*In less than 20 days, we'll have our first official day of homeschool! Before the first on-record day, I plan to set aside the previous Friday for a little bit of an orientation in the classroom. Each subject comes with a pretty involved introduction, so instead of squeezing all of the more general, big-picture questions in that same day, I want to tackle that stuff the week before. This is just an outline of what I plan to cover about our daily schedule (part 2 covers expectations and junk) - although, realistically, I'll probably just talk, instead of printing this up and handing it to her. Then I thought, why not share this on my blog? It explains a good bit about our new adventure and quite frankly, I don't have time to come up with anything better. So enjoy! And feel free to tell me what you think.
Welcome to New Ridge Middle School!
That's right, we have a name. (Goofy, I know, but it's required. It's the first part of our city, the last part of our development. I know, I know, GENIUS.) You'll find over the course of this year, there's a lot about this homeschooling thing that isn't all that terribly different from what you're used to, right down to the awful name and early mornings. It won't be exactly the same - obviously, you won't be lining up for assemblies or eating tater tots in a cafeteria - but our day-to-day rundown should all seem pretty familiar. You'll still go on field trips, get to meet new people all the time, study for tests, participate in after school activities, and have a field day at the end of the year!
Today is kind of like orientation. Monday is our first official day of school, but before we get started, I want to introduce you to the classroom, to the materials we'll be using, to the schedule, and of course, to a few of the rules. I think it's important for us to talk about what I expect from you in the classroom and for you to have the opportunity to tell me what you're expecting to get out of 7th grade. There's a lot to cover and I know that you've got questions of your own, so let's get down to business!
Let's get started with your schedule. First, you have a weekly dry-erase planner posted above your desk. I'll write on this for you, so that each Monday, you start the week knowing exactly which subjects you have on which days, and in what order. It'll also tell you exactly which lesson, page, or project you're working on, on each day. You don't have to keep track of any of that yourself.
Also, the white leather tray to the left of your desk is where I'll put each of your printouts for the day. (Except your morning work binder, which is in the cubby.) Everything is already paper clipped by specific color within my filing cabinet under the day and subject it covers - but you don't need to worry about that. Just know that when it comes time for a certain subject, all you have to do is reach in the bottom compartment of that white tray and find the sheet(s) for that subject. When you're finished, lay in on the top tray.
The kids and I wake up earlier than you do, so the mornings will be for you to sleep in a little and for me to have some time with them before our day begins. You'll be waking up at 8:30, which is when you'll get dressed and eat. I do expect everyone out of their pajamas by this time. We can make exceptions as we get further into the school year, but for the purpose of keeping everyone sharp, I think it's important that we get in the habit early on of treating our school days as school days -- not an extension of summer vacation. At 9:00, we'll meet in the school room.
I made this part of the day easy on you. You have a binder of morning work, which you can work on independently while I set Matthew up on his Reading Eggs. You'll start with a quick ten minutes of typing practice (which is more fun than it sounds, especially as you start getting the hang of it, and includes a section of games). In your binder, located at the top right shelf of your cubby, you'll log the start and end times of your computer practice as well as the level you're at. Inside of your binder you'll find a section for cursive practice and a section for our Word of the Week sheets. I don't mind if you work on more than one cursive sheet, or play an extra level on the game portion of your typing program, so long as by about 9:30 all three parts of your morning work are complete. You tend to work fast and this part doesn't involve a lot of concentration, so again, this part should be very laid back. Feel free to listen to music as you work. Just remember that neatness counts for a lot in your morning work binder.
*A word on craftsmanship: Neatness will count this year. I want to talk about this for a second because your handwriting has become very stylized in the past few years - which I've always said is fine, so long as your letters are all still effortlessly decipherable. It isn't going to cut it when writing an essay to say that dotting your i's with a giant bubble is "your style". So when you're practicing your cursive or filling out a vocab sheet, remember that these serve as practice for less-stylized handwriting, too.
When I meet you back in the school room, we'll review your Word of the Week sheet and discuss it a little before copying it onto the board for the week. Then, we'll have our grammar lesson at the whiteboard. When the lesson is over, you'll go into the bottom slot of your white paper tray. This is where I'll put every assignment sheet for that day. You simply find the grammar packet (there will be 2-4 sheets a day), and start working. This work will be independent, but obviously, you can come to me at any time for help. I won't be giving you the answer, but briefly going over that part of the lesson again - so don't expect a quick hand-out of answers. You will be expected to use your noggin. When your work is complete, just place it in the top tray and let me know.
After grammar, we'll have a lesson on creative writing. Each lesson ends with a few creative exercises. This course actually comes with a workbook, though sometimes we'll do exercises on notebook paper to allow for more room. In the same section of our book-file as your workbook, you'll keep a notebook that will be used exclusively for this subject. It needs to be one of the thicker notebooks because this course will come with a number of essay assignments as well.
I have good news and bad news, here. The bad news is that you'll have a test everyday. The good news is that I'll be giving you the answers! This course is one of my favorites. It's unique, completely stress-free, and very quick. That said, I'm counting on it being one of the most influential of your classes this year. When you're finished with your creative writing assignments, you'll pull out your spelling response booklet. I'll say a word to you, use it in a sentence, and then say the word again. You'll try to spell it in your response booklet. After you've written it yourself, I'll spell the word. You then have the chance to correct it if it was wrong. The idea is that by a.) thinking about it, b.) hearing it spelled, c.) writing it yourself, and d.) seeing it spelled, you'll be committing it to memory through what is called a "multi-sensory" approach. As long as you pay attention enough to correct any misspellings, you should get an "A" every time. You'll also be gradually building off of smaller words that you learn throughout the coarse, so that by the end, you'll be spelling words like 'psychoanalysis' without even getting a headache!
