“Mom, is ‘faster’ an action word?”
Meg was not asking about my driving, which was following traffic quite politely, thank you for asking, but about the English workbook in her lap. So we held an immediate conversation about verbs, adverbs, comparing words, and, since we were in the neighborhood, I branched out into adjectives and nouns. This was not our first conversation about parts of speech. Her question was apropos, since “faster” is pretty much how it goes in December.
We do workbooks in the car most of the school year, but I’m noticing them more during the holiday season. Workbooks are my best friend right now, because you know what I don’t have in December? Mental energy. Christmas shopping is hard, and coming up with creative activities, or any lesson whatsoever some days, takes a lot more brainpower than I supposed when I was the student. (Thank you for teaching, Mom!) But now I am the master. And the lovely, lovely thing about workbooks is that someone else already came up with the assignments. Beautiful, I tell you.
This December, a flexible schedule works for us. Some days, it’s all about the workbooks. Some days, we do a co-op and cover one main subject for our school time. When it was autumn, we did a lot of nature studies outside; now that it’s cold, we’re doing more book work. Some days, I declare an art day to balance out all the reading-writing-arithmetic going on here. I find art subjects to be really life-giving – an important consideration, during holiday mania, for both mom and kids.
On our most recent art day, I leaned heavily on Charlotte Mason’s ideas and taught a wide variety of subjects in short lessons. The girls and I read our chapter of a literary work (Winnie the Pooh) and worked on our Bible memory verse (from the freebie collection at SimplyCharlotteMason.com). We practiced public speaking for Meg’s upcoming Advent reading.
Then we did an art study on a painting in Pompeii, which counted as history as well as art. If you’ve never done a Charlotte Mason-style art study, it’s really easy to teach. You and the student look at the painting. Then you close the window or flip it over, and describe the painting to one another as well as you can. This gets fun in a group setting when people start arguing loudly whether that was a purse or a dog at the girl’s feet. Then you pull the painting back up and check your observation and decide who was right and who TOTALLY FAILS AT OBSERVING. It’s great.
After the painting study, we did a quick art lesson: I demonstrated the technique of crosshatching to indicate shade or light areas on Meg’s princess coloring book and made her practice it. This was actually terrible timing because it was right before lunch and we were all starving and hangry, and Meg doesn’t even like princesses, so the art lesson bombed.
After lunch, I had Meg do another page of her English workbook because…it seemed like a good idea. And it worked out pretty well. The topic was how to punctuate lists inside a sentence. I showed Meg the difference between putting a comma before the “and” and not including the comma. This comma is known as the Oxford Comma, and people get very emotional about it. We use it at our house, because it helps prevent awkward readings like “Charlemagne greeted his parents, the Caliph’s ambassador and an elephant.” Oxford commas are the best like that.
But not content with my opinion, Meg wanted to know if her Nana used the Oxford Comma, so we texted her and found out she doesn’t. But while she was chatting with us, Nana brought up cellular organelles and mitochondria, thrilling me to the depths of my nerdy soul, so Meg got to learn grammatical broad-mindedness and organic chemistry.
We finished the school day with music. Meg wrote a song with an online music-composition website. Then I pulled out my guitar, tracked down my sheet music, replaced the battery in the tuner, tuned the guitar at length, and finally practiced a Christmas carol that the girls are going to perform. The girls learned instrument etiquette as well as the music: DO NOT TOUCH someone else’s instrument. It will mess up the instrument’s vibrations so the sound is wrong, and it will probably also mess up the musician’s vibrations. Valuable lessons were learned all around.
This is our flexible schedule in action. It’s okay not to try to do every subject every day, or even every week. I let some days be less mom-intensive, take advantage of days with more time, and jump on teachable moments. I do believe Meg is getting a great education. And I haven’t even gone insane yet.
So tell me. How do you handle the holiday season in your homeschool?
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Carolyn Bales.