Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

This is a weird picture, I know, but do you see that blob in the lower left corner. Does it vaugely resemble a duck? Can you see the feathers on the back of it, the head and the teeny, tiney beak? My 3 year old drew it! All on his own. With no prompting or help. "Levi," I said, "What is that?" "Dut, Mommy!" Then he explained to Ben and I all the parts of the duck. Then he drew water for the duck to swim in. Huh.

Luke getting ready to carve our pumpkin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekly Report: #9 -- End of 1st Quarter

Kindergarten: What a fantastic week for Luke. Not only did my middle baby turn SIX this week, I am loving using All About Spelling for our phonics program. It is meshing with Explode the Code online perfectly. Luke knows the basic 26 phonograms; he knows what vowels and consonants are; he is able to segment up to a three- phoneme (sound) word and isolate initial and final sounds. He is able to listen to a word "pen" and change it to "pan" when the word is dictated to him. Oh, and he can write the letters (still working on correct formation) when given the phonogram's sounds. All that in two weeks, and his scores on Explode the Code have gone up dramatically. I even noticed that he is reading the little sentences with greater ease this week. If you are curious about All About Spelling, click the label on the right sidebar (I do get commissions on any orders placed through that link).

Ben: A little rough on the attitude/ effort this week. But, Daddy and Ben went out for dinner on Thursday, and Daddy's straight talk with him about school really helped us on Friday.

  • Math: we're working on adding/subtracting pounds and ounces. Also, he is continuing with Flashmaster, a great hand-held computer to practice math facts. After a couple week lull in the multiplication and division practice, Ben had a breakthrough this week. After asking around on The Well Trained Mind boards, I'm going to give Ben a times table to fill out for practice on Monday. Then, if he needs it this week, he can use it to help himself. Each week I'll have him do a times table. I'm also going to give him a 100 problem simple addition drill. Since Monday is the beginning of our 2nd quarter, I thought I'd do it periodically to show progress in his skills. He is using the Flashmaster to review addition/subtraction facts twice weekly.
  • Language Arts: working on nouns this week in GWG. Spelling is going well with AAS level 3; we're on step 21 of 28 steps. We were lax on WWE this week. I'm having doubts on whether to continue to use this in January when we switch to Tapestry of Grace.
  • Science: We finally finished Chapter 1 of RS4K Physics. We talked about what physics is and how to use observation to discover Newton's First Law of Motion.
  • History: We're in the middle of SL week 31, reading a missionary story about Adoniram and Ann Judson who went to Burma (Myanmar). We love missionary stories. There is nothing better than having my son's chant "read more, read more" especially about a missionary. We skipped Calico Bush, but Ben is reading Naya Nuki (week 30). We're basically 1-2 weeks ahead of where I planned for us to be. I think we'll start "The Journeyman" next week, too.
  • Bible: Ben is reading 2 chapters a day from his Bible and is now in Joshua! He's also continuing on in his study about prayer.
  • Latin: Latin was light this week but we are finishing up Chapter 4.
  • Piano: Ben had a challenging song this week, which soured his attitude for at least a day. However, he is now playing it beautifully! He still puzzles me: for the last two days he's been playing a song he "wrote" willingly and joyfully upon request. This from a kid who "hates" piano.
  • We are watching a Leonard Bernstein DVD from Netflix about music appreciation. I turned it on briefly on Friday before gym class and the kids LOVED it. We'll finish this up on Monday.
I've started pulling out my TOG-3 units to plan what we're going to study in January. January starts our 3rd quarter and there are 9 weeks to plan out. However, the boys will also have ski lessons for a whole day for 5 weeks. They will be toast the morning after, so for part of the 3rd quarter, school will really be only 3 days/week. We are going to study about the civil war only during that 3rd quarter. There are about 6 weeks of material in TOG. I think we'll do a lapbook. Because the way TOG is written, I'll look for some library books at his level on these topics as well. I'm very excited about!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finding Our Rhythm

For years I have made up hour-by-hour schedules for the flow of our days. They never really worked out, because it was all based on what I wanted out of a day. This year, I toyed with pretty Excel MOTH (Managers of Their Home) schedules, but never got beyond the "playing with it" stage.

