After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Homeschool Showcase

Unless we know one another in real life, there's a good chance you found my blog through Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  Today on the Homeschool Showcase feature on Kris's blog, my recent post on TOG for Dummies is mentioned.  If you don't already read Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, you need to fix that now :)  You can start by reading today's Homeschool Showcase post!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TOG for Dummies, I Mean Minimalists

Tapestry of Grace, affectionately known by its initials- TOG- here at the lab, is more than just a history program for our family.  In fact, in my 2012-2013 Curricula post, I refer to TOG as our "humanities core" since that more aptly describes how we use the curriculum.  Using TOG, we cover history, geography, fine arts, literature and church history at three learning levels- lower grammar, upper grammar and dialectic (beginning this coming school year.)  If you have ever used or even simply perused TOG, you are well aware that the curriculum can be a bit intimidating- what with all its pages per week of learning threads, reading plans, writing plans, teacher notes, etc.  It does not have to be, though.  Really, I promise! 

In this post, I want to describe how we are using TOG in our homeschool in the hopes of encouraging you who might be doubting whether you can manage this program in your homeschool.  Of course, our way is not the only way to use TOG.  It's certainly not the best way to do it either.  A friend jokingly calls me the "minimalist homeschooler" because I don't spend a great deal of time planning our lessons week to week.  Call me crazy, but I'd rather use my time and energy executing those plans!  And you know something?  By the end of the school year, we had actually completed all the lessons I had planned for, the test subjects (and I) had learned a great deal in each of the above subjects in the time period covering the Fall of Rome to the Reformation, and we all enjoyed both the content and the process. That's got to count for something, right? 

So, for what it's worth, here is how we use TOG in our homeschool: 

1.  Using the reading assignments grid from the TOG week plan, I determine the read aloud we will use and which books the test subjects will be reading in each category for the week on Sunday evenings.  Since we are only completing two of the four Year 2 units, we usually have the time to complete both the history core and in depth assignments each week as well as the literature and church history selections. (In the 2013-2014 school year, we will switch to a regular pace of one TOG year per school year, and may have to drop some of the history in depth selections at that time depending on the amount of reading assigned each week.)  Since I am a newbie to homeschooling, I simply used whatever reading resource TOG suggested for each subject area, but you can certainly make changes to book selections as you see fit.  My humble suggestion, however, would be to use the curriculum as much as possible!  Unless a book is objectionable in some way, or you know off hand of a better selection, trust the resources laid out in the week plan.  I literally spend about 15 minutes choosing and typing the assignments into my planner for the week.  Remember, save your time and energy to execute the plan not to plan the plan :)

2. We work on TOG every day of our four day week.   Even if for only 20 minutes of a read aloud and map work, or 15 minutes reading a lower grammar book, or 30 minutes reading an upper grammar core history selection.  Working through a portion of the TOG week plan each day is key to our success in navigating the curriculum without feeling overwhelmed.  On Fridays last year, we attended a co-op art class based on the art from the historical time period we were studying in TOG. 

3.  Our weekly plan usually looks something like this:
  • Day 1: Read Aloud and Map Work
    • We used the Story of the World selections found under the alternate resources column within the TOG curriculum fairly consistently as our read aloud last year.  We also used the SOTW maps, as I found them more teacher friendly at the lower and upper grammar levels than the TOG maps.  Some weeks we also read the suggested TOG read aloud if we had the time and interest.
  • Days 2-4: History Core and In Depth Reading
  • Days 5-6: Literature Reading and corresponding Student Activity page for literature
  • Days 7-8: Church History Reading, Lapbooks or Timeline, Dialectic Discussion
This plan varies with the amount of reading that is actually assigned per week.  Some weeks the history reading can all be completed in a day or two and other weeks, they will stretch out for four days or so.  However, the order of the assignments- reading first then the lapbooks, timeline and discussion- always  remain the same for us.  In this way, I am able to use the lapbooks, timeline and discussion as an evaluation tool at the end of each week plan.  Of course, if you are working on a full pace- one TOG week in 4-5 days of school, you would tweak the amount of reading assigned per day.  Your week might look something like this:
  • Day 1:  Read Aloud, Map Work and History Core Reading
  • Day 2: History and In-Depth Reading
  • Day 3: Literature Reading and Student Activity Page
  • Day 4: Church History Reading, Dialectic or Rhetoric Discussion
  • Day 5: Lapbooks, Timeline, Evaluations

