Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Do They Do It?

I have become an avid blog reader. I like to know how other families are learning, what they are using and how they manage it all. I know I have been doing this just a month but it is easy to feel inadequate. This is how we are doing our lessons:

Math: Singapore Math level 1B textbook and workbook. We work on math for about 45 minutes a day. The past month has been spent on fact practice, addition with regrouping (tens place only) and introduction to subtraction (taking from tens place only).

Language Arts: We are using First Language Lessons (level 1) and love it. L is 7 but has never learned grammar in public school. We started at the very beginning. Because she is already a fluent reader and writer, we combined several lessons without even knowing it. For example, writing the proper names of our family members included aunts, uncles and cousins (all which were covered in follow up lessons). We are on lesson 36. She has memorized three poems and is working on her fourth. I give her a certificate when she is able to consistently recite each poem from memory.

Writing With Ease is our writing curriculum. I love that the excerpts are from children’s literature. This week’s excerpt is from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. L now wants to read the book and I checked it out of our library today. Because L was writing prompts and realistic fiction in school I did not think she would have difficulty with comprehension questions and narration. But she does! It is hard for her to think of what she wants to write and then remember it long enough to put the sentence on paper. I love that this teaches the process of summary, thought collection and then narration. As I have said before it is the only area that I struggle with because it is a huge departure from the way writing is taught in our district - the Columbia Teacher’s College Model of Artist’s Writer’s Workshop. To supplement writing, I incorporate as many real life writing opportunities as possible. She entered an American Girl Contest in which she has to answer the question “I am inspired by nature when....”. She has sent a thank you letter to her great-aunt who donated pattern blocks and colored counters for our math lessons. She keeps a journal and I ask her to write something periodically. She has entries about her first homeschool play group and a poem all about her sister.

Spelling has been a bit of a disaster. When I ordered A Reason for Spelling, I did not realize there was a teacher’s guide. I ordered that used from Amazon. I was sent the wrong book! I ordered it again, Amazon canceled my order. I ordered it a third time from the publisher and am currently waiting for delivery.

We love history! The Story of the World, the Ancients has supplied L with such passion for ancient Egypt! We have read many many books about Egypt from mummification to pyramids and the God and Goddesses. We have watched a movie, taken a trip to the Peabody Museum and will be attending an event about Egypt at the Barnum Museum later this month. She has made a model of the Nile River and used clay to write in Cuneiform from Sumer. I am taking my time with this, savoring her enjoyment of the process of reading, discovering, creating and absorbing the new knowledge. We are keeping a Book of Centuries which has entries for Mozart and her Great-Great-Great Grandfather from Poland.

Science has been disappointing for me. We have been doing animal classification and she has completed lapbooks about squirrels and frogs. Her interest in waning and I feel like we need a more structured science curriculum. I am going to take a break from animals and connect her science learning to her Brownie Troop’s learning about water. I took our two books from the library about water and fun science experiments for us to do. I will use this opportunity to introduce the scientific method and keep a journal of our experiences with the experiments. Because she has joined the Brownie Troop mid-year this will help bring her up to where the other children are. It will also help make her field trip to the water treatment center more meaningful. Part of me feels that science should be based on their interests and questions rather than just teaching topics because we have to. I am very excited to chart how much water the family uses flushing the toilet and how phosphates in cleaning products can be measured. I am surprised that her Brownie book is packed with information on water usage, cycles, and treatments (I was a Brownie drop-out). It is a mini-unit in itself! I would be foolish not to capitalize on this opportunity.

Music and Art. These two are interesting because she is already taking outside classes in both. We are members at Creative Arts Workshop. There children and families can take workshops in a wide variety of art mediums. She has taken a workshop on printing and card making. She is now taking a six week class on pottery. Since this program is run on 6 weeks cycles, she regularly attends classes taught by working artists filled with children from every imaginable background. This is giving her a good basic art education. I am supplementing it with art activities based on our learning and when we have time we are learning how to use real watercolor paints. Music is the same. She has been studying piano for over a year and practices regularly. I have incorporated a composer study. January was focused on Mozart. We listened to music every morning. We read picture book biographies about him. I also discovered a great website called Classics For Kids and we listened to a webcast, completed a lesson on the Turkish Rhondo and added his birth and death to our Book of Centuries. I asked her piano teacher to give her a piece of music composed by Mozart that can be played at her level. She is working on the piece Romance.

To continue the Spanish instruction she received in school I am using two sites: one free and one subscription. The free one is I like it because it incorporates vocabulary with sentence structure in a format that is similar to Rosetta Stone. I do not like that it is tied into a social networking site where you can practice your language with native speakers. Needless to say, we do not use this feature and the free subscription is in my name and uses my email address. I did not think she was understanding it until she started telling me I was an old lady! We are alternating this with a vocabulary building site for kids called Foreign Language Friends. This is a $9/month subscription. I pay monthly because at some point within the next year she will outpace the lessons that are provided.

Every week she attends an hour and a half of religious instruction at our church.

For physical education we are walking her sister to and from school every day. She is attending swimming lessons, plays basketball with her sister twice a week and we purchased Wii Fit for her to get some movement in on cold winter days. One thing that homeschooling allows for is many play dates. During these play times the children are never idle. They are taking walks, having mud fights, creating a slingshot game from elastic headbands, sliding down snow covered hills or playing hide and seek. They are in constant motion.

So when I freak out that I am not teaching cursive handwriting yet, have not thought about introducing geography and am not using a boxed curriculum for reading (I teach through the countless books she has read over the last month....I think her list is up to 25...) I remember what my husband and best friend said to me. He said he thinks of this time, the time from when we withdrew her from school through the end of the official “school year” as a time for her to grow socially, not so much academically. He wants her to feel confident, to make new friends, discover her voice, share her personality. The learning will always be there, some days more than others. Some topics will be wonderful, others will not. But at least she will be a content child who is learning in an environment she trusts, surrounded by friends she cares for and secure in the knowledge her parents will always act in her best interest. She is seven. She is in second grade. The rest will come....

1 comment:

Karen said...

I am going back and reading from the beginning. I am loving reading all about your first steps at HSing L. I took Kei out of PS in 2nd grade also. But it was the first day of week 2. No reason, just had been wanted to HS since K, but was afraid I couldn't do it. Silly me. :)

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