Thursday… being towards the end of a week, it seems like a day to dig thoughtfully deeper and/or emphasize the applications of what has been learned in previous days, weeks, and months. I’ll also spend some time explaining our different approach to “reading comprehension and literature studies” – something that tends to take up a lot of time in most homeschool schedules.
Thursdays can be busy days like Tuesdays to get a lot done BUT Thursday schedules might vary a fair bit from year to year or even within the year itself, depending on what other family or individual priorities or opportunities need to be worked around. You see, Thursday is towards the end of a week so some of us might feel like we’d like to have more flexibility to change things as seasons and activities change when we make our annual schedule.
(Full Disclosure: This post contains some links to products which we sell in our online shop.)
For some families, it has also been a day to have extra-curricular outings (e.g. a season of sports, year of music) and/or stock up on groceries or process meats at the end of a shortened school day. So many community group activities for kids and/or teens seem to begin around Wednesday evenings to Fridays. I plan to write more about these “other things” which influence a homeschool schedule tomorrow (Friday).
On Thursdays, I like to put more of the analytical/thinking subjects. What are some examples of those kinds of subjects? (Note: Not all of these subjects would be each year on a Thursday!) Here’s a list of some possibilities:
Reading comprehension, logic, strategies for how to write tests, history, detailed community studies (e.g. trips to local landmarks, Ontario studies notebooks), senior high school level food science (e.g. microbiology, biochemistry – detailed applications of science), career studies (e.g. how to make a resume, do an interview, explore post-secondary options), watching a multi-media presentation of a novel for comparison, continuing with more of the “meat” in an essay assignment that was outlined yesterday on “Writing Wednesday”, continuing on with a general science topic, studying a language. (We also keep math work on Thursday as well.)
I like to also have spelling dictation on Thursdays so that it makes my Fridays “more free”.
Note: I used to put phonics on Thursdays or Fridays (because I could remember when it was on my schedule by thinking of the “h digraphs” or the phonetic sound of “f” to match with the names of Thursday or Friday – seriously, that is true :-D) but I have learned to appreciate it more so towards the beginning of the week instead (see Tuesday’s post). And, as you’ve likely already noticed, I don’t keep to the traditional schedule of phonics every day most of the time. I prefer only 1-2x/week for a literacy/phonics study (for most of the year) but that doesn’t mean that other families shouldn’t have phonics more than once a week – it really depends on your preference and what would help your child(ren) best -scheduling phonics works either way. (Younger children (K-1) can really benefit from more phonics than 1x/week so I try to do more with them sometime during the week when there is moment or so that we can do that.)
The original plan above again shows my preference to schedule according to 2 (or 3) groups most of the time, rather than according to individual grades or according to just one group. This method makes a lot more sense and works very well when you have a wider range of multiple grades. If you look at the morning portion of the day’s schedule, here you can notice that the older kids could do their French and spelling on their own (Note: MFB French is great; click here to find it in our shop). They could go onto silent reading while waiting for me to pull out some history things or else they could continue together (without me) to pull out the history unit themselves. Meanwhile, I could have time to help, as needed, the younger group to learn phonics before they went to do their spelling on their own and took whatever extra time until lunch (a.k.a. “the wavy line”) to read silently from their reader or selection of smaller books. This general idea for planning is a lot smoother than trying to start another subject with kids who need a bit of direction at the same time as others are trying to finish off something. It flows better. 🙂
About Kindergarten levels (JK/SK and early grade 1): I keep kindergarten “sort of” on my schedule – more so for me to remember how far they have come in their subjects, rather than something strictly followed for them. I know that in general, this age group loves “school at home” and want to learn lots just like the big kids. If family life is relatively settled (e.g. not moving, not constructing, no newborns, no major illness), I very much recommend that children begin to read sentences in kindergarten and have fun with other subjects too. 🙂 But don’t panic if they want to “skip lesson times” occasionally. These little guys and gals can often easily love a page or more from a workbook or a set of math manipulatives with a brief explanation ANYTIME, even in the middle of an older group’s history discussion. Homeschooling should expect interruptions like this and to me, it shouldn’t matter if the kindergartener doesn’t follow a schedule exactly the way it is written. I’m not worried if a “Thursday” comes around and there is more interest in the rain or watching the garbage trucks from a window or playing with dolls. I know that there will be lots of time during the year and even that week when they really want a storybook or reading page. WAIT, if needed, for those opportunities during the week to teach them academics. Much of the time, they will likely love your suggestion of “school” if you have a fun curriculum/program, otherwise, let them learn through free-play or wandering near by if that interests them more for the time being. It is natural (for this stage of childhood especially) both to love freedom from directed activities AND to desire to be taught something new. There are a number of other posts and resources on our website to help you homeschool with young children such as our Designing a Home Preschool planning guide.
