Sunday, September 6, 2009

Week 1: After

Luckily I'm considering these first two weeks our gear-up weeks, or else I would probably be feeling pretty badly about how our week went, school-wise. We were still in summer-mode, mostly, and still working on fruit, still meeting at the park for homeschool playdate, still lazing around. Plus I had two migraines (two! and I've only had ever had migraines when I'm pregnant, which I'm not, so what is that about? threw us all off sides, anyway!). So, there are the excuses, make of them what you will.
Circle is a resounding success. Smart enough for Avery, silly enough for Miles, wholesome enough for me. I think two hymns in a row almost is a little much, but the boys look forward to "Circle Game" as Miles calls it, and even baby Ansel sits in his Bumbo chair in the middle and smiles and coos and laughs.
Stickeen was a good story for oral reading. Short enough to easily finish in a week, exciting and descriptive. We have a good sense of what glaciers are like, and we're suckers for heartwarming stories about dogs. The reading was easy enough that it was fun for Avery, with still the challenge some new words (mostly Alaskan Native words). I had planned on modeling, and making Stickeen figures, but that didn't happen.
Cursive is fine. Well, the amount of time practicing takes right now is good. Shortish sentences for awhile, building up. We've got a copywork/Character lesson book started, with "Honor thy Father and thy Mother." Character Training is going well so far, too. Simple- a story, tied in with the quote or verse for cursive practice that week, talking about the trait, a project.
Grammar is simple and easy with Simply Grammar, but I'm glad I also bought Word Play, though we skipped that this week. Between the two I think there'll be enough variety to be interesting and educational instead of just review. Maybe. I think next year we'll need a more formal, more challenging approach to grammar.
Spelling was simple. I like the system, but the words I chose for him, expecting them to be not-too-hard were way-too-easy. Still, he's never had spelling as a subject before, so I don't want to go too hard. I think we'll do a bunch orally at the beginning of the week, more than 20, so we work through this part of the book at an accelerated pace, without actually skipping anything, until we get 20 challenging words or definitions for the week. The McGuffey Speller is so old fashioned that a lot of the words aren't in common usage any more, so I anticipate a good amount of easy to spell words will end up in the spelling list just because of their novelty, vocabulary-wise.
Latin was barely started. Rather than try to start where we flailed about and stopped last year, I decided to start again fresh this year. I think I'll actually wait til after our vacation, coming up here. I do like Lively Latin, but you do need to work it every day, and we're still a little too summery and every-which-way yet to settle in.
Math Puzzlers. Mathmania is a dud. They're too silly, too babyish. For some reason I always expect Highlights to come through for me, but they always fall short, one way or another. I need to find some good, cheap books of logic puzzles and diagramming puzzles.
Life of Fred is our favorite Math thing so far. So funny and sweet, and it's a clever lesson in English and Math all at once. Short chapters, few questions, lots of humor. He loves it and so do I! He's working through Fractions right now. Actually, this is more read aloud time, because, as it turns out, even though I already know how to deal with fractions, the story is so engaging and sweet we all (even Miles) want to hear what happens next! He finished the first section, but didn't try crossing the bridge yet.
Avery worked on the "twos" for oral math. Review, speed, review, memorize. Over and over.
Calculus by and for Young People is okay. Not so gentle as I thought it would be, it's more of a mouthful than I thought. But good stuff, great to work with on Math Lab day, if we're going to do it together. We worked on the first lesson but didn't finish it- I wasn't anticipating his nerves and didn't set aside enough time to be there with him, paying attention. An older kid or one more comfortable with reading mathematical notation would maybe not be intimidated and have more fun just jumping in, but all those numbers and notations are a little off-putting to Avery right now. I am glad we lucked out and somehow got the actual worktext instead of the CD-Rom set- I have a feeling we'd never get to them if we had to go on the computer and print stuff off.
Man and Animals Main Lesson Block was simple, not muddied with trying to stuff other subjects into the theme. Just pure and calm. I'm really glad I put all that time getting comfortable with the lesson before we started! It would have been a disaster if I weren't comfortable with it. Not one you can fake, I think.
History's great. I really like Joy Hakim's A History of US. Highly recommend it. I imagine we'll use it again, in a few years, when we study US History again. I'll probably buy the middle school lesson books to go with them, then. For fourth grade the reading is not hard, and is interesting and comprehensive enough that I don't feel the need to add in a ton of other historical text reading, so far anyway. We are just sort of skimming along this year. We didn't get to watercolor painting, which I had planned to tie in to the Inuit lesson, but Avery did write a nice paragraph in the US History lesson book, and paste in a map of the Arctic regions.
Science. Dud week. No Nature story, no nature hike, no nature journals. No science lab. Avery did read a lot about cells, and watch a couple short video things online, and do a little activity, we talked about cells. We ran out of time, with screaming babies, before he had a chance to draw a cell in his Anatomy lesson book.
Art. Double dud. We have the Artistic Pursuits Modern Artists book to use this year, but we were so short of time, and he so didn't want to do it, that we just skipped it. He did the first lesson last year, anyway. Does that count? Even Handwork, embroidery, which Avery was asking for everyday this past week, didn't ever quite happen. Ergh!
Form drawing was a success. It was, really for the first time, FUN and not just tolerable for Avery. I didn't belabor a story, but kept that quite simple and open-ended. He took the form along himself, and made lovely work out of it. Pretty cool for a kid who "hates art" right now.
Guitar. A lesson. A few practices, and lots and lots of struggles about practicing. Seems there's always something more pressing, more interesting, more important than practicing. Anybody have any tips about that?
PE. Lots of running and playing, working and climbing around. No lessons yet, no soccer yet. Still summer. Avery did research bicycle safety, and explain some things to me. A Dad in the homeschool community hear was killed last weekend in a mountain biking accident, and while we didn't know him personally we are still touched by the tragedy of the loss for that family, and a little research about bike safety seemed in order.

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