Tuesday, August 11

First Grade for Smidge

That's such a weird sensation. *pause to reflect how quickly it goes. pause, pause, pause* OK, not getting any easier. Let's move on, anyway.

He's pretty much following the path his brothers have packed down ahead of him, with variations to account for support where he needs it, and leeway where I wish I'd given it with the older two. Not a lot of "seat time". Plenty of "couch time". Lots of "outside time" (when it cools off a bit). This isn't Victorian England, and I don't have a stash of opium, so we don't have the pastoral scenes of young children learning that one might expect or desire. We have a lot of paper, tons of colored pencils and drawing materials, books absolutely *everywhere*, and I think there's Sculpey stuck to the bathroom wall. (I don't know how or why. I quit asking years ago.)

Science is Life. Particularly at this age. It's Parables From Nature. It's a magnifying glass and an afternoon on the floor with encyclopedias and Mom. It's drawings and rabbit trails. Leaves and seeds and flowers and fruit. Eggs and larvae and things you probably don't want in your home. It's antibacterial soap and a lot of deep, slow breathing.

Math-U-See Alpha is math for Smidge. It's his happy spot. He enjoyed Primer, learned plenty, and was anxious to start in his new book. (Comes by that last bit honestly. We all just love a fresh, new book, around here. It's almost, but not quite, a sickness.)

Music and Art are still a bit haphazard, here. Although we do still enjoy Artistic Pursuits and Meet the Great Composers, so he'll continue to use those in a light and painfully unstructured way.

For History, I feel like I ought to go back and start him with Vol. I of Story of the World. We had such a good time with that. Then I realize what a scheduling nightmare I'd be inventing for myself. It's not as if he hasn't been listening in along the way, and I have to remind myself (sometimes forcibly) that he's putting up pegs on which to hang future information. Since he draws Hammurabi cartoons, explains how a trebuchet works, and makes jokes about privateers, I'm guessing he's been listening - at least peripherally - and has been, quite happily, slinging pegs here and there along the way. So he's doing Modern Times with us, at a slower, softer pace.

For Reading, Phonics, Spelling, and so forth, I still cannot recommend The Writing Road to Reading highly enough. It is thorough, concise, and well done. And, with apologies to Ms. Spalding, I modify it to suit our needs. Smidge needs extra work on his speech, so this is where I put that in, too. More focus on speech, less on reading for him than is usual.

Copywork, copying the work you're reading together, is the absolute best at this age. Pick the things you enjoyed as you read. Write them out, let them copy, and then turn them loose to illustrate it. Some children love coloring books. So far, none of mine really have. Smidge seems the closest, but even he will draw his own illustrations quite happily. Put them up. I have no clue what color my fridge used to be. Someday, the weight of the tape, magnets and paper will pull the door off, I'm sure, and then we'll remove the pictures and narrations and copy work and see what it looks like. Before we cover it up again.

A note on reading. (Pardon me while I pull out my little soapbox. It's just a little one.) The reading comes. Whether it comes when they are two, four, six, or seven, it does come. Read aloud to them. Tell stories. Make up stories. Let language fill your days and nights. Create for them a world rich in literary texture, tastes, and images, and they'll want to make it their own. You've got a big old bag full of tools to share along the way, and yes, show them those tools. Explain how they work. But if it doesn't click, don't get angry or frustrated. Put the tools away and dive back into the words for a while. Try again later. Definitely keep your eyes open for places where there may be trouble, and address those spots if you find them, but always remember that reading is a gift we can cultivate in their hearts, as well as their minds. It's interesting to me that that's the one area I've never sweated, and it's the one area I have no/few regrets now that I'm in a position to start looking back. I have a horrible suspicion I'll find many other areas where I will wish I'd applied this philosophy a bit more soundly. (Sheepishly tucks soapbox back under the desk.)

Literature. Such a word! For the Littles, it makes it sound much less enjoyable than it is! There are book lists and book lists and book lists. I can't even pretend to know a tenth of what's out there, and when I try to collect it all, Zorak inevitably finds me curled up on the porch, feverishly figuring out what we'd have to sell or go without in order to BUY IT ALL RIGHT NOW. So. I try not to peruse more than one or two lists at a time. Zorak appreciates that, and so does my blood pressure. I like Veritas Press' reading lists, and of course, The Baldwin Project's books are big favorites, here, too. If you find something at Baldwin Project that you'd like to have in print, Yesterday's Classics offers many titles. We've ordered from them, and have always had great service. The books are decent quality softcover books. Lang's Fairy Books are also a staple.

