Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What we're doing this year

Some of what I have to say about the organization of our school day/year relies on what it is we're actually covering, so I thought I'd go ahead and lay that out. I'll save what each child is doing individually for separate posts and just focus on what we're doing together.

For the past two years, we have been following a modified Sonlight core schedule. We did Cores 1 & 2 but I rearranged them around the timeline of Story of the World Volumes 1 & 2, rather than Child's History of the World that Sonlight uses. I prefer the tone of SOTW and it has an Activity Guide and tests available for each volume, which we use to varying degrees.

My plan for this year was to use SL Core 3 and overlay SOTW 3 on top. They cover roughly the same time periods, but I wasn't going to bend over backwards to get them to line up perfectly. I did re-arrange Core 3 where we were alternating reading a read-aloud with a history read-aloud (the novels, not the Landmark text) so that we were reading larger chunks of one at a time, rather than having two going at the same time, because we prefer it that way.

It takes me several hours to do all of this modification at the beginning of the summer, and I lay it all out in a spreadsheet that I refer to each six weeks when I do my lesson planning for that period (more on those later). You can see that spreadsheet here. I've blacked out what I think is the only copyrighted info, the pages of the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History that we read which correspond to each chapter of SOTW. These are listed in the SOTW AG, and I wouldn't want to just give away what they put a lot of work into. As a plug, reading those pages, with their extra information and great visuals (as is typical for Usborne) lend great extra depth to our SOTW reading. Plus, the boys will actually pull out the UILE to just browse (as do many guests in our home :-).

So, with our school year all planned out for us in a format that's worked great for two years, we plunged in.

Only, the read-alouds from Core 3 were just not doing it for us. The boys were following the storyline, but were not that enthused about it (JW's been in on read-alouds for the current Core since the last bit of Core 1). Hm, maybe I should have listened to the chatter on the SL boards about there being a big jump to Core 3. I was prepared to address the mature issues; I just wasn't quite ready for them to be so ho-hum about the books. Especially since a friend had gone on and on about how this was the favorite Core she'd done with her kids. At an older age, of course.

I was already contemplating making a change of sort. The clincher: MA said to me one day, "Mommy, remember when I used to sit with you guys when you did read-alouds, and I got to listen to what you were reading?" Back to the drawing board forthwith! (This really surprised me, because read-aloud time was when MA got to play on the computer, one of her favorite things to do. For her to suggest something different was a big deal.)

Around this same time, we were doing some storage juggling (when you have no closets and all of your out-of-use things are in trunks that you use when you travel, this has to happen at times) and our Core C books were out. I had been contemplating pulling some of the higher level read-alouds for us to use, and as I looked through them, I realized that there were a lot more meaty books than I'd remembered. Between that and the new books SL had since added to Cores B & C that I'd purchased this year (haven't looked at those cores since Core A was introduced, so I'm sure there are plenty more now), I had enough read-alouds to lay out the rest of the year.

So, I added a column to my spreadsheet (because life revolves around spreadsheets, right? or is that just my life...) for Core C read-alouds. We dropped the Core 3 ones, some of which I added to MS's readers for the year, some of which will become read-alouds at some later point, and some of which I'll just let the kids read on their own as they get older, so none are wasted, just reassigned.

In addition to the read-alouds scheduled on the spreadsheet, I laid out the chapters/sections of Hero Tales and Grandmother's Attic from Core C for us to read daily and weekly respectively.

Our read-aloud times since then have been precious. MA joins us, everybody's loving the books, and we're all commenting and discussing much more now that the boys aren't struggling to just keep up with the storyline. Of course, I'm having to fight them off of the read-alouds for independent reading, but that's a problem I don't mind having.

Oh, and MA still gets her computer time when we read history and science after the Core C read-alouds, so it's a win-win situation for everyone. :-)

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