Here's part of my email letter to my friend... I'll add in a few pictures too!
You were talking about how difficult it is to work with your five year old when your 3 year old is playing. Goodness, I know how that is! My little one wants to be in the middle of things. It's slightly easier to involve her now that she's older. So, if I'm playing a math game with DD (5) then I'll let ED turn over the cards or spin the spinner, etc. and ask her to identify the numbers. (top picture)
Sometimes I just reach into the cabinet and bring out five activities and spread them around us hoping something will catch her attention (second picture). And sometimes, I wind up homeschooling with ED climbing on my back and head (no kidding!!). Ugh! So, it's often a challenge -- and I'm often left feeling that I haven't "done enough" quality work with DD (or LD). The other 'problem' is that the kids play so happily that it's hard to draw them back to what *I* want to accomplish.
Just now, for example, I was playing math games with DD. LD came in and wanted to play. Once the game was over that sparked an idea in their heads and they ran off to play robot wars with the glass bead math manipulatives we had been using. Sigh... what *I* wanted to do was have them finish some math-workbook time.
And ED? She is happily occupied, BUT is taking out thing after thing and creating a picnic with all the stuff. Just a half hour ago, the carpet was picked up and clean.
Writing -- DD has worked in some random store-bought workbooks for handwriting, but I haven't yet had her work regularly in Handwriting Without Tears. It didn't resonate with her -- and she preferred the preschool workbook I had picked up somewhere else. She is happy writing notes and letters to people on her own -- and I want to encourage that free form kind of writing. Every now and then I pull out a particular letter (a worksheet on the letter "n" for example) if I see her writing it improperly. But she doesn't do much in the way of formal writing lessons yet. I'm not going to start her on cursive at any point soon. I'll re-evaluate that in another 6 months or so.
I will probably start working with her on "All About Spelling" level one once LD is done with that book (he has one more lesson). I really, really love that program and would highly recommend it. LD has really come far with it (he is a very, very reluctant writer).
I have been using Write Source Skills Book grade one with LD to help him with his writing. I like it a lot and ordered another Grade One workbook for DD to start using. (I am using the skills book/workbook ($7.15) NOT the student book or teacher's edition.)
It talks about some basic rules of writing like
*starting a sentence with a capital letter
*leave a space between your words
*end each sentence with an end mark
*use complete thoughts (with a subject and verb)
*. ? !
contraction sort from Oceans of First Grade Fun, for example. The more hands-on I can make things for LD the better.
I just ordered First Language Lessons from Amazon and ordered Writing with Ease from the library by Susan Bauer after reading some wonderful reviews. I'll decide whether I want to incorporate them into our day/week.
**I'm adding in later -- I got Writing With Ease from the library and have read through and glanced through most of it. It emphasizes copywork and narration especially in the first years. I had LD do a lot of copywork in first grade, but I'm not sure I would do this again (exclusively) with my other children. It did not seem to help him much with getting the flow of writing words (if this makes sense) or learning to form words on his own. In my opinion, the skills he has taken from All About Spelling has served him MUCH better than all the work he did copying sentences. I *did* take some things from this book and may incorporate some aspects of her narration exercises, but for me personally I will not use Writing with Ease as a curriculum for writing.
**And also adding in a few days later that First Language Lessons arrived and I can see that'll work really well for our family. DD already memorized the first poem!
Let's see -- we obviously do our unit studies all together. The kids work on music separately (DD does the glockenspiel, LD does the piano). We have music classes with friends. I am hoping to re-start our German lessons together very soon. DD is particularly keen to learn that. I have some new books and really hope to incorporate that into our routine.
You were asking if I follow any "guidelines." That's a difficult question to answer. I am an eclectic homeschooler, so I really use lots and lots of sources. I regularly read and look through books like "What your Second Grader needs to know" or look through the Typical Course of Study for kindergarten or second grade -- -- but rarely use that when designing our curriculum. I just keep those kinds of things in the back of my mind.
Oh--and I also get a lot of advice and wisdom (not to mention printables) from various teacher's blogs out there -- such as Chalk Talk (kindergarten), What the Teacher Wants or Oceans of First Grade Fun. ( I have some of my other favorite teacher's blogs listed here--scroll down to the green section.)
For history I have just been gradually moving forward through time.
For science I spend a LOT of time looking at the Montessori 6-9 science general topics and look through the contents of various curriculums out there (Noeo Science- or Real Science 4 Kids). Our units often stem from the topics covered in these other curriculums, but more often than not, I pull things together myself. And I also ask the kids periodically what THEY want to study. When LD said he wants to learn plants, plants, plants, plants (!!)... I kept my ear to the ground and jumped on the Junior Master Gardener curriculum when I heard about that. But our lapbooks (like DD's lapbooks on penguins and sunflowers this semester) came from what she said she wanted to study.
By the way, by time I finished writing this email to my friend every cabinet door was open and DD had helped herself to board games, puzzles, math manipulatives, stickers and more. Creative mess. And -- self entertaining. Yes, embrace these traits, right?!!! And get them to happily help me clean up afterwards! :-)
My time is about up. I really enjoy hearing from others. knowing I'm not alone in the homeschooling adventure!! Please leave a comment if you have the time! Can't wait to hear from you.