A Homeschool Day

19 Mar

Since I know “fly on the wall” homeschooling posts are my most popular, I’ve prepared another for you.

I have to apologise in advance for the lack of ‘interesting’, ‘people-centred’ photos.  But I’ve discovered that I’m getting slack on the work-in-action photos.  Mostly because the boys tend to take their work off to their ‘office’ to complete it and also because I’m usually involved in all of the other work.  I promise to rectify this for my next ‘fly on the wall’ post.

But until then this post will have to suffice.

Monday:  18th March, 2013

The day started with Bible in the boys’ beds.  A morning routine.  I found a space on one of their beds and started reading aloud to them.  We’ve just started back at the beginning of the Bible again. In our reading I spotted yet another thing I had never noticed (reading the Bible out loud is a great exercise!).  We were reading about Noah after he’d come out of the ark and God was saying that from that point on the animals would be fearful of man.  So that must mean that the animals pre-flood were friendly like in the Garden of Eden.  I enjoy sharing these discoveries with my boys.

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We also read another couple of sections from “Who is God?”  This is a new book we’ve just started.  There’s a fair bit of controversy about this text.  The series supposedly contributed to Dr Jay Wile’s resignation at Apologia…or so I hear on the grapevine (you know how reliable that vine often is).  So I feel like a bit of a heretic using it, since I love Dr Jay texts so much and greatly admire his teaching.  But I’m the kind of person who never takes anything and just accepts it as truth…unless it’s the Bible of course.  If we stumble upon anything objectionable it will just lead to an interesting discussion and also teaches the boys to test everything against Scripture.  Interestingly enough the first chapters in “Who is God?” have been all about Truth – knowing where to find it.  In Monday’s reading we read about how our senses can’t always be relied upon to tell us the truth, and we looked at several optical illusions.  The boys really enjoyed these and even climbed out from under their covers to have a closer look at the images.

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Our third bedside read aloud item was our current Biblical-inspired novel, “The Ark, The Reed and The Fire-Cloud”.  This book has been sitting on my shelves for years now and it finally made it’s way to the head of the read-aloud queue.  The boys convinced me to read two chapters.  It’s hard to know if they really couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen or whether they just wanted to stay in bed longer.  But after two chapters we had to stop as growling stomachs were making it hard to hear the story.

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Finally we got to eat breakfast.  Toast for some and warm Hot Cross Buns for others.  We always eat breakfast together at the table.  We used to do a stack of memorisation tasks at this time but this year we’ve been enjoying a ‘chill’ time with brekkie, good company and a Seeds of Worship cd.  Plus these cds double as Bible memorisation.  (Highly, highly recommends these cds!)

After brekkie we do a few morning chores.  Quick stuff.  The boys put their dishes in the sink, do their teeth and tidy their room.  I usually hang out the washing, collect the mail, and tidy the kitchen.  If I can catch a boy or two, I get them to review their Geography before we sit down together to read.  Every morning the boys chant through the countries in two continents while pointing to each country as they go.  South America is the new continent we are working on so they do that every day at the moment.  They’ve already learned Europe and Asia so we just pick one of these and review it all week.  This week we’re reviewing Europe.  This only takes a few minutes.  We just chant and point.  Consistent practise and review is vital.

At the point in the morning we usually gather on the couch for reading aloud.  I never have the chase the boys to get them to join me for reading.  In fact, if they are trying to get out of doing school (they are human and children and little boys…so it’s to be expected) they will say, “We only want to do reading”.  Yep.  They love it that much.  They’ll even happily listen to read alouds on the weekends, evenings and holidays.  To them it’s not school.  But as soon as they have to pick up a pencil…well that’s school!  🙂

However, on Monday I didn’t start with reading aloud.  I started with our multiplication review.  Those pesky things are still slip-sliding in and out of the boys’ brains so we’ve returned to a trusted friend, “TimesTables the Fun Way” and flashcards.  Quick, simple and the boys’ enjoy the silly stories that help their facts get cemented into their brains.  This only takes a few minutes per boy.

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Then we read through a few more pages of “Grammar Island”.  We read about adverbs ‘modifying’ verbs.  Sounds tricky doesn’t it but when Michael Clay Thompson explains it you are guaranteed an ‘ah-ha’ moment.  We are loving this book so far.  We just read a little at a time, stopping to discuss things and delighting in the silly stories.  No pencils required.  So it doesn’t rate as “school” to my men.

