We did start the the school year by snuggling on the couch, reading "The Tree of Leaden Apples" from How to Find Happyland. This book is full of stories that appeal to both girls for some reason, and I will be quick to admit that when I find something they both like I run with it. We also do our read-alouds for history and literature at this point. Those are taken straight from Tapestry of Grace and the Sonlight and Veritas Press catalogs. (Wednesday is a poetry read-aloud.)
Here's where we move into the purely theoretical...because every day is different. And sometimes the doorbell rings during class. And sometimes we get sick. And sometimes the Rad Zoo is much more interesting than our science book for the day.
After we read a short story every morning, we do our Bible memory work. I use the Simply Charlotte Mason system (index card box - details here). It works for us, and we can stick our AWANA work in the box when we have completed it, so it isn't promptly forgotten.
At that point, we move to the table to do our Grammar together. They are both working from Our Mother Tongue this year. We all like the short lessons. Also, every day we dissect a sentence together. Short, sweet, and to the point. I love Charlotte Mason's ideas. She was brilliant. They don't get frustrated with it and neither do I. Plus, they love to write on the marker board. I should buy stock in the company that makes those smelly markers. I think we keep them in business.
The rest of the day is pretty much a free for all. I give them a list and they are expected to finish the items on it unless there is flood, fire or other dire emergency. The only other constants are meal times and DEAR (drop everything and read). DEAR is my sanity saver. Every day, without fail, they go to their rooms for an hour after lunch and read quietly. I get to put my feet up and do the same. We get to read whatever we wish (even comic strips) for one hour of uninterrupted time. They are the ones who remember to do it every day! They remind me when I forget.
As far as the free for all, they can come and find me when they need help. I do teach them from time to time when they get stuck. I also check their work, to see if they are doing it to the best of their ability. (Never expect what you don't inspect.) The Curly-headed girl and I do mapwork together, and I guide their writing assignments; but each year, they are more and more independent in their work. The goal is that by high school, they will be largely self-directed within the confines of the assignments. My work will be more like that of the consultant rather than the tour guide.
Our core curriculum is Tapestry of Grace, which I rearrange to suit our needs, ignoring parts and adding other things. We are heavy on art and light on technical aspects of history. Our timelines can be sadly neglected and a formal vocabulary program is mostly nonexistent. We read a lot, together and separately; and sometimes we even manage to narrate. Hopefully, this year that will improve as we are in a co-op with another family for history. I am looking forward to seeing the articulation skills improve.
One resource I have found for history books is the Baldwin Project. They have digitized many books written for children that were published before 1923. If it is a "spine" for Tapestry, chances are it is on that website. If your children don't mind reading online, it is a free resource. It has saved us a lot of money in the past.
Math is still Teaching Textbooks. It's the one area I splurge on because I really am not fond of torturing my children. Having had rather hum-drum experiences with math myself, I have no desire to mess up their minds in this area. I'd farm it out to the math half of my brain if I could. (You know who you are...too bad you live in another country!) We also do Family Math on Fridays, just to mix things up a bit. It's a chance to let them talk with each other about their ideas and "play" with math. I think that was sadly lacking in my own math education. I didn't like the idea that there was only one "proper" way to do something, when clearly there were other ways that worked. Logic puzzles are also part of what we do on Friday, just for fun.
Since my children would happily spend their time making up silly plays about veggies who will "show things to you" or singing highly profound lyrics written by singing goats with horns (from Hoodwinked) as opposed to doing school, I have to make an attempt to distract them with humorous material. Scott McQuerry's science curriculum fits the bill. He's hilarious - at least the Straight-haired girl thinks so. I've heard her laughing out loud to herself as she reads her science book. And she remembers it, too! Bonus. The Curly-headed girl is reading Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology and drawing pictures as she goes. We pretty much go with the flow on this subject. I am happy to let them spend time running down rabbit trails as they find their interests. It's amazing what they learn when I let them go.
My favorite education philosophizer, Charlotte Mason, said (and I rudely and inaccurately paraphrase, so you'd better go find the source) it doesn't really matter what methods you use to teach. If the information doesn't have relevance to their experiences, it won't stick. The stuff they remember is the stuff that goes deeper than the "oh, that's interesting" level to the point of "that is so amazing I can't wait to tell everyone I know all about it!" It's my firm belief that they will find it to be more relevant when they "discover" it for themselves.
We don't even do Spelling anymore. I find it redundant. Any child who is a great reader will learn to spell, especially when it's combined with copywork and dictation. The Straight-headed girl has made great strides in spelling in the past year since she has realized that it's easier to communicate with others when they can read what you write. That was all it took for her. We discuss spelling errors as they come up. No more tears. No more, "I hate Spelling." I'm still hanging on to the Spelling Power book. It might come in handy in the future, but for now this really is working well.
The Curly-headed girl is studying Sign Language. I'm working on getting her not to "yell" with her hands. She tends to be emphatic in her movements, just like she is in her speech. She also has decided she needs to learn German, just in case. The Straight-haired girl is learning Latin, under a bit of protest. In her opinion, every Latin lesson should end with paper clips hot-glued to the backs of dollar store toys. And a crazy story line. She has decided Spanish should be her third language. The jury is still out on a curriculum for that and for German. I can't swing two separate Rosetta Stone packages. That just "ain't happening." I'm on the hunt for a cheap substitute, and am looking into this as a possibility.
There are other things we do: nature study, picture study, listening to music (mostly in the car - they're a captive audience), writing... The Curly-headed girl is convince that art every single day is essential to a good education. Who am I to crush her expectations on that regard? Of course, we don't do everything, everyday. I would like to retain what little sanity I have left. I might need it some day.