My goal is to start writing a weekly update about our homeschooling progress, in part to keep me accountable for guiding my children in their learning, in part to serve as a reference for others in our homeschooling community, and in part to keep a record for my children to access about what they were learning in their younger years.

When Eric was newborn until about six months old, I was able to keep pace more easily with the goals and objectives I had in mind for Katie’s schooling this year. Then Eric started pulling up…and then at 8.5 months, walking. Since then I have had difficulty keeping the focus on our objectives. We have still been learning, but in a less thematic (and I love thematic units dearly) fashion.

It has been clear, also, that I have needed to restructure our day and learning times. Feeling the day speed by too quickly before we even started, we now use the breakfast hour (usually between 8:00 and 9:00) to gain momentum. One of he first changes I made to our summer learning schedule has been to use breakfast for the following: review of the calendar (month, year, date), phonics drills, geography or biology concept. We are huge proponents of phonics in this house, and while phonics drills can be work and while they take concentration from me as well, Katie actually likes doing them. We have a phonics flip book that easily fits between us at breakfast. We only do a few minutes worth each day, but it keeps the skill growing and present.

This week we studied our globe, focusing on Hawaii, since we’re taking a family trip there with my parents in…well, in some months from now. 😉 (Have to keep the home safe from robbers, you know, by not specifying the dates of our absence). Anyway, we spent part of our week introducing the concept of volcanic islands, but have much more to do with that line of study. A couple of the days this week, our science has focused on entomology, the study of bugs. Boppa brought over two colorful insect guides, and Katie has been asking to read and re-read as many descriptions as we can. She is fascinated. We identified butterflies we’ve seen in our yard, talked about vertebrate and invertebrate criteria, and have been working on understanding the definition of “mammal” versus non-mammal.

Today Boppa helped Katie to catch one of these… We compared it with examples on our insect chart. Though we’re not quite sure we have certainly identified it, we did note some possibilities and relatives. It flew onto Katie and she was delighted. We observed it for awhile. One way to extend this, and to add a writing component, would be to start a field notebook—one of the reasons I took a picture of it.

One of Katie’s insect charts

For English language enrichment, we also worked on our spelling tiles/puzzles this week and have been making spelling an area of focus. Even in conversation, I will ask things like, “What does _____ start with Katie?” We have been playing rhyme games, as well.

We also read the first Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) this week. I try to read with Katie between one to two hours a day. We used to hit two hours easily every day before Eric was born, and now it is more challenging. We’ve been reading Harry Potter almost every day this week, though, including a relaxing session on Balboa Island last Monday, and sometimes for a chunk of hours. Katie loves the series, and after finishing the first one today, she was immediately asking to begin the next one. Her favorite character is Hagrid. I question and discuss with her—about characters, plot, inferences, and vocab—as we go, and she really is understanding the book. I love that the language and syntax is more sophisticated even than the Little House series (we read the first four), and I know it is giving her the language growth she craves. We also have the chance to continue to learn about how chapter books are set up, how they work, and it allows her to practice her powers of concentration and imagination.

Bill had an idea for further language enrichment, and I have been working on implementing it. He suggested that, for at least one meal a day, we speak in a language other than English. Since I am the one who has quite a bit of experience with other languages, the language is my choice. I really wanted to work on French, but although I was capable at reading and writing it in college, my accent with spoken French…well, stinks, in my critical opinion. I don’t want to teach Katie and Eric to hear it incorrectly. I also know some Latin…but that was almost exclusively a written language for me when I took it in college. I finally settled on Spanish, the language I studied when I was in high school. I haven’t used it with any regularity in YEARS, and I am extremely rusty. But since I am way ahead of my kiddos…I guess it works. I’ve been trying to brush up on it before bedtime, and I might resort to making myself a few cheat sheets for awhile. All those items in the kitchen…not sure I ever knew the vocab fully for all of those things. The good news is, I have had two Spanish Speaking Lunches (SSLs) with the kiddos this week. Although I have to think about what I am saying more than I would like, I am surprised at how much is actually coming back to me. Boppa participated today, as well. I’d like to make this as much of a daily occurrence as possible, and since it requires little prep or props and can be taught while I am working on fixing lunch and eating lunch, it is one of the easier parts of my teaching day. It is also something I can teach my children at the same time.

And what do I do with Eric while Katie is learning? I am still trying to iron that out. I get a great deal of mileage by having her teach him what she knows. This is a sneaky way for me to formatively assess her without her knowing it, and a great way for him to be involved. I have her count for him, explain shapes and colors, tell him what letters sound like, etc. He still needs more one-on-one than he is getting, though. A work in progress…

For math, we’ve been working on our counting and geometry. We use tessellations and other puzzles for that skill. Katie also works on drawing shapes and letters, and I am seeing her skill at creating visual images starting to emerge.

Bill has also started teaching Katie the game of chess:

I love chess, too, but it is one of Bill’s big passions. I love that he is sharing that with her. Also happily, the first Harry Potter uses the game of “Wizard Chess” to advance its plot. By the time we got to a big section describing an important chess match, Katie had already studied with her daddy and could better understand what was happening in that scene. Literature meets logic games.

Katie has also worked on her tricycle this week. We used the “tri—” root (“three”) as a thematic link to her tricycle, the triangles we used in her tessellations, and her knowledge of the triceratops. Katie is getting better and better at her trike, though it is still a work in progress. That, combined with time in the wading pool, has made for physical education this week.

Arts/crafts: we painted Boppa’s birthday gifts…and that’s about it this week. Today, she is helping to paint the shed:

As far as other life skills and saturation, Katie has helped me with the sewing, and both kiddos have been cooking with me in the kitchen—one of their favorite activities to do. We also set aside time a few times a week to discuss family history, things like that. What I am finding, as a Montessori-centered homeschooling mom, is that ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is an opportunity to teach and to learn. The whole world can be an eternal and beautiful classroom.