The 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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.