Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back in the Saddle (Hopefully!)

I haven't posted anything in months (obviously!), but I'm ready and anxious to get going again!  I don't intend to JUST post about our schoolwork, but we'll see what else I find that's post-worthy.  I like blogging about school because it gives me a chance to look back over our week and see what we've accomplished, AND it gives me a way to preserve pictures and memories that I can guarantee will never make it into a scrapbook.

Baby girl!

We've had a lot going on since I last posted.  We're excited to be expecting a new little one in December--a girl (the boys, believe it or not, are THRILLED to be getting a sister!), and thanks to much more intense and longer-lingering "morning" sickness (that could and did hit at any time of day), most of our spring school work was whittled down to just the basics--math, reading, grammar, and writing.  I was hoping to catch up some over the summer, but between the normal summer busy-ness and me still not feeling 100%, we ended up mostly just making sure we kept up with math. Last week we started back to a full school schedule 3 days, then 4 days this week, and we should be up to 5 days next week.  The plan (hopefully!) is to get a lot accomplished over the next couple of months so that we can take a month or six weeks off (or mostly off) when baby girl makes her appearance and for the holidays. 

I'm feeling much better (and much more energetic!) these days, which makes it easier to be a bit hard-nosed when it comes to getting school done!  Our first couple of weeks back have been pretty good overall.  We've had a few attitude "bumps" as the boys are adjusting to having to get their work done rather than play most of the day, especially Connor since he's starting 3rd grade and I'm expecting more from him this year.  He's totally capable, he just doesn't want to do it!  Once he gets started, he's usually fine--it's the "getting started" that's the problem.  I'm hoping that as we get more into the routine, he'll adjust since he knows what to expect and that I'm not going to budge.  One thing that has been helping is that I made their computer time (playing games on the computer) dependent on school work.  For every subject that each of them completes with a good attitude, he gets 5 minutes of computer time, and neither can play on the computer until he finishes his school work.  This has the added benefit of eliminating the constant asking to get on the computer! *grin*

Another major change/addition to our school day has been independent work.  I put several assignments (usually copywork, handwriting practice, math practice, poem illustration, etc. as well as 30 minutes of independent reading) for each of them in his own folder. The idea is for the one who isn't working with mom at the moment to work on independent work whenever it's not break time, but I'm okay with them choosing to read on their own during that time too (or choose an educational activity that we have on hand).  So what often ends up happening is that independent work gets pushed to the end of the day.  But they're not finished until the independent work (and reading) is done--and they can earn computer time for it, so I don't worry too much about *when* it gets done.  If they want to add another 15-45 minutes on to the end of their school day, that's on them!

So ... on to our week!  Just a warning--this got really long!  I posted where we are/where we're going and other random thoughts on each subject in addition to what we actually did this week.  Most of the time I won't do that, but this time I think I needed to for my own benefit.  Feel free to skim or skip or just look at the pictures (there aren't nearly enough this week--gotta remember to take more next week)!


Like I said, Connor is starting 3rd grade.  We actually have a couple of things to finish up from 2nd grade, but we should be done with those in a week or two.  I still need to find the money in the budget to order some more curriculum, so we may be doing a bit of improvising until we can get everything we need!

He's working on finishing up RightStart Level C.  RightStart is different from traditional math curricula, and I've read that many kids end up taking a year and a half to complete level C, so I wasn't too worried that we're not quite finished.  But we've only got 7 lessons to go, and I've already got level D in hand, so we'll transition right into it in a couple of weeks.

RightStart is still working beautifully for us.  I'm convinced, though, that the secret for math success in homeschooling (and probably for public/private schools as well) is to find a solid curriculum and STICK WITH IT.  I think for many homeschoolers, math is intimidating and we tend to second-guess ourselves about whether what we're using is working.  It seems like more curriculum hopping is done with math than any other subject, and while you do need to make sure that what you use is working for your child, different curricula have such different approaches and scopes/sequences that too much hopping around will mean gaps and math frustration.  Sorry--off the soapbox now and back to Connor's week in math!

