Monday, June 28, 2010

The Good, the Struggles, and the Fizzle

Friday was our last day of school. We will start up again at the beginning of August. I decided to look back on what I wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the year. Some things we did awesome. On other things I was overly ambitious and let them fizzle. Other things we are still struggling with.

The Good

My son has improved so much in reading that we are actually going to start with 3rd grade level stuff in August. I am going to try Total Language Plus. This is a program that uses 2-3 "classic" books a year to do all of the vocabulary, grammar, writing, etc. You read the book slowly (a chapter a week/a couple of pages a day). You buy the curriculum a classic at a time. If you don't like it, you haven't blown your whole budget only about $30. And there is a convenient place to shift gears if it isn't working for you. These are all pluses to me. The first book is The Courage of Sarah Noble which seems to be a very charming tale of life in the early 1700's in the Connecticut wilderness. He also did very well with spelling but I think we are ready to try something besides the Writing Road to Reading. He actually wants to take spelling at the homeschool co-op that we will be participating in next year.

My daughter finished the handmade reader and got promoted to the My Father's World reader that my son started out on. He later progressed to Day-by-Day Begin to Read Bible and made it almost through the whole thing. My daughter does a great job of reading, but her 6-year-old self doesn't like to sit still very long to do it.

We all really like the Right Start Math curriculum. They both say that math is their best subject and I think it is in large part because of this curriculum.

I think that the wisdom traits lessons and the big fat lies were a success. We did 10 of each and then reviewed them throughout the year. The kids really seemed to get a grasp of these things so I plan on weaving them throughout the next year (and maybe adding a few more big fat lies).

Texas geography was fun even though it was kind of a lot of work for me. The kids thought that some of the official things were kind of funny. For example the official vegetable of Texas is the sweet onion. We finished the whole state with plenty of time to spare. I did sort of simplify it as time went on though. I am looking forward to American geography with Cantering the Country. This is a guide that gives you hints and resource lists to do unit studies on each state. We are going to start with the states we have been to and then work our way around the country.

We also had a great time with anatomy. We did all of the experiments in the Magic School Bus body experiments. That was a great addition to reading through the DK First Human Body Encyclopedia.

The Fizzle

We kind of fizzled on the astronomy. We only got through the sun, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth. We also only fit one star party into our schedules. We will continue in the coming year though because the we did enjoy it.

The biggest fizzle was quilting. I had trouble with the machine when we got to the actual sewing part. By the time I got it going we were out of the routine of doing it.

Daily grammar worksheets were a big dud. I found it much easier just to let my son write things he was interested in and correct his grammar. I am so glad that grammar stuff is included in the Total Language Plus stuff. It is helpful to only have one thing to keep track of.

The Struggle
My kids struggle with handwriting. I had to give up on lower-case (for the time being) with my daughter and continue with capitals over and over. Now she can write all of them reasonably clearly, but I am really going to have to hunker down on handwriting next year. My son has improved a lot, but there is no way we are moving on to cursive for a while.

Timed tests is another struggle. If there is no time factor, my son can do the problems no problems. But when then instructions are to try to finish a certain number in a certain amount of time, he freezes. We have made some progress on this, but we have to keep working on it next year.

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