Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beginning of a new homeschool year! (August 2013)

So the public school here officially begins the last week in August. Just for fun we went ahead and started up our homeschooling again that same week.We aren't following their calendar in any other way, but since the other kids at church are getting all excited about the start of the new school year, I hope it helps my kids relate a little bit to them saying we are "starting" also.

This year I have Dinoguy who is equivalent to a fifth grader in public school and Trainboy is equivalent to a third grader. We don't necessarily feel a need to follow the labels or curricula of the public schools but it is convenient again for them to be able to relate to other children to know where they would be if they attended. Princess is still four, so she is not even Kindergarten age, though she is taller than most first graders. This would be her official "pre-k" year. During our outside break around lunch time, I took "first day" pictures of the kids to document how they looked.

As I am pregnant and due to have a baby in November, I decided not to participate in a preschool cooperative this year with Princess. I have done so for the past two years and it has been fun, but since we moved out to the country it has involved a lot more driving and planning than I felt I could commit to this year. I felt this meant I needed to make a bigger effort to do more home preschool based stuff with her this year. With a lot of reading and idea seeking, I developed a plan for a weekly topic theme for activities, crafts, books and some learning. My personal opinions involve less formal learning at a young age and more experiential learning so while I wanted her to develop more familiarity with alphabet letters, I didn't want to do many worksheets or sit down learning beyond being read to from MANY books. I did however decide to make a large calendar board.
Over the summer Princess had become very fascinated by calendars in counting down to my sister's wedding. Making a giant changeable calendar where we could talk about the month, the date, yesterday, tomorrow, the weather, and even the moon cycle seemed like a great idea. Since I was also looking for a way to try and discuss scripture stories with my older boys as well, I decided to try and begin each day with our own version of "circle time". The plan was to do the calendar time, read a scripture story from the Old Testament stories reader and possibly sing a song with all the kids before the older boys formally began their own independent work and I did some activities with my two littles. Princess LOVED the calendar. I have really enjoyed learning about the moon cycle!

The circle time and then splitting into two groups worked fairly well except my older boys, (especially Trainboy) were frequently distracted by whatever I was doing with the littles and wanted to either join in the activity or listen. I hadn't anticipated this happening at all and still haven't figured out what to do about it. Things have to happen simultaneously to some degree, there just aren't enough hours in the day otherwise. I know because I have tried scheduling it multiple ways on paper!

Our first preschool week theme was "All about me". I relied heavily on other blogs that I liked to start my idea process, then turned to pinterest for additional ideas and then finished with some books I have on hand as reference. I tried to have 1-2 activities each day as well as some sort of art/craft thing to do because Princess LOVES them. I also tried to read a bunch of books to them. I was also exploring some of the Montessori concepts and how they might work for us.
Princess and Little Guy made towers as tall as themselves to see their height visually.

Gluing beans to stick figure drawings.
Painting a wooden letter "V" and "Z" for their names.
The hardest part is making time for the preparation. When you buy curricula that require no thought, well, you just open and do it! When you are creating your own, it takes a lot more time and effort. However then it is customized to your child's needs! There has to be a balance though since I do not have endless amounts of time. For the first month of schooling, I was trying to do all my work in the evening or on the weekend. Unfortunately, September is a very busy month for my job and this was not working well for me since I had to work most of Saturday and we had other things to do as well! The best time for me to work is early morning but I can't seem to get up early without waking the kids.