He has just about mastered multiplication through the 10's.  Actually, he can do any multiplication problem through the 10's, he just doesn't have all the facts "tip-of-the-tongue" memorized yet.  So we're still working through solidifying the 6's and will do the 7's, 8's, and 9's soon, and then it's lots of practice and games to make the facts stick!  One thing I have been a *little* frustrated with is that most of the RS multiplication games focus on skip counting and fact groups (all of the 6 facts, i.e.).  Skip counting is great--that's why he can figure out pretty easily any multiplication problem, but it doesn't help with trying to improve random recall of multiplication facts.  I've added a game or two that I've found elsewhere, and that helps.  I'm trying to decide if I want to have him learn to recite the tables as well, but he's *so close* to knowing them on his own that I don't know if it'll be worth it.  So if anyone knows any random recall-type multiplication games (other than Multiplication War), let me know!

He has also been working on fractions, which he is understanding really well.  Once again, I love the way RS presents the topic.  The fraction chart is wonderful, although I do wish I had splurged and bought the wooden fractions puzzle.  He was already resisting putting the chart together the second time I brought it out (and I can't blame him--it is a bit time consuming).  With the puzzle, we could leave it put together and just pull out the pieces we need if we're not using the whole chart.  I've thought about putting magnets on the back of the plastic chart pieces, but I haven't gotten around to checking to see if I have any magnetic tape.  Procrastination, thy name is ME.

We waited until this week to add history back into our schedule.  We're (FINALLY!!) finishing SOTW I--it's been two years in the making!  I took to heart the advice from The Well-Trained Mind, though: if something has to give, it should be science and/or history--just make sure on getting a solid foundation in the basics (math, reading, grammar, writing, spelling).  So there were many weeks where we just didn't get to science and/or history, and that's okay.  We've also done a fair amount of reading in both subjects, so the exposure was still there, and that's more what it's about at this point anyway.  

We don't have SOTW II yet, but I can't wait to get started--medieval history with two little boys is going to be a blast!  Brennan will be joining us fully for history this year (I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to do two separate narrations since Connor isn't writing his on his own quite yet ...).  If we don't have it by the time we're ready to move on, I'm planning to use the review cards in the AG for SOTW I and let Connor color them to make a mini-book to review the things we've learned over the last two years. 

This week we learned about the Visigoths, Vandals, and other barbarians attacking the Roman empire. His narrations are coming along really well--I can tell that Writing with Ease has really improved his narration skills.  Here's his narration from the last section we read: 

The first barbarian tribe that attacked Rome [the first in that day's reading, not the first ever] was the Visigoths.  They destroyed almost everything in Rome.  The second was even worse. They were called the Vandals.  They destroyed almost everything else that was still left.

Coloring a picture of a Visigoth warrior

I think the thing I'm most tickled about is that I'm really seeing the fruit of learning to focus on main points vs. extra information and details. Yay!

Reading is still a work in progress.  It's my nemesis, that's for sure.  Connor reads really well (6th or 7th grade reading level, I think), but the books he chooses for fun reading are nowhere near his reading level.  Which is okay, but it means that I need to be making sure he's reading more challenging stuff for school.  Which means requiring him to read certain books.  Which sometimes means he fights me about it.  Ugh. So what I'm planning to try to do this year is have some non-negotiable books but also have some times when he can choose from several acceptable books.  The trick now is to narrow down the choices, which will be hard enough anyway, but I can't do too much of that until I have our history curriculum in hand since I plan to have reading/literature go hand-in-hand with history as much as possible as outlined in TWTM. I need to sit down with the budget and see if we can manage an Amazon order this week!

Right now he's reading Holes by Louis Sachar, which was one of several choices I gave him.  He's doing well with it and has actually been reading it some outside of the required reading time for school--always a good sign!  The other issue that I need to figure out is what to do other than just expecting him to read.  TWTM suggests notebook pages with narrations a couple of times a week.  We may do that, but I already expect a good bit of narration and written work from him.  I wouldn't mind just discussing it with him, but I would need to read along with or ahead of him to be able to guide a discussion (even if I've already read the book), and I'm not sure how well I'll keep up with that.  I'm pretty sure I'll need to do that in a couple of years anyway, so I may just need to bite the bullet and do it!  Like I said, a work in progress.