Below is an example of a “Mommy’s List for Thursday” and a corresponding detailed list to show you how I sort of set one of these up. As indicated at the beginning of this post, a Thursday schedule might not be as reusable due to the variations of “what” might be included for studies on any specific year. If I instead chose studies about our local province, district/county, and community plus a logic workbook and a Latin worktext, then those subjects would be on a Thursday list rather than reading comprehension, etc..
A few comments about the “Mommy’s List for Thursday”:
- This is the plan. Like anything else, plans sometimes don’t get followed. But I do feel this is a reasonable general plan to aim towards.
- You might wonder why I wrote “no eggs” under the title. This is because that grey text for each day gives us ideas for breakfast – what would fit well with the plan for the day and be able to get cleaned up quickly to get to school on-time without a huge mess in the kitchen. On Thursday, I really want to “get going” in case we’re adding on trips out later or meat processing in the kitchen so that is a reminder to the kids that this isn’t the morning to think of frying eggs. And eggs might be part of our lunch or my processing tasks for that day so please don’t eat them all up or I’ll have to scramble for an alternative before the new groceries come! 🙂
- Thursday can be “thoughtful” for me as a mom too! 🙂 I might make plans and lists based on current needs in our family. On Thursdays similar to the schedule that you see above, I can check to see if anyone has any math questions and then check through any direction needed with reading comprehension and/or the lower levels of reading lessons. All of those things are individual, one-on-one type of things for me to do other than the oral reading part which can include group of my younger kids. Thursdays (or Wednesdays) really seem to be a good day to briefly check in each with individual student on how they are coming along with any of their lessons, notebooks, or concerns about stuff from this week. If they need additional supplies for projects or outdoor stuff, it’s good to put on the shopping list today. If they need a library book to research something or have a math question which puzzles them, I’d rather know that today too, instead of waiting until the beginning of next week. My “Mommy’s List” reminds me to do this sort of thing if I haven’t already done so recently.
About Oral and Silent Reading: My example schedules for Thursday and Friday show a “read-aloud time” for literature – to hear them read for some pages; I would also read some pages. (But the pre-teens/teens would do a different subject on their own elsewhere during that “school period”.) Silent reading is more frequent in our home compared to oral reading, partly due to our family dynamics. Most (although not all) of our oral reading is focused on the younger children. Sometimes, I’ve set up “reading partners” – an older sibling with a younger sibling – to be able to have more oral reading practice to aid learning better pronunciation. (Yes, of course our children/teens sometimes read aloud and/or discuss literature/media presentations throughout various times in our family’s week but for school-related literature, but for most of the time, we have chosen not to schedule a “daily read-aloud”. This is something that is different than many homeschoolers, although I know we’re not the only ones making that choice. When my mom taught school, she often began with a seasonally-related poem, something short to begin the day along with what they used to call “opening exercises”. If desired, these sorts of things can easily be added to a formal schedule. However, it might be easier to just keep a list elsewhere such as on cue cards in a recipe box like my mom did for organizing those read-alouds.)
Personally, our family enjoys reading vintage readers which have not been reprinted (which we do not sell) and a selection of individual books we have on our shelves (of which titles some are ones that we sell in literature bundles and some we don’t). Sometimes we’ve read mostly thinner books plus a few novels instead of using a reader. We might instead use the Canadian Reading Development Series of readers which we sell here in our shop. Or we could use a few books within the “Alice and Jerry” series for the Thursday and Friday reading time (oral and silent) which we sell here.
