Saturday, June 23, 2007

Homeschooling according to Michelle

or What Works for Us...

Reading - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons, I found this on Amazon by typing in "teach your child to read". It had good reviews and it wasn't very expensive. It was my very first curriculum purchase :) It has worked out well so far. Sierra is reading on or above grade level and Kali is gaining fluency very quickly. Side note: Sierra only made it to lesson 50 before wanting to quit and just read books with my help. Kali made it to lesson 75. I have just started with Arwen and we are maybe on lesson 7. We also used Bob books and the Now I am Reading series. I think any inexpensive phonics curriculum would work fine. I have not found any need to spend a lot of money teaching phonics.

Handwriting - We have used Handwriting without Tears with moderate success. Sierra was queen of backwards letters and numbers. She is getting better, but still occasionally make backwards p's. We will probably use copywork for handwriting practice from now on. I am also interested to see if copywork is as helpful for spelling and grammar as I have heard. I bought the Startwrite CD that has different handwriting fonts, but it doesn't work on my computer, so I ended up returning it. I may try Fonts for Teachers. Then I can type up sentences in print and cursive and put them in a jar for the girls to pick one out of each day. I don't know if I will use HWT for Arwen. She has the Kindergarten book and actually asked for it yesterday. I also have the first grade book, so if she is interested we will use it. I also may get the third grade cursive books for Kali and Arwen when the time comes.

Composition - I haven't done anything formal, yet. Sierra writes her own stories sometimes, but I haven't given her any assignments. I plan to buy The Writer's Jungle next year when Sierra would be in the 5th grade. I would buy it sooner, but it is $97 - yikes.

Spelling - We borrowed Spelling Power and Sierra didn't like it, so I decided not to spend $65 on it... I spent $15 on Natural Speller instead. It is really just a bunch of word lists. I haven't found a really good way to do spelling. I don't think memorizing word lists works very well. We didn't do much spelling in 1st and 2nd grade. We used the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks and they had a spelling section, but I am not sure how much they helped. In 2nd grade I also had Sierra use a website called Look Cover Write Check. A friend found an interesting spelling program called All about Spelling. It looks very interesting, but it is $30 a year and has 6 books. This year I am going to try Basic/Not Boring Spelling workbooks. I might also consider the Spelling Workout books. I didn't look too much into them for this past year because Sierra was sick to death of workbooks after 3 years of the Comprehensive Curriculum books. *** after looking at Spelling Workout, I decided to stick with the Basic/Not Boring workbooks.

Grammar - I like First Language Lessons for 1st and 2nd grade. Yes, it is repetitive, but it is a very gentle introduction to grammar. I think early grammar is a good idea, but I don't think it needs to be addressed in a formal textbook/workbook kind of way. The 3rd grade book by Jessie Wise comes out this summer. It looks really good and I plan to buy it for Kali when she reaches 3rd grade. Rod and Staff grammar worked really well for Sierra this year. After about week 3 we began doing the practice exercises out loud and it worked great. Sierra learned a lot and we didn't do a lot of written work, which she hates. Rod and Staff is very thorough and covers things not in other grammar curriculum, like homonyms, synonyms and antonyms, and letter writing. Since it is written for schools, it does repeat things, so I plan to buy the 4th, 6th and 8th grade books and use them each for 2 years. If I wanted something secular, I would use first Language Lessons for 1st - 3rd and then skip to Hake grammar's 5th grade level.

Math - Ah, Math. For 1st and 2nd grade with Sierra I used the math section of the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks. We also did some hands on math activities and read math readers from the library. Then when 3rd grade came, I got nervous about the BIG test(testing is required in 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc. in CO) and thought I needed a "real" math curriculum. I didn't want to spend $100 on a math curriculum, so I bought Abeka. It is an organized colorful workbook and I knew from WTM that it has too much drill, so I would only make Sierra do a few problems in each section. Still, she was burned out on it in 2 months. Just seeing all the problems on the page overwhelmed her. So, after researching all the math curriculum I could find. I decided on Right Start. It's very hands on, lots of games and not a lot of worksheets and the lesson book was easy for me to understand how to teach each concept. Kali did not enjoy Right Start B that I borrowed from a friend, so I am going to try Singapore with her next year. Originally, I didn't like Singapore because I didn't understand the mental math, but Kali likes workbooks and Singapore is highly recommended, so I am going to try it. Who knows what will work for Arwen? I am also going to try a program called Systematic Math. It has a download for 1st -3rd grade for $15 that suggests games and activities instead of a formal curriculum.

