Saturday, September 29, 2007

Week 6 Report

I'm not even doing a Weekly Report this week because we just didn't do enough to count as school. Well, I take that back. We did plenty of learning, but progress toward the 3 R's was little. We all went to Vermont for 3 days this week, so Monday and Tuesday were mostly me barking orders at Hugs: "OK, do your handwriting now!" "Here's your Flashmaster list" while tried to pack things up and our Tuesday pm departure.

The Good:

  • Ft. Ticonderoga was a great field trip. Ben's favorite parts were the musket demonstration (the re-enactment British soldier was a wealth of information about the lack of precision and the high luck-factor of the musket) and viewing the assorted items that might be found in the barracks of a fort -- playing cards, ink packets, pipes, darning bobbin (I think that's what you call the thing they shoved into the toes of their socks). It was a beautiful ride town to Ticonderoga; I hope we can explore the Adirondack mountains at some point in our lives.
  • The ECHO science museum in Burlington VT. This was field trip #2 of our trip. The boys really enjoyed the displays and demonstrations. We sat through a lake sturgeon talk. Hugs was the only 8 year old amongst a see of 3 year olds, and did an amazing job of answering questions and volunteering. This is a big deal for Hugs, who is usually shy and won't volunteer much information in group situations. They wouldn't accept my HSLDA teacher ID card as proof of my homeschool teacher status, so I had to pay full price admissions. grrrrrr.
  • Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour: Field trip #3. (daddy got to go with us on this one!) No field trip that ends in ice cream can be a bad one.
  • Flashmaster and my new tracking sheet is working great. I'm seeing measured progress in Hug's skills in the flashcard mode in addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Division is improving, though at a more slow rate than the other three.

The Bad:

  • The pool at the hotel was far too cold to enjoy on Thursday. I swam with the boys a little on Wednesday after our Fort trip, and the pool was nice'n warm; the hot tubs were near boiling. Thursday, though, the hot tubs were fine and the pool was c-c-cold. We (read "I") lasted about 35 minutes. Besides, Levi was starting to get a cold on Thursday, and I didn't want him to get worse.
  • He did anyway. DH (he needs a better blog name...) and I were up with him at 5 am because he was sounding like a seal barking his coughs and had labored breathing and seemed to be having a tempterature (forgot to pack the thermometer this time). We got him cool, turned on the AC and I had him sleep on my chest. He seemed better by 7am, though still barky. Friday during the day he did fine until we pulled up to the Ben and Jerry factory. Then, he had trouble clearing a mucousy obstruction in his throat. But he did finally, and we decided to continue with the tour since he'd returned to his baseline. He was great for the entire rest of the 3 hour ride home UNTIL 2/10th of a mile from home when he did the choke thing again. DH and I thought the same thing and drove to the emergency room. He has croup. He got a steroid injection and is sleeping like a -- ahem -- baby now. Wish I was.
  • I didn't realize how sick of peanut butter sandwiches we'd get in the course of 3 days.
  • We only read through 1 more chapter from Wheel on the School. And, I like it now. The chapters are really long though, and I'm just having trouble scheduling in the time right now.

So, there you have it. We did only a couple days of Flashmaster, all our CBS lesson, 1/2 a week of Latin and handwriting; all our science, no history, 1 of 4 grammar is too painful to catalog.
But, we had a fun time together and we're all healthy (in a medication-assisted sort of way), so I'll be thankful for what we did and worry about all the rescheduling on Sunday.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Week 5 Report

Not a bad week, all things considered. Over the years, I've gotten a little better about rolling with the punches of life, and not worrying too much about "being on schedule" for finishing our materials within a prescribed time frame. I mean, look at us: we're finishing up what I'd planned to do in the spring of 2nd grade right now, in the beginning of 3rd grade.

So this week we started out a few lessons behind in FLL-3. I am still really liking this, for several reasons. It is all scripted out, which I find helpful for grammar. I feel very comfortable with the concepts, but I think I'd be too willing to gloss over some of the foundation building steps that Jessie and Sarah have included in the program. I also like that there is dictation in just about every exercise, so that I don't have to worry about that each week. In all, Hugs is doing copywork 4 or 5 times a week: twice in FLL (on average), once in his handwriting, and usually once or twice in science and history combined. I'm also starting to have Ben do more copywork in cursive, so he is getting a lot more practice.

