It is report card time! It is just about now that all of my friends are going into school for teacher conferences and so I thought it might be a good time to look at how we are doing.
Here is a sample of what our weeks look like:
|“Play Day”||Letter/Poem MondayArt ClassTaekwondo||Swim Class School for Library and Science Specials
|Piano Lesson Swim Practice||Story time at the Library Mother’s Helper||
Weekly schedule: As you can see from the matrix, we have set activities every week. “School work” is not scheduled because I find that we are able to cover enough each week to meet our goals. As far as workbooks go, generally, we work in Math 3-4 days per week, Grammar 2-3 days per week, and Copywork 2-3 days per week.
We had planned to use Singapore Mathematics Primary Math Standards Edition 1A but our local school gave us Everyday Mathematics. I do like that program for the early grades and Molly has done well with it. She just finished First Grade Math.
However, after talking with several parents with older children at our public school, reading reviews of the program and seeing videos like this, which raise important concerns about how multiplication and division are taught, we decided to switch back to Singapore Mathematics. So, I bought the second level of books and they should be here next week.
Both kids enjoy Dreambox, on-line interactive math program, but our days are so packed that they just don’t get the chance to sit in front of the computer that much. I am trying to decide whether I should encourage them to do more of it.
I generally let the kids guide this subject and it seems we are “doing science” every day, whether it is tending to some of the seeds we have planted, making “gak” or a volcano, taking care of our gold fish, going on a nature walk and collecting items for a “mini-museum”, cooking, or just talking about how seeds travel, we are very active in this area.
Molly does also join the school for a science special every week.
READING AND WRITING:
The kids write on their own every day. And they read every day. My biggest challenge is protecting our time so that we have free time at home with no friends around. If I do that, it is guaranteed, so far, that they will both get to drawing pictures, narrating them, writing short stories or letters to friends and family, and reading. Sometimes they even read together!
I thought Molly would need the scanner and database for motivation but it turns out I really just need to get out of her way!
We have been working in The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook for Writing with Ease, which alternates between having the student copy a sentence on one page and then listen to a passage from a piece of literature and answer questions aloud in full sentences on the next, because its emphasis on reading comprehension and public speaking is invaluable.
Again, we have been so busy that we haven’t had a chance to start SRA Reading Labs 2.0 on the computer.
I plan to start The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times when it fits into our schedule. I haven’t started it yet because I have found that our calendar works as an excellent guide for history for kids at this age. We look at the calendar and see what happened on “this day” in previous years. We talk about it or read about it. Most weeks have some sort of holiday so I just turn that into a lesson plan.
I found First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 1 to be repetitive to The Complete Writer book and so I have tabled that to use with one of the younger kids later on. I do take excerpts out of it for Letter/Poem Mondays, which is a day when, if we haven’t written anything in a few days, I have the kids write, or when I have them memorize a short piece to recite back to me aloud.
As I mentioned above, we finished Evan-Moor Grammar and Punctuation Grade 1 and moved on to Grade 2. This is an easy to use, mostly fun, work book (this comes from a woman who owns a towel embroidered with “I love Grammar” on it;)). In all seriousness, using the Grammar book along with The Complete Writer has been a perfect fit. The rules in the grammar book complement our copywork and oral exercises well.
We are steadily making our way through Evan-Moor K-2 Beginning Geography. I also found a globe in the house we are renting and leave it on our living room floor. The kids refer to it all the time!
We continue swim lessons and tennis lessons. Molly picked up Taekwondo, which she seems to love, in part because she gets to go out alone with Dad twice a week, in part because she gets to punch and kick, and in part because she has a fabulous outfit to wear for it. Soccer finished but we start both downhill and cross country skiiing after the holidays.
We “do art” every day. I cannot stop the creativity of any 4 or 6 year old or their friends.
Formally, we make a sketch of something in our lives each Tuesday. I usually let the kids pick the topic and they come up with some really great things. One of my favorites so far has been Joseph’s sketch of Joe harvesting chickens on our farm trip.
Molly has been lucky enough to take an art class at the local art studio most Monday afternoons and so we have stopped going to school for that special.
LOGIC AND CREATIVE THINKING:
ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY:
We refer to all of the books I mentioned in my original post on September 8th (D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, Buddha at Bedtime, Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions that Help you Wonder About Everything!) but I find that we really don’t need a book to talk about ethics. I try to raise questions no matter what we are talking about. It is important to me that this is a cornerstone of my children’s education so if you have any tips or resources, I would love to hear them.
So that is an update on our progress. We have had a wonderful Fall. Here are a few things that have surprised and pleased me:
1) How much I am enjoying homeschooling, even on the days when it is hard. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be with my children as much as I am and to be learning so much right alongside them.
2) How quickly we are able to move through material. I don’t feel like we are pushing AT ALL to cover material. I just let Molly do as much of each book or activity as she wants on a given day and so it is stunning to me that we have already finished our first grade math and grammar books.
3) That Joseph, who is 4, joins in more often than not when Molly is doing her workbooks. I cannot believe his focus! He is steadily working his way through his own workbooks.
4) How easy it is to assess where Molly and Joseph are at. Sometimes I wonder if tests are necessary at all. Every time I work with them or review their work I find it easy to assess what needs work and what is going well. That being said, we are still deciding how to “evaluate” Molly’s progress at the end of the year. We are keeping a portfolio of her work, plus a calendar and this blog. However, we do want to make sure she is comfortable with standardized tests so we just added Spectrum Test Prep Grade 1 and she is working her way through it before we start 2nd Grade math. This way, if we use the CAT, which many in our state do, she will be prepared for the format.
And, lastly, 5) That my friends are mostly non-homeschoolers. I thought I would be relegated to the fringes of our community but instead I find the folks in our town very supportive. And so we have made friends based on interests like art or tennis, rather than on in school or out of school. Even the homeschooling friends we have made have become friends because of our shared interests.
Our two biggest challenges are 1) protecting our time and 2) getting Molly to understand that she must listen to her teachers and coaches (and me) all the time, not just when she feels like it. She has a strong will and generally “gets” things quickly. Naturally, she loses patience running drills, etc. But it is an essential fact of life that “practice makes perfect”, “a disciplined person is the one who does the thing they don’t want to do when they have to do it”, and yes, “adults deserve respect sometimes just because they are adults” (even though the ones we have put in our kids lives have been chosen because they also have A LOT to teach our kids).
How is it going for you? Even if you are not homeschooling, do you have any tips for us? Challenges? Is there an evaluation method you can recommend? Or a standardized test to recommend?