Monday, July 30, 2012

Yep, fell off the face of the earth last week in blogging. But I feel good about it. It was a busy, busy week in our house, along with some illness. We pushed some school things, including Lily's unit study, to start this week. That is part of why I love homeschooling honestly; you can adjust if needed to suit what happens in life that is unavoidable. I would rather adjust our homeschool than stress ourselves out even more trying to attain something during illness. Better to learn while well and actually learn the material than push through with sick kids. Anyhow, it's Monday, and we are back to health pretty much! Thus, it's good for a Monday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature Unit Study

I haven't mentioned Lily, my kindergartner, much.  She is not really rolled into TOG.  I plan to do some basic handwriting, reading lessons and some unit studies mainly probably.  The first thing, which I'm digging into next week, is going to be a unit study using the Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature, a title I have used with each kid, from the time Zach used it with Sonlight in pre-K.  I no longer use the Sonlight plans, so I have just begun to set up a unit study outline using the book.  I put up my general outline on Google Docs if anyone wants to take a look.  Please comment if you do!  I would love feedback.

Since I'm starting next week, I do have my first week more fleshed out, and also uploaded that to Google Docs as well:  Berenstain Unit 1, Week 1.   I'm trying to mainly utilize what I already own, the library and what I already subscribe to (Evan-Moor Teacher's Filebox printables).  In addition to the Big Book of Science of Nature, I plan to incorporate The Year at Maple Hill Farm, another old favorite Sonlight selection, and DK Eye Wonder:  Weather.   Both of these selections are still used in Sonlight, it looks like, the first in P4/5 and the second in core 2.  Despite moving away from fully using Sonlight, I will always fondly recall their books, and continue to see their choices!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So what about other subjects?

Yesterday I blathered on and on about history mostly, but what about other subjects?  Are there other subjects?  ;)

2012-2013 grammar for Zach will be Rod and Staff English 5:  Following the Plan.  Rod and Staff is not secular at all, but funny enough is turning out to be really what Zach needs.  He needs drill, drill and more drill to remember any fact he really doesn't care to remember.  He can tell me passages of books from memory, on and on, but cannot remember what a noun is after 4 years of our prior curriculum.  Or, if he managed to memorize the definition, looks at me completely blankly when I ask him to give an example or find it in a sentence.  We used First Language Lessons books 1-4 already for his grammar.  We liked them generally; he did like them especially compared to Rod and Staff honestly.  The problem was that he was able to fill them in with minimal writing, do most of it orally and not recall a thing afterwards.  They are a gentle introduction to grammar, and were perfect for us (so I thought), because Zach's writing capability has always lagged quite a bit behind the rest of his language arts skills.  Of note though is he is not primarily an auditory learner, and I think these are skewed towards that.  We switched late last year to R&S 4 for him, and I started seeing some better understanding of concepts.  I am actually making him write out most of the exercises, because I think he needs that, both in the practice in writing fluency and neatness, as well as learning style.  Rod and Staff has an oral part of each lesson though, and even the written can mostly be done orally if you choose.  I truly hope we can continue to see gains for that.  I do let him type his responses often and email them to me for grading, as part of the recommendations of his occupational therapy evaluation to transition him to keyboarding due to dysgraphia.

Noah often gets just an afternote, but he also is using Rod and Staff.  He also used First Language Lessons last year, and did better than Zach using it.  I think there is a lot to be gained though even for him with more drill, and a review section incorporated in each lesson rather than just periodically as is done in FLL.  I have not yet experienced a child gifted in language arts in any way, shape or form, but if I did teach such a mythical creature someday, I think I would go back to FLL.  R&S would be honestly quite dull for a child who picked up grammar easily and did not need the repetition.

Zach is going to be using Winning with Writing, as is Noah.  Again, this is something that is wonderful for Zach, sequential, completely 100% spelled out what to do and how to do it, formulaic.  It is writing for the kid that detests it and needs it spoon fed.  I would not say this is the program for any child with a natural tendency towards writing.  LOL  It even has larger than usual lines even for level 4 that we used late last year and into the summer now, perfect again for a kid like Zach who really struggles with even the physical act of writing.  Zach has a lot to say that is interesting and detailed, but he cannot get it to paper, so I hope we can gain ground on that this year.  I would love for him to be able to fluency share what is in his head via a method other than oral.  Along those lines, later in the year we actually will likely get Dragon Naturally Speaking for him, another recommendation of his occupational therapist.

Both boys will be doing the vocabulary from Tapestry of Grace that is directly related to what they are learning.  We use a free site now for learning and testing that, Quizlet.  Both boys adore that aspect.  If the computer is involved in learning, it is automatically more fun!  They will also be doing Wordly Wise at appropriate levels to expand vocabulary, Spelling Workout for spelling and Noah only Explode the Code starting at level 5 to finish up the series.  Lily will be continuing the Explode the Code series as well.  She used the A/B/C preschool series of books last year and will proceed to level 1 soon.

