Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Books of 2013: The Second Half

Back in August I gave you the first half of my “Best Books of 2013”.   Now that we have reached the end, I give you the rest of the list.  Not as many this time around…partially because I am reading denser things more slowly, and partially because I don’t always have as much time as I’d like to read. J  That said…here it is…
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
I picked this up because Wendell Berry has been mentioned as a favorite author of many in the online CM and classical education world.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Well written and thought provoking tracing the life of a man named Jayber Crow from his early roots in a small farming community, to an orphanage, to the city, and back to his roots again.  (Although books about being rooted into a community always make me a bit wistful since my own life has been so transient.)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I picked this up when I needed a lighter read as a break from following along with the discussion of Scott’s Waverley over on the AO Forum. (I liked Waverley too, but not QUITE enough to make the List. :))  Sweet story in post-war England.
The Adventures of Richard Hannay by John Buchan
Recommended by Cindy over at Ordo Amoris, these are fast-paced spy adventures.  Well written and fun to read.  The first three in the series (The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, and Mr Standfast) are set against the backdrop of World War I (which made me realize how little I know about the details of WWI – all the books and talk are usually about WW2!).  The last two re-visit the same characters later on (The Three Hostages and The Island of Sheep.)  I think I read all 5 in about a 2 week period – they were the kind of books that are difficult to put down once you get drawn into the story.
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
This is a semi-autobiographical trilogy describing days gone by in the English countryside at the turn of the century (I suppose I should specify the turn of the 19th to the 20th century).  The first part describing life in the small hamlet of Lark Rise was a little bit slow in places, but the rest was a coming-of-age story set against dramatically changing times.  I could identify with the main character, Laura, trying to find her place in the world.   We have enjoyed the BBC series loosely based on these novels (memoirs?) as well.

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
A new-to-me title by the author of North and South (quite possibly my favorite novel ever).  The ending was a bit of a disappointment to me, but the plot itself was a very thought-provoking tale about sin, its consequences, and redemption. 
Christian Living
In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson
Wonderful series of essays about various aspects of the Christian life.  Deep and insightful (and convicting!), yet accessible at the same time.  A new favorite author for me.
Marriage and Parenting
Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovich
I didn’t like this as well as her previous book Loving the Little Years which has made my best of list before….I felt somewhat like I was getting lectured at in some of the chapters.  Nevertheless there were still some very timely and helpful nuggets in this volume as well – especially in chapters 5 and 14-18.
Educational Philosophy
Home Education Volume 1 by Charlotte Mason
Most of this year has been taken up by the 20 Principles Study which has been rich and wonderful, but largely made of excerpts and articles so difficult to add to a “best books” list. J  Once we finished that discussion, about a month ago, I have been doing a quick-paced re-read of CM’s first volume.  Still so much good stuff even on this second pass through.  (Stay tuned for another post on that soon!)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nature Notes for November-December

Torch Ginger

November 3: We observed a solar eclipse today!  There all white, gray, and yellow butterflies flitting around in the garden.  The mangos are dropping off the tree – but they are few and small and hard.
That huge tree behind the playground equipment is the mango tree in our front yard.  All of those lighter colored leaves are the new growth on it.
November 6: The new banana tree is growing fast now that the gardener cut down the old one that wasn’t growing.  It rained hard first thing this morning.
Investigating the leaf up close

November 8: We went over to (our mission’s administration center) and saw a palm tree with purple leaves winding around the trunk and lots of sensitive plants.
Morning glory peeping out of a bamboo thicket

November 11: We have seen lots of butterflies lately.  We had a crazy, windy thunder-and-lightning storm on Friday night (the power went out and stayed out for a long time!)
Small termite mound...look carefully, you can see some of the termites crawling around.

November 13: We saw a termite mound in the yard that had the top knocked off, so we could see the termites digging.  We have seen some morning glories – they open in the morning and close in the afternoon.  We also caught a baby mouse in the trash can.  And there was more rain!
Mango leaf up close

November 25: The mango tree is dropping its old leaves and growing lots of new ones.  There are even some blossoms on it too.  We didn’t really get any edible mangos from this brief ‘second season’.

November 26: James saw 4 morning glories growing on our bush.  Michelle heard a rooster crow.
Black-crowned waxbills in our grass.  These are the most common bird we see in our yard.

