Jonas will be five next month, and we are easing our way into school this year. I’ve started a light and loose schedule this month that we will carry through the summer. This is basically what it looks like:
At breakfast we read a chapter from their Bible. This spring I bought a much needed new children’s Bible called Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade. I HIGHLY recommend it. It far surpasses any other children’s Bible I’ve seen. (Not that I have seen them all, but this is really good). She makes God’s character and his plan for His people the focus of each story. It is a good book for kids as old as (I would guess) fourth or fifth grade. The language is not too simplistic. There are sophisticated concepts woven in. There are discussion questions at the end of each 3 page chapter. I don’t usually do the discussion questions with my kids, as they are often over their heads at this point. I love that we will be able to use this for many years since there is the opportunity to go much deeper than we currently are.
After that, we do a character study type book. Right now we are doing God’s Wisdom For Little Boys and God’s Wisdom For Little Girls. Each page has a character trait with a little rhyme and a verse from Proverbs. We read one a day from each book. The kids like them. They’re pretty simplistic, but it is a good starting place to discuss issues of character.
Then we do catechism questions. I got off of doing this for quite some time. I don’t know why, as Jonas has always loved answering the questions. I am pleased to see that even little Bridget is picking up on the answers. She knows four of five of them right now.
We pray, then the kids have time to play while I clean up the kitchen and get started on some other tasks.
Weather permitting, we head outside for a few hours. Usually the kids just play in the yard while I tackle the never ending weed problem or read or write on a blanket under the tree. The kids and I have enjoyed a few picnic lunches in the yard in the last couple weeks. What is it about eating outside? It’s lovely. Sometimes we walk to the park, and I would like to start taking regular nature walks at the various parks and nature centers in our area.
At or after lunch we do some read alouds. We read a lot of picture books. Some of the current favorites are Make Way For Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Fly High Fly Low, Miss Rumphius, The Little Island, and Ferdinand. The kids have also been really into the Let’s Read and Find Out Science books. We have a couple from the library, and they are especially fond of A Nest Full Of Eggs. These are really educational and well written. I’ve learned from them too.
We try to incorporate singing our Sunday School hymn of the month into our bedtime routine. We don’t do it every night, but a few times a week. I think it is important for the kids to gain a background in the great hymns of the faith.
A few days a week are themed, and I haven’t been too consistent with getting into a weekly groove with these yet, but I hope to in June.
Monday is Music Monday. This summer I am teaching Jonas about the orchestra with the book The Story of The Orchestra. This book is really geared toward older kids – maybe 2nd to 5th grade, but Jonas is rather precocious, so he is able to understand it and enjoy it. The pages are colorful and full of pictures, diagrams and lots of tidbits of information. It comes with a CD that has musical examples that correspond to various pages. I thought that teaching him about the instruments and how they work together was a good place to start before going on to study specific composers. I have also introduced the kids to Bernstein’s Children’s Classics which contains Peter and the Wolf, The Carnival of the Animals, and The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. I put this on occasionally while the children are drawing or painting. I find that Jonas really tunes into the music and story while he is working. He’ll ask me questions sometimes, and it surprises me that he is paying that much attention doing two things at once. Another thing that I want to start doing on a regular basis is playing classical music at dinner. Once we start studying specific composers, we can listen to his work during the dinner hour.
Wednesday is (supposed to be) Nature Walk Wednesday. I haven’t made this happen yet. I think it is important to get them out in nature, exploring and observing. I bought a copy of Fun With Nature Take Along Guide. We haven’t started using it yet, so I can’t comment on it, but from what I saw flipping through it, it looks like it will be fun and useful.
And Friday is Fine Art Friday where we learn about a painter or do a picture study of one of his works. We are learning about Norman Rockwell right now. For younger children, I highly recommend books by Mike Venezia. He writes about artists, musicians and other figures in a really interesting and informative way.
I am not doing academics this summer, and I don’t intend to get too heavy into it this school year, though we will start math and reading since he is more than ready. I want the focus to remain on instilling our faith in the kids, character development and developing in them a love for beauty and noble thought, which I think is best done through exposing them to God’s creation, the arts and great literature. With that as the foundation, I believe their love for learning will flourish and we will just ease our way into the more bookish aspects of schooling.