Teaching the Hard Stuff

Death is a fact of life. As Christians, we know it is not the end, but the beginning of our time with Jesus. As much as we look forward to being in heaven, it’s hard to think about those left behind. Children don’t always understand about death–it scares them, and rightly so–it is the “unknown.”

Volume 1, Chapter 12, tackles the subject of death. Using plenty of Bible to reinforce God’s plan for life, you’ll spend a couple days talking about death, burial, and heaven. For very young children, you may wish to get the book, Someone I Love Died, by Christine Tangvald. Older children will need time to talk and grieve. Often, sorting through photos and remembering the fun times will help them as they process their feelings.

The Bible doesn’t gloss over death. From patriarchs dying of old age, to young children being murdered, to liars falling dead at the feet of the Apostles–it’s all in there! If you’re in a different volume and the subject of death comes up and your child starts asking questions, pull your Volume 1 off the shelf and turn to Chapter 12. You’ll find everything you need to teach the subject from a biblical point of view.

Lesson Planning: How I Do It

There is no “one right way” to prepare for teaching with Weaver. Each family will use a slightly different approach, be it through the planning pages they use, or the amount of preparation they do, or both. While I’ve been using my current system (outlined below) for over five years now, it may not work for your family. But I encourage you to try it! With each system you try, you’ll find bits and pieces you like — pull them all together and you’ll have created your own lesson planning system!

For me, it all starts at my desk. I am blessed to have three desks in my office: one for my computer, one for paying bills, and one for school. Here’s my school desk:

My Desk

The open binder at the front left of the desk is my Teacher’s Binder. It holds just the unit we’re currently working on. Since my children are grades 7 & 9 (the 12th grader is working independently) I only use the following sections in my binder: Weaver (intro, Bible, vocab & penmanship–basically all the white/multi-grade pages from the unit); Supplement (7-8 section, then a clear page protector followed by the 9-10 section); Student Texts (any pages I’ve copied that they’ll need for the unit); and Resources (the Resource pages from the main volume). The unused tabs are: Teacher Papers (it still holds blank journal pages, blank Romans 12 lists, field trip forms, and any other notes); Language Arts (still has notes on special days throughout the year for creative writing prompts, and copies of pages from Wisdom Words that talk about teaching reading… wow, I need to clean out my binder!); Spelling (holds the current spelling lists for each child); and two blank tabs (one has miscellaneous notes on high school transcripts and the other has all my Ready Reference charts behind it).

The place at the front right is where my children put things that need to be corrected. It’s also where I put my papers for the next day. The back right holds “future papers” as I like to call them. Starting at the bottom, there is my yearly calendar, future weeks pages, logic pages for the next week, blank Week-at-a-Glance pages, and this week’s logic pages (and math test pages).  Center back has the current volume I’m working on and any other books I may need for the unit. You’ll see essentials, like Post-it notes at the back left, and colored pens on the desk — besides those key items, there are two more things I find quite useful:

Essential tools for planning

Colored paperclips — the large kind — and these really cool sticky-tab things I recently found at the store. You’ll notice they are see-through. These are fantastic for marking pages in books because you can keep reading right through them without having to stop and remove the marker!  These are also plastic, so they’re much more durable than regular paper sticky-notes, and they’re reusable, which means I’ll have these for a long time!

The first thing I do when I plan is list all the subjects I need to cover. I don’t remember when I started using graph paper for this, but I always do.

Rough Overview

I list the number of weeks I’ve set aside for the unit, then the actual days. This unit will take us through 8 weeks, and there are three weeks with only four days in them, so that’s 37 days. It’s important to keep track of days off during the week, otherwise you’ll find yourself doubling-up just to squeeze five days into four. As I look over the lessons for the unit, I’ll note how many there are and if I want to teach any over two days instead of one. I’ll split up the vocabulary words, note any field trips ideas, and decide on Bible verses for penmanship.