November 29: There was another wild storm last night.
Closer shot of a black-crowned waxbill

December 2: James saw 3 speckled mousebirds on a wire.  It rained only a little bit last night.
Indian Shot

December 3: It rained hard last night.  The banana tree is growing bigger.  There is a tiny banana tree next to the big one.
Not sure about this one...Michelle took the photo, and I thought it was interesting. :)

December 4: There is a bit of wind this morning – it blew down a mango.  There is a gecko in the window again.  We watched the mousebirds eat a mango right off the tree.  Elizabeth found a seed pod from an Indian shot.
Speckled mousebird eating a mango right off the tree!

December 21: It’s been unseasonably cool…but the the rains have stopped and it is very dry.
December 23: And now it's hot and dry.  Sigh.  So much for a cool Christmas (let alone a white one!!)


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Break Links for You!

Two weeks of co-op and swimming are finished, our Christmas tree is slated to go up when my hubby gets home from work later, and the baking bug has finally bit me.   I do have our Nature Notes slated to post on Monday, but otherwise we are going to hunker down and enjoy our Christmas break as a family.
In the meantime, though, here are a few good links for you to read and ponder at your leisure:
“It is the same with the virtue of patience. It is precisely when you are feeling frustrated, angry, and impatient that the opportunity for patience to grow rears its head. It was not until I had children that I realized what an impatient person I am, because before I had children I had no real opportunities in which to grow in patience. If we are calm and collected only when nothing is trying and testing us, then we don't truly possess the virtue of patience.”
“But see, I didn't understand what he meant by "rest." He didn't mean, "Teach your calm children in a calm manner on a calm afternoon." He didn't even mean, "teach on a full night's sleep." (Thank goodness!) He meant that we ought to enter into God's rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly- not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust.”
“When I think upon the title of this set, The Education You Wish You'd Had, I can't but help thinking that this is the type of education my daughter does have. It is broad, and it is rich, and it is full of connections.  It is the stuff that adults wish they knew. It is the stuff I wished my daughter to know.”
I haven’t read this book and I’m not likely to…too many other more interesting things on my to-read list.  That said, I found this review really interesting because each of the “7 essential skills” this author references are things that are developed naturally and well by following Charlotte Mason’s methods of education.  I love it when modern people today “discover” what CM already knew 100 years ago.
This has been a fantastic series (so far) by Mystie.  You can get to some of the other posts in the series from the little icons a the bottom of the post (under “you might also like”).  Lots of good food for thought and reflection.  (And, for what it’s worth, I’m hoping to follow along with her Desiring the Kingdom book club in the new year…stay tuned!)
“Let others feed the sausage machine and let P.N.E.U. remain with its few disciples outside the factory.  I don’t mean let it remain static, but where it moves forward let it move forward along the line of this ideal, rather than the line of standardization and tests, emphasizing always that the only education that matters is  this education of the soul, with all those mental and moral qualities which go to make up character.”
A very Merry Christmas to each of you!  I appreciate each one of you that takes a few minutes to join me in this little corner of the world.  Looking forward to chatting with you again about books, practical homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, and traditional classical education in the New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Ambleside Planning Process: Week by Week