He has 12 or 13 lessons left in First Language Lessons, level 2, and then we'll be moving on to level 3!  This week we worked on writing a composition (one paragraph) about what he does in the morning, focusing on complete sentences and getting the thoughts/sentences in order. 

He's ready for AAS level 3, but we're reviewing the rules and concepts from level 2 for now.  This week we reviewed the rules for dividing words into syllables.

Working on spelling

He is about halfway through Prima Latina (another non-essential that went by the wayside for a while there), so we'll be finishing that over the next few months.  We've spent the last couple of weeks reviewing vocabulary words from the first two units, with one unit to go before we pick up where we left off.  After PL, I'm not sure what we're going to do.  I was seriously looking at Latin for Children A, but after reading some reviews, I'm worried about the pacing and the amount of information covered in one lesson (among other things).  Lively Latin looks good, but I need to look into it some more.  I'm really leaning toward Getting Started with Latin--it's inexpensive, incremental (only one concept taught in each lesson!), and focuses on translation as well as vocab and grammar concepts.  And it's incredibly simple.  Still dithering on this one, clearly.

He finished week 22 and most of week 23 in Writing with Ease this week.  He is really good at dictation, and like I mentioned above, his narration skills are really solid.  He likes (or at least tolerates) writing because it's usually pretty quick, which is one thing *I* love about the curriculum too.  For something that takes so little time (10-15 minutes, tops), it really pays off.  This week he's been working on writing sentences with direct and indirect quotations.

He is still working on his United States notebook.  Most of this is/will be independent work--I have a notebooking page (actually a set of two) for him to fill out about each state, and we have some state flashcards that he uses to find most of the information. 

Memory Work: 
I still need to come up with a good review system for our memory work.  There are some things out there, but I haven't found anything that really looks like it will work for us.  I need to put some time and thought into that next week!

This week he has been working on memorizing or reviewing:

Matthew 17:20
The hymn, "To God Be the Glory"
Catechism questions 6-10
Latin prayer: Gloria Patri
Poem: All Things Bright and Beautiful
History chant
Preposition list


Brennan is "starting" first grade.  "Starting" because he has really been doing first-grade level work for a while now.  But we're adding grammar, independent work, and independent reading (and will add Latin once he finishes phonics), so I guess that makes it "official." *grin*

He has fewer than 20 lessons left in RS B!  RS A is so much shorter than the other programs that we started B about halfway through his Kindergarten year.  I've been working on stretching things out a bit--I'm really not sure if he'll be ready for RS C so soon.  He's doing great with mentally adding 2-digit numbers, understanding halves and quarters, counting money, and telling time, all of which we've worked on/reviewed over the last couple of weeks.  He needs to solidify his addition facts, so we've been playing lots of games--addition war, addition bingo, corners, etc.  He can figure out any of the addition facts (single-digit addition problems), but he needs to know them quickly and easily.  So we play!

Playing skip count memory

Learning about halves and quarters

Independent work--color by sum

Phonics has been interesting with Brennan.  With Connor, he took off independently so quickly and easily that going through phonics was mostly covering things he already knew on his own.  Brennan's reading took off at about the same time, but he doesn't seem to be quite as intuitive about decoding.  I think part of it is that he is impatient--he'd rather guess at longer words than sound them out, even words he's perfectly capable of reading.  Then he gets it wrong and I make him go back and try again and he doesn't like that much!  He also has wanted to be reading things he really wasn't quite ready for, so he'd get frustrated more easily.  I've really worked on making sure he has lots of level-appropriate books on hand, and that helps.  His latest thing is detective stories, so I've been working on finding plenty of those!

This week he's been working on vowel digraphs for long vowel sounds.  I've been trying some different activities to practice and cement the concepts--sorting games, worksheets, board work, etc.  I think I'm going to take a break from the book next week and work specifically on multi-syllable word skills--sounding out longer words in chunks from left to right.  He definitely needs some work there.