All our “school days” are based on the yearly calendar I created at the beginning of the year, which marks out what days we’ll have school and what days we’ll have off:

The Big Picture

The calendar on the left is for next year, so it’s still blank except for the days my husband will have off of work. The calendar on the right shows our current year. I first mark down our start day and our end day, then any days off, such as Spring Break, Labor Day, Christmas, etc. Since I have a child taking classes at a local Tech school, we tend to follow the same schedule as the public school system. If any of the children are using LIFEPACs for anything, I jot down when each booklet will be due so they are all finished by the last day of school. I then fill in where they should be in their math books so they get finished as well. We usually finish before the end of the year, so it’s okay to miss a day or two — except it makes my calendar look a bit messier as I rewrite the lessons to push them back a day or two. The left margin shows the unit we’re working on; the right margin shows the number of days we’ll have school that week.

You’ll notice there are multiple colors on the calendar. Anything that is child-specific is marked in that child’s color. (It was really colorful when I had all five children in school!) I use pencil on the yearly calendar for things that affect everyone, but on the Weekly Sheets I use black or blue pen:

Week-at-a-Glance page

Originally, these sheets were designed to be filled out and given to the children so they could see what was expected of them each day of the week. I used a two-sided Weekly Sheet, and a Daily Sheet, for myself. When I was teaching four or five children, I needed more room to write out our weekly plans. Yet, I didn’t want to get distracted with the other days, so I used Daily Sheets to keep myself focused. Now, with only two, I can squish everything onto this one-sided page (shown above) thanks to colored pens. The subjects down the left side will change some years, depending on what classes we do. I’ve started leaving some sections blank for the children to write in, to teach them about planning their own time. The children will get a sheet similar to the one on the right, except it will contain just the stuff that pertains to them.

Bible lessons will always be filled in first. Then I fill in the History and Science lessons on the Weekly Sheets. Here is an example of the sheets for the current unit we’re doing:

The unit planned out

You’ll notice that each sheet has a paperclip. As I plan, I’ll put papers behind the week where they’ll be used. Two of the above sheets already have the vocabulary word searches behind them, and some have grammar and logic pages.

On Sunday afternoons, I pull out the following week’s papers and copy the plans onto sheets for the children. I set aside anything not needed on Monday, and place just Monday’s papers on the clipboard:

Daily Clipboard

In the above photo, you’ll see the Bible lesson, logic sheets, my Weekly Sheet and the children’s Weekly Sheets, along with the paperclip that held them together and the clipboard they will be placed on. At the end of the school day, I’ll only have the Bible lesson and my Weekly sheet on the clipboard, and the children will have put their completed logic sheets on the front right corner of my desk to be corrected. I usually correct everything on Friday nights.

After my teaching time is over, I’ll put away the Bible lesson from this day and pull out the Science papers needed for the next day, as well as the logic puzzles. Wednesday’s papers will include math tests (they don’t usually fall on the same day, but this week they do).

As I look at the above picture and at the actual Weekly Sheet in front of me, I see that I’ve forgotten to include the grammar sheets. They’re still clipped to the group of papers I’ll need this week and sitting on top of the stack at the back right of my desk. (A place for everything, and everything in its place!)

I hope this has given you a good overview of one way to plan Weaver lessons.  Other moms have uploaded their planning pages to the U-Weaver group on Yahoo. If you’re a member of the list you can view and download them to see if they work for your style of planning. Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email if you have any questions!

New Year, New Ideas

There are two times of year that I think about overhauling the way I do things for our homeschool: Summer break and Christmas break. Soon my Christmas break will be over and it’ll be back to teaching for me, so I’m taking advantage of my last few days by getting some links organized. How am I organizing them, you may ask? I’m using Pinterest! I’ve created a Board called “Homeschool Ideas” and I pin sites there that I want to use for research or teaching. In the description field I write the Volume/Chapter they go with. For example, I’m currently in Volume 4 / Chapter 2, so the pins are labeled “V4/Ch2.” If, after reading through the sites, I discover they don’t meet my needs, I’ll just delete them. Simple as that! The thing I like most about Pinterest is that I can “see” what I’ve pinned. That’s important for me, as I’m more of a visual person—the links are nice, but having a picture to jog my memory is just what I need.

