Friday, September 21, 2012

Update on "Cantering the Country"

Incredibly, we are finishing up our third week of homeschooling today. It sounds old, but time really does fly. 

This year, I have four students that I actively work with every day: Solomon (7th grade), Isaac (5th), John (3rd), and Miriam (1st). Becky is repeating Kindergarten this year because although she is ready for 1st grade work academically, she lacks the necessary attention span to keep pace with Miriam, and also does not have the motor skills to write well. At any rate, she's only 3!! (soon 4) I work with her for a few minutes each day until she loses interest, at which point she goes off to play with Anna. Their favorite game is to pretend going shopping in my rather extensive and well-stocked pantry (NOT my favorite game for them to play, in case you were wondering).

 Miriam and Becky pretending to go on a road trip with their "fifteen kids in the back seat of a Hyundai Sonata". Not sure why they are both asleep at the wheel.

Each of the oldest four is on their own level for Math and English (which encompasses reading/composition, spelling, grammar, and handwriting). For all other subjects, we continue to work as a family. This is our fourth year of doing so, and I must say, I still LOVE it. 



In the past, we first went "Galloping the Globe" country by country. Once we finished, we started "Cantering the Country" state by state. We would take two to three weeks per country/state, allowing us ample time to study in-depth about the geography, history, important figures, animals, etc. of each place we "visited."



This year, we have stepped the pace up a bit by only allotting one week for each of the remaining states, which will allow us to finish up completely by the end of this school year. We have, so far, "been to" Kentucky, as well as North and South Carolina. Some of the subjects we have covered are: Mammoth Cave, caves in general (including reading a real-life, gripping account of a boy trapped in an old gold mine for nearly a week), bats, thoroughbreds, Fort Knox, Corvettes (John LOVED this), Cumberland Gap/Falls, reading about moonbows, Daniel Boone, the Wright brothers, first flight, planes in general (including making paper airplanes), Cherokee, Sequoyah, turtles, horseshoe crabs, Fort Sumter, thunderstorms, lightning, and other stuff I can not remember now.

Of course, we had to make a copycat version of KFC when we were learning about Kentucky. It was pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself. Colonel Sanders has nothing on me!
 


The only downside of sorts is that I spend about one to two hours per state researching what topics to cover, and then finding the relevant books on those subjects in the online library catalog. On average, we get 20-30 books per week on any given state. Some are short picture books for the little ones' story time, others are more advanced biographies for the older kids.

Once I have my list of books, it then takes upwards of an hour at the library to find and pull all the books. Usually, I have all the kids with me, and since the youngest don't just want to sit in the stroller waiting the entire time, I often leave them in the play area, with the older boys supervising them while reading. Not an ideal situation, obviously.

I am trying something new this year: Instead of pulling selected books off the shelves at the library, I am putting them all on hold. As in, one of the librarians will find the books for me, and place them on the pick-up shelf by the check-out counters. With lots of kids, I cannot tell you how much time and trouble this has already saved me! Plus, I can work on the library website at night when the kids are sleeping, instead of trying to keep my eyes in all directions so as to not lose any of the kids. When the time comes to go pick up the books, I often just drop one or two of the boys off at the front door, and they pick the books up for me - no need to unload the whole van. As it turns out, the library catalog lets me put up to 20 books per patron on hold. Just me and the kids make up 8 patrons, more than we would ever need at one time.

Our school week includes six days because one day each week between Monday and Saturday is dedicated to a field trip

Many, many thanks again to all of you who have sent us postcards from all parts of the US and the rest of the world. When we learn about those places, we re-read the cards, and study any other materials you may have sent along. Mindy, your binder was a hit all over again a couple of weeks ago when we were in Kentucky. It is truly amazing - thank you again!

Sadly, the map in my side bar is terribly outdated, and I apologize if you have sent a card and it has not yet received its own pin. Either I am using the Google maps wrong, or it is just a royal pain to add new pins in the respective locations. Still, no excuse. I am so sorry! The kids want to especially thank the gentleman who mailed them a silver certificate a couple of months ago. One of these nights, I will just bite the bullet and wrestle with the map until all the pins are in place.

Besides what I teach the children, the oldest four are also signed up with a local homeschool P.E. group. There are about 40 kids total, and a real, full-time coach (as opposed to a SAHM with my level of fitness... haha!). The oldest two boys are probably going to start their piano lessons again next month, if Stephen is willing to cooperate. We stopped lessons for summer break, and have not resumed because he still hates riding in his car seat, and the teacher lives 20 minutes from here. My husband continues to teach the kids all sorts of other instruments, and generally likes to wreak havoc on our perfectly scheduled school days when he is home.

Our only project left for this week is making peach cobbler in honor of South Carolina. Next stop: Tennessee.

19 comments:

  1. Just being curious, have you learned anything about Belgium? I'm from Belgium, and it's not usually a famous country.

    Congratulations for this wonderful organization anyway !

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    1. No,we did not study Belgium. I kind of threw it in as an afterthought to France: "Yeah, and Belgium and Luxembourg are two tiny countries right between France and the Netherlands" - sorry, no offense! With about 200 countries in the world, we only covered about 50 of them.

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  2. Alas my son is now out of high school, but reading of your homeschool adventures gives me the longing to do it all over again :) I must say that although I had one child to educate and you have many, I never found myself quite as organized with it as you are. I know it takes a lot of organization and prioritizing on your part and though you make it look easy, that it is not...you are truly blessed. Your family "stories" and your husbands preaching have been quite the blessing to my family and we appreciate your willingness to live for the Lord and let your light shine to the world. Though we attend an IFB church here in Kentucky, we have found that it is quite lax and we love listening to your husbands sermons online throughout the week. A good pricking every so often is a good thing to keep one on their toes and living for Christ. May God continue to bless your family :)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you are enjoying the sermons all the way in Kentucky!!

