For some, July may seem early for school preparations, but I think for most homeschool parents July is bustling with activity. We just returned from visiting family over the Independence Day holiday, and now it seems like the rest of the month will be driving us onward towards that first day of school.
Of course, we have many “first days” of school on our calendar.
My New Job
First up, I have my own first day near the end of July. I’ve accepted a part-time teaching job at a local private school where I will be teaching geometry to 10th graders. I have to say I’m very excited to begin. After years of teaching basic arithmetic at home with my own children, it will be nice to stretch those higher math muscles. I loved geometry in high school, so I’m hoping to inspire some of that love to my 12 private school students. I’m, of course, totally geeking out about it by reading Euclid and playing around on Khan Academy. From what I’ve previewed so far, I’m really digging Blue Pelican Math, the (free!) high school math resource I’ll be using.
Our First Day of AO
After my own first day, the kids and I will have our own first day of homeschool the first Monday of August. We like to start early so that we’re on the homestretch by the time the weather gets nice in late spring. I find it’s also nice to get a solid start on our core curriculum (Ambleside Online) before we start adding in outside activities. And, because we have outside activities and scheduled breaks, a year of AO takes us about 42 weeks on the calendar to complete. So, starting in early August ensures that we will have 10 weeks off in the summer.
Public School Gifted Program
This year we are trying something new. Two weeks into our homeschool year, our middle son, L6, will begin attending a once-weekly school day with our local public school’s gifted program. It’s a whole day each week that I won’t have him at home working on AO Year 2, which makes me a little nervous, but I *think* he’s going to benefit from the experience of getting to know some like-minded peers, and I think I’m going to benefit from some of the resources the school provides to parents of gifted (or “asynchronous,” as is the more accurate term) children. Even though A9 did not score high enough on the school’s screening test, he definitely exhibits some of the same challenges that asynchronous learners have. Our best guess is that A9 would score much higher on a genuine IQ test that takes into account creative giftedness as well as the more traditional logic-based giftedness. Regardless, some resources for me are going to be much-appreciated!
Local School Co-Op
Once we have have four weeks of AO under our belt, our school co-op will begin (after Labor Day). It’s not a CM co-op, but there are many CM elements that influence it. I like that my kids get to expand their group of friends — I famously say that since we have all boys at home we benefit from knowing girls at co-op.
J4 is super excited to be in the pre-K class, which is taught by the beloved Ms. Jenny (L6 still reminisces about being in Ms. Jenny’s class), and not having to take a nap this year. The pre-k class also gets to have fun with Quirkles science experiments, P.E., a Bible class, and lots of time on the playground.
L6 is moving up to the first grade class where he will enjoy art, music (including an option to be in a school musical), P.E., history (famous Americans), and science (this year is land animals). L6 really enjoys being in the classroom — he tends to appreciate predictability and orderliness — so I hope two days a week of classroom time suits him.
A9 will be in the fourth grade class where, like his brothers, he will be with a group of kids he’s known for years (and some new kids, too). The kids they go to co-op with invariably come over for playdates, go in with us on group tickets to theatre productions, take field trips with us, and end up on the same sports teams as us. It’s really fun to see my kids grow up with a stable peer group (and for me to know those kids’ parents). The fourth grade class will focus intently on our state’s history and finish the year with a field trip to the state capitol. They will also enjoy P.E., science (land animals), art, and music (with the same option to try out for the school musical).
Co-op is also an outlet for me as well. My first homeschool friends were made at our co-op, and most of what I know that’s going on in our local homeschool community comes from being at our weekly co-op. I also really enjoy teaching and assisting in the weekly classes. This year, instead of teaching high school IEW writing as I have done in the past, I am teaching a half semester of creative writing and another of American literature. I’m super pumped to read through some Mark Twain (one of my favorite authors) with 12-or-so kids that are just inches away from heading off to college (or the mission field or other avenues). It’s been a fun summer planning and pre-reading for those classes.
Speaking of pre-reading, I’ve taken the summer to finish up some books I’ve been chipping away at for a while now. Yesterday I finished Mark Twain’s Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc, which I had been savoring for more than a year. It was time to lay Joan to rest, even though I loved having that book on my nightstand. I also finished Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I’ve been reading along with the CiRCE Institute’s Close Reads podcast, but I wanted to read ahead so I can focus on reading for school for a while but still enjoy listening to the shows.
Now I’ve moved on to pre-reading some of A9’s Year 4 books. I’ve been advised that Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley is one of the more difficult books scheduled, so I definitely wanted to get a jump on that one. I’ll be taking full advantage of the study guide provided on the AO web site as well as advice on the AO Forum for that book. It’s not impossible, by any means, but I want my student to get the most out of it as he can. It’s supposed to be a perspective-altering kind of book, one that sticks with a person for a lifetime. Just from reading the preface last night, I can see that happening already. I’ll also be pre-reading some of the other “challenge books” for Year 4, including Abigal Addams and Poor Richard.
As always, I have to take into account in my school planning all the activities the kids want to do. A9 is anxious to resume his weekly archery class, and all three boys enjoy a weekly (indoor) swimming class throughout the school year. Those will probably all start back up in September. Thankfully, this year we don’t have to squeeze in an outside music class. A9 has decided to focus on learning piano (which he does here at home from me, for now), and L6 will begin a more structured piano instruction from me as well. Someday A9 will outpace me, and we hope that perhaps L6 will have the drive and precision for a string instrument like the violin, which I cannot teach.
A9 has traditionally played winter basketball with a local Upward program, and L6 and J4 are likely going to join in the fun this year. A9 has also announced that he would like to do more off-season baseball training, so if we can afford the investment (time and money), we will be hitting the batting cages and perhaps a winter workshop.
Dear Husband’s Education
And, to top it all off, DH is planning to pursue a Master’s degree starting in January. He’s got the skills, but we’re finding he needs the credentials and some specialization to go with them. He’s such a life-long learner that I know he’s going to love going back to school, but that also means he’s probably going to be less available to help read lessons with the kids. Here’s hoping that Year 4 proves to be a more independent year for A9. We definitely saw a move towards that near the end of Year 3, so I have high hopes!
Making the Most of July
I’m sure I’m not the only parent out there feeling like July is the last stand before the onslaught of schedules, checklists, and the resuming of strict bedtimes. Even though I’ve mentally switched over into school mode, I’m trying to let my kids focus on making four more weeks of summer memories. No need to alarm them until August!
Until next week (or so).
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audio book)
- The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
- Matilda by Roald Dahl (Family read aloud)
- Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (AO free read with L6)
Moderately challenging books:
- Euclid’s Elements
- The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (for my co-op class)
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (for my co-op class)
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Karen Glass
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in conjunction with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study (for my CM study group)