For an all-in-one collection at this stage, the 20th Century Children's Book Treasury is my all-time favorite collection. It gets read, and read, and loved on and read. The binding is crap, and the book won't last through three children before Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom and part of Swimmy fall out in the hallway. But I haven't found a collection of favorites like this anywhere else. Even Zorak got excited when we received this book, years ago. (Who knew he had such a soft spot for Sylvester?) Ideally, we'd all be able to buy all the books individually, but realistically that's an investment of almost $1,000 all said and done. And you know, if I'm going to lay out a grand for a book collection, it'll be the one *I've* been coveting for almost a decade now, thanks. This, however, does the trick quite nicely. And, as True Favorites emerge, you can pick them up here and there without giving anybody involved in the household finances a stroke. There's that.

Poetry. Don't scoff. (OK, go ahead and scoff, but come back. I'll wait.) Poetry. Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy incorporates daily poetry. As with anybody who has homeschooled more than, say, six months, I've read her papers, poked around Ambleside Online, fallen in love with it, and eventually abandoned it, in general, taking precious gems with me back to my eclectic educational cave. Poetry was one of those gems. It doesn't have to be dry or dull. Hilaire Belloc, Mother Goose, Robert Lewis Stevenson - whimsical, beautiful, rich poetry is available and wonderful for use in daily life. I can tell you this: the best year we've ever had, as far as routine, tone, flavor, and pace, was the year we incorporated poetry into our daily routine. We are bringing it back this year. It was that good.

The bulk of our school is reading, even at this age. When they're older, they read and we discuss. When they're younger, we read together and we discuss. When they're younger, I read to them and we discuss. It looks different at every stage, but you'd be hard pressed to find me, at any stage, putting us in a circle, clipboard on my lap, peering over imaginary spectacles as I toss out a topic and say, in the manner of James Lipton, "Why?" More likely is that Zorak comes home to find us piled up in the boys' room, or the living room, talking animatedly about whatever it was that struck our fancies.

Mostly, it's an organic flow of discussion. Questions, point-counterpoint, more rabbit trails, bantering, back and forth, and always, in the end, more reading. When you care what they think, what they liked, and what they got out of it, they know. And they're happy to share. This is what I'm talking about when I tell people that homeschooling is a lifestyle more than just an exercise in academics. It's how we do things, and who we are, part and parcel, inseparable. Sometimes, you'll want to bang your head against the wall, but not right now (I'll go into that more on the appropriate entry, later). Right now, it's all magic. It's all new and exciting and interesting.

And, I think that's about it, for First Grade.
Kiss those babies!


Hillary said...

How is Smidge in first grade? (Can I call him Smidge still? It's only Tuesday.)

A) He's younger than Colson. Colson my KINDERGARTENER.

B) How is he even old enough to be thinking of school? Isn't he still the little boy of the dimpled hands who loves Thomas the Train?

Jenni said...

Opium! (Smacks forehead, V-8 moment style.) So that's the trick!

Seriously, though, I love the picture you paint of your school days. It's so fun and natural and such a part of everyday life--just the way learning should be.

Dy said...

Hillary, I secretly still call him Smidge most days. Though "JakeRabbit" is starting to stick. I'll transition here, slowly. Those fat little fingers are so long gone. *sniff* He passed his Thomas pillow to Jason a few months ago. I could have cried. (I might have cried. But not in front of him.) Come to think of it, all the fat's gone, and he now looks as emaciated as the rest of them. Huh. I guess he is ours...

And, um, well, he's in first this year b/c he asked to do K last year. Considering he was torqued about not having "snacks" when they pass the plate at church (rolling eyes), I figured I'd give him school, instead. Picking my battles, and such. I'm willing to compromise on school. Communion, not so much.

He does so much along with us that it just worked out well to fold him into it. He may realize his mistake in a couple of years, when the seat work ramps up, eh? ;-)

Jenni - yeah, I know, huh? I appreciate the changes in social structure, but did we have to do away with *all* of it?

I can't take credit for our structure. Zorak makes it possible, and the kids make it wonderful. I'm really, really lucky.

mamabear said...

Wow, Dy! You make ME want to do 1st grade again. And I'm 38!!! LOL.
Sounds like Smidge has a fantastic year ahead of him. And the other kids too (goes without saying.)

I can't wait till we finish building our "forever home" in the country, so my kids can have similar experiences, with going outside, looking at bugs, trees, plants, etc. Oh, but heaven help me... I'm going to have a 7th grader and a 10th grader this year!

love and hugs!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff! My heart is smiling for each of you. I am so happy for you and your family, the journey you are sharing, and the difference you all make in the world. You do you know:)

Thanks for sharing.


Urban Mom said...

Awwww... Urban Kid 1 is doing 1st grade this year. It's kind of our first "official" year of homeschooling, so I'll no doubt check in with you to see how you guys are doing. Kind of like doing my own work, but looking up once in a while to see what the kid across from me is doing too. I like your approach to history. Sounds to me like he's plenty far out of the gate!