12 September 2009

Course Correction

So to speak.  And yes, already.

I was planning to use K12's 4th grade language arts course for the Cub this year.  The whole shooting match, the literature piece, which I love, and also the rest of it: composition, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling.  

After two weeks I've come to the conclusion that it requires simply too much writing.  Too much writing of word lists and rewriting of sentences, things that don't really further his knowledge much other than the knowledge of how to complete worksheets.  Because the Cub is 7 years old (and a boy) I need to get as much instructional bang as I can from each task involving writing or else he dissolves into a quivering puddle of angst.

So we will keep the literature piece from K12 but ditch everything else.  I had the Michael Clay Thompson language arts materials on the shelf (Island level) and we will try those.  These language arts materials teach grammar and writing through story.  It is such a unique approach that I finally decided last year after reviewing the materials extensively that I simply could not implement it effectively.  But now I've decided to try, mainly because I think the Cub will at the very least respond to the approach.  The K12 materials were sucking the joy out of learning about the English language and I'm hoping that the MCT materials will resurrect that joy.

As for spelling, I've decided to go with Spelling Power.  Spelling Power is another one that I've reviewed extensively and finally dismissed because it seemed too complicated.  With the K12 program requiring way too much writing of words that the Cub already knew how to spell, I knew I needed something that only targets those words that he needs to practice.  This is the approach Spelling Power takes and so we'll try it.  I think it will work for him, I'm just not sure if it will work for me.

And writing.  I used K12's 3rd grade composition course for him last year because he was feeling very disgruntled about having to do (age appropriate) copywork.  He produced some wonderful pieces using the program, though I think he needed far more hand-holding than the K12 people were envisioning.  I've decided that I'm not ready to do that much hand-holding again this year, so we are switching to Writing with Ease.  This program combines listening to passages from good books with narration, copywork, and dictation.  We will start with level 2 but depending on how he does we may accelerate that and move on quickly to level 3.  The Cub has also been writing his own narrations from his history book Story of the World this year.  And the thing that he is finding most wonderful is that he is writing in a journal every day.  So far he is loving this task as he uses the journal to write all kinds of information about cars, his current obsession.

So that's it.  The first curriculum change for the year.  

21 August 2009

Human Geography

After following the Well-Trained Mind history rotation model faithfully for five years, Digger and I have decided to break away and do a year of human geography.  Well, actually, we won't be breaking away altogether because I still intend to finish reading the Human Odyssey (K12) series and read several pieces of historical fiction, but aside from those minor things, we won't be doing history at all.

Anyway, for those of you who are interested in such things, we will be using de Blij's Human Geography text, as it got a good review on the AP Central website.  And we will be reading several other books to supplement.  I also got a new curriculum called Mapping the World with Art that looks fun and interesting.

Here is a photo of the books we'll be using.  
And yes there are three books about food.

15 July 2009

Random Musing

With summer just starting and also being half over, now seems to be an appropriate time to update my much neglected blog.  

First--I am now a homeschooler myself, having enrolled in an online master's degree program at the beginning of the summer.  I am working towards an MEd with an exceptional student specialization.  This means that I will be studying both special *and* gifted education, though, oddly enough there are no classes about twice exceptional students.  Anyway, I'm about halfway through the first course, and finding it challenging but not overwhelming.  It is nice to be working towards legitimizing all this knowledge I've acquired about education over the years.

Second--speaking of twice exceptional students, we've decided that it is time for Digger to officially enter high school.  He will still be homeschooling but all of his courses will be high school level, the output requirements will be high school level, and, most importantly, it will *count*!  So, I guess this means that in addition to graduate school, I will now be doing high school again too. 

Third--the Cub will be doing fourth grade level work across the board next year--K12 Language Arts 4, Singapore math 3B/4A/4B, Lively Latin, K12 Science 4, and history 400-1650.

That's it on the academic front.  I'll try to keep the blog updated a little better from now on!

