our specific curriculum choices here. Feel free to browse those links. Not sure what your homeschool style is? Be encouraged with my post about losing the labels.

I’m looking forward to another really great homeschool adventure, and I hope you tag along on our journey.

Making Memory Work Memorable

I love homeschooling. And one of the things I love most about it is getting to play with my kids (that’s right, we play!) But we play with a purpose.

We make art, we sing and do chants, we read stories, we solve puzzles—and we learn. And while I prescribe to the classical idea that young children are equipped for an amazing comprehension of facts, I don’t think all that memory work has to be dull drill. In fact, I think my kids would tell you that we have tons of fun.

As I’ve tried to actively incorporate memory work into every subject, I’ve also tried to actively vary how we do the memory work and repetition. For instance, we do have some flashcards—for math, for phonics, even for our history. But that’s not all we do.

Songs and chants

It amazes me just how much a child can learn when something is put to a tune or a rhythm. Last year, they memorized tons of countries they could barely pronounce simply because they loved the music. This year, we’re following the same concept. As much as I can, we sing what we want to learn, finding most of our music on either iTunes or youtube.

Hand Motions

When we aren’t singing, we’re moving (and often, we’re doing both). Hand gestures help to anchor the word pictures and concepts we are memorizing. We use hand gestures for Bible memory, poetry, and our history timeline. And I don’t come up with all of them on my own! Often, I’ll recruit their help to find a motion that will help them remember the ideas.

Flashcards

Okay, so it’s not all fun and games. But even the drill can be fun. For instance, sometimes I’ve taken our stack of flashcards outside to our favorite spot on the bridge. Sometimes, I let Middlest’s favorite monkey answer for her; we check to see how much Monkey has learned. Then, there’s the motivation that Dad just might “whup up” on them at our next unit celebration; after all their Daddy is a smart Daddy.

Lapbooks

Unit 2I’ve also embraced lapbooking over the last couple of months. I resisted it for awhile because it’s messy, it takes some advanced planning, and it takes some space to store all of those projects. But I’ve also really liked them for a few reasons: lapbooking is a fun way to review memory work (who doesn’t like a flap book?); lapbooking allows us to get the big picture from all of the little facts we memorize (i.e. we can see the whole human body coming together as we memorize one organ and system at a time); lapbooking provides a means for me to begin teaching concepts of display and presentation for when they get older (think poster boards, display boards, and science fairs).

We lapbooked the kings of Israel and Judah. I wrote the names on popsicle sticks, and they matched them to the list in their lapbook. We also incorporated chant and rhythm as we recited our list. We didn't memorize the whole list, but they became very familiar with which kings were good and which were evil.
We lapbooked the kings of Israel and Judah. I wrote the names on popsicle sticks, and they matched them to the list in their lapbook. We also incorporated chant and rhythm as we recited our list. We didn’t memorize the whole list, but they became very familiar with which kings were good and which were evil.

So while we have a ton of memory work incorporated into our day from math, phonics, history, Bible, and science, it honestly just feels like a lot of playtime, which is exactly what I was going for—memory work that makes for fun memories.

Core Tour: Keeping K4 Busy

This is post 2 of my short tour through our core subjects, what I’m using for phonics, reading, and math for my first grader and my preschooler.

Most of this year has been, in a way, free for Middlest. She has been using a great deal of Oldest’s left over pages from both K4 and the beginning review in K5. But she has absolutely flown through the material, which left me in a bit of a straight. Should I purchase new material and move her into kindergarten or push through this year with free pages I could find and print off the internet? We chose the free option.

So, my two primary sources of free work pages has been here and here. I’ve also made a few of my own when we’ve needed them and scoured both pinterest and the internet for other resources. Phew! It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, but it can be done. K4 has been virtually free of charge!

cuisenaire rods

For phonics she worked through left-over pages in A Beka’s ABC-123 book and Letters and Sounds K5 (review pages). Now, she is working whatever I can find from the internet. Right now, we are working on long vowels in two-vowel words, silent e and silent second letters. I’ve googled both long vowels and silent e for activities and found quite a few resources. We’ve also used the little A Beka K4 readers.

For math, she used the left-over ABC-123 pages for this, too. Then whatever I could scour off the internet. I either look up kindergarten math (much of which she is ready for) or will search for particular concepts (time, pennies, beginning addition). For our time together, we count to 100, sing skip-counting songs that I’ve downloaded on iTunes, go through some flashcards, and maybe review a concept or two with clocks or money, etc.

