A Gentle Feast: Cycle 1 Term 1 & 2
It's been too long since my last homeschool update; time runs away from me. Our previous school year ended abruptly and in a hard way, when my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer after Mother's Day. We completed our state testing requirements much earlier in the school year and well-exceed Minnesota's required number of school days, so we stopped the school year a week early and went to grandma & grandpa's farm to spend time together.
That's the beauty of homeschooling. There is room for flexbility, swapping around days/weeks, starting or ending early and even taking school on the road with us.
Life has been a bit different ever since then but we have made so many great memories even during tough times! Having Christmas together as a family at my parents' farm was a miracle in itself.
We soaked in the summer as much as possible - full of farm things, swim lessons, 4-H, fairs, a trip to Mt. Rushmore, family time, baseball - and then started school just after Labor Day. Usually we start mid-August but I needed extra prep time between all the driving this summer, kid activities and then transitioning to school and our co-op meeting again.
Even with just one kid playing baseball, it seemed like the kids and I spent quite a bit of time at games, traveling or practice. I'm all for sports but the lessons my kids learned on the farm and in 4-H this summer working with their sheep, chickens, gardening and just playing with friends were tenfold compared to any work ethic/character development from ball! Of course they play ball together on the farm, too, which is a win-win.
Is the crazy hamster wheel of running actually worth it? That's for each family to decide for themselves. That's something we're thinking about lately.
|"The Baseball Club", as my boys call ball at home
For curriculum, we now made it full-circle in A Gentle Feast and returned to Cycle 1: Columbus, Conquest & Colonies. The boys are now in Form II (5th Grade), Form I (2nd Grade) and then a Kindergartener & preschooler mixed in. Our first time in Cycle 1 was in 2019 when E was a 1st grader.
What has changed since the first time we covered Cycle 1? SO much!
Morning Time (a Bible & Beauty Loop) was a brand-new concept for me when we first started homeschooling. It has felt burdensome in some seasons (like another box to check) but now I feel like we've found a groove, flexbility and a great way to all gather together for the school day.
Daily this time includes Bible reading, Latin memory work and the hymn we're working on for the Term. The Beauty subjects are a loop of artist study, composer study, poetry recitation, a folk song and Fable/or Biography books. (*At the beginning of the week, we also start off with the Pledge of Allegiance) That beauty list sounds extensive but it's really just our Bible + ONE beauty topic of the listed per day. You could certainly do more than that, but with this 3- to 10-year-old range of kiddos, this amount is just right.
Soup & Salad: Language Arts (+ Math)
W, Form I, uses the Lower Elementary Language Arts Packet and then E, Form II, uses the Upper Elementary Language Arts Packet from A Gentle Feast. These have been a huge success for our family. Very open-and-go style. They have each week's lessons listed in there, including their copywork, spelling, composition, grammar lesson, dictation and a drawing page. E opted for cursive this year and I forgot that W wanted the same (of course) and ordered him print. Next year, buddy. #momfail
For C, we switched gears and he's actually working through the "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" book that has been sitting on my shelf, gathering dust, for years. Personally I find it annoyingly repetitive but he's patient with it and it's working!
Math isn't necessarily in the "soup & salad" of A Gentle Feast but I'm sprinkling it here anyways. We have used Singapore Math since the beginning of our homeschooling years and we're keeping at it! C/Kindergartener is now working through Singapore's Earlybird Kingarten book, just like his older brothers did, and he really likes this subject.
The older two continue to use Dimensions Math and it's challenging but fun. One of my brothers shared the Khan Academy with me and that has been a HUGE help. They have excellent (& free) supporting videos for my kids to watch as a supplement to their usual math lessons.
For 5th grader's math, I needed to brush up on dividing fractions (flashback to me in school, thinking "when will I ever use this??!!", having no idea we would end of having four kids and homeschooling them. Ha!). My memory took a jog and it was painless! I actually love math to a degree, preferably not calculus but we'll cross that bridge later.
Language Arts and math are the two subjects that the state of Minnesota requires homeschoolers to take "nationally normed achievement tests" on and both of these curriculums have prepared my kids so well for each year.
Another thing to note to myself: We completed our testing between Thanksgiving and Christmas break (one week off per holiday) and that was GOLD. The timing was perfect, a weight was off our shoulders for Christmas and the weather was "meh" enough that the kids weren't desperate to get outside. We did the online untimed CAT again for the older boys and will definitely do that again.
The Main Course: Academic Block
As I mentioned before, we cover many subjects together as a family, with different expectations for each grade level. While the Form I & II are required to listen and then narrate, the younger two keep busy playing, drawing, playing with LEGOs, cutting paper, etc.
Each of our boys has a narration notebook (one for all subjects!) with varying degrees of usage. This is where E writes his narrations for Form II, W can write a sentence/or narrate orally for Form I, kindergartener practices his writing/I keep track of his reading lessons, and then preschooler pretty much destroys his notebook. Colors, cutting, stickers, glitter, etc. Whatever he wants and keeps him busy!
For History, I switched things around this year and instead of following the A Gentle Feast book list, we now use America's Story 1 (for W) and The World's Story 1 (for E). We love these living history books and the author Angela O'dell also has a great history podcast that we listen to. Is it a little confusing covering both world and American history in same week, possibly? Overall, the kids have been retaining information from both books and I think this is just something that's going to happen with multiple students/grades. The other option was to hyper-focus on American OR World history with both older boys. Maybe that will be something I will do with the youngers in the future.
For Science, we switched to using books from the Wonders of Creation. Last year, we studied the Geology book and really enjoyed it, so this year we covered Ecology in Term I and now Weather in Term 2. We are using the Home Geography recommended by A Gentle Feast for Geography again and then we're actually traveling through our National Parks book (given to the boys by Grandma Penny) for Natural History (going to Mt. Rushmore was major field trip bonus this summer!).
E does study Citizenship for Form II and he's been listening to an audiobook for that.
Lastly, Language. We had been working on Spanish since first starting to homeschool and then somewhat switched to Latin last year. By somewhat, I mean we weren't extremely diligent in either - like languages of all trades, yet masters of none! So this year we are more dedicated to the Latin studies in Prima Latina, practicing memory work in the Morning Time and then working on vocabulary and concepts at a different time. Learning Latin is a party! Is it a little early for many of my kids? Yes, but they are curious. It's new to me, too, but Spanish is my first language "love" and we will hopefully pick that up again next year.
The Dessert: Tea Time
Let's keep this completely honest and tell you where I'm dropping the ball! Tea Time is the time to regather again at the end of the day, when some cover poetry, read alouds, draw, do nature study or handicrafts. I feel a little crash-and-burn lately. Like we made it through school! We eat - kids go outside, probably me with them - and then that glorious time when the toddler maybe naps. That's when our kids can have "screen time" and I try to catch up on the rest of my life wearing janitorial, cafeteria lady, counselor, administrative hats. Training for marathons when I need a break, I guess.
Does shop time with dad count as Tea Time in this boy house? If so, I'm going with that! Some of the best lessons my boys have been learning is in the shop, learning about shooting sports and also trapping gophers with dad. I love seeing them learning from him and he's an amazing teacher himself.
Happy New Year - Have a great 2024!
Explore the A Gentle Feast curriculum here and feel free to email me or comment here with any questions! Disclaimer: This post contains my A Gentle Feast affiliate link. If you click it, and make a purchase I will receive a commission.