It's July, and summer is in full swing. Without wanting to wish a single minute of this beautiful season away, my mind can't help but start to think ahead to the new school year.
I'm a planner. I love planning, and although we home educate all year around, a fresh start in September is something that is so deeply ingrained in me from having spent almost 30 years in mainstream schooling (first as a student, then as a teacher). However, experience has taught me time and time again that if I plan too much for the start of September, I feel disheartened and like a failure when we inevitably don't achieve it all. This year I am keeping things simple.
This is the first of five blog posts sharing our plans for the upcoming school year. Following this post on Language and Literacy, there will be a post on Math, Science and Nature Study, History and Geography, and lastly, Extra Curricular (all the other enriching activities that form part of our home education journey)...
Bean is newly 8 and she is what I would describe as a reluctant, beginner reader. She can read short words and simple sentences with relative ease, and is motivated to do so when the reading is meaningful to her (e.g. signs in the environment), but she rarely chooses to pick up a book with the intention of reading it.
Reading more than a few sentences is tiring and hard work for her, and quite frankly, she's got so much more going on in her life that she'd rather be getting on with. She loves books, but she'd much rather be read to and therefore able to get on with whatever else she is working on. I read aloud to her for roughly 2-3 hours per day. It is the biggest investment of my time in our home education journey.
Bean is articulate, with a great vocabulary, and a lively imagination, and I feel confident that she will learn to read when she is ready. Advocating for her right to learn to read when she is ready has been challenging for me, but I feel that I have found a place where I am comfortable at last.
This September, I am planning to continue to support Bean with learning to read through play, using Games for Reading: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Read by Penny Kaye. My plan is to slowly and gently work our way through the book, inviting Bean to join me in playing each game, allowing for rejection of those that she doesn't like and repetition of those that she does. This book is the only new resource that I have bought for language and literacy for this academic year.
Bean has access to quite a wide selection of early reading books, including the box set of Key Words With Peter and Jane which are her current favourite. I include a couple in our morning basket and invite her to read to me every day. Sometimes she is willing, other times she is not. Sometimes we read it together, taking turns to read each page.
In addition to mountains of picture books (poetry, fiction and non-fiction) we always have a chapter book on the go. This past school year we have read the first three Harry Potter books, but we're going to start the new school year with this set of chapter books, Magic Tree House Merlin Missions. If Bean likes these books, then we can reserve further books from the series from our library.
In contrast to reading, Bean LOVES writing. In all my years as an early years teacher, I have never come across a child so reluctant to read, but so passionate about writing! Having said that, in all my years as an early years teacher, I had yet to witness a child led approach to learning to read and write, so it's quite possible that many children would learn in this way if given the chance.
This past school year, we have been loosely following the Bravewriter: Jot it Down language arts program. We completed the Fairy Tales unit last autumn, the Mini Animal Book this past spring, and the Plan a Party unit earlier this summer. What we love about this program is that it fosters joy in writing through developing a 'Brave Writer Lifestyle', which is so much more than putting pencil to paper.
I've been tempted to invest in the complementary program 'The Wand', but my budget won't stretch to that right now, and I'm not convinced that Bean would have the concentration for it either. My plan for this academic year is to continue with the 'Jot it Down' program, working our way through some more of the projects, and allowing Bean the time to develop an interest in reading and writing at her own pace.
We use our Montessori Moveable Alphabet for copy work, but plan to begin writing short verses from I Am The Seed That Grew the Tree by Fiona Waters in a copy work book from September.
Bean has free access to a wide variety of special writing papers, including letter writing paper, envelopes, cards, notecards, sticky labels etc. She loves writing signs, and little notes and letters. For now, this is more than enough.
Bean has beautiful handwriting. She writes in print as opposed to cursive, although is beginning to experiment with a cursive signature!. She doesn't form all of her letters correctly, and often writes her letters back to front which I have discovered is extremely common in left handed children.
I don't have any specific plans for handwriting for this coming year, as I believe that the 'problems' she has with handwriting will resolve themselves with practice, and over time she will develop her own handwriting style. She has free access to a whiteboard with pens, a chalkboard with chalks and plenty of mark making tools and resources.
I still frequently offer activities that support the development of her fine motor skills, such as threading, pegging, play dough and clay, and opportunities for her to incorporate writing into her play, e.g. writing labels, signs and lists.
I hope you find this interesting and useful. Next week, I'll be sharing our plans for Math!
With love, Rowan x
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.