All About Spelling is a great curriculum, but it is very teacher intensive. I'm going to try to hang in there for at least the first level, because I think Ben really needs the review for syllabication. I see this as a stumbling block in his reading -- he gets to a longer, unfamiliar word, and just tries to guess at it. He is really an excellent reader (6th grade or higher in comprehension skills), but I suspect he will do even better if he can decode these more advanced vocabulary words. Oh a side note, although I haven't begun Luke's introduction into the world of phonograms, he is usually around when Hugs is working on it, and he is making lots of progress through osmosis!
We have finished up the American Kingdoms chapter in SOTW (Ch 32). I had planned on doing the ancient Aztec History Pocket this week, but we only finished two of the activities before he said, "Do we have to do any more of this stuff?" He told me he though the HP stuff was boring ("too much coloring"). I asked him if lapbookins was OK, and he said yes, it was sometimes (I have the Hands of a Child Renaissance lapbook to use in a few weeks). He also said, "I'd rather build stuff, like catapults." So, I'll be sure to revisit the SOTW activity guide and see what I can incorporate into the rest of the year.

My big frustration this week was Math. Honestly, I think I have a Math Freak Out day at least quarterly. (Are you familiar with the Word Freak Out monkey on Between the Lions?) There are a couple of types of errors Ben is making: careless copying errors, a regrouping errors, and some math fact errors. These are all causing him trouble in our week of review activities with Singapore Math's 2B curriculum I also finally make a great tracking sheet for Flashmaster that fits us right now. With it, I can have Ben work through several operations on one day:

To address this, next week we're going away for part of the week and taking some school with us. Instead of forging ahead into the next unit in our math books, we'll take the week to do lots more with the Flashmaster and I've found some pages from an old Scott Foresman Exploring Mathematics 2nd grade workbook that will fit the bill to help with regrouping. And, I still have lots of copies of Mental Math that we can work on as well. So, I'm pleased with how next week is set up.

Science is going great. We spent Thursday doing two or three experiments with solutions and learned abou solutes and solvents. We really talked over the difference between the solutes (ie sugar) and solvent (ie water) and made several of our own solutions: Crystal Light lemonade, garlic oil and blue water (food coloring). It was a great science week!

Here's our art project for the week. We're stil working on learning about lines. Ben was given 4 squares of paper with two lines on them. His job was to make them into a picture. Top left: ocean waves with a surf boarder. Top right: rock climber on a jagged mountainside. Bottom left: the sun setting over a hill with shorter tree covered peakes in front. Bottom right: hills with gray rain clouds bursing forth with rain.
The last thing to talk about is Latin. We're 1/2 of the way through Prima Latine,which I've really enjoyed. Instead of working through a review chapter, which is where we left off, I felt is was more fair to review all our vocabulary cards instead. So, each day, Ben did so, and I am impressed by how much he remembered. We weill finish the review chapter this week, then next week begin Lesson 16.
This coming week (tomorrow already!) we will be tripping to Vermont and Ft. Ticonderoga, which is about an hour or so south of Burlington. I'm really looking forward to this trip. And, I am thrilled that I thought to call the education office at the fort. They will honor their educator's discount and charge me only $5 total for all of us to come visit. Pray for good weather on Wednesday so we can have a musket demonstration!
God's best to you as you do life with him this week!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Week 4 Report