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We’re reading about the Middle East for Geography this year in “A Child’s Geography: Volume 2”.  We’ve just finished reading about Turkey and last week we began reading about Israel.  So we continued on with the next Israeli section.  We don’t use the exercises in the text (Do I ever use any curriculum just as the author intended?!).  Instead, later in the week, we’ll create our travel journal pages.  We pretend that what we’ve read were actually things we saw on our ‘Middle Eastern holiday’ and we’ll add information beneath our ‘photos’.

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Next we read a glorious new picture book, “Joha Makes a Wish”.  I bought this to go with our Middle Eastern study but it was such a brilliant book that we had an impromptu literature discussion about it, using the skills I’ve gained from “Teaching the Classics”.  My boys are getting really good at identifying the climax of a story, building a story chart and identifying the theme or message the book wants to impart..  And it’s just nice to sit and discuss literature with my men.  This is what I imagined homeschooling to be.  And the good thing….still no pencils!

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Yes, all this reading aloud does take a good chunk of our morning but Andrew Pudewa says that the most important part of our school day is reading aloud and since it’s the most enjoyable part of the day as well, we don’t mind indulging a little…or a lot.

In History we’re learning about World War 1 so I read another story from this ‘delightful’ looking title.  It’s not as hideous as it looks.  Each story is about animals and their experiences during the war.  Yesterday we read about a pack of rats who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in France in The Somme.  The rats described life in the trenches as wet, noisy and incredibly dangerous.  Poor Rudolph the Rat lost a leg and part of his tail!  The horror of it.   The boys cuddle up extra close as I read these.  You can always tell when they absolutely love a story as they virtually climb on your head!!

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Our current History read aloud is “The Silver Donkey”.  (We don’t use a curriculum for History anymore as living books are soooo much better…that Charlotte Mason woman may have been onto something good).  If you are reading about the Wars you simple must get a copy of this book.  The language this book uses is superb. We sat and read three chapters as it’s just so beautiful to read, despite the nature of setting.

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Well that brings us to the end of our read aloud session for the day.  It might seem like a lot to some but it really isn’t.  There is so much value in reading aloud.  Can you believe that I added another novel to our repertoire today?  Yep, I did!

Before I send boys in different directions to work on their individual work schedules I quickly run through any short tasks or new teaching that is required.  On Monday I ran through both boys spelling tasks first.  Ethan does his spelling orally and Brayden writes his on the whiteboard. Often I can multitask and do both quizzes at the same.  But I didn’t on Monday as I had a phonic task I wanted Brayden to do while I did Ethan’s spelling.  I often juggle things this way, looking at what needs to be covered and how best to do it.

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With the quizzes done.  Ethan headed off to his ‘office’ to work on his writing piece.  He had to do a quick research task last week to answer a lack of knowledge we had on a topical issue.  The news is attempting to build fear in people in order to portray the seriousness of the Lyssavirus.  It’s working too!  However we were curious to know more so we wrote down some questions and Ethan’s researched the answers for us.  His task on Monday was to put his answers in a well structured paragraph and ‘dress up’ the paragraph.  I was very pleased with his final piece.  It also lead to a discussion.  I expressed my displeasure in the media’s fear mongering.  Ethan rebutted my opinion stating that the news can’t present all the facts and just needed to present the most important details at the time – in this case, “Stay away from bats”.  I was impressed with his observation.  But we to-ed and fro-ed a little and concluded that it’s up to the viewer to make sure they seek out all of the facts before forming an opinion.  Once again, another glimmer of my ideal homeschool environment.

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While Ethan was off writing his report, Brayden was working with me on dictation and reading aloud. He also completed a Singapore Math exercise on multiples.  Yes, Ethan still reads aloud as well but he now reads aloud to Daddy in the evenings.  His focus is more on writing during school hours.

By this point in the day we were starving.  You don’t want to know what the hour was…you probably do though, don’t you.  I hope you’re sitting down.  It was a little after 2pm.  Oh well.  Time is irrelevant in the homeschool if you don’t need to be anywhere at a certain time.

Anyway, we stopped for lunch.  I generally give the boys an hour to do with as they please.  On Monday they chose to watch their taped episode of Backyard Science, which was brilliant as I got to tick off Science for the day too!