What is the school plan for Dinoguy this year?
 Mostly Independent work. At this point, Dinoguy is pretty self motivated to learn and he can do a lot on his own. Here is a list of topics he is studying this year.
Math Mammoth 5. He had already started this over the summer, so we will keep working through it. Attending the local university Math Circle each Saturday has really built his confidence in mathematics and he wants to complete the whole workbook early this year and work on level 6 as well. I told him he can set his own pace here. Also, I believe this is one of the best math programs on the market right now in addition to how affordable it is. Friday is real life math day which usually involves him cooking or baking something delicious in the kitchen for me. Love it.
MCP Word Study E and MCP Spelling E. While he reads and writes at an appropriate level, I do not believe spelling or phonics study should end. I did diagnostic testing and he is doing great, the word study book is a continuation of the phonics, its just called Word Study now. I ask him to do a page a day in this, which will take approximately all year.
First Language Lessons 4. This is our grammar text, we completed book 3 last year and are continuing in book 4. I love the thorough basis in grammar my kids are getting from this texts.
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. 2 days a week he spends 15-20 minutes with this program. He is at about 15 wpm right now so we're doing alright.
Writing with Skill Level 1. This is very different from Writing with Ease because it is done by the student and then checked by the instructor. He has been doing well with it.
The Complete Book of Maps & Geography. He is more than halfway through this book, so at a page a day, we should finish some time this year.
Discovering Old Testament. I am still using the "younger kid" workbook version with him this year even though he is older because I think he needs a relaxed, become familiar with the scripture stories approach, not as much an in depth study yet. He believes he knows it all, and this hopefully will just help fill in holes and gaps. We have previously completed the New Testament and Book of Mormon workbooks from this author and think they are pretty great.
Latina Christiana I. The workbook and review work he does on his own, though I try to discuss it with him beforehand to introduce grammar concepts and new vocabulary.
Getting Started With Spanish. This is a leisurely paced basic beginner Spanish workbook which he can read a short lesson and then I can review with him. I was planning he'd do this with Duolingo practice, but they aren't being cooperative (it refuses to let him advance beyond lesson 1)
Science For science this year, Dinoguy is choosing experiments from Janice Van Cleave's Biology for Every Kid for now. He is also reading and learning from a book we have called Human Body. We created Science Experiment Notebooks and he is to do a write up each week for me on his experiment and what he learned. The first while we are focusing on Human Biology but after that we are going to focus more on Animals and other creatures using The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia.
History. Dinoguy is writing a basic outline of 2 page spreads from The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia based in the Renaissance period right now. He then looks up additional books on a topic that interests him from that two page spread and we search for original documents to examine on the internet as well. I also have him label a map from new countries comparing older and modern boundaries. We got the National Geographic Family Atlas of the World and Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book for this. This is partially independent and partially requiring mom's help. He really seems to be enjoying this approach to history.
Violin and Piano. Dinoguy is still taking Violin lessons from a local teacher and Piano lessons from me. He enjoys music and regularly practices.
Music Appreciation. I am attempting to have us listen to Exploring Music on the radio at least once a week or to listen to a musical piece related to the history we are learning about so we can discuss music history as well.
Art. Dinoguy chose sculpture, water color and drawing as the topics for art this year. We have started with some clay work and will focus on learning basic clay sculpting for a while. This is about once a week. Ideally I also have them read about an artist from the history time period they are learning about too. Dinoguy loved learning about Van Gogh while learning about the Netherlands for example.
Flag Football and other sports. We registered him for community flag football again this fall and he is constantly discussing what sports he plans to do in the future. Basketball again? Baseball? Swimming or track? He is an active kid!


What is the plan for Trainboy this year?
Trainboy is also doing more independent work, but he needs more guidance and help in developing the skills of working independently and setting goals. His school plan this year consists of the following.
Math Mammoth 3. I hope he will finish the 5th and 6th books of Miquon Math but he seems to prefer the switch to the Math Mammoth workbook right now so I am letting him. I have had to discuss pacing and goals with him in this. He understands the concepts easily but this text is aimed at third grade which is a time to develop proficiency in the arithmetic algorithm and basic multiplication tables which requires practice and some repetition. He is not a fan of this! Some days he spends hours on his math which can be frustrating for me since I know he is capable of completing it in minutes. However, since I work as a math tutor and deal all the time with kids who haven't learned the basics and the trouble it makes for them later on, I continue to help him work on developing his own proficiency.
MCP Phonics C and MCP Spelling C. He has already started this books and will continue in them. Like Dinoguy, I do not consider the ability to read fluently an excuse to not continue learning phonics and spelling concepts. I like these simple workbooks they can spend a few minutes on each day and learn to recognize spelling patterns and phonetic concepts usually without much fuss.
First Language Lessons 3. Our grammar book we work through 2-3 lessons together each week. Trainboy has started learning to diagram sentences and it warms the cockles of my grammar fearing heart to see him do it easily.
Writing with Ease Book 3. This is the writing book in the series he has reached. We are experiencing many of the difficulties his brother had with this book, expanding his memory skills for dictation and really learning the skill of summarizing and narrating.
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. 2 days a week he spends 15-20 minutes with this program. He is at about 10 wpm right now.
Discovering Old Testament. This is easy for him, he often does all of the pages I ask him to do for the week on Monday.
Prima Latina. Since brother started Latin in third grade, Trainboy gets too also and is thrilled. The difference is I have some confidence in helping with it now. It is going quite well.
Science For science this year, Trainboy is picking out experiments from Janice Van Cleave's Chemistry for Every Kid book and using the Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science and a book called How Science Works as reference. He is to do a write up in his science notebook each week on at least one experiment about the experiment and what he learned.
History We are reading Story of the World book 3 about the renaissance for history. We do maps and summaries from each chapter and he chooses some extra books at the library to read and activities from the activity guide. Ideally we finish with the chapter test to see how much info he picked up/retained.
Piano. Trainboy has elected to only study piano for music. He says he prefers it to violin. I miss having two violinists but I am going to respect his choice.
Music Appreciation. I am attempting to have us listen to Exploring Music on the radio at least once a week or to listen to a musical piece related to the history we are learning about so we can discuss music history as well.
Art. His brother chose sculpture, water color and drawing as the topics for art this year and Trainboy was fine with that. Trainboy has really liked the clay work and I have enjoyed it a lot too.
Soccer. Trainboy chose to do soccer this fall, choosing a different sport from his big brother for the first time. He also discusses what sports he might choose next. 

Well there you have info about what we are up to right now in learning!  I haven't included Reading specific books as a topic right now because we have so many other things we are studying going on right now. We did do that for a while this past spring and it was interesting. Both boys are voracious readers so I am not worrying about it too much right now. There is time in the future for more literary discussion.

1 comment:

Miranda said...

I love this post. In a couple of years when my oldest is at Trainboy's level, I'll come back and re read it! But do tell me, what does Little Guy's sign say?!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin