Monday, April 29, 2013

Homeschool Chronicles {That's a Wrap}

Homeschool  ChroniclesThe first day of summer vacation seems like just the time to wrap up our chronicles for the closing school year.  I'm so glad I started sharing about our journey here!  It's been helpful for practical record-keeping purposes and for sparking great conversations with readers who are curious about homeschooling.  Thanks for joining the conversation!

March

In my last homeschool post, I shared enthusiasm for a new math program we had begun, Singapore Math 2B.  The program's style really fits Aria and me to a "T".  It's not a lot of busy-work, with a nice run-along pace and interesting practical applications.  I couldn't be more proud of how well Aria has grown in her math skills! 

To keep her engaged (and slow her down a bit) I decided to buy an extra work/extra challenges book produced by Singapore called Intensive Practice 2B.  About mid-March I gave it to her as a "fun" extra thing to do, mostly self-paced.  (Because, tell her she has to do it and she'll drag her feet; tell her she "gets" to do it when she "wants to" and she'll grab a pencil).  Anyways, this book is definitely challenging.  It asks questions in new formats so she has to reach with what she knows to get to the answers.  Besides "intensive practice" for each unit, it also has extra challenging questions for each unit (she didn't try those), a long test and a section at the back with really challenging problems that even stump us parents sometimes.  Seriously.

these two....

We generally don't do tests in our homeschool.  Mostly, they're unnecessary.  I am well aware of what she understands, where she needs more work, etc.  But, I decided Aria ought to do the math test as record of all she's accomplished this year.  After I sold her on the idea, she countered that she would need a week to prepare for the test with the intensive review book and all weekend to take the test, so she'd have enough time to double check it.  OK....  I think we can accommodate such demands!  She got 91% out of sixty-something questions.  Congratulations, Aria!

Liam's Quality of Numbers

By the way, it seems Aria's enthusiasm for math is rubbing off on Liam.  On request, I prepared a Quality of Numbers unit for him this March, a traditional Waldorf math unit for early first grade.  The Quality of Numbers block is a brilliant way of experiencing the essence of each number 0-10, involving fairy tales that correspond with the numbers.  For each number, he also records a special page in his "good book" with the Arabic and Roman numerals, a shape that embodies the number, a representative dot pattern  and a sentence about the number, such as "Liam has ten fingers", that he composed.  Gosh, he loved it!

April

During our last month of school, the children worked to finish up their handwriting and phonics books.  Aria also plugged away at her favorite spelling program (Sequential Spelling 1) and Easy Grammar, a straightforward, minimalistic grammar workbook.  Speaking of grammar, at the beginning of the school year I was pumped to teach it for the first time.  I loved grammar as a kid.  Maybe I talked it up too much, because Aria was not a fan of the workbook.  She also studied grammar at her homeschool school (she goes Tues/Wed), so maybe it was just too much?

This spring we had lots more fun reading a series of books by Ruth Heller.  Each one introduces a part of speech and correct usage through playful poetry and colorful illustrations.  The language is beautiful, including many words likely to be unfamiliar to a 2nd grader.  Titles like Up, Up and Away and Merry-Go-Round were Aria's first choice, but our library had a total of 8 from the author.  I had Aria read them aloud to me, one each week, to practice her pronunciation and decoding skills.  She read the same book twice before I'd return it to the library, so I could see her improvement and she could get a little grammar review.  And guess what?  That's vocab for us too!  We've decided we prefer learning words in context, instead of through vocabulary programs.

Aria's painted ladies

Ok, but I was going to tell you about our nature study this April!  For Easter we gave the kids bug-hatching kits.  Yep, Aria got a kit for raising butterflies from caterpillars and Liam one for praying mantis.  Perfect time for an insect unit, right?  I checked out a bazillion books from the library on butterflies, praying mantis and stick insects, and we got to reading.  Lots of reading!  And then observing as our insect pets grow and molt and change.  So exciting!  Our favorite book, by far, was An Extraordinary Life, which is about the life and migration of monarch butterflies.  It's told from a butterfly's perspective, with beautiful artwork and lots and lots of details.  Great for kids 5-10, I'd guess.  (Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.)

Insect study

On the last day of school, I asked them to write a summary about either butterflies or praying mantis to show what they have learned.   Liam narrated his sentences to me and then copied a few in his own hand.  While he and I were working together, Aria popped out of her room to ask if she could write her summary as a story in the first person.  "I'll still share the things I know, mom!"  Later on she came out to say she'd need more time because her story was going to be loooong.  While I was quilting this morning, she brought me the final copy.  If you were here, I'd totally have her read it to you, but...well.... this is one of those times when moms tend to overshare.  Let's just say it includes words like ""oooooh", "oh no!", and "yummy, yummy, yummy!" in addition to the science-y stuff.  Mission accomplished.

helpful Mr. Liam

And I guess that's how I feel overall.  Mission accomplished!  We had a great year.  No, we didn't do everything as planned.  We left out some things that weren't engaging us, adjusted our plans to keep things challenging and followed emerging interests.  That's what makes homeschooling incredible, my friends!  Not only is it the memories and time together and multitude of (sometimes exhausting) opportunities to teach them the important things about life; in a big way it's about being flexible in our education to best meet the needs and interests of these two unique people.  To make sure they're learning... yes.  But to make sure they LOVE to learn... that most of all!

