Tuesday, January 10, 2017

First Grade, Second Semester

Actual conversation with a kind, older gentleman at the grocery store early one afternoon:

Man, with a twinkle in his eye: Shouldn't you be in school, young lady?
Pip, taken completely off guard: Should I, Mom? Is it a school day?
Man: Well, it's Thursday; isn't that a school day?
Pip: Not for me; I only go to school on Tuesday.

Man: (bewildered silence)
Me, stepping in: (To Pip) Well, you only go to co-op on Tuesday. (To the man) We homeschool; we've already finished with school for the day.
Pip, confused: We haven't done school today. We read books and sang songs and played that game where we add and subtract and wrote that letter to my cousin and... hey, you tricked me!

While I have no intention of "tricking" my child into learning, that comment was an affirmation that my efforts to keep our school days engaging seem to be working. And it is an effort: it means preparing ahead of time, and it means being willing and able to change course when the day is derailed, because that's most certainly going to happen from time to time. The variety in activities and approaches is worthwhile, though; it seems to keep her interest and mine, and makes the days quite pleasant. She's an inquisitive seven year old. Learning should be fun.

Heading into the second semester of first grade, my lesson plans have evolved from what they were even a few months ago. The girl loves to have a book in her hand, so much of our learning time is spent reading and discussing what we read; this includes Pip reading to herself, Pip reading aloud to me, and me reading aloud to her.

I learned last year that our homeschool thrived when I set goals for the week rather than specific daily lesson plans, and that's still ideal for us. On Sunday evening or Monday morning, I lay out what I hope to accomplish that week. Each day of our lessons, we enjoy reading, music, writing, and life skills. In addition, I aim for hitting each of these targets several times per week: science, history, math, and art. And because we both so enjoyed the read-aloud that we used throughout Advent--along with the conversations it sparked--we've incorporated a Bible lesson, either from an online source or a book or a VeggieTales movie, into the majority of our days.

The outside activities component remains strong, as well. We're committed members of a co-op that meets once a week for classes, clubs, and field trips. Pip takes harp lessons, sings in a children's choir, and participates in a weekly gymnastics class. We've got a variety of performances and field trips planned for our second semester of this year, from seeing the Russian Ballet Company to strolling through at least one zoo to watching a children's theater production of Peter Pan to visiting our state capitol. Other opportunities will surely present themselves, and we will take advantage of the feasible ones.

I regularly reflect on how fortunate we are to be in a position to homeschool and how that means we can put an emphasis on the things that are important to Pip--and to us--as she grows. We spent hours one day last week creating codes, writing each other messages in code, and then decoding those messages. We spent the majority of yesterday afternoon working on a painting for a local student art show. Pip was fascinated with the election process in the fall, so we'll spend some more time in the coming weeks focusing on the job of our nation's president and learning about a few of the historical greats.

Here's a peek at just a few of this semester's non-textbook materials. 
- Build the Human Body set from Silver Dolphin books (this was a Christmas gift from her grandparents!)
- Erasable place mats featuring US presidents and US geography (I found these at a children's consignment sale for next to nothing)

It's going to be a great term; we're both looking forward to what's to come!

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