Here is the final (and shortest) installment of my Ambleside Planning Series.
You can read the other parts here:
Part 4:  Week by Week Planning (You are here!)  
Because I have put a lot of work into determining and organizing the flow our year, terms, and days already, there really isn’t much that I need to do on a week by week basis.  I do like to take the time to skim and (if needed) pre-read our reading assignments for the week.   This helps me to get a sense of where we are going as well as helping me gage how to spread our readings out over the week.
This has been fairly easy to keep up with for Year 1 since the reading load is fairly light, and Michelle has been my only student in an official AO Year.  But at times when I have needed to prioritize, I have found that the items the most important to look over ahead of time for Year 1 have been history, Parables from Nature, and Shakespeare.   I may need to do a bit more than that for Year 2 this coming year since I will be handing Michelle a couple of her books to read on her own – I need to know what is happening in those books too. J
Here is a sample page from the pre-reading notebook I keep.
As I read, I jot down some simple notes in a notebook which I can then keep and refer to over the week as needed (and also save to refer back to when I have multiple children in multiple AO years!!)   The kinds of things I look for when skimming and pre-reading:
  • List of names of important characters and places in the story (I list these out on the whiteboard before we read so that Michelle can refer back to them in her narration.  This has been helpful to her in retaining these names, since before I started this I got a lot of “this guy” and “that guy” sort of stuff from her.)
  • Any vocabulary that may be key to understanding the story.   I don’t go overboard with this defining every single word that she may not know in the text since many words can be deduced from their context.  But occasionally, especially in the difficult stories like Parables from Nature, it can make a difference between enjoying and getting the point of the story or getting really frustrated with it.  For example, in our last assigned Parable, we talked about the words “obstinate”, “accommodating”, and “mutual” before we started.
  • Any visuals that might help to bring the story to life?   Depending on the story, sometimes googling a picture of the person, animal, or item or studying a map of places mentioned can help bring the story to life.  
  • Any discussion points that come to mind.
  • If the story is too long to read in one sitting, I might make a note of how many readings to split it into and where to stop each section.
This may seem like a lot, but I don’t do all of these things for everything we read.   While I find it helpful to know what’s coming and be aware of any particularly long or difficult readings, it’s is also important NOT to overdo it.  We don’t need burnt out mamas trying to correlate everything together beautifully, nor do we want to err on the side of doing too much for our students and prevent them from discovering and learning and making their own connections for themselves.  You may find the post that I guest-posted at Afterthoughts about lesson planning a while back helpful to see how this preparation work plays out in real life for us.
And that brings us to the end of our little series.  I hope that it has been helpful!  (Hey, just writing it all out has been helpful for me – it’s given me a checklist to work from so I don’t have to scratch my head wondering if I missed something!)

Friday, December 13, 2013

What We've Learned - October through the first week of December 2013

Education is an Atmosphere
Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit me known to all men.  The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on those things.  The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Moving Morning Tea Time and Nature Journaling outside for a change!

Education is a Discipline
I’ll be honest, we’ve REALLY fallen off the habits bandwagon these last two months.   My husband was gone for 10 days, we had a houseguest for 3.5 weeks (albeit a really lovely one!), and have had back to back minor illnesses ever since.  And quite honestly, I am weary and struggling a bit with motivation. Sometimes it’s just tiring to be constantly vigilant over our children’s habits (and our own!), you know?  Anyhow, we are on a 4 week break from our normal routine now…2 weeks of co-op and swimming lessons and 2 weeks for the holidays (which we anticipate being quiet – no big plans or travels)….so I’m hoping we will be able to reboot in this category.  
Education is a Life
Michelle – Age 8 – Grade 2
Since I last checked in with a what we’ve learned post, we completed AO Year 1 Term 2 and did exams for the first time.   We’ve since completed the first 6 weeks of Term 3.  (After break, I’m planning to speed up the remaining 6 weeks of Year 1 so we are finished by the end of January and ready to start Year 2!)  We are enjoying our new history read, Viking Tales, but she misses Fifty Famous Stories which isn’t scheduled this term.  After struggling with Parables from Nature for the first 2 terms, we have finally hit a stride with that book as well and really enjoyed our last assigned reading from this book.  Taking the time to define a couple of key vocabulary words before we started and spreading it over the whole week rather than only one or two sections helped a lot!
In Math U See Beta, we have completed through Lesson 16.   We’ve covered addition with regrouping through the thousands, addition with money (use of the decimal point), measuring with inches, perimeter, and place value out to hundred-thousands.  I’m pleased with the progress we are making.  We are using Calculadder (written speed drills) and The Verbal Math Lesson (oral drills) for facts review and practice and occasionally playing one of the RightStart money games.  (Since we live outside the United States, she doesn’t have the same type of practical experience working with American money as your average American does, and the money here works much differently since 500 CFA is only about $1 – so  working with money here involves much larger numbers.  Hence the extra practice.)
In our group time we have particularly enjoyed the addition of folksongs (following the AO rotation here – we’ve covered “The Three Ravens” and “On Ikla Moor Bah’tat” thus far).   We finished Dangerous Journey and have moved on to Little Pilgrim’s Progress, and Shakespeare continues to be a highlight all around.   We completed the first unit of Science in the Beginning which covered the properties of light.
She does a lot of her schoolwork standing up - probably a good thing that she's not in a traditional classroom most of the time.

