Sunday, December 22, 2013

Learning Notes

Melanie over at The Wine Dark Sea and I got into a discussion about homeschooling and she mentioned the benefit of writing out reviews and goals with regards to each child and the subjects covered. I've written a bit about what we do, but not quite so thoroughly and I thought it might help me sort things out better in my head to do so. I've also borrowed the title from her, so I hope she doesn't mind. :)

I have a tendency to see how great things can be but sometimes neglect to consider all the little obstacles that can get in the way of the perfect image I have in my head. (It's the melancholic in me.) I made a couple of minor adjustments to our schooling in October when I was simply trying to do too much. I have come to the conclusion at the end of our first semester though that we are still trying to do too much. The fact is, I like to cover everything. The subjects Cecilia and Felicity have been doing every single week are Math, Phonics (Felicity only), English, Latin, Poetry, Spelling, Handwriting (Felicity - manuscript, Cecilia - script), Typing (Cecilia only), Religion, History, Geography, Art, Music, Science, Vocabulary (Cecilia only), Literature and Practical Skills. That is 17 subjects just between the oldest two, not counting Physical Education, which, while usually is outdoor play, for the first two months included weekly swimming lessons. Elizabeth is learning Reading, Handwriting and basic Math each week as well.

Now, for the most part, I like all those subjects. And I have to admit, even if I wanted to cut some, I've have no idea how to decide what to cut. Some get more extensive time and work than others, but even the ones that we don't spend a lot of time on, I like that the girls get a bit of it rather than nothing at all. But add in a rambunctious 2 1/2 year old, a teething (almost) 1 year old and a puppy and you might begin to understand why I feel I am simply trying to do too much. 

So, I'm making another change for the coming semester. Rather than trying to do Science, Art, Music and Practical Skills every single week, we are going to do one per week alternating each week. This way we can take our time enjoying the subject for the week. I'm also taking the advice of one commenter, Fiat, who has been homeschooling for 16 years, and scheduling a "Catch Up Week" every 6 or 7 or 8 weeks (we will have 4 of them between January and the end of July) just to catch up on any extra school work we either didn't get to or just wanted to spend more time on in addition to our week off for Spring break, two weeks off for Holy Week/Easter Week and week off for Pentecost. 

I've revamped our schedule to reflect these changes and will see how it effects our first couple of months into the new year. If it works will, I will probably try to schedule the following year similarly.

Well, that is what I've been up to… Here is what the girls are up to…

Math Cecilia doesn't especially like doing math but she is good at it. She can add and subtract numbers in the hundred thousands. She hasn't memorized all her times tables yet, but she knows about half of them and can multiply double digits. She has also mastered long division and knows most of the conversions of measurements of time, distance, volumes of liquids and volumes of solids. She can recognize fractions of 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4 but she hasn't learned how to add or subtract them yet. In terms of geometry she can calculate a perimeter but not the area or diameter yet. She knows odd numbers and even numbers. Sometimes she gets word problems without any error and other times she struggles with them. She adds money well, can tell time and she has also mastered roman numerals up to XII (and might be able to read up to XXXIX, but I'm not sure… I know she was introduced to L, C, D, and M but I don't think we've practiced those well enough yet). Felicity is practicing single digit addition and subtraction. She is learning simple measurements of inches and centimeters and can read the hours and half hours. She has learned pennies, nickels and dimes and is learning to add quarters and half dollars. She can count by 5s and 10s and is learning odd and even numbers. Elizabeth is learning to count to 30 and adding small single digit numbers. They use A Beka's Arithmetic 3, Arithmetic 1, and Number Skills K respectively.

Phonics Felicity is learning special sounds, blends and long vs. short vowels as well as some of the basic rules of phonetics such as those pertaining to silent Es and when two vowels are together, silent Hs and Ks, etc. She practices rhyming words as well as writing the word of an item in a picture. She uses A Beka's Phonics for first grade.

English Cecilia really doesn't like writing sentences but she has been practicing identifying common nouns, proper nouns, verb tenses, adjectives, adverbs and punctuation in her Seton English 3 book. Felicity is learning what a verb is and what a noun is and the difference between common and proper nouns. She has also practiced synonyms, antonyms and rhyming words in her Seton English 1 book. I'm not sure how many First or Third Graders, randomly asked, could tell you what a noun is or a verb is, but I like that they are introduced and reinforced on the parts of speech and practice proper punctuation.

Latin Cecilia is on Lesson VII of Latina Christiana and Felicity is on Lesson 9 of Prima Latina. I don't actually insist they memorize all the Latin but I like that the girls read and hear Latin while reviewing English lessons. They both have also been learning the Pater Noster in Latin. Felicity has got about half of it and Cecilia almost knows the whole thing.

