Thursday, December 16, 2010
I thought I should probably take a look at where we are as this calendar year comes to a close. Here's a little look at what we have been doing this school year and where we plan to go after our holiday break.
After starting the year with Singapore math for both boys, we decided Calvert math was actually the best fit for both of them right now. JT is skimming his way through the 5th grade text, only working on concepts he hasn't already learned and things he needs to review. EM has been working in the 3rd grade text in the same way. JT will probably cover 3 more chapters in the Calvert book. When he has completed those, I plan to move him to Key Curriculum Press's Geometry series. We may alternate between those and Life of Fred Decimals and Percents. EM will probably also work on the first book in the Geometry series and then move back to the Singapore 3B book.
When we started this school year, I borrowed text books from our local school district. In PA, school districts are encouraged to allow homeschooing parents to borrow the books for their child's grade level. I had the boys each use the school's reading text book. JT has already completed the entire year's reading from the book, EM is close behind. I also supplement with novels, books related to other subjects we are covering and poetry reading about once a week. EM has a workbook that ties in to the reading text, so he does some of that work. They are both also doing worksheets related to library use, alphabetizing etc. In the new year, JT will work his way through an older 6th grade text book I picked up at a library sale. EM will move on to reading more chapter books and short story collections.
I am using the Grammar Island book for EM and Grammar Voyage for JT. Both are part of the Michael Clay Thompson language arts curriculum. JT also uses a textbook from the 80's entitled, English Skills. I try to give each boy at least one writing assignment per week. JT does a great deal of creative writing on his own. I generally allow him to follow his own path for writing. EM needs a little more structure, as he doesn't naturally enjoy the process. However, he does a good job when he has a little help. Teaching him to outline and other pre-writing skills has brought about a great deal of growth in his writing style. I will continue to encourage him in that way. By the end of this school year, I would like to see him put together a short biographical report. JT will also be doing a research project in the spring on a science topic of his choice.
We have weekly spelling lists. There is always a pre-test on Monday, sentences or definitions later in the week, review game on Thursday and final test on Friday. JT uses the English from the Roots Up Cards for his spelling lists. EM is using the 2nd grade Calvert spelling lists and worksheets.
For History, we are working our way through The Story of the World, Volume 1, Ancient Times. The boys both find the stories engaging. We often do the map work in the activity book from the series. We do not always take the time for all the crafts and other work. Recently we discovered some really fun videos on Youtube for our history instruction. The creators have put history to pop music. My favorite is the Canterbury Tales to California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas. Good stuff...and it's educational!
We decided to cover three major units in science this year. We started out with weather and water. I found a Christian based science series that we have enjoyed. God's Design for Heaven and Earth, Our Weather and Water, fit well into our plan for this unit. We also regularly use experiments from the Janice VanCleave books. After our vacation, we plan to begin a unit on geology. The boys are looking forward to breaking out the volcano building model kit and the rock tumbler. When that unit is finished, we hope to have time for an astronomy unit before summer.
Our remaining subjects are on our schedule once a week. Health, civics, art, geography and music are mostly taught in a hands on sort of way. For example, this week for health we watched a video on fats that we found on Brainpop (still my favorite online educational tool!) then we did an experiment we found on the Happy Scientist website. We took our chips, pretzel and tortilla chips from the cupboard. We placed a few of each onto a paper towel, drew a circle around each group, labeled the circle with the name of the snack and allowed them to sit for a bit. We then checked which had the most fat based on the greasy stains left behind.
Art is sometimes a tie in to our history lesson, sometimes it's a craft project, sometimes I just pull a step by step drawing book out and set them loose. We have a well-stocked art supply cabinet that is always available for their use. We also read a bit about art history and they spend time looking at examples online.
Physical education is part of our schedule, but it has no set time or place. Right now, the boys are starting their basketball season with the Upward program through a local church. When they aren't playing basketball, they ride bike, swim in the summer, run up and down our hill in the backyard and are generally active enough that I don't worry too much about 'teaching' gym. That may have to change as they get older.
Overall, I feel like we are accomplishing more this year than we have in any other year since we brought the boys home. We are keeping to our afternoon school schedule, usually wrapping up for the day a little after 4pm. I have found that if I don't jump right into schooling immediately after lunch, they resist starting at all. So I have to be diligent with the schedule. Our household has really relaxed into a good rhythm this year. We may be more laid back than some families as far as routine, but I feel what we have here fits us well. We are happy, healthy and learning as we go.
A note about my posting schedule. I will not be posting the next two weeks while we are on our holiday break. I will return January 6th of the new year.