Note: The “Alice and Jerry” series demonstrates historical American life, although differences are not as noticeable in the earlier readers. This series also has a fair amount of “conversation-local-style” reflected in word choice and “sentence” structure so if that sort of thing distracts your reader, I’d suggest trying other readers instead. Personally, our family prefers the “Dick and Jane” kind (which originally went up to the end of grade 3 with really great stories), some of the Canadian Reading Development series (especially the first and 4th grade readers), and the “Sandy and Susan” readers. You can read more about vintage readers at this post here.)
At lunch, we might watch a video on a novel or short story that was studied or have a special-themed lunch or have a bit of time to learn a few words of what I would call a “special language”, for example, one that isn’t as common as English or French in Canada. (Or it might just be an ordinary lunch. We honestly don’t have a party here every week. Most weeks are plain and normal. :-))
Some examples of what a themed-lunch might be in some homes: eating foods from another country/culture, a “backwards” day (dessert first and/or wear clothing backwards, sit on chair backwards), yellow day (or any other colour – could be the colour of foods, plates, juice, shirts, socks), teddy bear lunch (bring your stuffie to the table), dress-up with exquisite manners day, have a picnic under a quilt frame day, a winter part, birthday of ____, Christmas celebrations, Valentines’ lunch with heart-shaped foods and decor, etc.
After lunch, in recent years, my kids have given each other the spelling dictations so that can allow a “teacher’s break” for about 30 minutes so I can prepare for the rest of the day. (When a student can teach a concept back to their siblings or correct a lower level of math or spelling, it reinforces the skill for that kid too. So I put the opportunities to be a teacher’s assistant on purpose in some of the scheduling. I know that I appreciated being my teachers’ assistant in my classes at school years ago. Having those little experiences helped me with a number of skills beyond the coursework itself too.) For the remainder of the Thursday afternoons, I’ve put more science on my schedule. This could involve more reading or writing or hands-on or field trips or multi-media but the aim would be to dig deeper into topics within science. Science is very foundational to many areas of work and practical knowledge for life in general.
About Reading Comprehension and “Peppermint Stick”: What is different about it compared to a traditional or a Charlotte Mason approach? Over the years, our family has moved away from both of those popular methods to something we like a lot better. I greatly lessen the time spent on teaching/practicing reading comprehension skills and this is reflected in how often it shows up in our family’s schedule. In general, my plan is for early levels to emphasize literacy (techniques for how to read such as phonics, context cues, sight words, spelling patterns) while introducing comprehension skills. Then our reading curriculum emphasizes comprehension and literary features (e.g. foreshadowing, stanzas in poetry, etc.) from around grade 3 and up. My favourite schedule allows for clear instruction on skills along with occasional review. It allows for spontaneous ideas (from friends or Pinterest, etc.) to supplement this subject without crunching extra fun into a tight timetable. And we enjoy independence from a “required or approved” book list so that the family who is reading gets to choose what is read without pressure. More details are below.
Resources Our Family Might Use for Thursdays:
Vocal Music: There are lots of “just for fun” or “full of meaning” songs! We are blessed to have music as a special interest in our family and sometimes, we take a bit of time to sing together. I put this note on Thursdays to remind me but it can be for any day and not always in the mornings. 🙂
Reading Sticks and Let Me Read Steps – some of these resources are not published at the time of writing this post but you can check the READING section of our online shop to see what is currently available. As a family, we are working through developing these and publish them when they are edited enough for public sale.
Here are the reading curriculum titles, which will be hyper-linked (hopefully I remember to do this :-)) when they are available in our shop:
Let Me Read: Step 2 (SK, ages 4-7) (full year curriculum) (or you can also purchase some individual weeks a la carte here)
Sets for more than one level: The entire set of Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 or combinations of 2 years of these can be purchased here.
Let Me Read: Step 4 (Grade 2)
Reading Sticks: Step 5 (Grade 3)
Reading Sticks: Step 6 (Grades 4-5)
Literature Sticks (Grades 5-12)
Some tips for writing about literature are also in our e-book Writing Stories, Letters, Reports, Essays, and Speeches (designed for grades 4/5-12)
One resource I like to put in an upper-level reading comprehension time is Test-taking Strategies (click here if we still have stock) because it is important, I think, for students to learn how to write and thus, comprehend, standardized tests, even though I personally don’t tend to use this type of testing for evaluating how much a student has grasped in homeschooling.