History - I like Story of the World. We also get a lot of the recommended books from the library to go along with it. The only thing about Story of the World is that since it goes in order from the beginning, you don't get to American History until 3rd grade. Starting out with Sierra, I knew nothing about Ancient History. I didn't know anything about Story of the World at the time, so I used the What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know. It does both World History starting from the beginning and American History at each grade level. I let dh teach the Ancient History and I did the American History. I thought it was important that my child learn American History just like schooled kids, so they could join in the " great conversation". Of course, now I realize that there is no "great conversation" among elementary school kids, but still there are lots of times when colonial times, the American Revolution, Civil war or Pioneers do come up in books and television shows. But right now Story of the World is working really well for us, so we are going to stick with it and go in depth into American History when we get there.

Science - I have just been following the What Your___Grader Needs to Know recommendations. I do the same topics with both Sierra and Kali. The topics repeat, so I can cover the K and 1st grade stuff with Kali while adding in the 3rd grade stuff for Sierra. We get books from the library on each topic, do experiments occasionally, and get kits that go with topics if I can find good ones at a reasonable price. I am looking into get the Real Science 4 Kids series starting when Sierra is in the 6th grade. The have Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. From what I have heard they cover very advanced topics on a kids level. By that time Arwen will be 7 and the 3 girls could all learn together, each at their own level. Oh, and I would like to take regularly nature walks. Weekly would be great, but monthly is more realistic.

Music - We try to cover a few composers a year. We get books from the library like World's Greatest Composers by Venezia and CDs to listen to.

Art - We do the same thing that we do with composers. We try to learn about a few artists every year, gotta love the Venezia books and I also use Discovering Great Composers to get idea of how to do art like each of the artists we are studying. I am planning to buy Art Basics for Children this year to help the girls learn more art techniques. We are having art classes at our co-op in the Fall which is going to be nice, too, since I am totally clueless when is comes to technique.

Poetry - We usually spend one or two weeks per school year reading poems from a specific poet or learning about types of poetry and writing our own poetry. I also like to sneak poetry into our bedtime reading. I am hoping to start doing a regular(again, ideally weekly, but more likely monthly) teatime in which we read poetry.

Literature - We read most nights at bedtime. Sometimes picture books and sometimes chapter books. Our best literature times are in the car. When I read chapter books aloud at home, Arwen still interrupts too much to make it very enjoyable. This year we listened to Mary Poppins, The whole City of Ember series, A Cricket in Times Square, Tuck Everlasting, and we are now working on The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

Foreign Languages - We have very casually been working on Spanish and Sign Language by getting videos from the library occasionally. I would like to continue Sign Language with more videos and a co-op class. I plan to try out Rosetta Stone this year for Spanish through the Chattanooga Library. You can use their online services for $30 a year.

Latin - when I first read WTM, I thought the idea of teaching Latin was crazy, especially for elementary kids, but I have slowly come around to the idea of at least exposing my kids to Latin. Both Melissa Wiley and Julie Brennan (of Living Math) have their kids learn Latin. I have learned a lot from both of them and they both have very unschooly tendencies, so I figure if they think it is worth teaching, I should give it some consideration. I recently bought Minimus. It is a cartoon type book about a family in Britain during the Roman Empire. We did a few chapters in May when we were learning about the Roman Empire, but haven't looked at it since we have been in summer mode. I plan to pick it back up when we get more structured in the Fall. Once we finish Minimus, I am looking into getting either Latin is Not So Tough or Elementary Latin or both.
Even if we don't formally study Latin, I would like to spend some time learning about words that get their roots from Latin and Greek. I picked up English From the Roots up and Rummy Roots both used this year and hope to be able to squeeze it into our schedule. I plan to be pretty relaxed about it and use them at our own pace with no rush to get through them

Coming up: how I plan to fit this all in a reasonable schedule...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My comparison of The Well Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason

A friend asked me to compare the WTM and CM here was my response:

////How WTM is like CM... Well, they both use narration and copywork.

Differences... WTM puts very little focus on the arts. CM puts a lot of emphasis on art appreciation, music, poetry, and Shakespeare and of course Nature Study. WTM has Shakespeare in the resource list and has Biology as part of the science rotation, but it seems more technical. WTM also has a literature list similar to CM, but then describes notetaking and outlining, where as CM is more about enjoying books with occasional oral and sometimes written narration. Here I just got an email from another Yahoo group with this explanation of CM:

"A Charlotte Mason education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life." It is actually a classical approach, but I believe it is more wholistic. That is to say, spirit, mind & body.////

I read The Well Trained Mind first and thought it was a bit overwhelming, but loved the resource lists. Recently, I have found myself loving the Charlotte Mason approach. I want to provide my children with ideas. I want them to love learning. I want time for structure and time for play and free exploration. CM seems to provide that. It feel like this homeschooling puzzle is coming together... at least for now :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Holy cow, I have a 9 year old!

