Sunday, January 31, 2016

2nd semester of 1st grade; thinking ahead

It only takes a slight mention from a fellow homeschooling friend on the matter of curriculum to get me in that thought process, too. It seems that January/February is a time of reflection and thinking ahead.

My state convention isn't until the end of April this year, so I have some time to 1. enjoy where we are right now and 2. consider options for the upcoming year.

I need to pump the brakes a little before I get too far ahead of myself.

My plan:


  1. Map out the rough remainder of my son's 1st grade year
  2. Put together my own reading list of books to at least skim before making any hard decisions for next year. (a future post, if I remember)


I just re-read my plan from September, and we are still keepin' on. Oh, and here's my post on goals and curriculum for 1st grade.

Rough plan for the remaining semester:

Continue with Long Story Short for Bible and discussion. We are all really enjoying this book, which has us read from our Bibles (you may use any translation) with discussion questions.

Math: I wasn't so sure about RightStart math level A. As an introductory level, it was just harder for me to see the big picture. But level B? I am loving RightStart and so is my son. We will continue at a reasonable pace, slowing down when concepts need a little bit of time to sink in (so, maybe doing a half lesson per day), breaking it up with some Math Mammoth (most recently when we were taking a full break from RightStart, I had J do some of the telling time units).

I am not concerned with completing this level by the end of our 180 day count. I intend to have math year-round (roughly) with short breaks as needed vs. taking a few months away from math over the summer.

Handwriting: I bought the first volume of A Child's Copybook Reader from Simply Charlotte Mason. J is copying a page or few of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" right now and I prefer this over the free copywork pages they have available. This option has a cleaner font. His handwriting has improved so much over the last few months. Will likely continue with vol. 2 when it comes time.

Reading: Well...we finished most of All About Reading level 3, and then my son was just tired of it. He wanted to read to me and to himself instead of having formal reading lessons. He completed all but 3 of the remaining straight phonics lessons, and left more than a few of the stories in the reader untouched.

As of now, I don't plan on purchasing level 4 for him. For the remainder of phonics instruction, I'm not sure if I will do informal lessons as they come up with real books, or if I will use the AAR level 4 table of contents as a guide for what to cover. Alternatively, we can cover phonics from an encoding approach. I haven't decided if we will do All About Spelling, Rod & Staff spelling, or some other approach.

History: We are using a modified version of SCM's Ancients guide. Despite my initial enthusiasm, I just didn't like the setup of the guide. I made my own table and that seemed to help, but it just felt clunky to me. I decided to stop doing Bible readings from the guide and switched to Long Story Short. I decided to skip the geography component (though I did borrow some of the suggested library books). We read and enjoyed Boy of the Pyramids.

We're now back to Ancient Egypt & Her Neighbors and the Stuff they Left Behind portfolio. Though we've only read 6 of 20 chapters, I think it is worth it for us to keep moving forward and finish it, more or less. Perhaps 1 chapter per week?

I need to look at the guide to see if there are other books I should consider scheduling. I know they recommend a commentary on Exodus coming up, and we might try that.

Back in September, I gave a brief start to American history. It was a bust. My son just wasn't taking interest, and I figured we could just keep our focus on the ancients and add it later

Nature study: We are enjoying Outdoor Secrets and have several chapters remaining. Perhaps one per week, and go-along activities as desired. As far as us going outside ... well ... ugh. I am not an outdoorsy person and I don't like being cold. While I know how to layer up, I seem to be cold until it hits 80 outside. My kids tend to stay in if it's cold and I know we really should go outside, even if only for a short walk or short time to observe something outdoors. The temps have been warm this weekend (upper 50s!) and we were at the playground for awhile, at least. But yah.

Music appreciation: I am happy with our Amazing Musical Instruments! resource, but also Beethoven's Wig and misc. songs. The kids are particularly obsessed with a 15 or so minute long Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Church bells (?) and cannon fire in a song? Yup. Do it. They also like "Hall of the mountain King" by Grieg and do an interpretive dance that involves them pretending to sneak in a pyramid searching for treasure, tripping a defensive mechanism and needing to escape on a Pegasus. I don't even know. But they have fun!

Drawing: FAIL. We haven't done much at all lately.