James – Age 5.5 – “Unofficial” Kindergarten
I haven’t done much in the way of formal lessons with James over the past few weeks, which is fine.   Part of the reason we decided to wait until he was 6 to really start school was to avoid some of the pushing and fighting that happened because I started Michelle on formal lessons when she was too young.  That said, however, he has really taken off with reading on his own – he is easily reading Dr Seuss type books on his own.  He’s also taken to drawing after I pulled out a couple of how-to-draw books.   He’s even starting to offer (voluntarily!) some simple narrations and opinions about things that we’ve read.   So there’s lots still happening in that mind of his, even if formal lessons have been on hold for the last little bit. J
Watercolor painting has been a favorite table-time activity for my little ones lately.

Elizabeth – Age 3.5 – Tagging Along
She has made big progress in being able to join in our group time without being too disruptive, which is huge.  I need to rethink how to include her more in other aspects of our morning though…she’s often asking me to do a puzzle or a workbook page with her and this has sort of wormed its way out of our schedule.   More reasons why we need a break to regroup. J
Not sure what's up with the cheesy grin...

Mama – AO Year 4
I’m partway through Week 9 and although it’s been a bit slower going that I would like, I’m still really enjoying my study.  I’m beginning to understand even more what a true living books education looks like – it goes far deeper than covering various subject matters in a literary form. (Perhaps this is part of what separates Charlotte Mason from other forms of literature-based schooling?)  It is the ideas – the wisdom and truth – that lay below the surface.  Robinson Crusoe has given me lots to think about gratitude and how God works in our lives.  This is far more than just an adventure story about a guy that gets shipwrecked on a desert island.  While the older science books like The Storybook of Science and Madam How and Lady Why might need a bit of supplementation with updated information, they offer a way of looking at the world with wonder and curiosity that you don’t find in a modern textbook.  It’s a beautiful thing to see and to experience.
Michelle snagged my camera the other day, so you get a rare photo of me too. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Ambleside Planning Process: Day by Day

Here is part three of my Ambleside Planning Process, what our daily schedule/routine looks like.
You can read the other parts here:
Part 2: Term by Term
Part 3: Day by Day (You are Here!)
Part 4: Week by Week (Coming Soon)
Originally, I had intended to write about my weekly planning first, and then my daily planning, but actually I find it makes more sense to share our daily plan/schedule first.
Our daily plan is basically a block-type schedule, although it functions more as a flow chart for a routine than a true schedule.  I do pencil times in when I am planning, but that’s mostly to be sure my time estimates are reasonable (in other words to reassure myself that, yes, on a ‘normal’ day we can get through all of this by lunch!).  I don’t hold myself to time very tightly though.  We do one thing, and then the next, and then the next.   One of the keys to CM scheduling is the principle of alternation – changing up the type of work you are doing regularly to keep from getting bogged down and help keep focus and attention sharp.   Each block in our schedule is sort of different, and I try to alternate between various types of work within each block too.
This basic scheduling format has been working really well for us for over a year now.  We do tweak it here and there on occasion, and I’m sure I’ll have to do some major tweaking a couple years down the road when I have three official students. J   But for the moment our days look something like this:
Block One: Michelle works through her independent checklist while I finish up my chores and helping little ones with chores and do 20 minutes or so of preschool/Kindergarten type work with them.
Block Two: Michelle and I sit down at the table.  I look over her independent work and hear her narrations from reading she has done independently.   If we are on a new Math U See lesson, I work through that with her (this is only once a week or so).  On the other days we do about 10 minutes of math drill and about 10 minutes of math enrichment.
Block Three: Morning Tea Time.   This is our snack and whole-group/circle time.  I posted about what our tea time looks like here, so I won’t repeat at that.
Block Four: Activity – Science experiment, drawing, or nature study/journaling.  This isn’t daily – we tend to keep Mondays and Fridays lighter, so this is the block we skip on those days.  I pick and choose which activity we will do on a given day based on time, weather, and what kind of ‘break’ we may need at the moment.  (So, if everyone’s getting crazy, we call it a nature study day and go outside for a while. J)
Block Five: Michelle and I return to the table and finish up any language arts work that we need to do (spelling, writing a notebook page, etc) and French.  We read and narrate our Ambleside readings that we do together.  (If we need to do two that day, we do one at the beginning of this block, then do the tablework, and then do the second.)
Et voila!  Because of the work I have put into the checklists at the start of the term, it is easy for me to check and see what I need to plug in to each spot on our daily schedule as we go along.  (“Oh, what’s next?  An Ambleside reading.  Let’s look at this week’s reading list and choose one.”)  This has worked out to be a good compromise between structure and flexibility for me.   I can easily swap blocks around (or even skip a block if necessary) to go with life’s ebb and flow.  And I don’t necessarily assign specific activities or readings to specific days – we can see how things are going each week and adjust accordingly.
Next time, I’ll share with you what I do at the start of each week to help keep us on track. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Poetic Knowledge: One Last Thought

