School Update

We’re 6 or 7 weeks in, so it’s time to look at what’s working (or not) around here.


Copywork and Dictation.  This is the first year I have been a stickler for perfection on this.  We do copywork usually twice a week.  M and O are copying passages from our read-alouds, or other good reading.  J is copying passages from Exodus, which he’s currently reading.  I circle mistakes, and they fix them.  On their dictation (Fridays) I choose a shortened passage from their copywork and dictate it back.  They have to write it perfectly, with clues to the punctuation.  If there are any spelling mistakes, I re-write the word correctly, and they copy it five times.  We usually have one or two words to re-write, but they’re been tricky ones: said (for M), or their versus they’re (for J).  Although the copywork passages elicit kicking and screaming (“It’s too hard!”  “It’s too long!”  “I’ll never be able to do it all!”) consistency on my part has paid off, and it’s getting easier.

Singapore Math.  I really like Singapore.  It works for us.

Read-Alouds.  This usually has to be done over a meal– or while they’re painting or working with clay– otherwise I lose them.  We’re coming to the end of Foster’s The Life of Christopher Columbus and Sons, and J has already asked which one is next.  We have a good variety of other read-alouds: Paddington and The Long Winter and picture books.

Bible Verse Memorization: Last year we got away from our little box of verses and Spanish phrases.  This year, I’ve pulled it back out, and I’m happy to see how much they still remember.

Rosetta Stone Spanish and Henle Latin: Both working.  O and M work independently and are starting to generate spontaneous phrases in Spanish.  Hooray!  J’s Latin is a review so far, but moving quickly, and he’s handling it so well.  Plus, how can you not love “Huffabo et puffabo et tuum dominum inflabo?”

Not Working Very Well:

Picture Study/Composer Study: I just can’t seem to find a time for it.  I end up hanging pictures on our art line, or having us discuss them over afternoon tea… and I play the music, but perhaps not often enough for them to recognize it.  But we persevere.

Nature Study: A perpetual struggle: we hike, I point things out, we ask questions… but we infrequently make the time to find the answers once we get home.  And when I bring materials to draw on-site, it often turns into let’s-see-how-quickly-I-can-do-this-so-I-can-build-a-fort-with-sticks.

Exercise: I’m running, but then I’m not so motivated to get them out their for exercise later.  But swim team is just around the corner…

Handworks: I think the weather needs to be a little colder, so we’re hunkered down a little more.  Right now, I’d rather us be outside.

Jury Still Out:

Read to Mommy Time:  J faithfully does his reading (about 45 minutes a day of novels, Scripture and science) and loves it.  M and O read so well, but they leave it till last.  O’s reading has improved with shorter chapters (currently James and the Giant Peach).

Cooking: they love it when I remember to invite them into the kitchen with me.  Do I remember?  Not so much.

Piano lessons with Mommy: It helps that they meet once a month with our teacher.  But three half-hour lessons a week adds up, and SweetP can’t really stay away from the piano that long…


5 thoughts on “School Update

  1. I need to do a post like this, too. I can’t believe we’re 7 weeks in!

    Dictation is Ella’s favorite thing to do this year. 🙂 Who knew?

    Narration is my big problem. I just don’t make time for it. I was going to ask you how you do it but I notice it’s not on your list so you must *not* do it. 🙂 So we’re in the same boat, then. 😉

    Here is my thought about your nature study: it’s GREAT! Let them build forts with sticks and don’t stress about it! Surely they’re figuring out which sticks work best for forts or which leafy material is best for coverage? I think that’s true nature study, right? Familiarity with their natural surroundings. I think you are outside a lot in nature and that’s *wonderful*. They’re observing even if not OFFICIALLY.

    Foster’s book- is that a supplement to history, or what you’re doing for history? I bought that, too- on a recommendation from someone, and perused it but then wasn’t sure how to use it? – as assigned reading? in lieu of some of our history? in addition to our history selections? Just curious how you’re using it.

    Blessings to you on your day with the kids!


    • Stacy, I totally forgot to mention narration. We do it every day on the Bible passage, and once or twice a week on other reading.
      M and O are in the stage where they say back one sentence, often word-for-word. J narrates longer readings and does some of his written, some orally.
      Probably I forgot it because I think of it as part of the reading. I also sneak in a little narration by asking “What happened last time? I can’t remember…” or “Tell Daddy what happened today to Paddington.” Those get the best narrations.
      The Foster book we use almost like a spine. I read 3-10 pages three days a week, usually at lunchtime or during a snack, when the kids are contained and ready to listen. Obviously, the chapters in which King Henry decapitated his wife go over with fewer interruptions than the chapter on Machiavelli’s The Prince.
      Thanks for your encouragement!


  2. 😉 on the decapitation comment.
    Thanks for your narration tips. I do a lot of informal narration- like you said, “Who remembers what happened last time we read?” or “Who wants to tell daddy what we read in the Bible this morning?” but I rarely do the more formal read a specific passage for the specific task of getting a narration. I find that when we unofficially narrate, they are more rambly and story-telly (which is okay, but they forget the details like peoples’ names and places and I think that’s part of the point, isn’t it?) I want to hear more about your written narrations, sometime…

    ps- I don’t think my children can recognize our composers by music, either. Maybe eventually?


    • I think it’s The Well Trained Mind that suggests writing down on your white board/chalk board the names or dates that might be important in the narration, so that in a more formal narration, these can be incorporated properly (instead of, “You know, the king who liked fancy clothes and rode to France on his white horse.”)


  3. Yes. That’s where I’m lacking. Our readings are so long (pages and pages) that I don’t feel like it’s fair to have them “formally” narrate the whole reading, but I’m not really sure how to incorporate formal narrations, then. I think it probably has to be separate (from our regular reading) for them to have a more manageable piece to narrate from, but that’s what I don’t make time for. There have been times where I’ve begun our reading- and stopped after one paragraph or two and asked for a child to narrate that part back to me- and that has worked. Maybe I should do that more. Or maybe I need to adjust my expectations and just be happy with where they’re at- that they are able to retell the story is a good thing. Maybe all the names/exact facts aren’t.


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