Picture study: Still doing our thing with the Memoria Press art cards and grabbing a library book on the artist.

Read alouds: We're almost finished with Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones. Both kids are enjoying this one. Whereto next? Haven't decided.

Audio books: Every once in awhile they get on an audio book kick. Most recently, they have enjoyed Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Nim's Island. Oh, and Big Hero 6 on audio. Not sure if it's the same thing as the movie, but I expect it's close :). My science-loving son enjoyed Great Scientists and their Discoveries. He also listened to Who Was Albert Einstein?, and an Encyclopedia Brown volume.

Read alones: J is nearly finisehd with The New Adventures of the Mad Scientist Club. He really enjoys reading various science non-fiction books, so I'm glad to see him enjoying some fiction as well.

Free play: I need to give a shout-out to our Keva planks. These things are used daily, and J especially enjoys to build while he listens to me reading to him.

Field trips: Ahem. Time to get intentional with it.

Circle time: Also gone by the wayside. In theory, I would want to include habits, catechism, maybe some poetry, maybe some songs. Not happening right now.

So ah...nothing really new. Overall, 1st grade is going well. I am seeing so much growth in my son, he is learning lots, and we are spending good time together. YAY! I want to enjoy this semester, and I think we will succeed.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

1st grade quarter-end progress report: Handwriting

I thought I'd break down how various subjects are going around here, as we're roughly a little more than a quarter of the way done with 1st grade. I'll start with handwriting.

My son completed Handwriting Without Tears K a short while back, and we've moved on to copy work.

He just finished the last of the copy work selections from Simply Charlotte Mason's Delightful Handwriting. I knew it wouldn't take long, but I'm glad I purchased the pdf anyway, because I will likely use it with my girls.

I liked the poem, fable and bible verse within. I asked him to do a page per day in his best effort. At this font size, it's 10-15 words at most. I like that it's effortlessly adding punctuation, capitalization, spacing, and spelling. Also, copying real, quality sentences is so much better than meaningless word lists.

SCM offers a free mega copy work printable when you sign up for one of their email lists. I have that, and I might use that for more copy work while I figure out where to go from here.

Right now, I think he needs the copying model directly on the page so he can better gauge spacing and size. Eventually though, I hope to have him copying from some other source into a notebook of some kind.

Eventually, we'll add on cursive.

For his handwriting, I typically have been handing him his page for the day while I'm gathering our math or reading materials and looking through those to know the lesson of the day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some independent work while we were away; and thinking about spelling

My girls had a doctor check-up today, so I made a to-do list of school work for my son to do while we were gone. (My husband often works from home, and was home today in case J needed anything. Duh.)

I gave him a short list:


  1. His handwriting page for the day
  2. A drawing lesson on DVD
  3. Read a chapter of a book I selected from the library and narrate it to me when I returned
  4. His choice of playing a Wii game or something electronic as an incentive to see it to the end. He chose Wii Sports Resort.


It went well. His work was completed, except for the book. I wondered if the book I chose was too much, and I think it was. Full text, no illustrations. He just isn't quite there yet. He can read complex words, but when there are too many words on a page he gets overwhelmed. That's fine, it will come with time.

He was able to tell me about the 2 pages he did read, and I do think he gave it a good effort.

Next time, I will choose another type of solo reading assignment.

I know it's challenging to have much independent work at this age. I could have printed a page from our Math Mammoth since that is self-contained. I could have him listen to an audio book. Or, I could tell him to complete a project with his Snap Circuits or Gyrobot or something like that so he could follow instructions (or create something, I suppose) to show me later.

By the way, J and V? They are SO HELPFUL! SQUEEEE! First of all, Vivie was a model patient today at the doctor's. She was proud to show her sister how it worked, and held her hand while the doc was looking in her ear, whispering in her other ear that she was safe and she was fine. Be still, heart!!

Also, I asked if they would help me collect the bathroom trash. They did, and I got distracted by something and was shocked and happy to see they took all of the trash to the curb, including the 65-gallon recycling bin. WHAT! Awesome!

They are happy to help, and I am thrilled to have actual helpful helpers.