The other day, I was listening to a lecture by Andrew Peterson titled “He Gave Us Stories”.   The whole thing is worth listening to, but there was one point he made that particularly jumped out at me in light of the things I’ve been reading and thinking about in recent months.
The theme behind the lecture is the way that stories can speak to the inner places in our souls in ways that other things just can’t – all stories, the Bible included.  He gives the example of a Sunday School teacher telling a story about crossing the Jordan River and immediately jumping to the idea of what barriers and obstacles in our lives the Lord can help us to cross.   These were his comments on that experience:
“Sometimes I think we are guilty of looking at Scripture for meaning and forgetting to first encounter it as a thing of wonder…Can we just stop for a second and think about the fact that this is a true story?  That God stopped a river from flowing?  Let’s look at that first…We look for meaning and application before we stop and consider the story for the great beauty it is – as a thing that actually happened in history…”
Before we analyze and dissect and dig for meaning, we must first consider the story with wonder and awe.  In other words, Peterson is telling us to approach Scripture poetically.   When we let the realization of God’s goodness and greatness and awesome power sink in, it will be able to transform our souls more profoundly than when we encounter Scripture as a giant do-and-don’t list.  This is not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for analysis and digging for meaning in Scripture; that is certainly important too.  But Peterson’s point is to put these things in the correct order – marvel at God’s wonderful works first, then analyze.
We see the same principle at work in the examples that I gave last time…we explore nature so as to develop a living relationship with it first rather than dissecting and analyzing the life out of it.   We teach history and other subjects using living books so we encounter those stories in a powerful way that speak to us even today in a way that a list of dates and names can’t.   Even math can be taught in such a way that the child can come to see the order and beauty in the natural relationships of numbers rather than reducing it all to a series of formulas and steps to follow.  All of these things lay the foundation for later 'analytical' studies.
And that is the one last take-away from Poetic Knowledge that I wanted to share:  to teach poetically is to teach in such a way that we preserve wonder.  That’s a good question to pose to myself as I consider methods and activities and materials to use in our home and school: is this going to preserve my student’s sense of wonder and awe, or destroy it?   Am I presenting this material in such a way that it will help my students see the truth, goodness, and beauty of it and give them a little glimpse of the glory of God?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wednesdays with Words: On Butterflies

Another gem from The Storybook of Science, one of the selections from AO Year 4.   I could say more about it, but I think perhaps I’ll just let it speak for itself:
“They are, as it were, born twice: first imperfect, dull, voracious, ugly: then perfect, agile, abstemious, and often of an admirable richness and elegance.”
“These powerful godmothers for whom it is play to change mice into horses, lizards into footmen, ugly clothes into sumptuous ones, these gracious fairies who astonish you with their fabulous prodigies, what are they my dear children, in comparison with reality, the great fairy of the good God, who, out of a dirty worm, object of disgust, knows how to make a creature of ravishing beauty.  He touches with his divine wand a miserable hairy caterpillar, an abject worm that slobbers in rotten wood, and the miracle is accomplished: the disgusting larva has turned into a butterfly whose azure wings would have outshone Cinderella’s fine toilette.”
~Jean-Henri Fabre in "Butterflies" Chapter 21 of The Storybook of Science

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Ambleside Planning Process: Term by Term

