We’ve been doing homeschool for my fourth grader since October.
It’s so much fun!
Having a two year old next to a fourth grader means that sometimes we’re schooling in the hall, watching the baby take a two hour bath next to the open door. It means that sometimes, we have to send the fourth grader into a quiet room with a locked door because the two year old is tantruming and it’s hard to focus in that environment. It means that I rarely dust and barely get the groceries bought before we’re out of everything. Sometimes the laundry and other to-do lists sit for days. I haven’t perfected my systems. But in the midst of the imperfection, it feels like a kind of perfection.
My priorities are teaching my kids and enjoying our lives, before challenging the dust or laundry or almost anything else.
We learn a ton, have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.
A few weeks ago, we drove to Camp Floyd, a historic site in Utah, to learn about Utah history in the 1800s.
Another day, we went to the local Recreation center to play basketball.
We go to the library, often.
We went one day to the church quilting project, to make Christmas quilts for jail inmates. My son learned how to tie a quilt.
We are so free.
No set of Common Core standards. No dumb school assemblies. No asking strangers for their permission to spend time with my own child.
We are in charge of our schooling.
Every day, we read scriptures, writes a verse in cursive, and we talk about it. Some days it’s the Book of Mormon. Some days it’s the New Testament. Today we read the story of Daniel and his three friends who were kidnapped by King Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem and taken far from home, never to return. (I hadn’t remembered the full story. Did you know that Daniel and his friends were to be killed because they were considered wise men, and the king didn’t believe in his wise men anymore because nobody could tell him both what he’d dreamed and interpret the dream? So Daniel and his friends prayed and God revealed the king’s dream and also its interpretation to Daniel– a great, great miracle. It saved Daniel’s life, but more importantly, it taught the king that there is a God who does give power to human beings on conditions of faithfulness to Him.
We have been studying geography a lot (he now knows where the countries of Central and South America are, where the counties of Utah are, and is beginning on the Caribbean Islands.) There are fun and free online games for Geography students.
We have been studying history. He now knows all about the founding of our nation– the first five presidents in detail– and about early North and South American explorers– de Soto, Hudson, Erikson, Columbus, Magellan, Lewis & Clark, etc., and now we’re reading about 14th century Europe.
We read about the Bubonic plague, the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Vikings. I plan to make a giant timeline going all around his bedroom, where he can draw things he’s learned about through history.
Some days I make him diagram sentences, with verb, subject, preposition, direct object, adverbs, adjectives, articles, etc.
Some days I have him correct sentence errors– commas, capitalization, apostrophes, etc.
Some days he does an art project. Some days he takes great photos for his little photography portfolio.
Some days he does a science experiment or looks at things under his microscope and writes about them.
Some days I teach him how to spell a very difficult word and I test him on it later in the day.
Some days we read Swedish books and do Swedish vocabulary or Swedish grammar sheets that I write myself.
One day, we spent the whole day studying volcanoes. We watched some great YouTube clips about volcanoes. I liked the one from Bill Nye the Science Guy. We also read about them in books. We found them in science and in literature. And they were in our text, “What Your Fourth Grader Needs To Know.”
I let curiosity guide us. I don’t keep a tight leash on our curriculum, with two strict exceptions: every day, a chapter of Saxon math and every day, he has to write an essay.
His essays can be poems, journal entries, fiction stories, reports about what he’s been learning, letters to Santa or to a great aunt… he just has to write every day, about a page (a little less, or a lot more than a page, every day).
All the other subjects are covered, but not each day, and not for any set amount of time. Our curiosity determines what we study, with those two exceptions I noted.
Today, as usual, we did a chapter of Saxon math. I usually sit with him for the first half, and then set him to answer the 30 questions that are after each lesson. I usually put dots on a handful of the questions meaning “skip these” if I know he knows the review problems very, very well, so he can fly through. I am trying to keep it interesting and invigorating, not dreadfully heavy, so he’ll love to learn and love math. He’s going to be in the sixth grade book very soon.
Today we read in our Usborn science book (very colorful and thick book which I love) all about the periodic table (we just scanned it) and we talked about why there are groups in one row and periods in another row, and how cool the elements are and how interesting it is that these metals and nonmetals and semi-metals are in everything around us, even in our foods and in our bodies, and how they make jewels and everything on earth. We already knew in detail about the Halogens, but we’ll read about the elements and the rocks they are found in, next week.
We read a few more chapters in “The Hobbit” by Tolkien, today. He can’t get enough. I have to drag him away to do his writing or to eat lunch. When he finishes the book, I’ll take him to see the movie but he must promise to look away during the war scenes. He is only 9 and it’s a PG-13 movie which will certainly be more violent than I want to see, let alone allow a 9 year old to see. But we both love the story. It’s full of new vocabulary words for him (it’s way above a fourth grade reading level) and it enlivens his imagination. He reads it silently sometimes, and we read it together aloud, some times.
This week, we visited his grandfather, a retired Pan American Airlines captain, to have a lesson on how airplanes fly. Grandpa/Morfar also taught my son his math out of the Saxon math book, and taught him how to tie ropes (scouting) and next week, we’re going with Grandpa to a field trip to the swimming pool to learn how to dive, since Grandpa/Morfar used to teach swimming lessons years ago.
He’s also doing a project that his stepfather created for him. They bought supplies to do an experiment. My son has to do the experiment and then, using the receipt from Wal-Mart of the supply list, he has to figure out how much each “kit” costs and how much each part of the kit costs (100 paper clips for $1.37 for example) and then he gets to assess the materials (research and development).
He just finished writing a story. I guided the story by saying it had to be in cursive and it had to include two new vocabulary words: “aileron” and “frond” –but other than that, anything goes. He did a great job. He wrote a vivid adventure that involved an emergency landing of an airplane into a jungle that had mosquitoes the size of your head.
And during recess, he decided to create his own musical instrument. He used a rubber band, a toilet paper tube, a piece of paper, a screw, a paper clip, some tape and a pipe cleaner. It really works, too.
He is getting more and more creative; also wiser. He recognized and pointed out to me an analogy from “The Hobbit” that he saw which reminded him of common core education. Common Core was a goblin bent on making certain useful –but only useful and never beautiful– tools. I guess he was listening when I was ranting about Common Core architect David Coleman and his removal of narrative writing and classic literature from the common core, and I said that literature is for soaring, for beauty and joy, and not just for basic employability.
He read to me:
“... armed goblins were standing round him carrying the axes and bent swords that they use. Now goblins are cruel, wicked and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they can make many clever ones.”
- p. 62, The Hobbit.
What more can I say?