Poetry Both girls memorize poems I select from Berquist's Harp and Laurel Wreath. Sometimes I also insert a Psalm or Canticle. Cecilia does much better at memorization than Felicity. She learns it quickly and word for word. Felicity struggles more to remember the exact words and instead recites the general concepts. I try to help her learn the poem as it is written but I will let small parts slide if she is getting upset. She is showing significant improvement since the beginning of the year though. So far this year Cecilia has learned 7 poems and Felicity has learned 8.

Spelling I confess I tend to be lenient on spelling. Not because there is autocorrect on everything nowadays, but because I myself was always a terrible speller, so I sympathize. Cecilia uses Seton Spelling 3 and absolutely hates it. She isn't bad at it. She just doesn't enjoy it. Spelling isn't her strongest subject by any means, but I have been impressed with how many words she can spell correctly, though she does struggle with quite a few in the book. Felicity uses Seton Spelling 1 and enjoys it. I do suspect the difference in their enjoyment of the subject does have something to do with how much easier the words are in the grade 1 as compared to the grade 3. Felicity's are along the lines of "pail" and "quack" whereas Cecilia gets words likes "psalms", "xylophone" and "dough" and I think Cecilia finds it particularly frustrating to see Felicity have words that Cecilia finds so easy and sees herself get words that challenge her, but the challenge is a good one, even if she doesn't conquer it on the first try.

Handwriting Cecilia and Felicity use Seton Handwriting 3 and 1, respectively. Felicity enjoys it and forms some letters very well. Others definitely need work. Her lower case n looks like a box without a bottom. But we are working on it. She does find it a bit confusing when other texts use a font that you would not ask a child to practice writing, such as this g. But she is slowly practicing printing her upper and lower case letters. Cecilia is practicing her script and she is working on learning what the letters look like in script. Some look similar enough she sometimes gets confused but she is making very good progress. Elizabeth practices her letters and almost spells her name perfectly, but sometimes she forgets the b. She also practices using A Beka's Manuscript ABC Writing Tablet .

Typing Cecilia began last summer using the Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum program and really enjoyed it. She whizzed through the lessons but would sometimes get frustrated at practicing. Understandably, they time you when you practice, but rather than a hidden clock, they count down and it made her very frazzled to feel like she wasn't going fast enough. I would actually jump in and type very quickly just to boost the clock and give her plenty of time so she could finish practicing without any stress. I'd rather she practice for accuracy and then, when she is comfortable being accurate, improve her speed. Speed without accuracy is useless. So now she practices by typing whatever poem she is learning as well as by typing emails to me or daddy or her friends through their parents' email address. She will also practice typing instant messages to me and her daddy. It was actually through typing on instant messages on AOL years ago that my typing accuracy and speed really improved. I still need to explain to her what it means to use all capital letters when typing though. Poor daddy keeps getting yelled at. LOL

Religion Since I combined the girls into 1 religion lesson each week, it has been going much better. I stopped making them do the activity book pages for the Faith and Life Series for grade 3 and instead give them coloring pages relevant to the subject. They color while I read. When they finish the coloring pages, they draw. When I finish reading, we discuss. I ask them questions and sometimes they ask some. I try to make sure I read from Scripture at least once at each lesson. Only doing 1 religion lesson gives us more time for the discussion and the opportunity to delve deeper into what we are learning. I've also scheduled 3 weeks in January and February just to read and learn about Jesus' public ministry, which always seems to get a poor treatment in the religion books. We have basically finished going over the Old Testament (though I am planning a deeper look at it next year when I hopefully won't get the year off to such a crammed start) and discussed Confession, as a refresher for Cecilia and an introduction for Felicity, and gone over the Incarnation and Nativity narratives. The girls also spent a few weeks without a formal lesson but working with our home Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium works.

History I admit the History transition was a bit abrupt for Felicity but I think part of that was the timing. The chapters we've been covering of late are more episodic and jump around quite a bit so I think that has made it a bit more difficult for her to jump in from learning about the ancient world, though I'm not so sure just how much of that had been really sticking either. We did go over quite a bit about the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving and they enjoyed reading about Peter the Great of Russia. I do think our Spring semester will come together better as we will be focusing on the American Revolution. Perhaps I will be able to work in a day trip to Philadelphia or maybe Williamsburg, but we will see. Cecilia loves History and it is her favorite subject. I use the Story of the World, volume 3, but we also supplement with books from the library, and sometimes I add a few to our home collection.
The left bookcase, from the top down, is Christmas and Easter books, religious books, art books, books on composers and other non-fiction. The second bookcase from the left are more difficult puzzles, young literature and picture books. The small bookcase is board books. The right bookcase is board games, easier puzzles, early reader and picture books. No, they usually don't look this nice, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. :)

Geography Cecilia gets two and Felicity gets three geography lessons. In History they always mark and color a map of whatever part of the world we are learning about. They each also have a Maps, Charts and Graphs book, Level A for Felicity, Level D for Cecilia, which helps them learn how to read maps, charts and graphs. And Felicity is also slowly going over each of the 50 states learning a bit about each one. I've also added a very large world map that all three of the older girls love to reference for any geographical location. We do have a globe that I will pull out for reference but out too long and it is amazing how fast it becomes a toy.