One hour stretched to an hour and a half though as the boys were happily playing and I was busy reading the new issue of “Practical Homeschooling” which arrived in my letterbox that morning.  So we’ll call it a “Staff Meeting” or an “inservice” shall we?!  Hehehe.

Anyway, to finish off the day, we did some Math.  Both boys learned new skills…well really they were just extensions of old skills.  Ethan learned long division with two digit divisors and Brayden learned to multiply with two digit multipliers.  Each boy worked with me individually to learn the new skill.  I watched them do several examples and once I was confident they knew the procedure they headed to their desks and completed a page independently.  Since the concepts were new I wandered between the two boys (who had chosen totally different rooms to work in!) to watch their progress.  Daddy arrived home during this time and also sat with each boy to see what they were doing.  He played ‘dumb’ and wanted them to explain what they were doing, which of course they did.  Hubby doesn’t teach long division the way I do so it probably was double dutch to him.  But that’s okay because my eyes glaze over when he explain his way to me.  Eventually the page was completed…it went a lot slower than I had anticipated.  Perhaps because it was later in the day, perhaps because it was new ground or perhaps because of their aversion to anything to do with a pencil.

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To finish off the day the boys completed a few critical thinking tasks that have been sitting on my desks for weeks waiting to be finished.  The boys spied them earlier in the day and wanted to do them.  They enjoy these sorts of tasks, plus they were super easy ones.  Wait until I step up the pace!  Hehehe.

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By 4.30ish the boys were finally finished.  Yes, a late finished isn’t uncommon around here.  You see, we don’t like early starts.  The thought is hideous.

Both boys headed in different directions.  Ethan of course chose to do some computer programming on Scratch and Brayden pulled out his Star Wars figures and engaged in some sort of battle…a noisy battle.  That’s boys for you.

In the evening, however, a little more school was squeezed into our day…but in disguise.  After tea we sat as a family and watch the first episode of the Holy Lands’ “Drive Thru History” series.

After showers and before bed, Hubby put on his teacher hat, or is it just his Daddy hat, and read aloud a couple of chapters of “The Dolphins of Laurentem” (from the Roman Mysteries series they are reading together).  During their reading I heard them quizzing each other on Roman numerals.  They also shared with me a brief summary of the story (as I don’t usually listen in on their stories with Daddy) and suggested that perhaps Aria’s name was inspired by “Arion”.  We googled it though and Aria’s name is Hebrew and means “Lioness”

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After bedtime stories, Ethan read aloud to Hubby, and both boys were supposed to go to sleep.  But they are kids, specifically ‘our’ kids and nothing this side of midnight is an acceptable bedtime hour…which of course explains the late mornings.

So there you have it, our school day in full.   Nothing totally thrilling.  No spiffy art project, no dramatic Science experiment (still waiting on a full sunny day to do our next lesson!!) and nothing very hands on or thrilling at all.  Just a good solid school day.  Yes, we could have used a pencil a bit more, ah but that doesn’t worry me so much.  The boys are learning and progressing…and I couldn’t imagine a better way of doing it.



Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Homeschooling Days


11 responses to “A Homeschool Day

  1. Kathryn Coard

    March 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Love all the reading you do. I have progressed into doing more and more reading, it is how my 2 learn best.
    I was just wondering if you plan a schedule for your History books or do you just follow a subject of interest to them ? One more question, can you recommend a good book list for Living Books.?