I am so lucky to be here.

20 comments:

  1. I happened on your blog while perusing my usual quilt blogs. Your homeschool year sounded wonderful and very typical with the adjustments throughout the year. My sons are now 25 24 and 23, and we homeschooled them through the time they started attending community college at about 15 or 16, easing into college that way. We cherish the memories and personalized education our children received. I could go on and on. I am just thrilled to see young mothers homeschooling their precious children. I will share that all of my sons continue to be self learners, always researching new things and are very individualistically minded and service oriented. Take care and bless you!

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  2. Aaaah ... just love the pic of Aria and the cat!

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  3. I love reading your homeschool chronicles. I wish I could go to school with Liam and Aria too! Y'all have so much fun. Congrats on a great

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    1. *year LOL - the little one decided to click on "publish" for me. :)

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  4. Thans so much for sharing. You sound like you've found your groove! We're really enjoying our return to homeschooling too.

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  5. Do you think you would still home school if conventional schools were a little closer? Still trying to see what might be right for us, thanks! :)

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    1. It's a big decision to make, I know! I don't know what I could share that would be helpful to you, but I will say that I've not considered putting them in a conventional school for years. I just love homeschooling and feel 100% that it's serving their needs. It's not about location or academic rigor or culture or happiness or family togetherness.... it's about all that and more. There are so many reasons why we do it!

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  6. Well done! Singapore Math changed everything for our family. Our 18yo was jealous that the other 3 got to use that program!
    And the only time we test is to satisfy Colorado law. We major on their areas of strength and giftedness, work on basics, shore up weak areas a bit, and allow them the majority of time to pursue and develop the passions and projects God has put in their heart. So not the academic way I envisioned it was supposed to be, but so completely successful as they have learned to be self-starting lifelong motivated learners who know how to go find out what they need to know to do what they feel called to do! We too enjoy the Freedom of home educating with a common sense approach instead of just doing school at home, and it is bearing great fruit.
    Have a blast!! Enjoy your summer break!!

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    1. Such a great comment, Glynis. You touched on a lot about homeschooling that's so hard to get across. Thank you!

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  7. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on homeschooling a child that has dyslexia and other learning disabilities in that same range of thought, not actually special ed, but learning disabilities none the less. Do you think homeschooling would be more or less advantageous? Just curious of your opinion.

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    1. I feel very unqualified to have an opinion. But... I would say I think homeschooling could be very advantageous. There are already materials out there specifically for such situations (like spelling programs written for dyslexic children and learn-to-read programs developed with language therapists (see Bravewriter's The Wand program)). It seems to me that these children would benefit even more from the 1 on 1 attention, so long as their parent is interested and able to learn all about how to help the child and willing to get outside help when needed!

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    2. Thanks so much Rachel, I think I was more so curious about the materials available so in essence you answered my question, so thank you. I know for sure that I'm not suited to be a teacher, so I think my son needs to go to school, but I will say that I was really planning on doing some form of "summer school" for him in order for him to stay caught up and maybe get a little ahead for the next year, so this would be the perfect answer for that!

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  8. I really enjoyed reading this and your other posts about homeschooling. I'm currently in school to be an educator, and I really wish the education system was run by people like you who see learning as an exciting, creative, and intriguing process. One that doesn't just rely on spitting information out, but one that encourages children to have hands on learning based around their interests. Luckily, they are teaching us to teach our students like that, but, alas, it's hard when standardized test scores are being shoved down your throat and children are only seen as numbers. You inspire me to teach my future students (and children) as you do!

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    1. Alie, thanks for sharing the teacher's perspective! This is what I hear from many educators - that there is a great chasm between what they believe is the best way to teach and how they feel they must teach to function in the system as it is.

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  9. I'm pretty sure I read the monarch book to my girls last year. Did it end sadly on a kitchen curtain? I was choked up reading it. We also hatched butterflies and ladybugs this year. Love those kits! So easy and a great experience for the kids. I am homeschooling my 5 year old next year. My seven year old goes to public school and I don't particularly think homeschooling is for her. But I think it will be a great match for my 5 year old. I am so excited about it. We basically do it now, but it will be formalized in the fall.

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    1. Homeschooling is partly just formalized parenting with new books =)

      No, this book didn't end sadly on a kitchen curtain. She did die at the end after laying her eggs, but it all felt right after her long and extraordinary life.

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  10. That picture of Aria and the cat could not be sweeter. Love, love, love!

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  11. It's great that you do home schooling ~ I did that with my son when he got to middle school. He was just having too hard of a time there and it seemed to be the thing to do.
    Love the photo of Aria and your kitty ~ so very sweet!

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  12. I just wanted you to know that your homeschooling posts are the reason we are homeschooling now. We had the kids in a Montessori school that we adored and then we moved. We had tried homeschooling in the past and it wasn't very successful. Your posts inspired me! You reminded me how flexible it could be. Now the kids are thriving and we're all happy. Thank you for taking the time to share!

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    1. Oh, thanks Kelly for sharing your story. I'm honored and amazed to be a part of it! Blessings!

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