17 February 2009

The Cub's First Paper

The Cub has been using K12's grade 3 composition course for the past month or so and he completed his first piece of writing yesterday. He learned how to use (and became quite enamored with) the thesaurus.

Here it is:

The Math Contest
by The Cub

Yo! Everyone who has not tried Singapore math, listen to me! Singapore math is excellent!

I like Singapore math because it is more difficult than Saxon. I feel happier because harder math is easier for me. Singapore creates a focused picture in my mind. When I used Saxon there was no picture in my mind to help me. I find it easier to concentrate because Singapore math is more interesting. Saxon is too simple AND it makes me feel very young.

Try Singapore math. It’s fabulous!

11 February 2009

Curriculum Changes Part 6: The Cub and Literature

See, I knew I was forgetting something when I said that Part 5 of this series was the final installment. But I really think this is the last one this time.

Though I ordered K12 Language Arts 3 for the composition part (see Part 4), the Cub and I are also using the literature portion. It's pretty good, the Cub likes it, and we are getting the reading comprehension piece that we lost when we stopped using the dreaded Read and Understand workbooks from Evan-Moor. The Cub is even learning some literary terms. And they have poetry integrated so I don't have to come up with anything for that either.

Actually, what I like about the whole K12 language arts deal is that I don't have to come up with anything at all.

So for Digger, I ordered K12 language arts for the literature and the composition was a bonus and for the Cub, I ordered it for the composition and the literature was the bonus.

Go figure.

07 February 2009

Book Review: Beowulf

I recently had the best time reading Michael Morpurgo's adaptation of Beowulf to Digger. The language is relatively complex, yet it seems to have been written with reading aloud in mind. The words roll off the tongue, and the sentences end where a breath is needed, but not desparately so. I love the use of hyphenation: Grendel is the terror-tyrant, Beowulf has battle-friends, the monster escapes to his marsh-pool. Then there is the use of alliteration: wind-wild, fire-fury, rage-roaring, death-dealing, grief-gripped. The book steeps the reader in the music of the oral tradition.

The illustrations by Michael Foreman echo and augment the vivid language; monsters hideous, heroes majestic, battle scenes fiery and blood-spattered.

And this from the book--

That day the poet wove his word-song, told the story of the hero in glowing, golden language, rang the word-changes, and all who were there remembered and told it again and again, so that their children, and their children's children should never forget his daring deeds, nor the noble name of Beowulf either.

And so we have not.

Curriculum Changes Part 5: Latin

This it the last of the curriculum changes posts, I promise (I think!).

Digger and I have been using Galore Park's Latin Prep for Latin this year. It started out great. Digger liked the jokes and the crazy translation passages. But as time went on, things got more and more disconnected. They seemed to be throwing new concepts at us randomly. Maybe it's just my inexperience with Latin, but the order things were presented in just didn't make sense to me. Digger was getting confused and it was difficult to find information in the book. Worst of all, there is no summary of grammar in the back of the book for reference.

So I started to think about switching. But to what? I know that a reading program will not work for Digger, because again they are too random. So that left out two of the four first year Latin books that I just happen to have on the shelf, Ecce Romani and Oxford. But the other book, So You Really Want to Learn Latin, also by Galore Park, fit the bill. Grammar is more logically presented and there is actually a grammar summary at the back. And most wonderfully, at the end of each chapter it specifically states what the student should know.

We are starting at the beginning of the book (obviously). Digger was horrified that we were starting over. But he was consistently getting about 90% of his translations terribly wrong. And he was refusing to systematically look at the endings of the words. Hence, the getting things wrong problem. He seems to have accepted the starting over now, especially because the translations in the beginning of the book are one word sentences like "amat." (Do I capitalize that when it's in the context of an English sentence?)

I am also doing *all* of the exercises myself the weekend before (as I am for geometry). And I am making sure that we take some time each day to do grammar drills, not just vocabulary like we were doing. I'm hoping that these changes will ensure success going forward because I think *another* curriculum change would do me in!