Lily is my one truly learning to read this year (Noah just gaining fluency).  We are trying a new program for her, having used different things for the boys. She is using Learning Language Arts Through Literature Blue level, already in week 3 or 4.  She is liking it so far.

All will have handwriting practice, Lily and Noah using Handwriting Without Tears at appropriate levels, and Zach just fluency work with things I create or think of.  Of late, we have been passing a composition book back and forth.  I write a letter to Zach, in cursive, and he answers back the same way.  He is enjoying the private back and forth conversation, and practicing his writing at the same time.  I have seen another variation where mom just writes a passage and leaves room for the student to copy it.

So that is language arts for the year, aside from literature, which is mostly incorporated into TOG, and we will just be adding little extras here and there.

Ending with a photo, because it's always better with a photo.  Noah at Seaworld recently.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Year, New Plan

I'm so far from the best and most consistent blogger out there.  But I've got a plan for the new school year.  I want to post what extras I'm using so hopefully I can look back in 4 years, when we are at the same point in our history rotation again, and know what I used last time.

We are currently using Tapestry of Grace Year 4, Unit 1.  We started TOG last year with two units of year 3.  At this point, we are up to Modern Era, currently working on World War I.  TOG does a multiweek spread on WWI, which I think is great.  I don't recall learning much about WWI in school.  I like this coverage of it, and that the kids will cover it multiple times.

I've got a D level and a LG and one kinder age this school year.  Kinder will listen in on what she can, but I'm not really rolling her into TOG at all.  My LG is 2nd grade, and my D level (accelerated learner) is 5th grade.

The "spine" if you can call it that for TOG, more realistically a multiweek book, for D level is The Complete Idiot's Guide to the 20th Century.  I thankfully got this from the library before purchasing it, because both of us disliked it.  What a bummer!  So, we are going with plan B (C, D, are we up to E?) and doing some of the primary D choices, some of the alternates, some of the UG primary resources and some UG secondary choices.  And sometimes just a book that looked good that we had on the topic.  Sometimes I feel I should have stuck with cobbling together my own curriculum, but all in all TOG has been wonderful for us so far.

In terms of literature for Zach, he read the book Anne of Green Gables in one week when it was supposed to last 4 weeks, so I'm putting in some extras there.  I figured that would happen.  He enjoyed it quite a bit, and when he likes something he will read all day to finish if necessary.  Noah had a shorter version read to him, and also enjoyed it.

So, what are we adding?  First off, we had the unbelievable luck of finding The Century for Young People by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster at a library sale for $1.  Yeah!  We are using that from the alternate resources list, and both Zach and I like that one.  We already had The Story of the World books, audio and activity guide, so we are using those.  We also have History of US from Hakim.  We are choosing topics from both of those.    I'm also toying with jumping into Human Odyssey Volume 3 that we got inexpensively from during a free shipping sale.  I wanted to take a look at it as we go into the middle school years, and it looks great, quite engaging to read, written to the student as it is truly meant to be a textbook of course.  So far, Zach and I both seem to enjoy that selection.

For Zach we added in True Stories of the First World War by Dowswell.  Dowswell books are well loved here.  This was no exception, and Zach whipped through this one in a day, and then recounted to me most of the stories in great detail.  I believe TOG schedules some books on Artic exploration later, but we are diving into this week with Antartica by Lerangis.

Books are great, but Zach is an inventor and hands on learning profile type.  He needs to do some actual handy things too.  In hunting for some things, I saw Jimmie's Collage Blog linked through a search on The Well Trained Mind Forums.  Just look at the beautiful work they did on WWI!  Funny enough though, what I finally chose was something they didn't choose.  Isn't that the way?  I'm grateful they linked it though, because I think it will suit us well.  I pulled out the notebooking template for WWI that was linked and printed it for Zach.  It is short, perfect for this week, and combines a little writing, some coloring and some glue/paste.  I also have some of her other linked items in mind for next week, hopefully with some photos from this week's work.

For Noah this week I got the audio version of Velveteen Rabbit, and netflix seems to have the video on streaming.  That will be great for him.  We also added in The Keeping Quilt from the alternate resources from the library.  For him, we are also doing the Tapestry of Grace lapbooks for the units.  Sometimes I'm finding the info is not fully covered in the LG readings, but really overall it is going well too.

This post is getting long so I'll leave off what we are doing for science, grammar, etc., and add in later.  We are not back to math yet, not until August.  Is that a sigh of relief from the boys?

Have to end with a photo, because a photo livens up even the dullest writing (ahem).  Zach and Lily from when we went to Seaworld recently.