Art Art is one of those subjects I struggle with. The girls love crafts and I hate messes. I've been sucking it up once a week and doing a project from the Seton Art 3 book with the girls, some weeks Elizabeth even joins us. However, since we aren't going to be doing Art every week, I've selected 5 art projects we will complete before the school year is over: Origami (I have a neat kit I bought at a museum that should help us through it), Calligraphy (Handwriting meets Art!), Icons,  Pottery Painting (flower pots just in time for Spring!) and Tie Dye T-Shirts (I've never done it before but it should be warm enough to do it outside and it will be right up their alley). They will still have painting days and play-doh days, etc. as weather, time and sanity allow, but I won't have them hanging over my head every week. In addition, a friend of mine has suggested a possible Art club at her house consisting of just a few homeschooling families. Meeting something like 2x/month, she would instruct them on a particular artist and then the kids could make something related to that artist. We would also try to get to the Baltimore Museum of Art a few times. We've been to the National Gallery of Art, but never the Baltimore one, so that would be awesome!

Music We went over several composers last Fall including Cecilia's favorite Beethoven, but also Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Haydn and Tchaikovsky. I love Celenza's series of books about a composer and the unique story behind the composition. We've also enjoyed listening to Beethoven Lives Upstairs and similar CDs of these composers that intertwine a story that tells about the composer with their music. Before the school year is over, we will also cover Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Handel's Messiah, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Bernstein (who they've already heard some of when I showed them Act 1 of Into the Woods), and John Philip Sousa and his amazing marches. My husband had been giving the oldest two piano lessons, but this fall semester was so stressful for him that those lessons fell by the wayside. Hopefully they will pick back up again after the Christmas break.

Science: Our Space unit went okay, not great, but not bad either. It was more book than hands-on oriented but we did look at Jupiter through the telescope last year and there is always next year to build on our Space studies. In the Spring we will go over Geology, Oceanography, Insects, Plants, Birds, Animals and the Human Body. I will be using the DK Eyewitness books as a basis and supplementing with library books. (I ditched the Seton books.) I also have the DVD Series Planet Earth we will watch. The girls will plant their own seeds in the pots they paint in Art and watch them grow and I'm still debating whether we will grow ladybugs, butterflies, frogs or a combination thereof. We have done the ladybugs and butterflies before, but Felicity is older to enjoy it more this time. I am also going to try to get a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium in as well as a trip to the zoo and hopefully at least one to the Baltimore Children's Science museum. I'm also hoping to get a bird feeder outside our window so the girls will be able to observe and identify more of the birds in our own backyard. Cecilia loves Science, so I do try to do well by the subject.

Vocabulary Phonics end after 2nd grade, so for 3rd grade I added Vocabulary. Cecilia uses Wordly Wise books A, B and C and she is currently in book B. She actually really likes these books. She can color pictures about the words she learns as well as do a crossword puzzle and True/False sentences, the false of which she finds absolutely hysterical. She loves using the words she has learned as well.

Literature I had been asking the girls to read some each week on their own but I realized we were missing out on some group read aloud time for some great works. So I began reading the Little House books aloud. We finished Little House in the Big Woods and will continue with the series. After the Little House Series, I'm looking forward to reading them The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm hoping cutting back on how many subjects we do every week will make more time for this enjoyable and worthwhile group reading time.

Practical Skills This was a general category I created to include everything from tying their shoes to boiling pasta to sewing to braiding hair to whatever. We didn't do half bad on the subject in the Fall but again, scheduling it every week was just too much. Sometimes I didn't have all the supplies in time and sometimes I just didn't have time. So, for the rest of the year I'm hoping to just focus on one or two things. My first and priority will be teaching them to sew. I am hoping by later in the year, closer to summer, we may be able to learn crocheting, but we will see, especially since I don't know how to do it myself yet.

Reading Elizabeth has been working through the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book and, though I had planned only 1 lesson per week, she is on lesson 22 and doing very well. She is picking up on sounding out the words better than I had expected, so I'm upping the ante to two lessons a week, which, in theory, would get us about 2/3 of the way through the book by the end of the year before she even begins Kindergarten.

Overall I think the girls are doing really well. I think their greatest struggle this past Fall was the same as my struggle: burnout from trying to do too much. Hopefully the next time I try to do a post like this, I'll have even more positive things to report. :)

1 comment:

  1. Holy wow - that's a lot of stuff!!! BTW, I don't think you give yourself enough credit with art. You posted at least three awesome things that proves you're better than you think right off the bat! :)

    I'm interested to hear how teaching them to sew goes. Heck, I might try to tag along to learn better, myself! I never had anyone to teach me. They're lucky girls!