I’m also making sure any files I’ve downloaded are saved to either a thumb drive or a disk. Computers are notorious for crashing (right after the warranty expires!) and there’s no excuse for not having your data backed-up!

Keeping things organized is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. What have you found to help organize your Weaver lessons? Leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on the Yahoo email list. I’d love to hear from you!

Amy Carmichael

As we make our way through the beginning chapter of Volume 4 — 6 weeks, altogether — we are studying a different continent each week. To highlight our studies, we’re reading about Christian missionaries who made an impact on the continent being studied. One such missionary was Amy Carmichael. I’ve had a book on my shelf for years, but never had the opportunity to read it–so I brought it down for this study: Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems (Christian Heroes: Then & Now).

What a wonderful story! I have never been so encouraged and challenged in my faith as I am while I read this book! As a follow-up, we’ll be reading one of the books Amy wrote: Things as They Are Mission Work in Southern India.

If you have a favorite book you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment. Or, stop by the Facebook group to leave a comment.

Shop Unofficial Weaver!

Many years ago, when the Avery family decided to sell The Weaver Curriculum, my dream was to buy it and keep this great curriculum available. Alpha Omega Publications beat me to it. But, thanks to the Internet, I now have the ability to fulfill that dream: I have become a distributor for Alpha Omega Publications and Lorenz Educational Press (the company that publishes Millikens).

At this time, my shopping cart is not functional. However, I am still able to take orders, and will gladly do so via email. I’ve changed the front page of the Unofficial Weaver site to reflect the upcoming “Grand Opening” sale, and will change it again in the next day or two to announce the “Pre-Opening Sale” that will be taking place on Tuesday, July 31st: All items will be 20% off list price, and shipping on ALL ORDERS will be free!I am SO excited to be able to sell Weaver–selling the complete AOP and Lorenz lines is like icing on the cake! If you still need some items for school, feel free to look around at the AOP site and the Lorenz site and jot down what you need (item name, item #, your name, and shipping address). Send that to me in an email and I’ll let you know the final price–you can do this anytime between now and the 31st, so if you want to send me your list early, go right ahead!

After you agree to the final cost, you can send it to me via PayPal (sales@unofficialweaver.com) and I’ll place your order on the 31st (or sooner if you’re willing to take only a 10% discount). If you choose to send a check or money order you’ll want to do this ASAP since I won’t place the order until your check arrives and clears the bank. If you choose this route, send me your order via email and we’ll get the price worked out ASAP so you can get your check/money order in the mail (Unofficial Weaver, PO Box 736, Broken Arrow, OK 74013) and I can place your order on the 31st.

Be watching the Unofficial Weaver site for more details, or contact me if you have any questions. And, as always, I covet your prayers for this new path God is leading us down. I pray that this business will bring God glory, and that it will strengthen my marriage (because it sure is putting some stress on it right now!) and my children’s lives.

Using Science Textbooks

While I’m very good at planning out my Weaver chapters well in advance (during the summer I plan through to Christmas break; during Christmas break I plan through to spring break; during spring break I plan through to summer break), I usually use Sunday afternoons to flesh-out my upcoming week. Today was no exception.

Back in February I told you about how I integrated The Timetables of History into our day as we studied Early American History. This week we’re focusing on science, and I’ve discovered a set of books on my shelves that will work superbly: Biology for Christian Schools, Volumes A&B.

We’ve been studying plants (roots, stems and leaves so far) and will look at flowers and classification this week. I thought it would be nice to get a basic understanding of how plants are classified, so I asked other homeschooling moms if they had any recommendations for botany books. One mom suggested I check for a botany section in whatever science texts I have on hand. Why didn’t I think of that myself?!

I’ve already graduated two sons, and my third son has only one year left. My daughter starts high school next year, and there’s another son two years behind her. I happen to have the above mentioned BJU biology book because one of my sons used it in a co-op class. Since I didn’t teach the class, I haven’t looked too closely at the book itself–until now!

