Friday, January 27, 2012

Home Schooling: Mid Way Evaluation

Here we are, half-way through the school year already. I know a lot of home educators complain of burnout this time of year but I usually feel energized right about now. This year is no exception. As I sat down to make school plans for the next few weeks I thought about what was going well and what was not.

It is a big job to choose the course of study for a year for a child. Thankfully I have only one child for whom to choose. I know we all put a lot of hours in perusing curriculum choices, reading blogs to see what everyone else is using and comparing prices on Amazon and Indigo and eBay and everywhere else. It is not so nice to find out that what you have chosen and paid good money for, just isn't working out.

The beauty of home schooling is that we can do an about face, we can drop something that is less than satisfying, we can speed up some things and slow right down on others. We can, in essence, tailor the learning to meet the needs of the child. I am very grateful for that.

So what is working and what is not?

Math: Athena's favorite subject is Math. She finds it easy so we move along quickly. We will finish this book next week. It was good and it kept coming back to each concept learned several times. I had to supplement with another workbook using Canadian money. The pictures of the US currency were not clear and she had trouble  figuring out which coins were pictured. That was a small bump in the road.
What she does need work on is her addition facts. They don't come quickly to her and she still has to count on her fingers for many of the sums. She is adding and subtracting 3 digit numbers and finds it easy to borrow a ten or carry a ten. We will be doing more flash cards and mad minutes in the following weeks to practice on her addition and subtraction.  I was surprised that multiplication wasn't introduced yet but since she has finished the second grade level we will use the spring months to start on multiplication.
So over all, math is looking good. Happy with the choice.

Language Arts: We started last year with Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and finished it up this fall. It was extraordinary. The lessons were so easy to teach and she is reading well on her own now.  First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind was to follow it, which we are doing. This book is laid out for grade 1 and grade 2. It is grammar, narration, copy work and memorization. So, in essence, we are over a year behind. I find some of the lessons very repetitive and easy, perhaps because we ARE a year behind so we are moving quickly through them at this time. Athena has a fantastic memory and has no problem with the memory work, often having it memorized in just one or two lessons. Much faster than Mom does, that is for sure. The lessons are important so I don't want to skip any but like I said, we are moving quite quickly through them. She knows that "a noun is a person, place, thing or idea" and we are working on proper and common nouns now. Good book. Another good choice.

Explode the Code. She loves that. This too, is a no-brainer. She has really good spelling on account of these lessons.

Writing with Ease. Another good choice. We don't always do all of the 4 weekly lessons. We do the copy work and the narration as well as the comprehension but I don't do the page where she tells me the most interesting thing I read to her. We are starting WWE Level 2 next week. It looks to be much more in depth so I am glad for that. Good choices all around.

Reading: Athena reads aloud to me for 30 minutes a day. We have been using some old readers of my mom's which were printed back in the '60s. They are second grade and she is doing well with them. We are almost finished the second one. Usually, when we don't use a reader, I allow her to choose her own book to read to me. We have a running list of her read alouds on the wall in the classroom. She is very proud of her long list.

I also read aloud to her from a novel for at least 30 minutes a day. We have read Owls in the Family and Mr. Popper's Penguins (which I laboured to read. I did not enjoy that book at all. She did, however.) this last month or so. We just recently finished Little House In The Big Woods. And oh was that a hit. In fact she is calling her dad "Pa". To which he calls her "Half-pint". We just began Little House on the Prairie yesterday.

So, we are making a lap book. Our first one. I don't know what I think about this yet. I do know we should have started it as we began the book. I also know to use a glue stick instead of liquid glue. I like the idea of if but it doesn't look as nice as I thought. She is right into it though so, I guess that is more important.

Science: Earth Science and Astronomy for the Grammar Stage. I do like how well it is set up. Very clear lesson plans on either a two day a  week or four day a week schedule. I still think that the book moves too quickly and so we have slowed it way down in order to study the topics more in depth. That kind of learning sticks much better. I like that there are practical experiments and Internet links as well. All but one of the experiments has worked out. Because of our slower pace, this will last for grade 3 as well. We are doing the Earth Science now (studying Biomes at the moment) and will complete Astronomy next year.

What I don't like is that there isn't room for interest based study. I plan to use some animal study and Knee High Nature: Winter next fall so perhaps Astronomy will wait until later in the year.

Overall I think it is a good program but moves too fast for in depth learning.

History: This year I put together my own Canadian History Unit. More than a unit I guess. I was able to get some really good books and then I supplement with library materials. We just finished Aboriginal people, covering Plains Indians and Inuit in a little more depth and are now moving on to the Explorers. I loved this when I was a kid and I hope she will too.

What I don't like is that I have to make each and every lesson plan, which is very time consuming. What I do like is that I get to make each and every lesson plan and learn right along with her. I LOVE learning new things. Of course we are just doing a brief outline of Canadian History and will likely revisit the subject in years to come. We can delve deeper as her understanding grows.

Our days are pretty structured and I have everything in order. I like order and clarity and a timeline. What I feel is missing in our little home school is ... the finer things. I am not so good at putting art/music lessons into play. We don't sing little songs and craft all day long. I think this would be beneficial to her learning. She doesn't play an instrument. She does take ballet class. She listens to classical music any chance she can get, which is almost daily.

Oh and another thing that I would like to mention here is Sparkle Stories.  I bought her a subscription to three of the offerings. She gets three new original stories to download each Friday. She LOVES these stories so much. Each is about 25 minutes long. It is so nice for her to listen to them while I am busy in the kitchen or otherwise engaged. She sits at her modelling clay table and listens. Excellent resource and very affordable.

In conclusion (of this very long home schooling post) I think things are going mostly well. We are right on schedule with an ending marked at the latter part of May. I need to get my History lessons in place very soon. I have slowed down the Science as I mentioned. I should add some more music and art and handwork to our days. The reading is going well. It would be nice if she would start reading on her own accord but as it stands now, she reads for her 30 minutes, listens to Audio Stories and never tires of me reading aloud to her.

Not too bad, all in all. Things are going pretty well if I do say so myself.


Sarah said...

Ha! I really hated reading Mr. Popper's Penguins aloud, too. By the way the Little House audio books are fantastic, so if you get tired of reading them aloud, try to find them at your library. They're great for long car rides or rest time at our house. :)

Sounds like all is going well. So glad to hear it!

dawn said...

I loved reading this post. My son is in second grade and he hasn't started multiplication yet either. He really wants to, as his favorite subject is also math. But I know his teacher wants them to be really solid on their facts first.
It sounds like you're having a great year. I used the First Language Lessons book with my daughter too. We also used the next one. It wasn't always "fun" but it was good.