Saturday, April 4, 2009

Long Post about Homeschooling this year

I was in a journaling mood today and wanted to remember these thoughts about this year of homeschooling. It is a long post!

For Charles 1st grade math was easy and fun. He seemed to feel confident in his abilities to complete work and understand new problems. When in 2nd grade we moved twice and he not only had to adjust to new people and places, he also had to deal with a heavier focus on standardized tests, he struggled. He was so stressed by timed tests and difficult word problems that he would shut down and not even try to do problems that were well within his abilities and understanding. Tears and even anger were an everyday occurrence when he tried to complete homework assignments.
Homeschooling has made major changes in his confidence and his understanding. Toward the end of the year (2008-2009) after working on a word problem that asked him to convert measurements (i.e. inches to yards), he said, “I feel so proud of myself that I could figure that out by myself.” The smile on his face said it all- he grasped a concept that was new and he liked the feeling of working to solve a difficult problem. Concepts that he understands and enjoys include: basic addition, basic subtraction, counting money, telling time, measurement, converting measurements, number lines, beginning multiplication and division.
Concepts that need to be reinforced and practiced in the coming months include: telling time to the minute, making change, using subtraction to solve addition, (and visa versa) memorization of multiplication facts as well as memorization of addition and subtraction facts so as to move away from counting fingers. Building projects, measurements for cooking and sewing projects and online math games will be good avenues for reinforcing these ideas.

Using games like Mad Lib books to review grammar vocabulary has been a source of enjoyment. Both children remind each other the definitions of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, as well as exclamatory words. Charles has also used Bob Jones curriculum to study grammar and usage more deeply, looking at predicates and subjects, verb tenses and types of sentences.
One concept that will be focused on more heavily in the future is writing. Letter writing, planning stories and writing them and finding facts for lapbooks are some of the Language Arts goals we will aim for in the coming months. Homeschooling also had a positive effect on his confidence as a writer. He would not be able to complete a writing assignment in public school. He would spend long amounts of time just staring at the page without translating his thoughts onto paper. Lapbooks help him break a big task into smaller, more manageable ideas. He can find facts and write them in mini-books without a problem, whereas he would not read a book or a paragraph and write facts or main ideas from the reading before. He has matured in this aspect. He really enjoys making lapbooks and remembers the facts he writes in them.

Kaitlyn has grown as a reader. She wants to be reading chapter books, although she still must have help with some words in these books. She seems a little bored with the leveled readers at times, but enjoys picture story books. She understands the connection between the pictures and the story. When reading aloud she does not have as much expression and so still needs to work on fluency. But when she encounters a new word in a book she sounds it out, sometimes with help and remembers that word when encountering it again in the same book. She enjoys worksheets and coloring too. The math books that are on a first grade level seem to be boring to her. She not only says they are boring, but also gets distracted more easily and it is more difficult to keep her on task. These have single digit addition and subtraction. She is more interested in measuring and interpreting charts and graphs. When I introduced double digit addition and subtraction she enjoyed it more, but still relies on manipulatives and finger counting to solve these. She understands place value and can “carry” or “rename” to solve double digit addition and subtraction. Simple money counting, and telling time to the hour or half hour are also easy for her.
Concepts that need to be addressed include solidifying her knowledge of addition and subtraction facts (so she can move away from counting fingers), telling time to quarter hour and every 5 minutes, more money counting practice, and fractions. Building projects, measurements for cooking and sewing projects and online math games will be good avenues for reinforcing ideas for her as well.

Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer has been a favorite of both children. The chronological history is presented in an interesting and relevant way for them. I had a few concerns about addressing all the world religions with countless gods and goddesses, but open discussions about these ideas have been interesting. The kids really listen to the read-aloud lessons and remember what the lessons discussed. This has opened up ways to talk with them about current events, the influence of history on our present culture and even conversations about religions and how we worship. Charles has not enjoyed the coloring pages but Kaitlyn likes them. He likes the maps and I would like to hang a world map to show where the places are in relation to the rest of the world. Kaitlyn likes the maps too, but not as much as the coloring pages. I regret not doing more of the activities listed in the activity book and would like to go back and do those during the hot summer days. We did a few of the activities and the kids really enjoyed them. I would have been able to do more activities had I been more prepared ahead of time.

Science has not really been ignored, but it has been hands-on and more observational. We’ve taken walks and talked about habitats, how weather affects animals, we’ve identified the trees in the local park, and observed tadpoles changing to tiny frogs (in the middle of recovering from the hurricane) The natural curiosity the kids have is the main ‘curriculum.’ We used the microscope a little and did some worksheets about the human body (mainly digestive system and muscle/ vein/ nervous systems). The changes they’ve observed in me during the pregnancy have led to many questions! I’ve talked openly, (but generally) about pregnancy and baby’s development the entire time. They were able to accompany me to the ultrasound as well. I would like to use some clear summer nights to use our dusty telescope to study astronomy (provided we can find somewhere to do so away from bright city lights!) And with a summer family trip planned to Arkansas to a diamond mine that is open to the public, some studies of geology, possibly topography and other earth science topics are in the future.

Character development has definitely happened, as a result of hours of conversation and reinforcing expectations. This was not accidental, but was not part of a character development curriculum, just an outcome of a family learning to work together. I reiterate “respect each other!” so much that it feels ineffective, but I see the changes in Charles and Kaitlyn’s relationship with each other and with their dad and I. Chore lists helped teach responsibility, but I have been somewhat inconsistent with them- especially in these last two weeks. I need to figure out a straight-forward way to list and share these responsibilities evenly between the two of them. They do chores willingly, and with good attitudes (most of the time). They enjoyed when we had a posted schedule or routine in the school room. They liked telling me what was next on the schedule and were flexible enough when we weren’t exactly “on time” with the posted schedule. Kaity was less flexible-reminding me what we were ‘supposed’ to be doing at that time. The hardest thing about the chore charts is finding a way to take turns with different tasks and remember who did what, when! I know there is a system of managing this- I just need to be trained in it!

Bible memorization has been the most disappointing thing to me about this year! I have completely dropped the ball in this. We pray daily and talk about our faith throughout the day, but Bible verse memorization was one thing I really wanted to focus on that we haven’t. I will be praying about this, to find a way to keep myself accountable to make this a part of every day.

The main lesson I have learned is not about any subject or fact. I have learned that I need to continue to grow in my diligence and personal discipline. Yet again I am reminded that I have not arrived, nor ever will. Further onward and upward!

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