Saturday, August 1, 2015

{Year one reflections} - five weeks in

Wow, we have already finished five weeks of Izzy's first grade (year one) year!  Time sure does fly.

I think I explained in a previous post, but we began early mainly because baby girl #3 is due in September and I wanted to get some school time IN before I take some time OFF to care for a newborn.  That way we won't be too terribly behind.

Anyway, here are some of my ramblings reflections of these first five weeks:

Circle/Morning Time

Circle time has been going pretty well.  We're doing this during/right after breakfast (I eat faster than my kids, so they're usually still eating or finishing up when I begin circle time stuff).  I like doing this at breakfast - it's like killing two birds with one stone, which gives us more time the rest of the day to play and whatnot.  Circle time has not been taking very long - it's short and sweet :)  Bible reading, memory work, poetry, and maybe a read-aloud is all we do, and it takes about 20-30 minutes.


We've been doing Spanish at lunch, which has been going well.  Again, mouths full!  Addy has been catching on just as much as Izzy (6).  It's been really easy to do it during lunch because two times per week we just learn some vocabulary and it's purely conversational, and the other two times per week we watch a video - either a Salsa video or a Spanish song video.

*As I wrote this, Addy just got in the shower and yelled, "Muy caliente!"  LOL, she cracks me up.

Memory Work

Something that wasn't going well at first was our memory work (during circle time).  I originally took the suggestions from Charlotte Mason Help (CMH) to have Izzy memorize one poem, one Psalm, one scripture passage, two hymns, and two folksongs, per term.  But then I just couldn't decide on a scripture passage.  So instead, I opted for Simply Charlotte Mason's scripture memory verse pack.

So based on reading about others' memory work routine, plus CMH's suggestions, we were doing something like this:
Monday - Scripture, Psalm
Tuesday - Scripture, Poem
Wednesday - Scripture, Psalm
Thursday - Scripture, Poem

Plus, we were listening to our hymn twice per week and our folksong twice per week (during lunch, which, paired with Spanish, made lunchtime feel a little chaotic, to be honest.)  So all-in-all that meant three (3!) memory-type things we were working on everyday.

No wonder I didn't feel that it was going well!  It was just too much and felt more like drudgery than anything else.

I looked around on the AO forums and came across this link, which contains the PNEU curriculum for each year.  When you click on the year you need, it gives an outline of what the children learned for each subject area.  For year one, the students memorized one Bible passage (a Psalm), one poem, and two hymns per term.  That's it!  (I remember reading somewhere on this blog about how folksongs were not part of the curriculum back then because they were probably sung quite often in everyday life.)

Then, when you look at the PNEU schedules, memory work was only done for 10 minutes, three times per week in form I (years 1-3).  Oh, what a relief!

Now our memory work routine looks like this and lasts no more than 10 minutes each day:
Monday - Hymn
Tuesday - Poem
Wednesday - Folksong
Thursday - Psalm

As you can see, I have four days of memory work on our schedule instead of three, but that's because I added one for the folksong.

Much better.  And the girls (I say girls because Addy has learned the memory work, too, even though I don't require it of her, of course) are still learning everything just fine.

Burgess, Paddle, and CM's Elementary Geography

My original plan was to read all of the Burgess Bird Book, spread throughout the year; all of Paddle to the Sea in the first term; and then in Paddle's place, read all of CM's Elementary Geography (which would require two readings per week) in terms two and three.

Again, too much.

*Note to self:  trust the AO schedule!

It felt like I was just cramming in as much as possible and for what reason?  For example, I doubt my kids will be better off if I require them to read and narrate the whole Bird book rather than what's recommended.  So I went back to what AO suggests:  we read the first two chapters of Burgess Bird, then I've been choosing chapters about birds in our area.  It feels so freeing.

I'm also going back to the original Paddle to the Sea schedule, and only adding the recommended sections of CM's Geography and/or Long's Geography.  Again, freeing.

