I like to think of this past Monday as the first day of our new school year. The truth is we never really ended our previous school year- we just slowed way down for summer. Year-round learning aside, the idea of a fresh new start on Monday August the 1st is irresistible and rejuvenating. We only had formal learning for three days this week so the girls could spend a long, last summer weekend with my parents. However, this short week was necessary to establish new routines before the
insane driving to dance and piano classes resumes next week! And so I armed myself with a fresh custom-made lesson planner and 20 ounces of Silk french vanilla soy creamer coffee and headed down to the school room.
There seem to be two common responses when anyone hears that I homeschool: "I could never homeschool," and "What is your homeschool philosophy?" Well, I sometimes respond to the first, if you help your children with three hours of homework per night, you are homeschooling!
My response to the second is generally a deep, thoughtful, "I dunna know." The labels mean different things to different people, and I certainly do not spend my precious time researching the labels! I am attracted to the ideas and methods I read on Charlotte Mason-inspired blogs such as Evlogia and Wildflowers and Marbles , and while I implement some ideas, I can't say I am a CM homeschooler by any means.
All along I have wanted my girls to have a rigorous, challenging, and what I think of as traditional education. My ideas of traditional education were formed by a lifetime of reading 19th century novels. ;)
My mother had been a high school English teacher. She has always been a great reader. In fact, I remember my dad telling us semi-jokingly not to let Mom get hold of a book or she would never make supper! (My father is a great reader also. In order to physically get to my father, one must navigate stacks and stacks of books!) When I was in high school, I frequently found 19th century classics lying on my bed. My mother told me she wanted me to read and enjoy them before a teacher ruined them for me. I did, and in those books I found girls who learned Latin, needlework, catechism,
tuberculosis, drawing, and French. How lucky they were, I thought!
My philosophy has developed quite a bit since those days! I was introduced to The Well-Trained Mind at very beginning of our journey. I have clung to it, all the while freely adapting, disregarding, forgetting, and rediscovering its principles.
I would say I have much in common with my friend Angela the MommyLawyer in matters political, religious, teaching, etc. Yet, with the same goals in mind, we often choose different curricula and materials. All this to say, I find it impossible to define my homeschool philosophy. I want to form my two girls into God-loving, deep-thinking, respectful, creative, honorable, joy-filled young women. A tall order indeed! Although we do "drill, baby, drill" Latin vocabulary and math facts, my favorite moments this week were spent knitting on the couch while Buttercup read to me. I have had the new pleasure in the last few weeks of sitting in the living room cross stitching with my two little needleworkers!
We are still finishing some of our math and grammar from last year; that seems to be our modus operandi! Nutmeg continues Saxon math, Rod & Staff grammar, Writing With Ease, Seton Religion for Young Catholics, Wordly Wise vocabulary, and Latina Christiana II. Buttercup also uses these series.
Other resources are added in, and loved or disregarded as necessary. Currently Nutmeg is trying Winning With Writing. She started in the fifth grade level and is finding it very simple and satisfying so far. She is breezing through the lessons; I hope it gets more challenging. We continue reading aloud Marigold Hunt's The First Christians as an addition to our religion studies. It is chatty and quaint. The girls have maps of St. Paul's journeys from Homeschool in the Woods whereon they trace the journeys of the Apostles and deacons.
History and Science are the subjects that require the most planning and researching. In fact, planning and researching never really end! For History, we will loosely follow Susan Wise Bauer's Well-Trained Mind recommendations using The Story of the World volume 3. This will be Nutmeg's 2nd cycle and Buttercup's 1st. Nutmeg will also be using K12 Human Odyssey volume 2 for outlining and extra reading. We also have a wealth of books from the time period 1600-1850 that I have been adding to since we studied it four years ago. I am looking forward to revisiting some old favorites and including Buttercup in a "Boston Tea Party." I do add quite a bit to the Story of the World for this time period: much more information about the American Colonies and the War for Independence including the very different experiences in the Southern States.
This week in history we studied Michelangelo. We will continue looking at his works for a few more weeks. I read aloud from several books including Amy Steedman's Knights of Art which is available free online. Then the girls crawled under the school table for a small taste of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Our science this year will be chemistry. I learned last year that I cannot piece together my own science curriculum. That is not where my talents or passions lie. Too often, I become paralyzed by too many resources, too many options. I am going to be following 2 books in the God's Design series, Properties of Matter and Properties of Atoms and Molecules. No, this in no way means I have hitched my wagon to YE, nor do I find mention of YE in these particular texts. What I find is simple yet engaging experiments in an easy to follow text. I was very pleased to find that this curriculum focuses on kitchen and body chemistry as well as the Periodic Table. Some of the experiments I am looking forward to are making soda pop, making perfume, and experimenting with flavors. This week we ended our earth studies with readings on icebergs and glaciers.
My planner is much more comprehensive this year, but I am already thinking of things to add to next year's! At the tops of my history and science syllabuses, I included the appropriate grade-level expectations including reading, narrations, and outlining, as well as inspiring quotations all from The Well-Trained Mind. This will be my 6th year of homeschooling with the WTM, and I think I am going to actually follow it this year! ;)