***
Johnny has been hinting that it's time to add spelling lessons to his daily work. Ugh, spelling. Whatever way I was taught spelling, it was ineffective. Usually just memorizing spelling lists with no reason behind them and a spelling test on Friday. Worksheets where I would fill in the letters according to their size in letter boxes.

I learned nothing. Spelling was my lowest score on all standardized tests, always. Pfft!

I want better for my kids. But oy, the spelling philosophies out there, and the curriculum choices!

I own the first level of All About Spelling. I'm a big fan of the All About Reading program, so I bought level 1 of AAS without even giving it further thought. All About Learning press advises to begin spelling shortly after completing level 1 of the reading program, and they have their reasons for suggesting that route.

J is more than a third through level 3 of AAR and we aren't yet doing spelling. Whoops. I tried AAS back when he finished level 1, but it just didn't seem to be the right time.

I ought to pull it out and just give it a shot, since we already have it.

Part of me is really NOT interested in using the letter tiles. J doesn't seem to need them that much (we don't use them for the reading program, but I might use them for another child if she needs it). If I have magnetic letter tiles out while my toddler tornado is on the loose...nopenopenope.

This stage is relatively short, but I do need to anticipate her actions.

So...part of me is wondering if I can modify it without the tiles, or if that really is a big part of the program. Part of me also does NOT want to spend 20 minutes/day on spelling. Not sure if it will actually take that long.

ANOTHER part of me is adding up the price to finish the 7 levels of AAS and I'm like ugghghg I will do it if I have to but what else is out there? AAR is such a solid program, I have been able to see that first-hand.

So many thoughts.

IEW has a Phonetic Zoo program with an audio component. That is pricey. Like $300 for all of the levels. But. Is it then more self-directed? You can buy a budget option for $29 with no audio, and you'd need to read it to your child, have another child do it for the student, or heck record it yourself.

Part of me wonders if J would be able to assist the younger girls with their own spelling later. If Vivie then gains proficiency as a reader, perhaps she could assist J with his spelling. It's easier to read than to spell, imo.

I don't know! These are early thoughts. Brain dump over. Time for Gilmore Girls and a glass of wine.

One more thing -- it was rainy today, but warm enough and no thunder. I invited my kids to play outside. They loved it! There's usually thunder in the area. They found a giant worm, made some puddles and mud pies. Good stuff.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September update and time for some tweakin'

Well, we've logged 32 days of 1st grade -- time for some updates! I started our count on July 1 to capture any field trips, test-the-waters-on-the-new-curriculum days, and some unschooling days where plenty of learning happened. We started with our more regular routine in early August.

My purpose was to bank some days early on because we are taking most of December off. Add in some sick days and the sort, and here we are. By the way, we are on cold #2 since July 1. Pfft! Not that bad. Just annoying.

I am using OneNote to organize my lesson plans and keep records. I LOVE IT. Sort of similar in some ways to Evernote, but OneNote seems better to me for creating notes. Evernote, I prefer for clipping items from the web. I ought to write more about OneNote in the near future.

For now, the subjects we're doing and how they're going:

Math: RightStart B 2nd. ed.: Today, we completed lesson #26 "adding 10 to a number." We're switching gears from a few lessons prior, where we worked with quadrilaterals, right triangles and parallel and perpendicular. I love the built-in review with the warm-up activities, the fairly infrequent worksheets (that actually are beneficial; not busywork!), the card games to drill and practice, and the varying nature of our days. I like changing it up vs. sticking with the same thing day in and day out. I feel that level B is certainly more meaty than level A (makes sense) and I think this is giving J a solid foundation. It is going really well!

A few weeks ago, J thought it would be fun to start with 1+2 = 2, then go 2+2 = 4, then 4+4=8 and so on. He got up to 512 (in his head!!) and then I suggested we move to the white board to keep track of it. I showed him how I was taught to carry the 1 when adding from the ones moving left, and he understood -- but whoops. That is not the RightStart way. They want to make sure the student understands what is actually happening and WHY we are doing that. Their approach is different and we haven't yet reached that lesson.