05 February 2009

Curriculum Changes Part 4: The Cub and Composition

The Cub has been crying off an on for months now about doing his copywork. He complains that it makes him feel little. Normally I just ingore children who cry about schoolwork because I'm a mean homeschool mom.

But he had been saying similar things about Saxon math (see yesterday's post) and when we switched to Singapore, a more difficult program with more thought provoking problems, his whole attitude about math changed. Now he is definitely feeling warm and fuzzy in the math department!

So I thought perhaps he might be ready for a real writing program. So I signed him up for K12's 3rd grade language arts course. He is still on the first assignment, which is basically writing a piece on something about himself or something that interests him.

He chose to write about liking math. Seriously. I had absolutely nothing to do with his choice of topic. I was nowhere near when he came up with it. Together, we refined the topic to give it focus. And here it is: Singapore Math is good (and Saxon Math is bad). It turns out that he has some strong and, I might add, well articulated, feelings on the subject.

But that's fodder for another post.

04 February 2009

Curriculum Changes Part 3: The Cub and Math

You didn't think that the Cub would let me get away with staying the course with him curriculum-wise, did you? Well, you would be right!

We finished the year last year, worked through the summer, and started this year using Saxon Math 3. At first the Cub thought it was wonderful.

It's so easy!

Then along about lesson 40 he started grumbling about it.

It's so boring!

Finally, at about lesson 70 he was crying almost every day.

I hate math!

We went through 20 more lessons this way and then I got a clue and called it quits.

We switched to Singapore 2B which I just happened to have on the shelf (one of the benefits of being a curriculum junkie is "just happening" to have all kinds of things on the shelf). Not only did I have the textbook and workbook, I also had the instructor's guide, the Intensive Practice book, and the Challenging Word Problems book. The whole kit and kaboodle!

The problem we had last year when the Cub was doing 2A is that he simply wasn't retaining the material. That was why we moved to Saxon with its abundance of review. I wanted to use Singapore in a way that would involve lots of review and I think I've developed a scheme that works.

Singapore math books are divided into topics. So I had the Cub do all of the lessons and workbook exercises for the first topic in the book. In the evenings, I had him do half a page of mental math with me. This doubled as fact practice even though in this case the problems were addition and subtraction of two-and three-digit numbers (with regrouping!). Then once that topic was completed, I added the IP and CWP problems on the first topic while we were doing the second topic. I'm thinking this will be enough review as it seems to be carrying us through to similar topics. For example, topic one was mental addition and subtraction and topic three is addition and subtraction of money amounts.

The difference has been profound.

Ironically, the work he is doing in level 2 of Singapore is much more difficult than what he was doing in level 3 of Saxon.

The Cub now loves math. He loves it so much that he is writing an essay about how much he loves Singapore Math. His choice, seriously! Not only does he constantly proclaim his love of math, he now feels like he is good at math.

And he is.

03 February 2009

Curriculum Changes Part 2: Digger and Literature

Another big curriculum change we've made this month is in the area of literature. Digger and I started with Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings. This is a gigantic study guide for the Lord of the Rings that is intended to last all year. It is *very* thorough. The problem is that neither Digger nor I could reliably answer the comprehension questions. I knew things were needing adjustment when our literature sessions were reduced to him not being able to answer the questions whereupon I would read the answer out of the answer key and tell him to write it down.

That's just no way to run a homeschool.

So we dropped everything from LLLOTR that wasn't enriching our educational experience. What this means is that we are still reading LOTR and we are reading the "Additional Notes" section of the study guide. But the worksheet days are over!

Much better.

But I still wanted Digger to have to produce some output related to literature. Enter K12. I signed Digger up for their seventh grade literature and composition course. It's working wonderfully so far. They have some good selections and the assignments aren't too long. The bonus is that Digger is doing *very* well with the composition portion of the course. He wrote a fabulous essay about his robotics mentor. I was really pleased, and more importantly, he was proud of his work.