*One more time:  trust the AO schedule!

Weekly Schedule

I've also already changed the format of our weekly schedule (and our daily routine in general!  Actually the daily routine is still up in the air - summertime activities will do that :) ).  I figured out that I really need to have a specific plan for each day.  For example, I need to see on a schedule that our drawing lesson will be on Mondays.  That way I know that we had better make time for a drawing lesson on Monday.  Period.  Because so far, just saying that I'll fit it in some afternoon when we have time = it probably won't get done.  (And it didn't the first two weeks.  And it hasn't the last two weeks.  Drawing fail.)

Also, it's been helpful to assign certain readings to certain days.  Again, I know exactly what we should accomplish that day, plus I can pair a longer reading with a shorter reading so it doesn't seem like we're cramming in too much in one day.

AND, I've figured out that the lessons go much better if we do not try to do them all in one block.  Izzy and I both do better if we do two or three subjects, take a break, then resume lessons later.


Izzy has been doing pretty well with her narrations.  At least I think so - I am just as new at this as she is!  I don't recall her giving me an "I don't know" yet, and she usually gives me a few sentences.  Here are a few things that have helped:

  • The first week we took turns narrating for pretty much every single reading.  Now, we take turns on the longer or more difficult readings like Parables from Nature.
  • I've broken up all of the readings, except for the really short Aesop readings.  This means that I've been reading a couple of paragraphs, then I stop and let Izzy narrate, then I read a couple more paragraphs, then Izzy narrates, etc.  I usually stop after 15, maybe 20 minutes of total reading/narrating time (a timer has helped here).  Of course, this means that some of the readings are taking longer than anticipated, but that's okay.  I think it took us 5 or 6 separate readings (spread over two weeks) to get through Beauty and the Beast, for example. 
  • These two videos were really helpful for me in understanding how narration should look:  video 1 and video 2.
What I still need to figure out
  • A "normal" (is there such a thing?) daily routine.  But then once I (maybe) figure that out, it'll be blown to bits when baby #3 arrives, HA.
  • How to give Addy the attention she needs.  She's been acting out a little lately and I think it's because she knows I'm spending a lot of time with Izzy.  There are days when she wants to do "school stuff," too, which has resulted in my scrambling to find something for her to do.  We have plenty of puzzles, drawing supplies, pattern blocks, magnets, etc, but she knows that's not the same thing :)
  • When to begin Izzy's music lessons (and she's beginning with a recorder), and where to fit them in during the day.  Music fail :(
  • How to make myself sit the girls down for drawing lessons more than once every five weeks.  Another fail.
  • And we haven't been very consistent with nature journaling, either.  We've at least gone on plenty of walks and talked about nature things pretty regularly, so nature study in general hasn't been a complete failure.
  • I'm sure there's something I'm not thinking of at the moment.
  • Oh yeah!  Actually, Spanish has not been consistent the last two weeks because our computer crashed!  As a result, we're having to use Jared's super old, super slow, non-wireless computer, which means we haven't been able to watch the Salsa or Youtube videos at lunch because the computer is hooked up in the living room.  I guess we could just move lunch to the living room floor on those days.  Yes.  We should do that.  And then the girls can vacuum.


There's more I could write about, but for now I think I'll stop there!


  1. Thank you for this update! I am starting year 1 as well with my son in a week and your posts have been so helpful. I was really liking your idea about switching the schedule up a bit but now I see that it may not work. I am looking forward to hearing more about your year!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful! About the schedule - do what's best for you and your family. We are just in a season where less is more, and I think that since we're just starting out, getting our feet wet and not overdoing it is wise :) That way we can build up and add more if we feel that we can handle it.

      I would like to eventually either read more of the Burgess Bird Book as a free read with my kids, or maybe the girls will read it themselves. I just ordered a hard copy of it for that purpose (I had been reading it off the kindle).

      Thanks for commenting and good luck with your year!!