Phonics: All About Reading level 3: Midway through lesson 17. Just keepin' on our normal here. Not using the tiles, not using the worksheets, heh! They just don't seem necessary for this particular child, but I may use them for the girls later on. I *do* use the workbook's fluency pages, but we don't remove them from the book. I am fairly confident he will complete this level at some point during this school year, and I am unsure if I will purchase the final level, or if I will use my Phonics Pathways book to touch on the final phonograms, and have him just read aloud to me as fluency practice. Will decide later.

Recently, I gave him an option to read aloud from a story book to me or do a reading lesson. He read The Tale of Peter Rabbit to me on one occasion, and a Billy and Blaze book on another. I thought he would really enjoy the Billy and Blaze series. I think he sort of does, but didn't have interest really to read more. Shrug.

Read-alouds: Pulling from our nature study and history selections, library books and also some misc. lit. We are enjoying A Children's Book of Virtues and one crowd-pleaser within it was "St. George and the Dragon," a story about a brave princess AND a brave knight.

I am not satisfied with my own understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare, so I want to work on that for myself and my children. We read an illustrated children's book retelling A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the kids loved it. I know there are different approaches to Shakespeare, but personally I like the thought of getting familiar with the characters and stories before diving in to his original works. I also grabbed a K

Handwriting: J finished his Handwriting Without Tears K book and was thrilled to be done with that one. Me, too. The font isn't my favorite. We aren't continuing with their 1st grade level. Instead, I purchased Simply Charlotte Mason's ebook, Delightful Handwriting. We jumped ahead in that book to their first copywork selections -- "The Rain" by Robert Louis Stevenson; next is a very short fable; last is a Proverb. There's only around a dozen pages of this (we do one page per time in his very best handwriting, erasing mistakes). SCM offers some free copywork pages too, and I will likely put them to use. Whoa, 360 free pages!

Nature study: I want to strongly recommend the book "Outdoor Secrets" by Margaret P. Boyle. Oh, what a gem. We've only read the first four stories, and have enjoyed them so much! Fictional stories about say, a century plant, but plenty of factual info woven in. Or in "The Uninvited Guest," we learn more about the earthworm. I bought the ebook from Simply Charlotte Mason, but it looks to be available in the public domain here. I also have their companion guide -- simple activities, poetry and such to go along with the stories as we choose. When we were discussing earthworms, we also read about them in A Handbook of Nature, and went out in our yard to find some (Vivie helped us with that task; she knew right where to go. Atta girl!).

Ancient history: Hmm. This one is being modified somewhat. I'm using SCM's Genesis-Deut. & Ancient Egypt guide and we are about 24 lessons in. I *thought* I would find the guide very open-and-go, but something about it just was a huge stall point for me. I ended up creating a simple table showing which resources would be needed for which lessons and that has helped me a lot.

The format right now is 3 days of bible reading, 1 day of geography (focus on Africa), 1 day from a history spine/library book/stuff they left behind pictures.

Last week, I started adding in the devotional book Long Story Short and jumped to where we are with the SCM guide (Abraham & Isaac at the moment). Too soon to tell with that, but I like it so far, anyway.

The spine they are using is interesting so far, but we are only 2 chapters in. I like the "stuff they left behind" resource for a visual and extra info. Next term, we will read Boy of the Pyramids and I am looking forward to that, as the reviews seem promising.

Map work is going well -- J can identify something like 10 countries now on a blank map.

Final verdict on the history resource is out for now.

American history: I wanted to start our study of American history, since our study of the ancients is really really light on age-appropriate literature. Books on ancient Egypt and the pyramids and such abound, but lit? Not so much. That's part of why I'm excited about Boy of the Pyramids.

Anyway, I think starting a 2nd stream of history should be doable right now. If not, I can make adjustments. I've selected TruthQuest History: American history for Young Students vol. 1 (exploration through 1800). The guide will help us work our way through the time period, using good books. Read + discuss. Enjoy.

We are only just getting started. Haven't even finished our first book, Leif the Lucky by D'Aulaire yet, but so far so good. At this time, I don't think I will reach for a spine. Right now, J isn't super interested in history, so I want to spark his interest in the people and stories by using living books.

Viv was randomly browsing Google Maps to see what she could see, and I was stunned when she zoomed in on Greenland, and more specifically a statue of Leif in the town of Qassiarsuk. Not sure the odds of that, but oh how I love Google Maps. I don't think I'll be getting to Qassiarsuk anytime soon.