What a wealth of information! Chapter 13 is all about the plant kingdom. The text is easy to read, with sidebars of info and photos. I’ve taken the first part of the chapter and split it into three days–splits that fall naturally within the chapter to begin with–and will have my daughter answer the review questions as she goes. I also found info on classification in Apologia’s Exploring Creation with General Science, which is also on my shelf.

Once we finish with plants we’ll move onto the human body. I’ll get info from the BJU biology text, as well as from the Apologia text, The Human Body, which is another text I bought for an older boy for co-op classes.

I LOVE finding little gems like this that make homeschooling fun and so much easier! How about you? What books have you found on your shelves that prove to be invaluable to your homeschooling journey?

Changes are Coming!

For the past two weeks I’ve been working on updating the Unofficial Weaver Pages. When I first created the page, I did ALL the coding by hand in Notepad using basic HTML. Then I used Dream Weaver, which is a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) program, and I was able to make changes faster. A couple years ago I got a CSS book and started learning how to use Cascading Style Sheets. For the past two weeks I’ve been working on moving the content from the old design (HTML) into the new design (CSS). It’s tedious, as I’m doing it all by hand once again, stripping all the unnecessary code and tweaking the CSS to make it all look as I envision it. I’ll still have more to tweak when this update goes live, but I want to get it up as soon as possible, so I’m only doing the major changes right now.

Would you like a peek?

http://unofficialweaverpages.com/

Head over there and check it out. (The navigation links don’t go anywhere right now, so please don’t feel too frustrated that you can’t see anything else–this is just a sneak peek, remember.) Then come back here and leave a comment about the new look. I’d love to hear from you!

Putting Resources to Use

As we study Early American History in Volume 3, Chapter 7, I’ve found that my timeline book is coming in quite handy:

Today, for instance, we started covering James Madison. Mr Madison was president from 1809 to 1817. Upon checking The Timetables of History, I found that Rip Van Winkle was written in 1809. I looked the story up in my Collier Junior Classics Vol 5 (Stories That Never Grow Old) and began reading it to my children today. They had a different way of writing back then–lots of detail and many words no longer used in everyday language. We also listened to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5, and learned that Louis Braille and Abraham Lincoln were both born in 1809.

History doesn’t have to be dry, boring dates that mean nothing to your children. Bring it alive with information your child can relate to!

(If you are looking for a set of Junior Classics, be sure to check antique stores in your area. Also, a search of eBay.com for “Junior Classics” turns up many sets averaging around $25.)

Planning Lessons: Keeping Your Focus

We’re currently in the middle of Volume 2, Chapter 8. It’s a loonnng chapter: 15 Bible Lessons. Normally, that would take 6 weeks to do (Bible every other day–30 days for the chapter) but I teach Bible 3 days a week, so this will take just 5 weeks. I’ve arranged our weeks like this because my oldest student takes science and math outside of the home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have Bible and History on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, when my son is home; on Tuesday and Thursday I teach science to the younger 2 (besides our other “classes,” like math, spelling, reading, etc).

As I was planning this chapter, and trying to arrange the science and history lessons, it became a challenge. I like to follow the flow of the Day by Day as much as possible, but rearranging the science objectives was not easy. Some of them were off track as I gave priority to the history lessons in our daily lineup.  I spent much time in prayer trying to make the chapter as cohesive as possible.

The first day we came across a science lesson that I knew should have been taught a few days earlier, I simply told the children, “Remember last week, when we talked about …” I even pulled out the Bible and re-read the info we covered previously. This was a great review for the children! About a week later I found myself teaching a science lesson the day before the Bible lesson with which it corresponded. As I began the science lesson, I mentioned that we’d be talking about it more the next day during our Bible lesson.

Whether your science and history line up perfectly with your Bible lessons or not, you can always point your children back to the Bible. That’s the whole basis of Weaver: the Bible. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” If you are committed to teaching Weaver, God knows and will give you the words and the insight for the lesson at hand. Keep your focus on Him and you will be blessed!