Here is part two of my Ambleside Planning Process, how I plan out the nitty-gritty details of each term.
You can read the other parts here:
Part 2: Term by Term (you are here!)
Part 3: Week by Week (Coming Soon)
Part 4: Day by Day (Coming Soon)
About a month or so before the start of a new term, I will begin tackling the following:
Translate the readings and other assignments I divided into categories into checklists: one for our group readings and activities, one for each student I will be working on one-on-one, and one for what I expect each student to work on independently (only Michelle at the moment). (For what it’s worth, Ambleside now offers chart-type schedules on their website and if you like that format, you can skip this step.  I still prefer to make my own. The link for the chart schedules are at the top of each year's weekly schedule page.  Here is the link for Year 2's)   This is mostly just for readings and things where I don’t want to lose track of what chapters or pages we are to read week by week.  I don’t create detailed assignment sheets for the more skill-based subjects such as math or spelling – we tend to just do the next thing in the book and move on as we are ready.   My checklists look something like this:
Here’s a closer shot:
I also create an assignment sheet for Michelle’s independent work, which looks like this:
You will see that this sheet has four check boxes next to each item – this sheet is designed to last four weeks.  This has worked out for us as a good balance between having to constantly reprint them and yet frequent enough that I can make changes as we go along if necessary.
I also make a supplies checklist for each week for any unusual supplies we may need for science experiments, art, or other projects – this is just so I have something I can reference quickly so I can gather what we need before we need it, if it is something I’m not likely to have handy.
Review our daily and weekly routines and tweak as necessary. (More on these in the next 2 posts).
Choose new memory work – poetry, Scripture memory, catechism and hymns (these things I choose for myself - we just follow the AO rotation for folk songs).  Prepare sheets or notecards to be slipped in the appropriate memory box or binder.
Collect timeline figures related to the term’s history readings. (I have the Homeschool in the Woods Timeline figures CD, and supplement with images from Google or Wikipedia.)
Move any files necessary to the Kindle or Tablet.  (PDF reference guides, music, ebooks that I may not have already downloaded, etc)
Stock up on printer ink and have a big ol’ printing party. J  I like to print everything that I think I may need for the term at once.  I find that when I do this, we can start the term and then just keep going from week-to-week without having to worry about printing.  Occasionally I miss something. But overall this system works well for us, and I’m not constantly scrambling to prepare each week.  In my case, I print:
  • All checklists, schedules, and assignment sheets I have prepared
  • Artist prints for the term (I print these on matte photo paper)
  • Timeline figures
  • Maps
  • Notebooking pages (We mostly use very plain ones with a space to draw and some lines to write.  I also have a biography one we use sometimes as well as a Shakespeare one.  I don’t try to match up things according to specific topics or themes.)
  • Memory work
  • Any MEP math pages we may need to use (MEP is not our primary math curriculum, but I do use parts of it as a supplement to Math U See here and there)
  • Copywork passages (This past year we have used Spelling Wisdom and things take from the AO Copywork Yahoo Group for copywork selections for Michelle)
  • Pages for our family nature notebook.
  • Any preschool worksheets and activities to keep handy for little ones who want to join in.
  • Any other miscellaneous bits and pieces – did you find a neat artist biography you want to share?  Notes for your geography study? 
Once everything is printed, I file it all in the appropriate binders for easy reference.  I have (at the moment) three main binders for storing things:
My master plan binder (the purple one):
  • Copies of all checklists and schedules
  • A Calendar with planned holidays marked off, and where I anticipate we will begin and end each term
  • Plastic sleeves with timeline figures and various styles of notebook pages
  • Master free-reading list
  • Supply list
Our Morning Tea Time binder (the white one):
  • The Morning Tea-Time Schedule for the term
  • The term’s group work checklist
  • Bible reading schedule and related resources
  • Memory work (poetry and folk songs anyway…Scripture, catechism and hymns we do at the breakfast table.  We use index cards and SCM’s Scripture Memory System for this.)
  • French activities for the term (although I am horrible about keeping up with these…French has been kind of a disaster here.  Sigh.  But it is all in there, in case we do get to it.)
  • Artist Study resources (paintings, notes, artist bio if we have one)
  • Geography related resources (maps for reference, etc.)
  • Composer Study resources, if any (background info about our composer or the pieces we are studying, if I’ve found anything interesting)
Michelle’s Independent work folder (the red one):
  • Her daily checklist
  • Her reading lists (assigned and free-read choices)
  • Copywork selections
  • MEP pages go into a separate MEP folder
I also keep folders for any preschool pages we might use, and nature notebook sheets go into the family nature notebook, obviously.
I usually take this opportunity to tidy up and reorganize our bookshelves as well, and toss or store papers from the previous term as necessary.  (We have to submit a portfolio, and I also keep a sampling for our own personal record as well.)
This may seem like a lot of work up front, but I find it is worth it to take a couple of afternoons or a weekend for intensive preparation, because then we can just move from week to week throughout the term without a whole lot of thought.  Then I don’t have to worry about this planning process again for several months.
Next time I’ll show you what I do to prepare week by week.  (Trust me, it’s not this long!  We’ve done the bulk of the work already!)