We're now 2 1/2 months into our school and I can see a flow to our day that has evolved throughout this process. Ben has a segment of school that he is largely responsible for on his own. Luke has a small number of things that constitute his education that require me to be him the entire time while Levi hangs on every word I say to Luke. We've found a nice rhythm to our day -- usually.

It is nice to be at the place, though I need to remind myself not to get uptight when we start a little late or something else comes up. It is OK. I am teaching my kids to be flexible and trust in God that His plan is better than mine.

Wordless Wednesday catch-up

It has been a long time since I posted WW here are a couple, with words. I can't help myself....

Here's Levi from our third apple picking trip. There is nothin' like fresh picked apples. Well, except apple pie made from fresh picked apples.

Daddy came home early last week so I could go see Beth Moore speak. I caught he and Levi working on a puzzle. Levi is in a puzzle phase right now....

Ben is working on his Webelo's Handyman activity badge. He had to change a light bulb....

This is actually from yesterday. Levi helped me make cookies, Luke was working on a craft from Adventureland (Sunday School), and Ben was practicing writing with a quill and ink that he made....

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Final Farewell to 100EZ Lessons

Back when I first started homeschooling, I heard about Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Reading being one of my top priorities, I decided to give it a try because (1) I liked the title (2) I liked that it was an all-in-one resource (3) I was scared that I'd scar my children and relegate them to illiteracy if I didn't use something so obviously helpful.

Well, Ben showed the desire to read early (3.5) and not wanting to stifle his learning and chances for full-tuition scholarships to Harvard, I began to gently introduce him to this book and the future of learning. It worked well for a little while, then when Ben began to cry when I brought it out, ("I don't like that book, Mommy!") it sat on a shelf for a bit while we did other stuff. I'd bring it out periodically, we'd make progress, then Ben would freak out and I'd put it away.

At some point in his kindergarten year, Ben and I came to an understanding that this was school and it would not bite him, scare him nor scar him. He settled into "doing" 100EZ well. But at that point, I started to dislike the program. It began to remind me of the Dick and Jane sight word reading programs that were used when I was in school. I noticed that the unique orthography (print type) was not teaching the child why we had a silent "e" at the end of some English words and what it's affect was on the vowel before it (My "ah-ha" moment with that phonics rule was gratis Between the Lions at some point in my son's 3rd year of life). I was also noticing that Ben was doing well with guessing words, but not so well when confronting new words. He seemed to have few strategies for sounding out words.

We switched to The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading -- it was a great resource. But, I'm just not excited about using it again. My sit-on-the-couch-and-cuddle-while-doing-school days are over. Too many boys, too many things going on, too little time.

So, here comes Luke, ready and eager to read. We've completed 40 lessons in 100EZ and he is doing well. But, I got that niggling feeling in the back of my mind about the need for strategies to decode words. I spent this weekend comparing Ramalda Spaulding's Writing Road to Spelling (3rd edition) and the accompanying homeschool guide and My All About Spelling-Level 1 (AAS) book that I began using with Ben in 3rd grade to improve his spelling abilities. Given I'm already ahead on the AAS learning curve and like it, I'm going to follow AAS to teach Luke to read. There is a huge FAQs section at the AAS website if you'd like a comparison between it and Spaulding.

So far (2 days), Luke has learned nearly all the beginning phonograms (step 1), he is getting better at alphabetizing the ABCs and has learned the difference between a vowel and consonant (step 2), and by Wednesday we'll likely be ready to begin segmenting words into phonemes (sounds) and picking out beginning/ middle/ end sounds. I've also been able to spend a few minutes at the end of our lessons helping Luke make 3-letter words out of the tiles (pan to pin to tin to tan, etc.) which is complementing the lessons we're doing on Explode the Code Online. Each level of AAS has a progress chart, and we just printed off Luke's today.... I suspect we'll begin putting stickers on his mastered levels this week! He will love this for visual reinforcement of his progress.

In all, I'm really happy with this change. And totally at peace with it, too, which is really a good, good sign. I'll be adding 100EZ to the For Sale pile in the basement.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beth Moore was in the house today..

....Beth Moore came to New England this week, and it was an awesome blessing to be able to go see her and hear what God had to say. It has been four or so years since I did one of her studies.

