Schooling With the Season You’re In

The last time I was unexpectedly absent from the blog for this long I came back and announced my pregnancy with Thomas. No such joyous news this time, but again the absence is Thomas-related. He has entered my least favorite of all phases — the terrible twos. Now honestly I don’t like to call my child terrible even if it is my least favorite phase, but I wanted to use the descriptor as a reference for you. My personal favorite label for this period is “toddler with a death wish” because that is what it seems like I am battling all.the.time.

I will be honest, this phase is tough, tough, tough for me. Every time I turn around he is sitting on the table, standing on the high chair tray after having escaped the strap, running down the couch, or trying to swing like a monkey from the hot oven door. And that was all just this week. My children have all been climbers, so this is a phase with which I am well-acquainted. The good news is I know that by the time he reaches 24-26 months things will be much, much better. The bad news is not much else gets done in the meantime.

So I made an executive decision today that as of Monday we are starting “summer break” around here. I know that it goes against everything schooly out there, but I don’t care. I have some very valid reasons for my actions. First and foremost is this crazy toddler season. Things were very different two months ago. I hope after another two months or so things will have changed again for the better. Add to that the fact that right now is the optimal time to be outside in our little part of the world. Two months from now the heat will be absolutely miserable and we will be either inside or swimming, but these days are beautiful — breezy and perfect for playing outdoors.

My monkeys playing with Photo Booth. Thomas is standing on the chair in the back >:-[

I am of the belief that learning should (and does) happen all the time, so many of you may read what is to come and think that it looks nothing at all like a summer break. Honestly, though, if we don’t do anything then we will just drive each other nuts. So basically I am cutting out most of our required sit down subjects, adding a little block scheduling, and giving myself permission to skip almost everything on any given day if I so desire. We need to have just enough to battle boredom, leave time for tons of play, and require minimal to no planning on my part. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, but for the next few weeks this is what I have in mind:

  • Breakfast Basket. This will be our only must do of the day. I have discovered if I eat before or after Thomas does then I can do the BB while he eats without much interruption. BB consists of prayers, Bible stories, devotions, memory box, and Spanish. All oral. All quickly done — maybe 15 minutes tops. All pretty fun for us. The kids like to do coloring sheets and play doh during this time. As long as T is preoccupied with his meal, it goes well.
  • Computer Time. We are going to drop sit-down math and reading. Instead they can use that time to do Starfall, Dreambox Math, and Headsprout each day. If Thomas won’t leave them alone at the computer I can always put up the baby gate at the school room door. Many times he will go in and play with some toys as long as I am not trying to sit there too.
  • Activity Books. I got John a Get Ready for the Code book at the homeschool convention this past weekend (more on that later) and he is loving it. So I am going to put together a book for Olivia of word puzzles from Progressive Phonics, some dot to dots, and maybe a logic puzzle or two. They can choose a page from this a couple of days a week. Ditto with Olivia’s handwriting. Once again, they should be able to sit and work if I am not trying to sit with them and/or am playing with T while they work.
  • Nap time projects. The only thing we are going to shoot for daily is science using our new, already-all-planned-out Elemental Science curriculum. Olivia loves science and told me today that she didn’t realize science was “school.” This will be our daily nap time priority. Secondary to that are a few other ideas that I have. We are going to do these block schedule-style starting with a few weeks of these art classes and then some music lessons from Classics for Kids, Klutz Chicken Socks kits, Draw Write Now projects and maybe some fairy tale fun. When you are using a block schedule you work on one subject until it is done and then move on to the next. So science and then the flavor-of-the-week during nap times — should take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on how messy we get.
  • Liturgical Year. Going to celebrate Easter in a few weeks and will try to do a simple garden party each week. May is Mary’s month, so that will offer us lots of opportunities to pray, cook, and craft together. My goal during this period is to do things I don’t have to spend time planning — a bit of reading, a cooking project is usually popular and pretty simple, and maybe a coloring page. I hope I have the mojo to throw in a craft or two they would like, but am not going to beat myself up if I do not.
  • Documentaries. I had been doing a pretty good job lately with keeping TV down to a little in the morning and a little around dinner time (My goal was to cut it out totally between 8-4 every day). I think I am going to bring back a block at the end of nap time. I have found that T falls asleep easily, but the longer things go the louder they get and he doesn’t get a good nap in. This block of TV time will be mom’s choice of content and we are going to look at expanding their viewing a bit to include some documentaries and such.
  • Read-Alouds. Not going to cut these out and in fact am going to endeavor to remember to send them shopping in the book baskets for books they think look like good reads. May even try to add in an additional session or expand the time for this some days.
  • Chess Night. I bought some chess teaching aids at the convention so we can all learn to play together (Dad does know how.) We are going to work on this as a family one night a week after T goes to bed.

Later in June we will add back more formal math, phonics, and consistent handwriting and then in the fall add our history curriculum. Right now I am just looking to reduce my frustrations and planning time while keeping the wonderful learning rhythm that the older two have thrived in lately. Prayers are appreciated.

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  • Sarah says:

    This all sounds so great! Living, beautiful, seasonal, flexible LIFE. Learning doesn’t get any better than that.

    You’ve sold me on Elemental Science- I bought Biology for the Grammar Stage and I love it. I’ve got it all organized and I can’t wait to use it.

  • Pam says:

    Thanks Sarah. Very cool. The level we are doing is just going to be so much fun — living books, art, and fun activities. Let me know how Biology works for you because I will be looking at that one next.

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