(Please understand that my comments below are not about reading the Bible or time spent reading it or discussing it or the immeasurable value it has in our lives. The Bible is a unique Book and in my opinion, does not fit in the same category as other pieces of literature. My comments below relate to reading things which are of human origin which means to me, not the Bible. (Both Psalm 138:2 (NIV) and 2 Peter 1:19-21 talk about it being different in comparison.) I’m not suggesting at all for time be lessened in studying the Bible. We all should be learning more of God’s Word and putting it into practice more in our daily lives as we grow in knowing Christ.)
In our home, reading comprehension can look like either a short assignment such as a few simple worksheets or a longer project. Each week, I might perhaps teach one or two topics/skills to one or two levels. This is not overwhelming to schedule or pick on a certain week to teach. For multi-grade teaching situations (like our family), this means that some weeks, a grade might not get a specific lesson and this is just fine. It will be that grade’s turn another week or perhaps another day of the week, depending on what I feel needs to be covered.
In general, I like to illustrate a point about literature by using short stories or excerpts instead of through longer novels. It takes less time, is more fun in my opinion, and helps a specific point stick easier because usually it involves one storybook (or poem) for each point rather than several lessons appearing at different portions of a single plot-line. That means it is easier for children to recall by memory that such-and-such literary feature matches with such-and-such story and thus, if associated with something easy enough to recall, the point can be applied to new stories/poems quickly because that point truly “sticks” in the student’s mind clearly.
As an aside, this method of “associating something with another thing that is short and easily recalled by memory”, is also sometimes seen in how a piano teacher might teach musical intervals – to associate one familiar tune which begins with each type of interval, e.g. Amazing Grace begins with a perfect fourth and knowing that point/fact, helps music students to figure out/apply this knowledge in new pieces of music. See https://www.musicnotes.com/now/tips/musical-intervals-train-your-ear-with-these-easy-songs/ for more examples in music if you’re interested further.
I try to present “reading comprehension” as learning useful skills for various subjects. Once a specific skill is understood then sure, we’ll review it from time to time but I don’t feel that reading comprehension needs tons of practice in and of itself; nor do literature studies need tons of practice in order to learn to enjoy good literature or respond to how an author expresses something. If those reading skills can be understood with just a few examples, then those skills can be applied whenever and wherever they are required or desired in the future; that ability to apply knowledge to other pieces of literature (including non-fiction) is the main point of why teachers teach reading comprehension. We want students to feel confident to apply comprehension skills when reading (or listening to) historical perspectives in textbooks, geography articles, science information books, health-related research versus scams, poetic structures in an essay, absorbing the vivid language of a novel, understanding the richness of a piece of music, etc.. Too often, I feel that the focus has traditionally been on “content” (studying one piece of literature after another piece of literature to enjoy a different storyline). I like to put the focus on the SKILLS needed to enrich comprehension instead, give some examples, and then move on.
Why even aim to lessen the amount of time spent to read literature? Isn’t reading literature the most important part of education? I don’t think so. Reading isn’t everything. We wanted to have an education which spent a balanced amount of time on reading in relationship to rest of the other good things to learn. To us, that meant we needed to reduce the hours spent on writing/discussing works of literature to something we felt was more reasonable and practical. Reading fiction and non-fiction is important and our family really loves to read but “too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing”.
When do I put “reading comprehension” in my schedule?
- I personally aim for every other year for teaching these skills in a formal manner. (Of course, informally various skills get mentioned as they come up in any year, whether that occurs in reading or listening to something.) However, in our curriculum, from Steps 3-6, reading comprehension skill lessons are provided generally for each week. For our family, that means we might “double-up” so-to-speak on what is done on a particular day if we’re thinking of looking at these skills every other year. (Of course, you might like to simply keep things consistent and do something every year and that’s fine. The curriculum does provide for that.)