I really felt God speaking to me about His role in my life, my day, our homeschool. In the interest of laying in all out and being real, I think some streamlining in is order.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

God Spotting -- Praying

Ben is completing a Bible study about being a prayer warrior. He had to take a spiritual inventory of his prayer life. In it I discovered that Ben LOVES to pray! I never would've known that, but I am encouraged by it. He is an enigma, my Ben. You might never guess that he likes to pray by his actions. Who knew!

Week 8 Report

Not a horrible lot that is exciting to post. Last week, my parents were here for a couple days. We had a combined birthday party for Luke and Levi on the 4th, so the were able to get a couple quick flights out here for that. The blessed us with a kid-free evening - took the kids to a hotel for swimming and sleepover. Dave and I hopped in the car and went to see Fireproof. It was fantastic. Not all the acting was good (Caleb's mom was not convincing), but the message was great.

We have been faithfully trekking the Lewis and Clark expedition in our history studies. Ben completed a notebooking page. I'm going to join Netflix so we can borrow a DVD about the Lewis and Clark trail. Personally, it was great fun for me to read about this, as I had spent 3 months in Lewiston, Idaho and was mostly oblivious to anything but skiing while out there. I'm thankful to have revisited the area through our reading and remember the time there fondly.

We have been progressing in math -- still Singapore -- and I have slowed down in my thinking about switching math programs. I have been mulling the idea of moving Ben to Horizons. There is a difference in the scope and sequence between the two programs, and for that reason I'm hesitant to make the switch. I know our math fact bobble-in-the-road is temporary (indeed, Ben is doing very well with re-learning his multiplication facts and is making steady progress with division as well).

We are finishing up Lesson 4 in Lively Latin. This week (and some from week 7) we reviewed the differences between declensions (for nouns) and conjugations (for verbs). Ben is doing better understanding that the verb endings take the place of pronouns and indicate who did what in a sentence. This coming week we will be learning new vocabulary and completing our Roman history and art appreciation.

Growing with Grammar is fantastic. Ben has completed the first section, and scored a 93% on the review lesson. For the next three weeks he'll be working on noun/pronouns.

We took last week off from spelling, but will start on Step 19 (of 28) this week. We also did not to science last week, however, I will be starting with the introductory material this week, and will be picking up the Critical Thinking Co. science material this week. I'm looking forward to using the Real Science 4 Kids (RS4K) material with Ben.

Luke: Luke is beginning to do some basic addition. I need to get the math fact audio CD going for him to listen to. He is doing well with handwriting and Explode the Code online. He does tend to have some trouble on a specific type of exercise in EtC, but I think he'll work it through fine. We started reading some of the Bob books last week. He is so proud of himself!

Books About Boys

I've asked at TheWell Trained Mind boards for book recommendations about educating boys. Here's what I've compiled so far:

  1. The Trouble With Boys
  2. Raising Cain
  3. The War Against Boys (gotta love the subtitle: how misguided feminism is harming our young men)
  4. Boys Adrift* (Leonard Sax)
  5. The Last Child in the Woods* (about "nature-science deprived kids)
  6. Michael Gurian's books -- "The Wonder of Boys," "The Minds of Boys," "What Stories Does My Son Need? : A Guide to Books and Movies That Build Character in Boys*".
  7. Leonard Sax's Why gender matters : what parents and teachers need to know about the emerging science of sex differences

The italic titles are ones my local public library has (yea). *-ed books I'll interlibrary loan.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

God Spotting - Answered Prayers

We've been praying for my cousin, Kyle, who had a short stint in Iraq since about April or so. We found out this weekend that he is back in the states. Safe and sound. Yea! An answer to our prayers.

He says he hates piano lessons

but he is teaching himself the next song in his book. Today it is Kum-Ba-Ya. We accidently forgot our piano lesson on Monday, so Ben is stuck continuing to practice his song from last week. When he is "bored" like this, he teaches himself the next song. That's what you get when your mean mommy says you have to practice 15 minutes every day.

I tend to think he doesn't hate it as much as he says....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Daisy is such a good, gentle dog. She could care less if Levi wants to crawl all over her.