My oldest turned 9 today, half way to 18 as both my parents pointed out. That thought makes me both excited and sad. My baby, halfway to adulthood...

To my oldest on your 9th birthday,

You are 9 today. I remember being 9, still a child, but ready to start taking on that big world out there. I can see you starting to come out from under my wing. You are not my bravest child, but after you have time to get used to things, you are ready to join the fun. You are kind to your little sisters and your friends. You do your best to make sure others around you are happy. You always try to do what is right even if those around you are not. You are stubborn. You are a messy eater, like me. Have fun growing up. Enjoy being a kid. Remember, you will always be my baby.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Trouble in the Water

My girls started swimming lessons last week. My oldest had her lesson first and then the younger 2 had their lessons. We were, of course, late, so we run in looking around for Sierra's class. We find it and I notice that she has a male teacher - uh oh! She has had male swim teachers before and she has never liked it. She seemed to be doing OK during the lesson, but when it was over, she began crying, "it was awful", " I couldn't do what the teach wanted me to do." "I don't want to go to 7 more lessons." She cried the entire 30 minutes that her sisters were having their lessons. I sat there calmly and listened, explaining that if the class was easy she wouldn't learn anything. I even considered moving her down a class, but then realized that would be her 6 year old sister's class. She thought it was a good idea. I wasn't so sure.

This attitude has been common for her and I am just starting to see the pattern. She doesn't not like to do things that are hard for her or that she has to work at it. She didn't start swimming on her own until she was 7 and she is still not comfortable in deep water. She still hasn't learned to ride a bike. We haven't practice much, but every time we do she is easily frustrated.

I think this temperament also relates to her being "slow to warm " (ie shy) with people and animals. Once she gets to know people, she is gregarious, but it takes a while especially with adults. She screams when she sees a dog, but if she has time to gets to know a dog she will eventually get comfortable enough to pet it.

This "personality trait" can be seen in her school work, too. She could read, but didn't want to read chapter books until she just before her 8th birthday when met a girl a year younger than her that was reading them. She liked math until the middle of 2nd grade when it started to require more time and effort.

Back to swimming lessons day, I was not sure how to proceed. Should I let her move to the lower class or should I push her to stay in the class? When we got home, I consulted my dh. He immediately said she needs to stay in the class and threatened no birthday presents if she didn't try and have a good attitude in the class. It seemed kind of harsh to me, but she easily agreed and has done fine ever since and now says she can't remember why she got so upset. She did sleep in the next day until 10 am, so maybe she was really tired...

My dh, whose idea it was to homeschool in the first place, has suggested that because of this attitude, she may need to go to school, but I am not so sure. He says that in school she will have to work hard at things she is not good at. And it is probably true that I don't push her as hard as I could. In some homeschooling circles, however, I seem to push too hard. I feel like I push her harder than the younger 2 and they seem to be progressing faster educationally... I guess there is a balance and I need to find it. Now that I realize her need to approach things slowly and to sometimes be pushed past her comfort zone, hopefully it will be easier to find that balance.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My first Meme!

I'm in the blogging world now! Thanks Brit!
Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I hate to have my collarbone touched.
2. If it were just me, I couldn't call my blog an organized mess. I am a total neat freak.
3. Actually, I could call it an organized mess, if I were referring to my mental state.
4. I LOVE ice cream. I had to give up my evening snack of ice cream with peanuts and chocolate when I turn 30 so as not to have to increase my clothing size.
5. My mom nicknamed my junior high best friend and I "ding" and "bat" because we were so spacey, a trait I take pride in to this day. It only gets me in trouble every once and a while.
6. Acting is one of my life passions. I gave it up to raise my kiddos, but hope to be able to continue when they are older.
7. I have been to 49 states. Now if I could only find a reason to go to North Dakota...
8. I am learning more by homeschooling my kids than I did in school.

I tag:
Terrible Speller
The Life of Tracy
The Butchko Dynasty
Mudpies and Paint
Lighting the Fires
Higher up and further in
Madcap Haven

Ok I know that's only 7, but I have been trying to cut back on my blog reading in an effort to live life instead of reading about other people's lives. Oh, and I didn't tag the blogs that I read that get bunches of comments on every post. They have enough to do just reading all their comments without getting tagged for a meme by lil ol me.