- When reading comprehension skills are a subject for the year, I aim for 1 (one) or perhaps 2 (two) time periods per week to spend on it but some weeks students might simply be reading something silently on their own. In other words, it is not a daily subject. There is generally enough time in one period each week to cover the stuff we want to do and enough flexibility in our “list of things to do” to set it aside for a spontaneous choice – such as to read a book we heard about that sounded really interesting and/or a creative idea from Pinterest or digest a new storybook that came in the mail. With this plan, we can take the time to enjoy these sorts of things without feeling pressured to “catch up” or “squeeze in” or “include only if we get a regular lesson done first”. I truly love this freedom!!!
- When reading comprehension isn’t a subject for the year, I simply give a bit of guidance on books or other things to read (e.g. on a individual book list) and let them enjoy reading.
What about Novel Studies/Literature Studies? Focusing on skills means that we aim to study only a handful of novels during the year, something like 1-2 for each grade level. But our kids will read many more novels than “the handful that we officially study with some kind of a verbal or written or visual project and/or discussion”. Not every chapter is read aloud but a few chapters might be. On the yellow schedule, I might put down titles of books suggested but it is better to just keep those lists in a binder instead and write “Novel Study: ___” (keep the blank blank) in a little box for each grade level.
Book Lists and Responses/Reports:
- Our kids’ reading lists are similar to but usually larger than our literature bundles currently in our shop but I don’t require written or verbal assignments for all of the books on that list. I like allowing students to simply read a good variety of literature without the pressure to dissect everything. Sometimes it spoils the delight of a book or article if a child/teen “must” write a report to show they have understood the theme or fill in answers to chapter questions and feelings. While I agree with doing these sorts of activities with books occasionally, it is only occasionally. I don’t feel I need a formal verbal discussion for each book either. We’re a family therefore, books get discussed here and there informally with myself or my husband or just between the siblings. I’m not suggesting that you ignore book reports or book discussions though. To learn how to express one’s thoughts about something that is read to another person and to learn how to listen to others opinions are also important skills. I am suggesting that students should not be required to respond to everything in “school” and I am also stating that effective reading comprehension skills are not necessarily a result of scheduling tons of daily or weekly time to study long works of literature.
- How many books would be on our kids’ lists for reading comprehension and literacy purposes?
- I’m guessing maybe there could be 30 (plus or minus) titles listed for the year in younger levels, fewer in the older levels because their books are usually thicker. The lists might include a handful of single poems or lyrics, depending on the year.
- The book lists I give my children for “reading comprehension and literacy” do not include books needed for research or projects in other subjects although they might be about a topic that is covered in those other subjects.
- The book lists also don’t include the many books which our kids freely choose to read “just because”.
For high school levels of literature studies: North Atlantic Regional High School has a great suggestion for senior English Literature – to write a response after reading each one of 12 self-chosen titles of appropriate reading level. We also like the idea of writing the practice test (not necessarily the real test – you mark the practice one yourself) for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test given to public system grade 10 students (you can search online for past tests) and trying practice tests of the SAT or ACT. These can give you an idea of the average level of reading comprehension skills expected in Canada in and at the end of high school.
These are the links to our current Literature Bundles:
“Special Languages” or Literature Multi-media: We used Song School Latin (DVD, workbooks) one year. (We do not currently sell this program but can recommend it if your child/teen wants to understand some Latin roots). I might show something like a Beatrix Potter story on a rainy day or a portion of the original “Anne of Green Gables” or other stories which are suitable to my audience. (When I went to school, my grade 1 class watched a video or similar at lunch hour while we ate, I think once a week.) Resources vary, depending on what your interests are.
Science: This would mean continuing studies with whatever science unit(s) we are taking. At the time of writing this post, I only have the JK-3 science curriculum published but I still put together other units geared for grades 4-10 and use a wide variety of stuff I’ve collected or research I do now about the topic for my own family. Otherwise we might use one or a few of the science resources listed on this post here or similar, depending on the topic.
For “Thoughtful Thursdays”, try planning for subjects which apply knowledge and/or dig deeper into studying about the topics you’ve already begun. Remember to leave room for some “other things” too which come up either occasionally or regularly such as a new storybook or puzzle or activity of interest! 🙂
Here is your “Thursday” printable (click below). If you are following the ideas from this post, the Thursday schedule can change quite a bit, depending on the year or the season, to reflect your family’s specific interests. So I gave you just a “blank” printable today. 🙂