He started First Language Lessons level 1 last week, and he loves doing grammar.  He's already memorized (and illustrated) the first poem ("The Caterpillar," by Christina Rosetti), and he's learning about proper and common nouns. 

He finished Writing with Ease (level 1) week 19 this week (which inspired our current school read-aloud, The Light Princess by George MacDonald) and began week 20.  He focused on capitalization and pronouns (he's farther in WWE than First Language Lessons, obviously!), and since we've been working on nouns in grammar we also looked for proper nouns in his copywork.  

Memory Work:
We're doing memory work separately this year (at least for now).  I'd prefer to do the things together that they're both learning, but they bicker and fuss with each other so much when we do that it's actually faster to do it separately.  So it's definitely worth it!

This week, he's working on memorizing/reviewing:

Matthew 17:20
Catechism questions 6-10
Hymn: To God Be the Glory
Books of the Old Testament
Poem: The Caterpillar
Definition of a noun


This week we started using Bible Study Guide for All Ages.  We've only done one lesson, but so far it looks really good.  I'm still not 100% sure this is what I want to use--they know all the major Bible stories and most of the lesser-known ones as well, between what we've done at home and what they learn at church, so I'm not sure that something that focuses on the stories is what we need.  But it does look like it goes through books of the Bible as well (it's designed to be about 4 years worth of study), so I think we're going to try it.  One thing I really like about this is that they read the story for themselves, straight from their Bibles. 

The funny thing is that when I showed Connor the samples online, he wasn't thrilled and didn't think he'd like it.  When we were doing it this week, he seemed to be enjoying it just fine, although he denied it when I pointed that out to him.  Stinker!  Anyway, this week we learned about Joseph, his dreams, and his family issues.  One of the activities was to draw a picture that represented hate (since Joseph's brothers hated him).  I loved what Connor chose to draw--a picture of a monster, and he talked about how hate is like a monster that lives in your heart and makes you do mean things.  His discussion sounded much more mature than I can relate it, and it gave us a good chance to talk about how God can help us defeat hate and that love is the antidote (had to explain what an antidote was) for hate.  Good times.

Coloring a picture of "hate"

Connor's "hate monster"

Brennan wasn't too keen on drawing something for hate (didn't do it, in fact, but I didn't push it), but he did seem to enjoy and keep up with the rest of the lesson.  I was glad to see that, because I went ahead and put them both in the intermediate level, which is designed for 3rd-4th grades.  The 1st-2nd grade level looked too simple for him, and I think I made the right call. 

I wrote about Connor's history work above because although I'm requiring him to listen and participate, Brennan won't really be starting history (doing the narrations, map work, etc.) until we get SOTW II.  So once we get that going, history will be in the "together" section too!

We're still finishing up our unit on the Human Body (didn't get much done on it this spring/summer).  This week we're learning about the reproductive system (which we had already discussed before I got pregnant, and which of course has come up again since they found out baby girl was coming!), but for some reason I don't feel particularly compelled to include it in our lapbook ... *grin*  They've been fascinated to learn about the growth and development of babies, born and unborn.  We have one more system to learn about--the immune system--and then we're DONE and can put together the lapbooks.  After that we'll be studying astronomy!

Whew!  Hopefully I'll do better about posting weekly and won't feel the need to write a novel next time!  Thanks for persevering if you made it all the way through--I think this one was more for myself than for anyone else!

1 comment:

  1. Nice update, I love reading what y'all are up to. Connor and Lauren sound so much alike. I'm glad to see we're not the only ones taking our time getting though SOTW. We started 2 in the middle of last year and planned to be finished, or darn near by Sept. but are still only a little over 1/4 through it. We just didn't get as much done in the way of history & science over the summer. It's all good though - we are loving the middle ages and I am starting year 3 of EFM at church which is church history/middle ages so it will all tie in together and I'm excited about that :-)

    Have you looked at Times Tales? Lauren had her facts down in a day, I was very impressed with how well it worked. Lauren was like Connor, she could figure them out but didn't have that "tip-of-the-tongue" recall. I would be happy to send it to you if you want to give it a try. As it is, it's just sitting in my box of give away stuff I keep forgetting to take to park day, not doing anyone any good. Let me know.