Saturday, March 02, 2013

Our Home School this year (beginning Sep 2012)

This is actually conference projects and notes but looks like school work right?
As school began in September I discussed with the boys what they wanted to study this year. They had been doing a few workbooks all summer  but now it was time to reassess and begin the new year. Dinoguy is 4th grade age and Trainboy is 2nd grade age but one of the great strengths of homeschooling is that we can work at their ability level not just their age level.

Making a castle out of cereal and marshmallows
History had been a lot of fun the previous year and when asked they agreed that continuing with the program we were using would be fun. We had only made it about a third of the way through the book since the previous year they had attended public school for 4.5 months. So we continue to use Story of the World volume 2 and the Activity Book that accompanies it. This involves them summarizing what we read and writing it down, coloring a map that goes with the chapter, reading suggested extra books on the topic and choosing 1-2 of the suggested projects which include art, cooking, games, etc. Dinoguy has also started doing a fabulous Geography workbook each day that is a multi-year book called "The complete book of Maps & Geography for grades 3-6".
Handsome boy at the park
Science had been going alright, but we had finished "Science Experiments you can eat" and when we began the sequel I realized they were harder, more intensive experiments and it wasn't a great fit for us right now. (We failed to turn our cottage cheese into hard cheese. I was very sad.) I found a used science curricula for a great deal from a local group and so we started the Sonlight 4 Science program that focuses on magnets, electricity, and astronomy. I wasn't sure how this would work since it has a workbook (something I've avoided) but I really liked the "living books" it included and activities. I'm writing this at the end of February and we are about 1/3 thru the program and the workbook is actually okay and possibly even helpful. It helps us reflect and discuss the concepts we read about and it doesn't take too long. The hands on projects are pretty awesome, the boys have really enjoyed them. We don't follow the suggested schedule though. We tend to do all of our science in one or two afternoons each week. We are also working on planting a bigger garden that is a project Dinoguy wants to do from the book "Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots". Dinoguy has also been cooking the projects in Alton Brown's cookbook "I'm just here for more food" which has been fun. He gets practice reading recipes and following directions - we get to eat his creations!
Enjoying a spontaneous picnic in the backyard
 As far as math curricula, I ask Dinoguy if he wanted to continue with Math Mammoth and he said yes it was fine. I think it is a great program because it goes into depth about each topic instead of skipping around and encourages thinking about the concepts in multiple ways, developing reasoning and problem solving skills. This is what mathematics should be about in my humble opinion, and learning arithmetic facts is secondary to that. So Dinoguy is using Math Mammoth grade 4. It does take him 30-45 minutes most days to do 2-3 pages. He is most pleased when he has no corrections to make. (I have him redo any problems he doesn't get right the first time.) He completed the 4A book in January 2013 and is almost done with the long division chapter of the 4B book.
Playing with Mom's new toys - Polydrons
Trainboy wanted both Miquon and Math Mammoth. So I gave him the Math Mammoth grade 2 book for fun to do in addition to the Miquon books. He completed the Blue book over summer 2012 and the Green book in January 2013 (grade 2 completed) and is about 1/3 of the way done in the Yellow book in the Miquon (first of two grade 3 books). He has recently completed the 2A book from Math Mammoth as well.He chooses each day whether to do Miquon or Math Mammoth. Trainboy is very capable with numbers and notices patterns on his own. He seems to enjoy thinking about numbers like I do and I am sure he could work at a higher level but I am not pushing him to it. He has freedom to do more or less according to his desire. One thing he enjoys about the Miquon books is he does not have to do the pages in order. He flips through the workbook and chooses the page he wants to do. If he can't figure it out, he can ask me and we can check the teachers' notes if needed. Usually he figures it out on his own though. I let him choose which chapter to do in Math Mammoth but ask him do work thru the pages in the chapter in order.