      Being organized does not come natural to me. As my number of kids in different grades increases slowly, I find the need to become more and more regimented. A couple of years ago, I would have thought nothing of taking an entire week off for unexpected company. Now? I can't do that any more. It would just take too much to derail the homeschool train like that, and then have to dig our way back out. Even my weekdays now are very scheduled, as far as certain chores and errands being set aside for certain days. The only person unaffected by all this scheduling is the baby, but I have found they fall into a really nice pattern on their own very quickly.

      May God bless you and yours, also! :)

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    2. Gina - whereabouts in Kentucky are you? There is a wonderful church in Danville (Bluegrass Pike Baptist) you should check out if you're ever in the area.

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    3. Danville is a little far out for us right now as our car is gimping from point A to point B....we don't dare take her further than say 5 miles from home. We are at Tabernacle Baptist in Nicholasville now. Nothing wrong with it, we just prefer a harder hitting message :) Thank you for bringing Bluegrass Pike to our attention :)

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  3. Awesome. Sounds like so much fun... Have fun "in" TN!

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    1. Thank you! I'm just looking forward to that pumpkin pie when we get to the end of it... :)

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  4. Have you done Georgia yet? We are from Georgia and my husband is super into state history so I may have some cool info if you want:)

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  5. The library hold option is awesome! The library that is just a mile away from me is so small and barely has anything so at night I reserve them from all over the bigger ones in the county and then I get an email as they arrive for me to pick them up my little local library. I wait until they are all in and just pop in to pick up. I read somewhere where a person was advocating to stop funding these public schools that don't work anyways and invest in libraries...like providing all kinds of musical instruments you can rent for free, passes to museums and more. Ours does give you a family of four pass to the zoo if you check out a DVD on the zoo. I wish there was more like that. That chicken looks amazing btw!

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    1. Our library is HUGE, in fact, a few years ago they said that since the remodel, they were now the largest children's library in the entire country! It's rare that they don't have what we are looking for.

      A couple of years ago, tired of having to collect so many books, I asked the librarian if I could just put them on hold. Horrified, she told me I couldn't, because we always get so many books. This year, I decided to try it anyway, and so far it has worked well. We'll see if they change their "hold" rules because of me :/

      The libraries in our area all give out a small number of passes each day to local museums, the zoo, etc. but the rules changed this year, to where we are limited to one pass per family, as opposed to one pass per patron, during the same time period. Since one pass is only good for 2-4 admissions, that doesn't get us anywhere, and we have not used the passes any more.

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  6. Our church has a library in a small room, which makes it easier for me. The kids just go in and fill out the cards for themselves and leave them in the card basket (my older ones will even check out books for the little ones). While I try to somewhat oversee, they can handle it without me. And most all the screening work is done for me. I have no idea what is in books at the public library and I screen books the kids are interested in. Some that look harmless include bad attitudes or sarcasm toward adults among who knows what other kinds of grooming for rebellion, socialist, new age, and other ideas that they do write into books of all sorts. Call me paranoid, but I don't have time to screen the larger books the older ones read, so we rarely get library books unless I know the author's background and point of view. Instead, each year around Christmas I add to our family library of wholesome, Christian books that include Biblical truth and character in the storyline. However, the church library really helps us have more variety without me spending a fortune for more books or having to research every author at the public library to make sure they aren't pushing any weird agendas to my kids. But I still keep a watchful eye on books from the church...so far, so good. But you never know what may slip through. I trust the lady's judgment that is in charge, but some books get donated by church members, and she can't read them all. I know I sound like an extreme weirdo to some, especially those who think kids have an actual RIGHT to be exposed to whatever insanity authors push...in the name of literature! I'm not saying there aren't good books in the pub. library, but it makes me tired just thinking about trying to find them. That's why this idea of using library hold is genius... With this strategy we'd be able to use the library more, since I'd be securing books we targeted rather than browsing and hoping we find something decent. Thank You!

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  7. I know this is totally unrelated but, I have been having a problem with some really rude people commenting my blog. I am not sure how to delete or block comments, could you tell me?

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  8. Thanks for this article, Zsuzsanna! I got tons of great ideas!!!

    And I agree with Jen - one has to be really careful about children's books. Even books for small children often have rude or disrespectful language and behavior modeled, and I've learned that kids copy those things very quickly. I don't want to be bringing books home that teach bad things so that I have more things to discipline for or that cause problems in our home! You would think that children's authors would be more attuned to the influence that they wield for good or ill over children's minds, and not be teaching bad manners and bad attitudes. It's unfortunate.

    Have a great weekend! :)

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  9. Have you guys "visited" Alaska yet in your studies?

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  10. Peach Cobbler would fit better with Georgia, the Peach State! For SC, BBQ would be a better fit and plenty of sweet tea.

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  11. If you haven't hit PA yet look into Centrailia. It's a town that has a coal fire burning underground. Most of the houses are gone, and only a few people live there. On Hulu you can watch the video "The Town That Was" It was done by someone who still lives in Centrailia. 61 had to be changed because the road was getting all crcked, and caving in.... And there's smoke coming up out of the ground in some places!! Wouldn't be a bad idea to look up some old, and new pictures. However that video is AWESOME! Centrailia i think also contains the largest amount of Anthracite coal.... It just can't be mined because of the fire.

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  12. I want to use cantering the country next year , it sounds like Riley would love it . Dawn.

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  13. What reading/writing program do you use for K and 1st? My daughter just turned 5 the end of Fall and is reading and writing quite well (language has always been her strong point) and understands the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. We're working on understanding the decimal system right now with beads. Also, do you or anyone reading this know of a test to figure out which grade level a very young student is on? Thanks, Marissa

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