This has been a long week, and I'm too tired collect pictures of the boys' work for this week, so -- I'm sorry to say -- it will just be my narrative of our week .
First off: Levi's' EEG came back perfectly normal, praise God!
I came to realize something this week: just because I'm not turned on by a book doesn't mean the boys' don't like it (I know, I'm a little slow sometimes). We sat down to do some read-alouds at some point this week, and Ben said, "Can't we read the Wheel on the School?" So, we'll keep on keepin' on with this selection. It does seem to be getting better -- let me rephrase that: my attitude has improved and I'm enjoying the book more, too.
I think I've stumbled upon a way to make Flashmaster work for us. We've gone ahead and are compiling a baseline of Ben's math skills. At every level, I've had him do the test feature, and we've written down how many problems he completed in 90 seconds and his percent accuracy. He's completed the addition, subtraction and multiplication operations. He has a nice accuracy record for his addition and subtraction (I'm using 90% or better at this stage), but his speed with these facts needs improvement. So, I've decided that I'll begin by figuring out his average speed at each level and use the flashcard function to help him increase his speed. The flashcard function allows you to set the speed in which the student must respond, from 9 seconds to 1 second (or less, I can't recall). For multiplication, we'll use the random tables function to improve his knowledge of these facts (and I suspect that is where we'll start with division as well). Flashmaster will become an everyday activity that Ben completes, and then at the end of every 6 week term we'll do another test to see how he's improved.
This week, Ben is working on memorizing True Nobility by Edgar Guest (thanks to Jessica at Trivium Academy for drawing my attention to this great poem!) instead of R.L. Stevenson's The Land of Nod in FLL3.
We'll be extending our study of the Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations into early next week because we just ran out of time. So, we'll do our Aztec History Pocket on Monday and on Tuesday read about the Incans. I had Ben work on the Mayan math activity from the SOTW-2 Activity Guide, and he really enjoyed that. I asked him to summarize what he thought of Mayan math, and he said, "Mayan math is really hard" because it is a base 20 system rather than a base 10 system.
Then we had our first Community Bible Study on Friday, and I am so thankful that we can participate in such a great program. Luke was not wanting to go into his class, but I sat with him a while and he did fine. "Mom!" he yelled, "I LOVE Bible Study." I am hoping he remembers that next Friday, too. Ben came home, dropped his notebook on the floor, grabbed his Bible and did his first lesson. Cool.
We're on step 2 of All About Spelling this week. It is alphabetizing. He knows how to do this at a basic level, but I'm trying to give him strategies to make it more efficient. I suspect we'll stay at step 2 until Tuesday then move on to the next level.
Next week we'll be adding in Latin, and at that point we'll have all our subjects scheduled in. On a good day, we can easily finish school before 1 pm. But, those days are few. Ben still needs reminders from me to move from one independent activity to the next, but he is getting better on some days. In the next week, I need to be more purposeful in my routines and help get a routine going for Luke and Levi.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week 3 Report

We fit in all our assignments this week so that we could enjoy a Friday off to visit with Nana, who came to see the boys from the midwest. We had a lot going on this week!

Flashmaster: I love this. After fiddling around with a couple Excel spredsheets from the Sonlight forums, I finally decided to run Ben through a baseline with all the levels in all the operations. So, we're still working through the addition levels, but I plan on finishing this all up next week, since we don't know all the multiplication and division levels at this point. Ben can be competitive, so I'm hoping to use that to his benefit to help him improve his math facts. I've also decided that speed is important, but not vital at this point in the game; mastery of the facts are. Meaning, I want them memorized and I don't want to see him mentally calculating the answer. So, that is what we'll focus on now, and I'll let the time--per-problem remain a little longer at this point (but not so long that he has time to count it out on his fingers!).

Math: We're working on addition and subtraction with money. Ben is doing well with it, and I'm pleased to see him picking up the addition of change, We've also started our Challenging Word Problems for Primary Mathematics 1, and I think this will be a great review of the arithematic operations within the framework of developing the reasoning skills for completing work problems.
Grammar: I've decided that I don't want Ben to memorize the Land of Nod poem at lesson 9 in FLL3; instead I'll have him memorize True Nobility in the coming week.

All About Spelling: We've added this and Ben has now completed his first step in level 1, which is memorizing the phonogram sounds.

Chemistry: We read this book through several times.

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It is great! Ben's copywork is below; he copied all the definitions. I must say that his attention to detail and accuracy has improved considerably in his copywork since 2nd grade:

Ben presented Rev. 3:20 to his dad at dinner this week; and we're a little behind in our verses because I washed my mp3 player this week (arrrrggg!). I'm thankful, though, that it wasn't ruined and we can renew its use in our memorization.

Things that are not working so great: I feel like I'm never going to remember to do our music appreciation at the end of the week, so I need to rethink when to do this. This week, Community Bible Study starts (Friday). Also, we're going to be in a homeschool gym class on Friday afternoons, which will be great, but it will require me to rethink our scheduling and planning. Last year, school worked best when we did a little bit every day (like doing 4 days per week of science), but I am thinking that science and history might best be worked on just twice per week in larger chunks. I'm not sure how I like the idea of this for science, because it is Ben's favorite thing, and I'd like to give it to him smaller bits that he can digest over the course of the week.
I'm also reconsidering our read aloud, The Wheel on the School. It is a bit dry right now, and as much as I hate to quit reading a book, I'm just not invested in storks at the moment. I suppose I'll give it another few chapters and we'll see how it goes.
Aside from CBS at the end of the week, I'm not sure what we're supposed to add this week. We will be taking Nana back to the airport tomorrw afternoon, and we have piano lessons as well. I anticipate doing about 1/2 of our school work tomorrow, while she is still here.