Little Guy with some polydron shapes
While workbooks are the basis of their written school work, math class extends beyond that. I bought myself polydrons for Christmas to add to my math manipulative collection and they have been a big hit with the kids.  Playing board games, playing with math manipulatives, cooking projects, art projects, money earned by doing chores, all of these contribute much to their mathematical education.
Princess LOVES to draw and color. Here she is experimenting with oil pastels and drawing a snowman.
For Art this year I wanted to really work on the skills in the Drawing with Children book I borrowed from my mom. I still remember doing these exercises as a kid and enjoying learning how to do some basic drawing from it. We have supplemented this with some fun projects we've found online, mostly from the fabulous blog Deep Space Sparkle. I try to make sure we spend at least an hour a week on art. It is something we can all do together and enjoy and it has filled my walls with beautiful projects!
Clockwise from bottom left: Princess' lion, Trainboys' lion, Dinoguys' lion, My lion.
As far as language arts goes, we have many topics. First lets discuss Handwriting. Trainboy requested to learn cursive so he started the year with the Handwriting without Tears Cursive book 3. Then after he finished it I asked him to practice improving his printing, so he is doing a printing book I was given for free. Handwriting practice is important to me because I want them to write legibly and also be able to read cursive. I remind them that the point is not to complete the page as quickly as you can, but as beautifully as you can. Dinoguy has just completed the Handwriting without Tears Cursive book 4. Thanks to its simple style his writing is becoming more legible again.  Handwriting without Tears is a blessing for left-handed writers like him!

Phonics & Spelling we continue to use MCP Phonics and the accompanying spelling book. Dinoguy wanted to skip book C and work on book D (grade level) and I told him we could try it but if it was too hard, we'd move back down. He has made extra effort I believe to do well at it and it is a joy to see him recognizing suffixes and root words. He spells very well now I believe for his age. Trainboy has finished the Phonics book B already and is working on book C but finishing the spelling book B. It might be too easy for him, but I'm not sure. I tell him we can do as much as he wants each day, that I just ask him to do one page. Sometimes he completes a whole lesson in a day or two instead of a week. The spelling books are activity based and I don't think they would be enough practice if the words were super challenging. So I think the spelling books are more review and confidence building after seeing the information in the Phonics books. Since I won't pay for the teacher guides, I guess I won't know if that is what was intended. I do see the boys
 skills improving though and I'm excited to see what kind of progress they have made when I reassess them this summer using the tests outlined in Words their Way.

Grammar and Writing we have continued with the First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease program. I have really come to love the First Language Lesson books. It makes me proud to know my kids are learning grammar thoroughly and memorizing poems as well. This may be because of my own struggle with grammar in middle school. The Writing with Ease program based on narrations and dictations can best be called an experiment to see if it helps. I do agree that young kids don't need to regularly be creating original works but I don't think it hurts occasionally. We spent the month of November doing Nanowrimo Young Writers Program and it was a good experience. Much easier for Dinoguy though than Trainboy.

I bought a reading curricula guide called "Reading Roadmaps" to try and find grade appropriate reading books for the boys to discuss plot and characters. It has some good suggestions but wasn't detailed enough for me who prefers math to English. However my mom has enjoyed helping with this by talking to the kids over Skype. The boys have enjoyed opening their reading horizons to include a wider variety of books also.

Dinoguy chose to continue learning basic Latin and is almost done with the Prima Latina book. I believe it is helpful and he enjoys it so we keep going. Recently we have started to use to practice spelling words in addition to regular flashcards.

Both boys can practice typing with Mavis Beacon whenever they want. At the beginning of the year they did it regularly but the newness must have worn off because it is neglected mostly now. I am not in a rush for them to be good typers but I do believe it is a skill to learn. I can type 75-80 words per minute easily while my DH hunts and pecks at 15-20 wpm.

The boys' violin teacher moved over the summer and I have had trouble finding a replacement here. I had them continue to practice what they knew for a while but that became frustrating not to learn new material. In January I started teaching them basic piano. They are enjoying it and I have finally found a good violin teacher but only Dinoguy wants to continue learning violin right now. He is going to try learning both!

Lastly the boys are working through the workbook "Discovering the New Testament" which came from the same author as the "Discovering the Book of Mormon" series we did last year. I like that the boys are developing more familiarity with the scripture stories from it and memorizing short scriptures.

The boys work on their "independent schoolwork" in the morning (workbooks) and once I check them and they redo any mistakes we move on to grammar and writing. Afternoons are for other subjects like reading, art, history, science and music practice.

Princess & Little Guy get  puzzles, blocks, math manipulatives, coloring and reading time with mom squeezed into the day where I can. She loves doing the art and science projects with her brothers as well. Princess is participating in a  mom preschool coop once a week that she enjoys. She is very social and loves playing with the friends. We go to the park with friends at least once a week so we can all enjoy the fabulous Texas winter weather.

And that is a glimpse of what our home school looks like this year.


Norah said...

Very interesting. I see you use alot of the same things I do.

Miranda said...

I flatter myself that my homeschool year will look a lot like yours in 3 years or so :D I especially love how you've got your mom involved with Skype!


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