Her day is not long at all. I probably keep her busy with handwriting (again, left-overs from K5 and even 1st grade manuscript books) and other worksheets for about 30 min. Then, we spend another 30 minutes together (15 min. for phonics and reading, 15 min. for math). She is my flighty little butterfly, and it’s really all she needs and all she is ready for right now. The rest of the time, she plays while I work with Oldest. She uses the ZooWhiz subscription that we got for free as a review product, or she plays at one of the activities I have pre-approved for her. She listens in on Oldest’s stories and lessons; she cuddles up for our Tapestry reading; and she memorizes our Scripture as well as quite a few of the history and science facts right along with Oldest.

Now, I’m really desperate to know—how do you keep your kindergarten-ready preschooler busy? Where do you go for free resources?

Core Tour: First Grade

It’s been awhile since I’ve gone over our core subjects (reading, math, etc.) and shared what we are doing and how that is going. So I thought, over the next few posts, I’d give you a tour beginning with Oldest who is in first grade this year.

A Beka has been my go-to for reading, math, spelling, and handwriting for him this year. And for those of you who were along for the ride through all of our math frustrations last year, this year has gone incredibly smoothly so far.

Phonics: Oldest is using Letters and Sounds 1 for his phonics workbook. He works one side of a page each day on his own, learns a new flashcard phonics sound each day, and reviews his other sounds. Together, we go over the lesson for that day from the curriculum, and I have been following the curriculum more closely this year than last year, though I still don’t follow it to the letter. It does let me know when (and how) to teach syllables, homonyms, and alphabetical order. We also take a test once a week over his phonics and spelling. He spends 10 min. on his worksheet and 15 min. max on his flashcards; together, we probably spend 30 min. on reading and language concepts.

For his reading, I have mix of things I do. First, I have him read any related Bible work that fits in with our Tapestry history lessons. He reads out of the Seek and Find Bible, which has been perfect for his level of reading and understanding. Then, I’ll have him read any books from our Tapestry reading list that are on his level. If there aren’t any, then he will either read a library book (we’ve loved the Billy and Blaze series of books, and I throw in a few science-themed books here, too), or he’ll read from his A Beka first grade reader.

Spelling: We’ve used the A Beka Spelling and Poetry 1 book for this. He has largely tackled these lists on his own this year, while I supervise to make sure he is learning his list with the exercises provided in the book. If I test him and he did not learn the words on his own (which has only happened once this year with the “ight” and “ite” words, a tough list for him), then I take an extra week on the list and go over it with him everyday. Not only does this free me up a little bit, but it’s teaching him some independence; he’s learning to learn without my help.

Handwriting: He spends a total of 10 min. a day on this and works from two resources. First, he’s learning cursive this year out of the K4 book (shh! don’t tell him it’s K4) that I purchased his K4 year and then scrapped because it was too difficult for his motor skills at the time. He does one side of a page each day and will finish the whole alphabet any day now! I’ve also had him do some copywork from the Primary Arts of Language program that I reviewed earlier this year.

Arithmetic: I have really found A Beka to be much more consistent and enjoyable this year compared to last year. Everyday the amount of work is the same, and it allows us to keep a regular pace that seems much more realistic than last year. Each day he does one side of a page on his own (about 10 min. of work) and one side of a page with me during our “together” time. Together, we go over his flashcards, review and cover new concepts following the daily curriculum, take a speed drill (a timed math quiz), and complete his math work page. Depending on the day, this will take us 30 min. to 45 min. He also does Reflex, which I am still extremely impressed with. Not only does he still love this program, but I think it is also a key reason why math has not been the nightmare it was last year. I highly recommend this.

How do I organize his work pages? I have pocket dividers in a 3-ring binder with the days of the week marked on the divider. At the beginning of the week, I pull his pages for every subject out of his workbooks and file them into these dividers. I also place new flashcards in these pockets. We call these his “pocket pages,” and he starts each day with 30 min. to complete all of his independent work pages (10 min. for phonics, 10 min. for math, and 10 min. for handwriting). Later in the day, he has an additional 30 min. to review flashcards for phonics and history and to go over his spelling list.

 

 

*I want to mention one more thing here. He is not on the same lesson in every subject, which I’m totally okay with. He whizzes through all things reading and phonics; it’s his strength. Because of that, we actually began first grade phonics in March/April of last year. He is on lesson 104 in phonics as I write this. Math took us awhile to finish up because I didn’t move on until I knew he understood the lesson. Thus, we finished kindergarten math in August of last year. So that means, that we are on lesson 83 in arithmetic. Because I have done the same thing with spelling, taking the time we need for him to actually learn the words, we are on list 17, not the list that the curriculum says we should be doing. For me, the curriculum is a guide not a tyrant. I use it to help me stay on track, but I don’t let it dictate where we must be.*

And that’s our first grade tour of the core subjects. If you ever have questions, please feel free to email me. There is a link under my bio in the right sidebar. I’d love to hear from you!