Editing is easy, as it's mostly an exercise in practice. Once a week you'll do a sheet, which will require you to edit a short article.
Everyday you'll watch an animated lesson on your computer program, read a little from the chapter, and test your knowledge; first in a set of practice problems, then in a problem set, which will be recorded into the computer and graded automatically. You get immediate feedback on how well you did. If you didn't do so well, you can repeat the lesson as many times as you need or I can come in to explain it to you on the board. I've taken all of the quizzes myself so you can be confident that I know what each lesson covers and how to help you find the answers required. Students your age rated this the most fun math class they'd ever taken. And to make it more fun, I've compiled a list of math labs we'll be adding to the curriculum, which are just hands-on games and activities that we get to do together so that you're not always stuck at a computer. We'll run into a math test about once (occasionally twice) a month.
Mondays, we'll have a lesson in Physics. Throughout my spiel, we'll cover vocabulary (which we'll be writing on one of our chalkboards to keep up for the rest of the week), and when it's over, you'll do a "Review It" sheet. I'm excited about getting into note taking with you this year, which I'll go into more detail about later. For now, just know that you'll be taking notes as I'm speaking; jotting down anything that YOU THINK will help you to remember at a glance what I taught you about. You'll use these to study from later. Note-taking is the only activity in which you WILL NOT concern yourself with neatness. You'll be writing as I'm talking, so (although I'll go easy on you at first) you need to write fast and decipher quickly what's important to note. On Friday, we'll do our activities, experiments, or projects, and you'll answer a few "Think About It" questions. Then, every few lessons/weeks, we'll have a test on that unit.
(*Note that we'll be taking pictures of our larger experiments and projects for your middle school portfolio. Just a heads up, in case you wanna wash your hair that day!)
This is something you're familiar with from school last year, and I remember you saying that it wasn't one of your favorites. It is important though, so we're going to cover it again. We'll just chip away at this one a little everyday, focusing on the parts with which you could maybe use a little extra help. It's important to me that you not ever be bored, but because I loved this part of science in 7th grade, I'm confident that we can think of ways to make it fun.
We'll generally start the week by reviewing the previous lesson's note cards. (More on that later.) Then, we'll take a pretest (don't worry, no grades!) - which should just help to pique your curiosity about the upcoming lesson, and help me to determine at the end what you've gained from it. On Tuesday, we'll get into the lesson. There will a combination of reading from the text and just listening to me talk for a while. I want to incorporate other media into this as well, so we'll watch movies and video clips from time to time, go on pretty regular field trips, include art projects, and venture out to the library often. On either that same day or the next, depending on how much time it requires, we'll do an activity. Some of them, like I said, will be art projects; others may require some research. It's a mixed bag. But there will be an element of fun and a ton of great experience in everything we do; that, I promise! The next day, we'll record what we've learned on "memory cards", from which we'll later use to study. Memory cards will be kept in a special 2 ring binder throughout the school year. We'll also add objects or figures from that week's lesson to our timeline (again, this will make more sense on Monday when we get into the specifics of each subject), and work on your mapping. Then, we'll wrap it all up with a periodic quiz.
Your logic assignments will probably happen at the end of the day because I like the idea of involving Daddy or maybe even some of your friends. They consist of The Fallacy Detective and your Anti-Virus board game. The Fallacy Detective comes in the form of a very quick, once-a-week lesson, but can be fun to discuss if more people are involved. (This may just be a cool over-dinner thing to do sometimes.) Anti-Virus is that game Matthew's been eye-balling since your curriculum came in the mail, and we'll be playing that one twice a week. Whenever you want to just kind of get it out of the way, you can play it on your own because there is a 1 player option. But, like I said, I think it would be a fun way to maybe involve Daddy a little, too.
*A note about lunch:
Okay, obviously, lunch is going to happen in the middle of the day - not the end - but it's tough to say exactly when because I don't have us on an hour-to-hour schedule. I did that because I want you to feel free to work (more or less) at your own pace. If dividing fractions is trickier for you than we expected it to be, we'll work on it until you understand. Or, we'll pack the kids up and go for a walk to clear our heads. So instead of having a specific time for each part of our day to start, we'll just follow a sequence. Math will come before science, which will come before history, and so on... so that we can take precisely as little or as much time for each subject as we need.
Our goal is to finish each subject by the end of the day, but even that can be changed if it has to. Obviously, you won't be meeting your friends at the mall on Friday if we haven't finished all of your assignments for the week, but lunch will happen when there's time.
Also, when we DO take our lunch, we'll be having 'recess' afterward. I know what you're thinking: you're in seventh grade!, but Matthew and Scarlett are not, and honestly, some fresh air to break up the school day will do you as much good as it will them. While the weather's still nice we're going to take a walk to the park, or the trail nearby. When it starts getting chillier, we'll drive to the park, and on really cold January days, we'll just go out into the yard for a while or hit up an indoor play space like Hullabaloo or the mall.
Part 2 is where I go into expectations and explain a little bit about how homeschooling works compared to what she's familiar with from public school, including her out-of-the-house activities. I expect there to be a lot of dialogue here as she asks questions of her own, and I want to have answers ready for her so I haven't finished typing that up. I'd like to say that I'll post it tomorrow but... well, that's becoming a joke.
But, hey! Guess who has a freakin' facebook now? Look me up, yo. I joined an awesome homeschooling group in Delaware on there and everything, so when things get slow here, you can see what we're up to by friend-ing me there. I hope ya do. :-)