Celebrating Progress: Tapestry of Grace Unit Parties

Tapestry of Grace unit parties

I love celebrating progress in our homeschool. I love to throw a party! So one of the highlights of our homeschool year are our unit celebrations.

I use “unit celebrations” loosely. Our curriculum recommends celebrating after each 9 week unit. But I honestly can’t pull off more than 2 parties a year. So we usually celebrate midyear and end of year. It’s less work for me and yet still creates those special memories that I love about homeschooling.

5 reasons for celebrating progress with a “unit” party

  • a chance to review and recap: This is our cumulative review, but so much more fun than the pressure of a big exam. We have some kind of game that reviews all the content we’ve covered so far; the kids study diligently for these games because their rival opponent—is Dad!

    (file folder game from Homeschool in the Woods Time traveler pack)
    (file folder game from Homeschool in the Woods Time traveler pack)
  • a chance to include Dad: Our “unit” parties are a highlight for my husband as well. It’s a great time for him to interact with the kids and what they are learning, gives him an opportunity to see all that we’ve done, and allows him the platform to praise their accomplishments. And the trivia game is serious business. Dad reviews the questions for about 5-10 minutes before the game begins, and then—it’s on: the kids against Dad! (or youngest child + Dad against the olders) Sometimes, team names are chosen, and that is usually hilarious, too. One thing about a household of creative, out-going, ADHD family is that drama and humor abounds! My family is flat-out funny. I love them!celebrating progress unit party
  • a chance to positively report progress: I hand out report cards at the party. The kids see them at the same time Dad does. As part of the report card, I include not just their grades but a summary of some of the character they’ve shown and an area for progress. Dad looks over the report with the child, reads the character report outloud, and praises and affirms that child.
  • a chance to display and perform: The kids are often in charge of the program for the evening, though I do offer a few suggestions. Notebooks with the kids projects are usually on display, and then the kids have an opportunity to perform something they’ve worked on: a puppet show, a song, a speech from a President, a poem, a report, etc.
  • a chance to create memories: Over the years, we’ve made some really terrific memories. We remember ancient history four years ago because of the huge poster-sized map my son colored and dramatically re-enacted Scipio and Hannibal with his plastic army men. We remember wrapping plastic cups in aluminum foil to make goblets for our Medieval Feast. We remember singing “Get your Kicks on Route 66” and our hobo dinner in the garage. And we will never forget our hippy party, perhaps our all-time favorite!

The kids are already asking about this term’s party and making big plans: an ancient history Headbanz game, a puppet show, some poetry (“Ozymandias”), and maybe some Christmas cookies. It’s the kind of thing that allows me to look back on all the hard work and struggles of the last few months and say, “This. This is why I homeschool. This makes it all worth while!”

2016 Fifth Grade Curriculum

fifth grade homeschool curriculum | classical dialecticI’m flabbergasted that I’m teaching fifth grade this year. Fifth! When did this happen?

As sad as I am to see all the little boyishness disappear, I do love to see who he is becoming—the thoughtful questions he asks, the deep discussions he initiates, the connections he makes. It is rewarding to see him grow.

It’s just one more reason that this year is so exciting. My son is starting his second rotation through history, finishing the grammar stage of learning and edging into dialectic. This year for fifth grade, he will be comparing civilizations and contrasting mythology with the Bible. My husband’s post-graduate degree in apologetics is coming in handy to answer all of his deep questions, as well. So here’s what’s in store for fifth grade.

Core resources:

Extras:

I still keep his assignments mostly 10 to 15 minutes, with math taking slightly longer at about 20 minutes, which means he can still finish his independent assignments in a couple of hours. He meets with me for about a half hour 3-4 days a week, and then 1-2 days a week we all come together for a couple of hours of history read-alouds and projects. He’s also grading his own daily work this year, which means I only grade tests and quizzes. It’s a schedule that gives us a lot of variety without draining their enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, I think the variety feeds our enthusiasm.

 Check out our curriculum for 3rd grade and preschool, too.

2016 Third Grade Curriculum

3rd grade homeschool curriculum | homeschooling dyslexiaI’m excited for this year for so many reasons, but I’m especially excited for Middlest’s third grade year. We’ve had some major discoveries and improvements with diet/behavior over the last year and were beginning to see the fruits of that at the tale-end of second grade. I’m also eager to see her dyslexia improve with some of the curriculum changes and adjustments we’ve made. In one sense, I can’t wait to see what she is capable of now that her body is healthy and functioning well and all the pieces are in place. Here’s what’s in store for Middlest for the third grade.

Core resources:

Extras:

Middlest was only a toddler the last time we studied Ancient History. Even so, she remembers many of her favorite book titles from that study and several of our projects. That’s one of my favorite aspects of Tapestry of Grace specifically and whole-family learning in general. She is excited about getting to read her favorites on her own this time, to her little brother. I’m excited about seeing her understanding deepen this time around with new books and projects.

