It is the first week of the second term. After a very busy two weeks' "holiday", which included a climbing trip away, work for the kids' climbing club, a visit from one of my lovely nieces and none of the gardening I had planned, I am enjoying getting back into our "school" routine. It's been raining all week, one of those weeks when I truly appreciate the homeschool lifestyle: it's so much nicer to be snuggled up on the couch reading together than having to go out to school and to work.
We are continuing much as before. Tessa found the quantity of independent reading she was doing in the first term onerous so she is rejoining Josiah and me for history work rather than continuing on her own, and may do the same for language.
I suspect I am clinging to my language plan in the face of evidence that it is not working well for Tessa. We are reading through R L Trask's Penguin Guide to Punctuation, an outstanding resource. The explanations are clear and detailed, with lots of examples throughout. But Tessa wants to be doing. She would rather do punctuation activities than read about punctuation. I have been creating a language worksheet for the kids every week to enable them to practice what we have read about, but Tessa is unimpressed. I've had another look at the Montessori Research and Development Punctuation manual and will make use of some of those activities but they only cover a few uses of punctuation. Over the holidays, I purchased Rod and Staff's Grade 6 English textbook, Progressing with Courage from the Building Christian English Series, which is recommended in The Well-Trained Mind. It looks good. Maybe I should give Tessa the choice to finish the Penguin Guide to Punctuation now and then move on to Progressing with Courage, or leave the Penguin Guide to Punctuation till she is older and start on Progressing with Courage immediately.
The indoor climbing competition season is just getting underway and will keep us very busy for the next two terms, attending out-of-town competitions, helping to run a competition at our home gym, and the kids training hard. I have never yet succeeded in keeping basic routines going when life gets really busy or when I get sick. I have this hope that Josiah and Tessa will carry on tidying their bedrooms and doing their daily chores when I don't manage to check up on them. But sadly they are happy to suspend normal practice at the first hint that I am doing so. I am trying to simplify my expectations of the kids so that even in busy times it will be easy for me to ensure that the basics get done. I don't mean that I am cutting back on my expectations, just that I am organising them differently to make them easier to check:
- Morning routine: tidy bedroom (not entirely - just check for clothes, dishes and rubbish); clear the work table in the living room. Must be done by 11am.
- Chores and whiteboard. Must be done by 9pm. The whiteboard is stuck on our fridge and is where I note any extra tasks the kids need to do, e.g. if I notice they have left something outside, rather than interrupt whatever they are doing to insist it be dealth with right away, I just write it on the whiteboard.
- Weekly task list of independent school work. I need to work out an appropriate deadline for this and negotiate the consequences of failing to meet the deadline. Some weekends, Josiah has still had half his independent work to do and has only done it at all because I've nagged him all weekend. The last week of term, neither Josiah nor Tessa did all their independent work.
Another expectation we have of Josiah and Tessa is that they leave the kitchen and dining table clean after they make themselves a snack. Sometimes they clean up without being reminded but often they wander off leaving a mess or do half the job. It's a hard one to police because often I don't notice the mess till a considerable period after the event, and often there is conflict about who is responsible. It's impressive how strenuously each will deny the possibility that they could be responsible for crumbs or spilt milk on the kitchen bench.