Spanish: Nada. Lo siento.

Fine arts: We're enjoying picture study. I'm using a cobbled-together collection of art cards from Memoria Press. I was hoping artists would have more than 2-3 works, but so far that's the most I'm noticing. Oh well, brief intro to various works from various artists. We can linger with an artist a la Charlotte Mason more properly later, I guess.

We enjoyed two works from Henri Matisse (well...I should say we looked at them. J liked his goldfish painting, but the Red Room, he was like..."why did he make the tablecloth look exactly like the wall? I would have done it differently. Also, why is that chair pointing away from the table? It is supposed to be pushed in.") Not impressed, Henri.

I'm adding on library books about the artist for extra works to look at, plus some bio. Fun. Easy.

The orchestra book is helpful and serving my purposes well. The CD-ROM component is useful.

We've finished 3 lessons of the Art Class drawing DVDs and so far, so good. I'm a leeetle annoyed at the instructor talking to the audience all "hi, boys and girls! welcome back to the art class club" or whatever she is calling it. Just get to it! Maybe some kids go for it, idk. Whatever, it is mostly serious and J is enjoying it.

Incidentally, I came across a "I can't pass this up" deal on Home Art Studio DVDs. Um. It might have been a mistake. I previewed the first lesson of the K level, and the project was not appealing, and the "you can do this like a real artist!" sort of talk was very...no. Not our thing. J did not want to do the project and Vivie sorta did, but we didn't end up doing it. I'm going to browse through the pdf file that came with the DVD and maybe preview some more on my own. We might pick and choose which projects to do instead of doing them all. J looked at the pdf with me and thinks the projects look babyish. Uh-oh. Might need to do just a select few then and see what the next level has in store. I'm hopeful the higher levels look less babyish to him.

Audio books:

I deviate some from Charlotte Mason (I would think...) in that I allow plenty of audio books and maybe even some audio twaddle on occasion. Heh.

I allow audio books as they are laying in bed and also in the car. I offer audio books during the day just while playing, but so far, no takers. I've been playing an audio book while I'm cleaning up the kitchen, and if I have any listeners join me, ok. I've tried some selections from Edith Nesbit's Stories from Shakespeare and Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. I'm trying to train my ear to listen to stories instead of just being able to read with my eyeballs. I can do non-fiction on audio, but stories are harder for me. I find that sometimes, I like to slow down and savor a well-written passage or read it again and that is harder on audio.

Recently, J and V have enjoyed:

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (get the free book on Kindle and then the Audible is only a few bucks)
  • The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat (from the Monty Python guy, lolz) library
  • Pippi Longstocking, library
  • Amber Brown is Not a Crayon, library
  • Jim Weiss Just So Stories, free with Freegal while our library had it


Mother culture:

I finished Watership Down by Richard Adams for my own enjoyment. Loved it! Would like to read it again someday, maybe to my older kids, or invite them to read it to themselves and then discuss.

I read "Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe" by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. Some encouragement within. I grabbed it from the library and the font was a little faint which made it harder to read. Would recommend a library copy vs. buying.

Listened to some podcasts from Read-Aloud Revival and Power of Moms. I didn't care for the RAR episode featuring SWB. Something about it just rubbed me wrong but then again, I'm not a SWB fangirl.

Watched some documentaries on ancient Egypt, some ancient math. Oh, and Gilmore Girls. Hah. I'm mid-season 7 now. Almost done with Stars Hollow :(

What could be going better:

Hmm. Too much screen time for all, myself included. Computer, movies/Netflix, tablets. Some of the use could be described as educational, but yah. Way too much screen time.

We don't have a consistent start time for our day, and that probably in theory should be more predictable.

While my organization and day-to-day planning is going a little better, it isn't quite as smooth as I would like. I think I'm making good progress though.

I am putting a lot of focus on my 1st grader right now for school work, and not doing one-on-one time with my toddler like I would prefer. My 4-year-old is getting some one-on-one "school" work with our All About Reading pre-reading level. I am reading aloud to all of them, and age-appropriate books to each kid when I need to pull out the board books or younger-ear books. But yeah. I have three kids. I need to step it up.

Ok how many words am I at? A LOT. BYE! <3