Writing and spelling related activities are ones that I help her with quite a bit, partly because of her difficulties with these and partly because of the anxiety her dyslexia causes her. This topic could probably be a post of it’s own, but I’ll keep it short. At this stage, I frequently allow her to “write” orally while I act as her scribe. Sometimes, she will use these narrations as copywork, copying her own words that I wrote down (with all correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation). Other times, I will use a sentence or so as dictation, having her copy down her own words as I read them back to her. Later this year, we will be working toward the writing “process” of having her write her own thoughts with all their imperfections and then editing it together before she writes or types the final copy.

I’m loving this set-up for her third grade year. It feels like the perfect fit, and I can’t wait to watch her thrive.

Check out our curriculum for preschool and 5th grade, too.

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.

Losing the Labels

Sometimes, labels can be very helpful, allowing us to define our vision or explain that vision in a way others can quickly identify with. At other times, we allow those labels to shackle us to a lifestyle or an approach that maybe isn’t quite the right fit.

Crunchy, organic, homesteader. Attachment-parenting, grace-based parenting, traditional. Classical education, Charlotte Mason, unschooling.

I think to escape the label in homeschooling, a lot of us settle on “eclectic” and call it a day. It’s easier than trying to explain the exceptions we’ve made to this philosophy and that approach. But I will take the time to explain some of our exceptions, just to help you see our journey and maybe bring some clarity to yours.

eclectic homeschooling

We started out hard core classical educators. Lots of memory, early Latin, art and music appreciation. And while I still love the learning levels and cycle of history, some of the rigidity and rigor has slipped away, for our sanity and survival.

I loved everything I read about Charlotte Mason, and was fully prepared to embrace the majority of that educational approach at the beginning of the year. Short lessons saved us this year, transformed our homeschool. My little ADHD kiddos thrived with short intense bursts and learned more than you could imagine from lessons that were no longer than 15 or 20 min.; it fit them perfectly. They could succeed and still be Tiggers. I also loved the connection with people rather than simply memorizing events. We merely discovered the events as we got to know people. My son saw himself in the life of Charles Dickens, saw who he wanted to be in Abraham Lincoln, and saw what he wanted to achieve in the lives of inventors like Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers.

Reading great books

On the other hand, even though the idea of teaching language the Charlotte Mason way really appealed to me, it was a colossal failure in practice. My son simply hated learning spelling through dictation; and while I enjoyed teaching the language lessons, I did not enjoy the fact that the method was so teacher-dependent. We gave it a try for quite a while and then I realized it was pointless to continue something that wasn’t working for my son simply because I was idealistic.

I learned this year, with all of our personal challenges, to be flexible, perhaps a little more realistic and a little less idealistic. I learned that no approach to education is the right approach for every child (after all, isn’t that why many of us homeschool to begin with?). And I learned that what I’m doing has to be a fit for BOTH me AND my child.

I’ve learned that labels are for canned food and toothpaste, not people.

Losing the labels

Next Year Plans 2015-2016

Homeschool Curriculum Planning | homeschool plans

I must confess, planning for this next school year’s homeschool curriculum was much less difficult than it has been in the past. We had so much success this year that I had little to research and change. And while it was very nice to have those decisions pretty well made, I kind of missed the search-and-find part of the process. I’m thrilled that we’ve found the pieces that fit just right for us. It’s been a great fit this year, a perfect balance. So, here is our master list for next year’s plans, our homeschool curriculum in 2015-2016 (4th grade, 2nd grade, and preschool).

Plans for Grade 4:

Christian Light Publications Grade 4 Math

Alpha Omega Grade 4 Language Arts

Easy Grammar/Daily Grams 4

Spelling Power, 1st edition

Visual Latin 1 (second half)

Legends and Leagues geography (North, South, East—one for each school term)

My State Notebook, A Beka

Tapestry of Grace year 4, Upper Grammar (with Draw through History and Time Travelers Pak activities)

Plans for Grade 2:

Christian Light Publication Grade 2 Math

Logic of English Foundations D

Legends and Leagues (original book and workbook)

Tapestry of Grace Year 4, Lower Grammar (with Draw through History and Time Traveler Pak activities)

We’ll also be studying Norman Rockwell and Kandinsky for art, as well as jazz and Louis Armstrong for music.

Plans for “Preschool”  (3 year old)

Nothing heavy here, trust me. But I have to plan something to keep Little Man out of trouble. And he loves “plojects.” Honestly, I’m aiming for exploration. And while I don’t have anything finalized, I expect to use a lot of Pinterest ideas, some resources from Letter of the Week (COAH), and some inspiration from The Homegrown Preschooler. I also want to implement a lot of Montessori activities with him.

Tot School | homeschool plans

Littlest is such a sponge. He does a lot of counting, can recognize a few different letters, and knows his colors pretty well with absolutely no formal instruction from me. He’s too little to have a learning style just yet, but he clearly loves to explore rather than pursue anything structured. I’m really okay with that for now. I love setting out the supplies and letting him explore them on his own.

We do have a “summer school” schedule that I’ll post more details about soon. And I can’t wait to get into that learning mode. In the meantime, I’ll have to satisfy my curriculum-hunting instincts by delving into some preschool pinterest boards.