4.  We use field trips and other real life experiences to teach without the test subjects knowing they are learning :)  There is nothing like a fun experience or natural conversation to reinforce what has been learned "in the classroom."  Last year, we learned more about Medieval Art, Architecture and Daily Life through museum visits, a trip to a Medieval feast, a unit celebration and countless dinner table conversations about the things we were learning about in TOG.  For this coming school year, I am looking forward to field trips that will provide hands on experiences with life in colonial America and the events of the Revolutionary War.  

5.  We determine our goal for TOG and used the curriculum to achieve that goal.  Last year, with only a lower grammar and an upper grammar student, my goal for our TOG studies was simple- to give the test subjects an overview of world history from the Fall of Rome to the Reformation and to do so in a way that was engaging and fun.  I did not want history to be a dry presentation and recitation of dates and facts, but a living testimony to the people and events that shaped the world.  With this goal in mind, I could rest at ease a bit when we did not get to an assigned reading selection or we rushed through a lapbook or two.  Completing assignments was not the goal-understanding the general scope of the historical time period was!  Next year, with a young dialectic student, I will add the goal of beginning to see and understand connections between historical events and people.  Determine your goal for TOG and then use the curriculum to meet that goal.  

6.  Try not to get bogged down in checking everything off on the list.  Believe me, this is not easy for this Type-A mama to say, but say it I will, because letting go of that checklist mentality is what gave us the freedom to learn a great deal and enjoy the process to boot!  What didn't we do?  Arts and activities (some was covered in our co-op class or field trips), evaluations (we used the lapbooks and will add timeline and discussion for our dialectic student), vocabulary or people/event lists.  Now, you might do all those things we skipped and simply read less.  Prioritize your assignments with your goal in mind!  

7.  We will use the Pop Quiz CDs to catch me up on the week's learning this year.  There were times last year when I felt as if I had not gotten a clear picture of what the test subjects were studying over the course of a week plan.  When I mentioned this to a friend, she remarked that she uses Pop Quiz to get an overview of the week when she does not have time to read the Teacher Notes.  Since I hardly ever make time to read all the Teacher Notes each week, I purchased Pop Quiz and plan to listen to it each week to stay caught up with what the test subjects are learning week to week.

And that, dear readers, is how we use TOG here at the lab. I hope I offered you some tidbit of useful information :)

Are you a TOG family?  How do you use the curriculum?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Where a Week Stands for a Month

I never intended to totally abandon my Weekly Wrap posts for the summer.  Nevertheless, it's been a month since I've written about our daily lives!  Rather than try to detail all our comings and goings this month, I'm using the Homeschool Mother's Journal format coupled with lots of pictures for this week's post.

In my life this week…
I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed recently.  There are many projects and obligations floating around in my head and weighing me down a bit.  I am trying to tackle each one a little bit at a time, and that does help.  Most of the projects are not earth shattering in importance.  They are things like organizing photos, de-cluttering the attic and playroom, preparing for VBS, etc.  However, I know I won't feel true relief until I get the largest ones completed.  The two biggies on my list are: planning and preparing for the two co-op classes I will be teaching in the fall and planning and preparing for our upcoming homeschool year.  

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
Over the past month, we spent a day with our dear old friends who are in town from London.  

This little one was already strapped in and ready for departure when we remember to get a group photo!

We met the newest baby in the family, my sweet nephew!  I am spoiling him as much as humanly possible- oh how I just love snuggling a newborn.  It is a little bit on heaven right here on earth.

We spent 5 days with cousins (13 kids and 8 adults) in the country.  

We watched fireworks on the 4th of July.

We had a beach playdate with dear friends.  The dads met us there and we stayed until almost 9 p.m.  

The kids spent a week at camp- baseball camp for the boys and day camp for our girl.  They had a blast!  

