Chapter 19: Boat School


Believing a Creator intelligently designed all subjects to be integrated makes learning individual “boring” subjects more delightful than a dreadful task.  Essentially, the organization of mathematics is harmoniously found in the sciences, and the study of geography brings new depth to history’s story.  Seeing God’s hand in every subject we study continues to beckon me to know him more and share my enthusiasm of discovering his handiwork with my children.  Psalm 19:1  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

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Teaching children, was designed to happen as daily life happens.  While waiting for our laundry to dry, we combined science, math and history into a quick lesson.  If this tree had 80 rings or that one had 60, counting backward, what year might it have started to grow?  Do you think this is a new log or has it been here a long while and could that make it even older?  What was taking place in world history around that time?  Might some years have had more rain than others based on how thick or thin the rings were? Observation, questions, and discussions are how one subject seamlessly blends into the next.

Allowing time for discussions and understanding to take place, I needed to mentally pair down our school day until I found a harmonious routine with my children. I found peace doing three subjects a day instead of six.  We have English and Math instructions daily, then focus more in depth on History/Timeline, Geography and Science on particular days of the week.  I wrote out our schedule and taped it to my daughter’s bunks. When they have completed their note card, they are done with school and can play the rest of the day.  In theory, it works flawlessly.

A window into our schoolroom, for English, looks something like this:

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We choose a simple declarative sentence from my youngest daughter’s McGuffey Reader.

I did not see him.

We found the verb and picked a stronger one – detect.

Added a because clause – I did not detect him, because he moved so swiftly and stelthly behind me.

And continued useing out imaginations to create a short story.

I did not detect him, becuase he moved so swiftly and stelthly behind me. “Boo!” he bellowed.  I jumped out of my skin with fright.

Through questions, discussion and imagination, we combined handwriting, grammar, and writing in one lesson using white boards. No bulky workbooks or printed pages necessary.  My seven year old would copy that sentence while my older daughters could either copy it in cursive or write up to ten sentences and make a short story…as long as the activity didn’t take too long.

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My perspective in teaching Math has changed too, thankfully. To be completely honest, I used to absolutely despise teaching math. Trying to convey logical math to children ages seven, nine and eleven, using three different “grade appropriate” text books while having a toddler in the room…I might rather swim in the frigid Puget Sound.

In our school room, we have one bookcase that is 48x48x14. Four shelves organize our books by subject…or where ever they can fit.  We have a bench to store a few shoebox size tubs and binders under, which also doubles as a step to more easily go out the port bow door. All that to say, I chose to not dedicate one precious foot to three (soon to be four) sets of Saxon math books.

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Adjusting to this revelation, I have decided to use my oldest daughter’s Saxon math text and teach appropriately from that. Sitting on my kitchen counter, I go through each lesson aloud with my three daughters simultaneously. Also, I have come to the conclusion, I want my daughters to become masters of math. Focusing more on their understanding and mental accuracy of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I’m okay slowing down until I feel they have completely grasped the mathematical concepts, so they can more easily apply their accuracy to higher levels of math. When an answer is correct, I’ll have one of my older daughters explain the solution to my youngest daughter, so she can “play school teacher” and I can observe her logic and reason. It then becomes review for my older girls and a new lesson for my youngest.

Throughout the lesson the domino game, Mexican train, sits in the middle of the table. When I need to have more individual instruction time with one daughter, I’ll ask the others to gab a few tiles and add, subtract or multiply the digits together. Scaling appropriately, the more tiles they pick increases the place value and math problems become more challenging. Mexican Train is an excellent substitute to countless worksheets.

As life happens, I am thankful I can take whatever opportunity presents itself and use it as a launching pad to instruct my children with the vast foundation of information we have memorized together, and continue to become life-long learners.

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