Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm working on an outline for what we're going to study in the coming year... We learn year-round, four days per week (Monday through Thursday). We take off all the Jewish holidays, including the entire period of pesach. Friday is for shabbat prep, Saturday is shabbat, and Sunday can be used if we're behind on anything.

These are the topics I will be covering formally:

KODESH (religious studies, in the a.m.)
tefillah (prayer, the doing of it!)
biur tefillah (studying the text, origin, meaning, etc.)
melachos (prohibited work on shabbat)
Hebrew (primarily reading, some oral + learning script later in the year)
Torah: in English with selected text in Hebrew, plus stories and "torah theater" (we act parts out)
yamim tovim (dinim, minhagim, songs, etc.)

CHOL (secular studies, in the p.m.)
ancient history (including ancient Jewish history)
art (major project 1x/week)
music (recorder)

It feels like a lot to cover (because it is!). I can see why day schools find it challenging to offer a high-quality dual curriculum. It takes a lot of time. The Well-Trained Mind suggests 3 hours per day for first grade work. That seems about right if you add in plenty of history, art, science, and music. Kodesh studies are in addition to that, and tdhere is so much a child needs to learn, especially since it is all in another language.

I made up a 2009-10 calendar today, struck out all the Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays, struck out all the Jewish holidays and the secular ones when papa would be home, subtracted 15 "just because" days off, and ended up with 178 days. That's pretty close to the typical 180-day school year.

I need to spend more time seeing where I can make the kodesh and chol studies overlap, but it's tricky because it really as much a dual-language curriculum as it is a kodesh + chol curriculum. And I continue to ponder what are the minimal essentials for a student to be very well-educated? For kodesh studies at this age, Hebrew and instilling ahavat/yirat (love of/fear of) Hashem are central. Nothing I intend to teach is far from that core mission.

What do I want them to accomplish with their chol studies? To be competent readers, writers, and sharp interpreters of what they take in. At this age, I want them to soak up many, many examples of very high-quality oral and written language and fill their minds with all kinds of (torahdik) material that can be drawn upon when they reach the age of greater self-expression (5th grade-ish). And through the study of history I want them to have a personal, relevant connection to the Jews who have preceded them and who were one step closer to Moshe, and therefore holier. (Jews see people as devolving the further in time they get from the revelation at Har Sinai.) I want them to understand where the Jews were in each point in history, and how they related to the cultures and religions around them. I want them to appreciate Hashem's creation through understanding science, and I want them to experience art and music as two other modes of expressing Hashem's world.

But how can we do all that and still make mud pies? That's the part I have to think on a little longer... Jews aren't called "People of the Book" for no reason. And I have to consider what the three younger ones would like too. Raizel is so eager to learn more alef bet. Eli loves alef bet and math best of all. They soak up a lot through osmosis, listening in on Amirah's learning time, our stories, and their own learning time a few times per week. I'm sure I could put a good deal of the torah learning off onto shabbat since it doesn't necessarily involve writing, just listening and reading.

I've scheduled every rosh chodesh (new moon, the 1st of the month on the Hebrew calendar) for a day trip somewhere (zoo, woods, museum, etc.). It's traditionally a semi-vacation sort of day for women, so I thought that would be a nice tradition.

I'll keep pondering on our schedule and goals. I've nearly got all the materials we'll need (and I LOVE our new Jewish history resource!). I'll post a complete list soon. Of course, we're hoping a move will come sometime in the next few months and disrupt all of this! I also always overthink the beginning of the year (did the same when I was in a classroom situation) and become more relaxed as the year progresses. Writing things out helps to clarify things in my mind, gives me a record for the years to come, and hopefully offers something useful here and there to my other homeschooling friends!


mamamoomoo said...

You burst my bubble... I thought homeschooling means you have a general idea of what you want to teach but not make out specific lesson plans for the whole year... Is that a must, or just your style of doing stuff?

alpidarkomama said...

For preschool/kindergarten I definitely just had a more general idea. Planning styles run the gamut... I tend to overplan at the beginning of a new year, then relax after that. My personal interests lie in curriculum, learning, etc., so I really get into it more than one really has to, I think. I also like to know my quarterly goals so I can keep myself on track. I also want to teach in the most efficient manner possible so we only spend about 12 hours/week (for 1st grade) sitting at the table/couch. For chol it's actually pretty easy, because you can take the # of lessons or pages in, say, the math book, and divide it by the number days you intend to have as teaching days for the year. That gives you an idea of approximately how many pages to cover each day. In our case for math, that would be 1-2 pages per day. With kodesh, it's a little trickier because there aren't all those nice neat packaged curricula like there are for math, science, reading, etc. Except for Hebrew (B"H!). More soon...