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Monday 6th January: our first day back to homeschooling since we decided to break for Christmas around the start of December. I can tell you now the extended break has done us all the world of good. I personally feel motivated to get back into routine and I have felt the children’s excitement rising as I have let “slip” some of our plans for the coming weeks.
We are relatively new to home education having only officially removed the children from school in September 2019. The break over Christmas from planning and implementing topics has given me a chance to reflect on what has been working for us as a family and I have realised a number of things; firstly, I work better when there is a plan in place, secondly the children work better when they know what is expected of them and when there are more hands on activities to take part in and thirdly we all need more time outside.
With all that in mind I have decided we will loosely follow a number of curricula / teaching units for the upcoming term to give us a plan to follow, namely Torchlight Level K, Exploring Nature with Children and Be Naturally Curious. Alongside these we will use One Third Stories in Spanish, Reading Eggs, Activity Village and the Osmo. When possible Mathematics will be incorporated seamlessly through measuring, recording, drawing and hands on interactions such as shopping and making, otherwise I will be gathering ideas from some Waldorf texts and ideas I have found online. To help the children with what’s expected of them I have started to implement some routines with them, the first of which is the morning routine. This involves them getting up, dressed, washed and making their beds and sorting their own stuff out before coming downstairs. To encourage us all to get outdoors more we will be organising and taking part in a local forest families event once a week and we are taking part in the 1000 hours outside challenge this year.
I did spend a lot of time researching books and activities for us starting back so that the first week would go as smoothly as possible. My main concern is always involving my toddler but at the same time allowing the girls to get on with their work. This week we will be focusing on European Russia with Torchlight Level K and the Winter Sky with Exploring Nature with Children. Here is the first day’s plan and how it worked out:
Establishing a Morning Routine: we started a new morning routine whereby the girls get up, washed, dressed and make their beds before coming downstairs for breakfast. Here is a snippet from the routine we have implemented.
To get this off to a good start I printed the girls’ routine check lists, laminated them and put them on clip boards. I placed the clip boards beside their beds with their clean clothes for the morning. This actually went really well as it gave the girls a plan to follow and some responsibility for getting themselves sorted.
We are loosely following the torchlight curriculum which is literature based so there is a lot of reading involved. The main concern people expressed to me over this curriculum is the price of the books, so to overcome this I simply bought only the spines (main recommended texts) and some books that sounded really interesting that I felt we would read more than once. I also only planned for the first 6 weeks of the curriculum so that if it wasn’t a good fit we were not in the situation that I had a whole year of work sitting wasted.
Work Session One: I read two books to the children while they drew at the kitchen table. The first one Anya’s Secret Society is a recommended text from the curriculum and tells the story of a young Russian girl who is left handed. In Russian society being left handed is still frowned upon and this story from the child’s point of view explains how the child had to hide and draw with her left hand in secret. This was a great for discussing how people can be treated unfairly for appearing different. Both my girls found it very strange that left handed children would be forced to use their right hand and this led us to discussing how not that long ago children in the UK were also forced to use their right hand even when they were left handed.
The second book was one I got from the library and it provides facts about Russia written in the format of a selection of short informative blog posts. The children found these interesting and each short blog post had a full color photograph accompanying it. Russia is a great country for big features such as the deepest lake and largest land area, the idea of items being the biggest in the world helped to capture my children’s interest,
To give my voice a break I then put on an audio book of the Nutcracker for the children to listen to while I prepared a snack. I have found out two things in the last 6 months that make our days easier, firstly keep the children fed and secondly when possible utilise tools such as audio books and documentaries to your advantage to get other jobs completed while the children are engaged.
After our snack and audio book it was time to get some fresh air. Another thing I have realised since starting our homeschooling journey is that we all need regular fresh air breaks; some days I start with a walk at 8.30am as I find the children have much better levels of concentration once they have had some exercise. After a 40 minute walk/scoot outside we were ready for session two.
Work Session Two: We started this session by looking at both the globe and the world map and finding our country and Russia on each. I then read sections related to Russia from three more recommended texts: The Smithsonian Children’s Illustrated Atlas, A Year Full of Stories and The Atlas of Animal Adventures.
The Illustrated Atlas is very informative but I found it easiest to just let each child pick one or two pieces of information to read out rather than try to read it all and I plan to go back to it another day.
The story about the Little Red Hen from the Year Full of Stories book was based on how if you are not prepared to put in any work you are not entitled to have share of the spoils. This is a great way for imparting these important ideas to our children and mine were able to point out the fairness in the story straight away.
Before we read the section on Siberian Tigers from the Atlas of Animal Adventures I let the kids watch a Go Jetters episode on Saint Basil’s Cathedral in St Petersburg. This gave me enough time to set up a tiger habitat for the children to play in.
We read about the Siberian Tigers and how there are only 500 left in the wild. After this the children played in some fake snow with model tigers for the next hour while I prepared some food for lunch and dinner.
The taste friendly fake snow is simply corn flour (corn starch in the USA) mixed with olive oil in a 8:1 ratio. We also added cottonwool balls to represent snow balls and some pine-cones and wooden trees for the tigers to hide behind. The tiger habitat was definitely the favourite activity of the day. Good points about this “snow” was it was easy to clean up and I was not worried about the kids putting their hands in their mouths as I knew it was taste safe furthermore it kept really well and we were able to play with it all week.
I had decided we would make a Russian Potato Salad called an Olivier Salad. This was simply because we had left over roast chicken, baked potatoes and boiled eggs so we used up our left overs and made a new dinner for that night – win win in my book. By this stage however the children were not very interested in leaving their tiger world so I made most of the salad myself while they played.
The salad contained green peppers, grated carrot, chopped cucumber, cooked potato, boiled eggs, thawed frozen peas and cooked chicken all mixed with mayo. Traditionally this dish would be made with ham. As advised in the torchlight curriculum I made a recipe chart to record our new recipes and what we thought of them, Miss 7 rated it a 4 and Miss 5 only a 2 out of 5. i thought it was delicious and had it for my lunch the next day too – waste not want not.
I had planned to also read another book, draw maps and measure and record the overnight rain fall in our newly made rain gauge but this was not going to happen and we had friends over to play instead. Sometimes it is best to end on a high note rather than try to complete all the activities.
I hope you have enjoyed an insight into a day in our homeschooling life, please comment to let me know if you would like to see more of these types of posts.