And the cycle rolls ever on. My middle children are smack in the middle of their elementary years while my older two have moved beyond.
The students are the main difference, not the material – they will be doing pretty much what their older brothers did, except more consistently. Years of experience (i.e. practice) and adding more children increases consistency.
That’s the summary, now for specifics.
Grade School Priorities
Always begin with your goals in mind, then select your priorities based on those goals.
For my rising second grader, my goals are that he broaden his interests (measured by choosing free reading that’s not Redwall), improve his handwriting (measured by legibility), and increase in math ability (measured by progressing in Math-U-See).
For my rising fourth grader, my goals are that she improve in reading stamina (measured by length of time spent free reading), begin writing (measured by an ability to write a paragraph by year’s end), and increase in math ability (measured by progressing in Math-U-See).
A secondary goal for her includes improved spelling and facility with cursive, so that by the end of the year she can not only write a paragraph, but do so without spelling mistakes and in cursive. Big goals.
So, here’s my priority arrangement of their work this year:
- Morning Time
- Math (using Math-U-See)
- Bible reading (self-directed but daily reading)
- Elementary Lessons (history, science, art, etc.)
- Independent but guided reading (1 biography a week)
- Handwriting/Spelling (Spelling Wisdom, StartWrite, & Beautiful Handwriting for Children)
- Nature Study (twice a month group arranged by a friend)
- Latin (Latin for Children)
Is it bad that we’re classical homeschoolers but Latin comes last on the list? No. There’s always next year, when I’m not also learning the ropes with high school. It’s early to start my second grader, but I’d rather keep them together for efficiency’s sake and because they aren’t too far off in their language abilities.
If we only get 1/3 or so through Latin for Children Primer A this year, I’ll be happy. I’d like them to get started, but I don’t expect them to be ready for Primer B next year. So we’ll be pacing Primer A to take 2 years.
Homeschool Plans for the Elementary Students
So, then, here’s my plan for these two kids.
In a spreadsheet like this I plot out what needs to be done on which days, plus what needs to be prepared ahead of time and checked weekly.
It never really looks like a lot this way. Then once we start and try it out for a week or two, I usually adjust.
The bulk of the elementary students’ teaching time happens twice a week during Elementary Lessons, when we, with friends, read history, science, artist study, Shakespeare, and Bible. This year we’ll do modern history, various science topics with living books & sketching, late Renaissance & early modern artists, 3 Shakespeare plays, and the Gospels. I’ll be posting separately about Elementary Lesson plans.
Elementary Lessons doesn’t begin until the end of August. For our first term, we’ll be solidifying our individual studies: math, handwriting & spelling, and Latin.
When lessons start up, my friend Kirsti will also be starting up book club again – she did it with the older set and now it’s the middle set’s turn. They’ll have book club while I am doing class with the older kids. This will be another in for broadening their enjoyable reading time and tastes.
Both of them have their own Trello homeschool checklist, but I don’t expect them to be independent. It’s still my job to keep on top of their work and prompt them through their day, but instead of keeping track of what they’re supposed to be doing in my head, we have a checklist to reference. My prompt then becomes, “Let’s look at your checklist,” so that they – eventually – learn the habits of working from the checklist themselves (not until 11 or so, though).
Plus, it’s simply easier for me to keep up with lists in one place instead of several. Since Trello is where the older boys’ lists are, it is also where the younger kids’ lists are.
There is one thing my fourth grader will do that my second grader will not: beginning writing and grammar.
We’ll learn the parts of speech and parts of a sentence, practice punctuation (and probably spelling), and use the basic IEW method (but my own way, teaching writing without a curriculum) for learning to outline and write paragraphs.
Writing lessons will be a part of Elementary Lessons for the 4th-6th grade kids, of whom there are 3. When it comes to paragraph feedback time, I’ll be glad there are only 3 of them. :)
I’d be ok waiting another year, maybe even two, for writing for this fourth grader, but the way class combinations work with our co-op situation, this is her year. She’ll be fine and we’ll take it slow. My plan is to rewrite fables for the first half of the year and then move on to writing on the topics we’re reading about in Elementary Lessons, so that they basically become written narrations.
What’s in Their Bins
The elementary students don’t have their own shelves or school bins; their things live where it’s most convenient for me to get at when we need them.
Everyone’s clipboards (all 5 kids have them), live in one bin in our open-to-the-kitchen area. Each evening after dinner cleanup, I put each person’s papers for the next day on their clipboard. For my elementary kids, this means
- new math page
- any math pages that still need correction
- copywork page (Spelling Wisdom selection printed for tracing & copying with StartWrite)
- Latin page (either from the workbook or an extra Latin practice page)
I think it’s much easier to assign, track, and correct work when it’s on individual pages on a clipboard instead of in a workbook, so that’s what we do. When they’re done with their work, we have an organizer on the counter where they turn their work in.
Once a week we’ll do dictation, which they’ll write in a spiral notebook which will live in the clipboard bin.
They’ll also have a spiral notebook for Elementary Lessons for copywork, written narrations, sketches, or any other work we do in class.
They each also have a nature journal.
My middle set of children live a very different life than my older two did at their age. They keep a full social calendar, with neighborhood friends always eager to play. They are almost never bored, which means they haven’t learned the habit of picking up a book to pass the time.
My fourth grader is somewhat picky about what she wants to read, and it takes her quite awhile to finish a book. My second grader reads well, but sticks to Redwall and listening to Tolkien.
So my goal is to broaden them both and carve them out some reading time, making it pleasant rather than a checklist chore. After lunch we’ll have a quiet reading hour, during which time I will also read. My two older introverts loved to turn to a book to be by themselves; my middle two extroverts will appreciate reading company – and I myself need the accountability in turning to books instead of online tasks these days!
I used to have my older two select three books to read per week: one story, one history, and one nature/science. That would overload these two, so I’m going to ask them to each choose one biography to read per week. During our one-on-one meetings on Monday, they’ll tell me about the person they read about the previous week (yes, I know this isn’t adequate or complete narration, but it’s going to be good enough for this reading) and then choose another biography for the coming week. We own lots of biographies already, plus our church library has twenty or more missionary biographies for kids, and if they have any particular interest we’ll browse the library collection. I don’t think there’ll be a shortage of options – but they get to choose.
To help the Monday narration motivation, I will type what they tell me and they can choose to send it to someone they think might be interested: an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a friend – and we’ll send it by email or text. This is another way I’m using their extroversion in the cause instead of simply trying to ignore it or override it.
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Read more about the elementary years in our homeschool:
- Elementary Lessons Mini Co-op
- Top 10 Audio Books for Elementary Kids
- Elementary Geography without Lesson Plans
- Elementary Book Club List
- 4th grade homeschool plans (2014)
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