What do you love to use for teaching the core subjects?

First Addition Lessons

Middlest loves math. She loves counting and numbers and, believe it or not, addition! And after all the drilling she overheard with Oldest last year, she’s a lap or two ahead in this race.

So, knowing how much she loves everything math, I pulled a few of the flashcards that are no issue for Oldest and gave them to Middlest. We’ve been playing some fun games, too.

K4 math

We LOVE counting bears. On the first day, I had her count out the number of bears from her flashcard, and we worked through the combination using the side of the flashcard that showed the answer. On day two, we did the same activity, but I had her work through the combination without the answer.

K4 math

Then, we pulled out the chalk board and her Fisher Price duplo blocks (similar to legos).  She linked the right number together, we’d read through her flashcard, then we’d write it on the board.

math with blocks

This picture says it all! She is extremely hands-on, so it really is no wonder that she loves math. And I love that addition is coming so easily for her.

Why Classical? and our 2012/2013 curriculum

There are many fine ways of educating children. I was homeschooled using largely A Beka and Alpha Omega, a graduate of the traditional schooling method. My husband graduated from public school. And we’ve both done well in life by God’s grace.

When I began homeschooling my children, I really had little idea of all of the different approaches and styles. I began on a traditional road, and quickly fell into a lot of potholes. We could have trudged on I’m sure, but none of us enjoyed those first weeks of by-the-book schooling. Disillusioned, I took a break and re-evaluated everything. I searched blogs and checked out books from the library, one of which was the Well-Trained Mind. It was my first introduction to the idea of classical education, and every part of it appealed to me.

I began researching more about this approach. The more I discovered, the more my husband and I were convinced that this was the path for us. Classical is more than the study of ancient cultures and ancient languages; it’s about a framework and an ordering of information.

In a recent article I read by Martin Cochran, published in The Classical Teacher, Cochran sites an illustration given by Neil Postman in a speech. Postman referred to a new deck of cards which is arranged in a fashion that gives sense to the whole deck. Once that  deck is shuffled, however, the order is lost. There is no means of knowing which card will follow the next. Classical education gives order to the vast amount of information in our world. History is studied in chronological fashion; science is studied from the framework of history; modern languages and English are learned from the foundation of the classical languages from which they were derived. Classically educating is laying a foundation and constructing a framework for the facts our children must learn.

Another appealing aspect to this style is the trivium, the three stages of training through which a child progresses: grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric. First, a child learns facts without fully understanding all of the relationships between those facts. Next, as the child nears adolescence, he begins to explore the logic, the relationships of ideas, and the reasons behind those relationships. It’s the stage when a child naturally starts questioning everything. In the final stage, the rhetoric stage, the high school student is now developing an understanding of what he believes and is now learning how to articulate and defend those beliefs. I love this video clip where Michael Horton explains the advantages of the trivium for the Christian faith.

And, thus, we embark on this adventure, fully embracing the classical model for the first time.

2012/2013 Curriculum

Tapestry of Grace, lower grammarHistory and Bible Curriculum: Tapestry of Grace (history, geography, Bible, art, literature, and beginning grammar)

Anatomy and Nutrition: Anatomy notebooking pages; Usborne’s See Inside Your Body; God’s Design for Life: the human body (borrowed from a friend); Little D’s Nutrition Expedition (free curriculum); My Plate (free printables)

letters and sounds 1 A Beka

1st grade Core:

A Beka 1st grade phonics/spelling

A Beka 1st grade math, supplemented with Math Mammoth as needed

K4/K5: (Middlest will be doing a blend of K4/K5 this year.)

A Beka K4/K5 phonics

A Beka K4 math (ABC-123)—she’s nearly finished this already; Professor B math and Math Mammoth

She’ll also be participating in our anatomy activities and our Tapestry read-alouds and crafts.

 

Tapestry of Grace read-alouds

 

Now, to get my house and my school room as organized as my lesson plans!

 

Disclaimer: This post contains my Tapestry of Grace affiliate link and my Usborne consultant link. If you purchase your Tapestry materials through my link, I get a discount on the materials that I purchase from them. If you purchase your Usborne books through my consultant page, my 25% commission will be used to help provide funds for down-syndrome orphans awaiting adoption (read more here).