We just finished week 2 of ECC. Week 2 felt a little easier than week 1, yet it took us longer (a week and a half) to complete. This is a perfect example of why we are going with a “year round” schedule instead of a traditional one, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, a quick review of week 2.
Week 2 was a continuation of the introduction unit. We continued working on global geography (latitude and longitude, continents and oceans), as well as discussing different kinds of maps and working on basic map reading skills. For science, we continued talking about biomes around the world and the water cycle. I felt like the kids struggled a bit more with the information this week. I’m beginning to see how ECC really is set up for multi-age learning, and some of the information presented (particularly in that controversial Properties of Ecosystems book) is too advanced for them. So we went a little lighter this week, paraphrasing some of the readings and overviewing some of the concepts without getting too bogged down in the details. Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed this week of learning!
Our nature walks continue to be a highlight each week. This time, we collected leaves for our notebooks and made bark rubbings of various trees. The boys loved doing this!
Another highlight of our week was the (also controversial!) read-aloud Kingdom Tales. Based on what I had seen in forums, I fully expected to skip this book. My kids are adopted and are from hard places, so when I read that the first chapter was intense and dark and that the whole book was full of orphan/abuse themes, I planned on steering clear! I was also pretty turned off of it because some of the people who absolutely loved it were people who talked about how they used it as an alternative to books like The Chronicles of Narnia because Narnia (and C.S. Lewis in general) didn’t meet their religious standards. As a long time lover of pretty much everything C.S. Lewis has ever written, I doubted I would like a book loved by his critics!
Still, I read the first chapter one afternoon when the boys were napping, just to see what I thought. Yes, it was dark. But it was also beautiful and gripping. I ended up reading it to the boys (leaving out a bit of the violence and orphan references) and they loved it. In fact, they have asked for Kingdom Tales every day since! Some of the stories have really resonated with my kids, like the story of a juggler who was ashamed that his “inner count” was different than all the other jugglers. He tried so hard to hide it and to keep count with the rest. But the Beggar-King told him to stop trying to be like the others and to keep his own count. I won’t ruin the story by giving away the ending, but I’ll say that this story in particular was wonderful for my kids to hear. Each story we’ve read has had surprises, hope, and redemption. So far, we are big fans. Although I admit, I still prefer The Chronicles of Narnia. 😉
We did have a few let-downs this week. For an art project, we were supposed to make paper dolls. Well, that didn’t go over well. We made a chain of paper boats instead, ha! We were also supposed to make a cake and decorate it like a globe. But I decided we absolutely couldn’t handle the sugar load of cake and frosting this week, so we’ll save that for another unit. 😉
Back to our schedule. As I’ve mentioned before, we do a “year round” schedule, although I feel like the term is misleading since we take just as much time off as we would on a traditional schedule. The only difference is that we take the time when we need it. Our curriculum is 36 weeks long. By spreading it out over 12 months instead of 9, we can take a day or week as needed without ever feeling behind. This week was a perfect example. On Monday morning of week 2, I woke up with a stomach virus. There was no way we were going to accomplish any school that day! We also had a busy week of medical appointments and therapies, and one of my kiddos was really struggling with big feelings about dad being out of town. This is what is so so so awesome about homeschooling. We don’t have to force it when it isn’t going to work.
So the way I set up our schedule is by “unit” instead of “week.” I basically consider each week of ECC a mini-unit inside of a unit (country) inside of a bigger unit (continent). Before each unit/week, I copy the assignments onto a spread in my favorite planner. I eliminate any “advanced” assignments (included for 7th/8th graders doing ECC) and add our additional work (Handwriting Without Tears, Get Ready for the Code, Life of Fred, read alouds, etc.). This gives me a more accurate checklist of work than the MFW grid, since we don’t follow it exactly. Then we just work through that spread. If we finish it all in four days, perfect! We can take a three day weekend before starting the next one. If it takes us six work days, no problem. We just start the next unit whenever we finish.
As a recovering type A personality, I’ve found that this works best for me. At first, I literally had to write notes to myself at the top of each spread saying “take two weeks if necessary to complete” because I would try so hard to stick to the MFW schedule even when we desperately needed more time. I wanted to be disciplined! I wanted to be structured! But then I realized that I wasn’t doing my kids any favors by forcing them to do work when they truly needed a break.
I also realized that I wasn’t doing them any favors by giving them a long summer break either! They need a good balance of play time and school time year round. They get too bored when we take too much time off. They genuinely enjoy the stimulation of school, as long as it is balanced with play. The balance is the key.
So for now we are continuing with this year round non-schedule, and it’s working great for us!
That wraps up the global introduction to MFW: ECC. Next up, we visit the good ol’ USA and learn about forests!