Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On The Homefront

We are well into our 9th week of third grade.
Some things are working well.
Some things we struggle with.
Some things get left out more than I would like.
And some days... I want to run away!  Did I just write that?  Indeed I did.

I am finding it very hard these past two weeks. We don't blog much about this do we? We tend to show the great projects and the fun filled field trips. Do we often say how hard this gig is some days?  Like that days that math takes an hour and a half because, well, we forget what 8+6 equals over and over again. Or the days when the "stubborn" kicks in and neither of us knows why. Or the days when there is so much other stuff to do that all we accomplish is math and some reading. Yeah, days like that. We have been having a lot of days like that.
Some things are going really well (most days). The Teaching Textbooks are really good. I mean very very good. The lessons are short and sweet (most days) and they are clearly explained and the concepts learned are repeated over and over so the child learns mastery. I like that someone else is teaching at least one subject. We always start the morning with math for two reasons. One: she loves it. Two: it allows me to get some house work type of things started.  
Handwriting Without Tears is a good cursive writing workbook as well. She will finish this book up next week. Some of the letters are not exactly how I would write them and since I think I have nice handwriting, I have taught her otherwise. Lower case R, M and N in particular. She has lovely handwriting. Of course she does. She is an artist.
I am also LOVING her grammar/writing/dictation/memorization program. Really good stuff. We do about three lessons a week, which seems about right just now.  First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. This all in one program is just what I she needs. Simple easy to follow lessons.
Her spelling program Spelling Workout C is a good choice. There is not a test at the end of the week so I have her spell the words on the chalkboard or orally.
She has read over 45 books in these past weeks. Some short chapter books but mostly picture books. Her favorite have been The Canadian Flyer Series. Historical fiction is the best! We have read aloud Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek and several Thornton Burgess Animal books. The Adventures of Chatterer the Squirrel and The Adventures of Reddy Fox. Even I enjoy the Thornton Burgess Books. Again, he writes animal stories but so much can be learned about the animals and their habitats. That is what we both like about them. Plus, they are plain good reading. They are written in the early 1900's so the language can be different. Different but good.
Speaking of language, we are going through the English From The Roots Up cards, beginning with Greek roots. This, she likes as well. Me too. (Obviously I am doing a lot of learning right along with her!)

Now for what isn't going well. Science, History, Art and Music. I have such great resources and lots of ideas but NO TIME! By the time we have the basics covered I am finding it hard to squeeze these subjects in on a regular basis. I would like to do science and history twice a week and art and music once. Not happening. We did finish a unit on Squirrels, Chipmunks and Marmots. It was fun, it was educational and she liked it. Our next unit will be on Trees, Nuts and Berries. I am using the Knee High Nature: Fall book. The same book I used to home school my third daughter all those years ago.
History. I don't know about the History we chose. It is The Story of the World: Early Modern Times. It seems a little above her understanding and it moves very quickly. She learned at the tender age of 8 that Queen Mary was beheaded. The books are well laid out but I don't know... Something just isn't working with it. We are on to Pocahontas already and we are not too many lessons in. Maybe I am not giving it a good effort.
I bought an Art/Music program to coincide with the History book. We are learning about Diego Velasquez, whom I have never heard of. But oh my... what a great artist! His paintings look like photographs. They are really good! Check out these on Google Images. We are listening to music from Handel at the moment and Athena really has a good ear. The first piece we are studying is Music for the Royal Fireworks. Within a few bars, she said "This sounds like Castle music." Oh yes it does. This art and music program is written by Barb. Otherwise known as Harmony Art Mom. I love it. Love it. I am doing the assignments in my own book. Like I said, I am learning right along with her. But again, it is hard to fit all of this good stuff in once the basics are covered.

I feel torn between what I believe to be a good education for a child and what I believe to be an exciting well rounded education, if that makes any sense. I believe it is SO important to be able to read, write, spell and have good grammar. We work a lot on that. I believe math skills are important. (just thinking we need to add more drill). I believe in reading aloud and being read to. I think a child should know about the past in order to understand the future. I believe in children having a basic understanding about how things work, how nature works, how machines are made, the sky, the stars, biology, physics, chemistry.

And then... there is a reason we home school. Not wanting her to sit in a desk for 6 hours a day is a big one. Wanting her to love learning, lifelong learning is another. To think independently and work in her own style and at her own pace, some others. But how do we fit this all in a day? This is not a rhetorical question. How can I do it without exhausting her energies and her attention span? How can I teach her what she needs to know and keep her excited and engaged?

And this is where we are today. Trying our best to do what we believe to be the right thing for this little life. This little girl who is imaginative, smart, innocent, inquisitive, artistic and oh so easily distracted and can be oh so stubborn.

My nightly glass glasses of wine never tasted so good!


Dawn said...

Yes, it really is hard sometimes. It sounds like you're doing a great job though. I used to use the nature lessons from the lady who is Harmony Art Mom, I think. I really liked them. I will check out her art lessons. That's something that we've been neglecting.

Sarah said...

You know, I don't think we ever fit it all into a day. I think we do our best to fit it all into a year. Or more likely, we do our best to fit it all into a couple years, but day-to-day, on the smaller scale, it might not look all that well-rounded or thorough. Over time, in little bits, it all adds up. I mean, think about your science unit that you both enjoyed. Do a couple more of those at some point over the rest of the year and you'll have some good science done for the year. Some good memories, too. I think we do better when we look at the big picture, but I admit this is very hard for me.

We also are having a hard time getting to anything after the basics. Most days if we get to math, language arts, religion, and a read aloud, I'm spent. Fitting in the other stuff around the edges is hard! I'm trying to let that be more serendipitous, just because I believe, like you, that the basic skills are so important. Also, I want to be a peaceful and happy mother, and I just can't cram in history, science, and art and be very nice at the same time. :)

We love Teaching Textbooks. Short, sweet, clear. My kids don't love math, but they don't hate it either and it gets done in short spurts of time. I do find that it needs to be supplemented with drill. I'm doing Singapore with my little guy this year only because he's too young for TT. As soon as he's old enough for TT, I will retire as math teacher. I'm nicer when I'm not teaching math, lol.

You are inspiring to me. Thanks for writing this up.