Friday, August 12, 2011

First Day

I have to laugh when I think about the "First Day' ritual and how it pertains to us.  We don't really have one.  Both kids are spread out between 'grade levels' when it comes to their work.  Rylan straddles between Kindergarten and first grade work, Jordan straddles between fifth and sixth... so there is no real defining *moment* when they move from one level to another.  It is more like one long continuum.  We also (or at least try to) school year-round.  So there is no last day or first day to celebrate.  If I go by the books - there is an "official" beginning and end to our year as far as it pertains to counting up the minutes as we go to make sure we hit the mark (or surpass it) for what we must do as far as state regulations.

We must school for a total of 694 hours over the course of the school year.  I begin counting August 1st, and end July 31st.  Ever since we began four years ago, I have just sort of winged it.  I figured as long as we did 2-4 hours most every day, and counted all activities, we were good.  This last spring, I decided I really wanted to know what we were actually accomplishing, time wise.  I was worried that we were way off - in a bad way.  I spent a few days pulling an excel spread sheet together to track Jordan's and Rylan's time spent with everything they do.  And I mean everything!  Did I ever mention that I am type A?

Rylan's work for June 2011
The vertical columns are the days of the month, and the rows are the subjects and the specific activities under each subject.  For example, under the heading of Language Arts, I have listed Reading Skills Practice (those small-sized practice books that come from a teacher-supply store), Explode the Code, Mailbox Activity (from the Mailbox Teacher Idea Magazine), Five in a Row, All About Spelling, Core Knowledge, Write Source, Handwriting and Read Aloud.  We don't do every activity everyday, but each is an important component, and I really would like to know how long we have spent doing each one.  The spreadsheet totals it as we go along, and I can know at a glance how we are doing.  I keep the shortcut to it on my screen, and I have it open all day while we are doing school.  It takes two seconds to enter in a time in the appropriate spot.  Jordan and Rylan each have their own timer, so they are responsible for using it when they start an activity and stopping it when they are done. I've tested it through June and July.  As you can tell from the above screenshot - June was a really LAME month for me accomplishment wise.  I didn't complete the daily subtotals for Rylan either.   We were just too dang busy!

So I took pictures of the little kids yesterday as a way to mark the new year... Although I think we will go for more formal pictures in the fall, when Jordan gets back.

I decided it was time to open Rylan's What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know (Core Knowledge).  We did the Preschool anthology and workbooks 1 & 2 last year.  She isn't done with her workbooks yet, but she is way beyond it ability wise, so it is time to let it go and move one.  Long ago, on some wild rabbit hole trip of mine, I read on a Core Knowledge forum that the best way to work through the What Your (blank) Needs to Know books is to break it into parts.  The book is basically laid out in five sections - Language and Literature, History and Geography, Visual Arts & Music, Mathematics, and Science.  You work on one section each day of the week.  So for example, yesterday was Thursday, so we went to the Mathematics section.  Each day you do 1-2 pages from that section.  By the end of the school year, you have worked your way through the book, and have touched on an amazing variety of subjects.  Your pace is slow enough that if something catches your interest, you can take that tangent wherever it leads you.  The beauty of this is, you don't have to do Monday in order to do Tuesday, and so forth.  So if you miss a day, or two, or three... you can still pick it up and read whatever section it is for that given day.  I love that!

So in the math section yesterday, the suggested activity was to collect a number of things based on likeness.  Rylan can do this pretty easily, so we included Owen as well.  We chose to collect things based on color.  I gave Rylan a collecting basket, and she and Owen went to the playroom to collect ten 'red' things.  Colin was napping at the time, so we could spread out on the floor without fear of him taking off with our stuff.  Owen lost interest midway through the second color, and spent the rest of the time hopping between the rows, occasionally kicking objects out of the way.

I think I will do this again, but make it more challenging for Rylan.  Some possible categories might be things that make sound, things that you use at bedtime, things that are used for transportation...

It was a good day, for the most part.  I felt some sadness - my grandma would have celebrated her 89th birthday.  I thought about doing a blogpost, but my heart just wasn't in it.  I went out in the evening to join up with my bookclub friends.  We discussed our book selection quite a bit - which is an odd thing for us - we usually only dedicate a few minutes...  It was a profound and disturbing read, so we actually had quite a bit to talk about!  I will add a book review as I have time, this weekend.  It was a great discussion!

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