  2. Tracey

    March 19, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I do sort of have a schedule. We’re studying History chronologically (sort of) and kind of following Well Trained Mind’s 4 year rotation thing…although we are totally out of sync because there are years when we take two years to cover a time period. But it doesn’t phase me. So this year we are studying the World Wars (and probably into next year as well). So I broke it down into main topic areas, which is easy for this period – WW1 and WW2, and making sure we cover the traditional Anzacs on the Turkey peninsula period. From there I just hunted down every children’s book on the topics that I could find. Once I had a nice big list, there were some that were easy choices, but the ones I didn’t know, I did google hunts on them to try and get an idea of what they were like and if we’d like them or not. I try to get a mix of novel, picture books and non-fiction. Not forgetting audio and dvd options as well. I’ve only bought the books for WW1 so far. The library has been much more helpful this time around. But I haven’t really relied on a book list. I’ve got the lists from SOTW, Truthquest, and All Through the Ages but I don’t follow any one in particular. I just take the titles from those lists and proceed with my google hunting. Generally you can always find some sort of review that will tell you about a book. And if not, then you have to take a gamble. I find Amazon pretty helpful with my book hunting. I always check their recommendations and follow lots of rabbit trails. So no I don’t have one main Living Books list. But then I don’t like following only one person’s suggestions either. How do I know if we’ll like the same books? If we’ll approve of the same thing. Or if the list has included all the fantastic new titles or whether most of the books on the list are now out of print. So, for us, the best way to determine if a book is living or not is to read it. If we start out reading it and hate it or find it inappropriate we just jump it. That’s only happened once and once we had to do a lot of ‘editing’ to make it through.
    So yes we have a History (loose) schedule, but at the same time we also follow subjects of interest. If after I’ve purchased our books, we find a topic that we’re particularly interested in I can always draw on my created list to find more books on that topic – because, of course, I have to pick and choose from my list as there’s only so many hours in a day. For example, after we read about the Christmas Truce in 1914 the boys were intrigued and so was I so I hunted down a few more books and squeezed them into the queue. We even found a dvd which was okay with a little “fast forward editing”.
    Gosh, we have books coming out of our ears. Audio books are great for us. I’ll often hunt down the audio of a book rather than reading it aloud as we can chomp through an awful lot of audio stories.
    I also find the boys adding their own book choices to my piles. At present I have a Star Wars book in my reading list. Thrilled about that. But I read it in hopes that he’ll make his own comparison between twaddle and great literature. Provided I can make it all the way through without gagging. 🙂

    • Kathryn Coard

      March 20, 2013 at 1:55 am

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. I have been struggling to find a spine we like, but this has given me the confidence to go just with Living Books. I guess the BOS are happy with a plan like this and not set curriculum .

      • Tracey

        March 20, 2013 at 2:14 am

        Well in my plans I just list the books we anticipate we might read, making sure to list non-fiction titles as well. Then I note down other things we do in addition to reading…keeping a timeline and responding to what we’ve learned as part of our writing lessons eg. the boys pretended to be soldiers and wrote letters home describing the war. If I can think of other ideas I note them down too, for instance, Brayden is determined to use salt dough to make a trench and no man’s land replica. Plus we plan to attend the Anzac Day services. So we do some of the curriuclumy types of things but we make up our own and we don’t do them every single week or even every day. I don’t feel the need to always be proving that we are learning. As long as we do something occasionally then I’m good. And for the HEU we only need one good sample. So hopefully we’re good there too. But no, I’ve had no problem getting this passed with the HEU. Don’t say you aren’t using a curriculum but rather that you are making up your own. 🙂

      • Kathryn Coard

        March 20, 2013 at 5:23 am


  3. Melda

    March 20, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Hi Tracey,
    Just read with interest that you are currently studying South American countries.
    My family are really into board games and I thought I’d mention a super series of games which indirectly teaches countries, oceans, seas etc – They are called ’10 Days in….’ and the ones we own are Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. They are really good, fun, strategy board games with the added bonus of learning all the countries, yay! I’ve sourced all of mine through and each has been well worth the approx $40. We then extended the learning by making flag cards to try to match to the countries on the game board. Just the process of making the flags taught us heaps. Fun, fun, fun!

    • Tracey

      March 22, 2013 at 6:26 am

      I’ll have to look into these further. I read about them on others’ blogs but haven’t looked at them closely.

  4. kerrie181

    March 22, 2013 at 5:38 am

    I am on the look out for the “best first real” bible for my boys, would you recomend the adventure one? Do you have a favourite kids bible?


    • Tracey

      March 22, 2013 at 6:25 am

      This is the only one I’ve really tried other than “Day by Day Kid’s Bible” by Tyndale. I wasn’t keen on that one. It’s too paraphased and simplified in their effort to make it an independent reading type bible for kids. The Adventure bible is just one I had on the shelves and find it slightly kidify but not so that it looked nothing like the real bible. I’m perfectly happy with the Adventure. But I can’t say it’s the best as I haven’t tried a whole pile of them.

  5. rebecca

    March 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Hi Tracey, did you get many MCT books? This looks like an interesting book. How do you tweak it/them as a part of the Language and Arts?

    • Tracey

      March 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      I got most of the first level of books but I’ve only started Grammar Island so far. At present the boys and I are just reading it aloud and discussing the concepts. We’ve done a far bit of grammar in the past with Rod and Staff grammar so this is presently a lovely review for us. We much prefer it over all the workbooky stuff out there.


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