They also had a much anticipated sleepover at Papa and Abuelita's house.  

TS 1 is playing on a summer travel team for the first time and loving the experience, which means we are spending plenty of  time at the local baseball fields, too.   

(Our last name is not Dutra.  His jersey still has not come in yet!)

We had an impromptu backyard swim and BBQ with friends this week that spilled right over into the Wednesday night home bible study in our neighborhood.  It was a wonderful time of fun and fellowship!

We have made it to the community pool with friends only one time so far, but we are hoping for more opportunities to do that soon.

My favorite thing this week was…
5 quiet, productive hours everyday this week while the kids were at camp.  I could not believe how quickly two o'clock came each afternoon!  

Questions/thoughts I have…
What will teaching at co-op be like?  Will it add a lot of stress to my weeks in terms of planning and prepping?  Or will it be great fun?  Will the kids be bored or engaged?  How will I manage home schooling all three of my own kids next year?  Will I be able to give each one what he/she needs?

Things I’m working on…
I spent this week, while the kids were all at camp, working on a syllabus and lesson plans for my co-op classes.  I was able to sketch out lesson plans for the entire semester for both classes and I feel so relieved.  I've also been de-cluttering hot spots around the house and have plans for a big playroom clean out in the next few weeks.  

I’m reading…
I read most of A Charlotte Mason Companion last month.  I took a break to read the Hunger Games trilogy this month.  My reading goals for the rest of the summer include finish reading and taking notes on A Charlotte Mason Companion, so I can be sure to include more of her ideas in our homeschool next year.  I purchased Jimmie Lanley's Notebooking Success e-book this week and plan to read it as part of my planning process for next year, too.  I am very interested in incorporating more notebooking in our home school next year.

I realized my Read Aloud goals were a bit lofty for our busy summer routine.  So far, we have read Charlotte's Web and Homer Price.  We are going to be reading A Secret Garden next.  If we get through the first four or five of my top 10, I will be very satisfied.  There's always the fall for more Read Aloud fun, right?    

I’m praying for…
A dear friend who has been through so much in less than a year.  For her health, her children, her family.  For friends whose husbands are out of work.  For friends who are preparing for their first year of homeschooling.  For my own anxiety about the burdens I mentioned above.  

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."  Psalm 19:1

Homegrown Learners

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top 10 (er, 7) Reasons I'm Excited about this New School Year

1.  All three of our children will be test subjects in Our Great Homeschool Experiment next year and we are excited to be all together.  Truth be told, I am more than a little bit nervous about how I will manage everyone's needs next year as well.  I am trusting God will meet our needs and give me wisdom just as He has this year!

2.  Call me a nerd, if you must, but a new school year always triggers a sense of excitement and adventure in me.  The chance at a new start, all the fun new books and supplies, I just love it!

3.  Our closest friends are taking the leap and beginning the homeschooling journey next year!  I am so excited for them and can't wait to cheer them on in their adventure.  They've joined our co-op, too, which means we get to see even more of them next year :)

4.  I'm looking forward to incorporating some of the new ideas I have been reading about this summer into our homeschool, such as finding more opportunities for reading aloud and adding notebooking to our routines.

5.  Teaching (and therefore learning) early American history!  I am excited to read some great books with the kids about colonial America up through the Revolutionary War.  

6.  As much as the reality of teaching two U.S. Government and Elections classes at co-op in the fall is causing me anxiety, I am also excited about stepping into this role.  As a bonus, it gives some of the veteran teachers (a few who are also friends) a break from teaching for a while.

7.  Teaching (and therefore learning) about the human body.  Dad will still be teaching science to the boys, using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology next year.  I plan to teach TS 3 all about the human body using living books, videos, hands on activities, etc.  I am going to try to roughly correlate my lessons for TS 3 with the topics the boys are learning, obviously on a much more basic level.

Well, that's it.  I've racked my brain for three more reasons I am excited for the new school year and I've got nothing!  We have only been on summer break for three weeks, though, so I can hardly claim to be missing the cold weather, or the routine of the school day, or anything else really so I will leave it at this- the top 10 (er, 7) reasons I'm excited about this new school year.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings