2014-2015 Year End Wrap up: Fourth Grade

The 2014-2015 school year proved to be a fun year FILLED with activities.  The three kiddos finished up grades 2, 4, and 6.  I reviewed our grade 2 plans in my last post.  Today, I will look back at fourth grade.  I have to admit that I love teaching fourth grade (which is even funnier because my mom was a fourth grade teacher).  Now I made excellent and achievable goals for my second grader but I didn’t do as well with my fourth grader.  Below are the goals that I set for her for fourth grade.

Sawyer (fourth grade): 1) Independent with writing a well-thought out and planned paragraph 2) increase in critical thinking  3) increase awareness of cause and effect 4) time management skills 5)Begin vocabulary 6) Learn organization skills essential to learning

Sawyer rocked the first goal and wrote not just a well thought out paragraph, but she wrote a fascinating, fun-filled paper on wolves.  Unfortunately when she went to write the final draft, she couldn’t find the rough draft-goal number 6.  I am thrilled that my dad and I both were able to proof read her paper. She “taught” about wolf behaviors, habitats, and life through a narrative that was fun to read and kept me engaged through the whole paper.  We tried using clip boards, our travel bags, folders……nothing has worked yet for her.  We will keep trying! Sawyer also did demonstrate critical thinking skills and increased awareness of cause and effect. She also started learning vocabulary.  Time management definitely improved but is far from mastered.

Onto the fun parts-curriculum:

Spelling: Sawyer is a strong speller.  Thus, I did not focus a lot of time on a spelling curriculum but more on spelling in her main lessons.  She worked through book C of Apples and Pears.  Her favorite part of the series is the sentence writing (which is the exact opposite of the boys).

Grammar:  We chose Growing with Grammar this year for grammar practice.  The fourth grade book is slightly different from the second grade books.  Sawyer had a lesson book and a workbook.  The lessons were short and could be read in a few minutes.  The workbook did an excellent job mixing up the type of practice.  After each lesson, the student completes two pages in the workbook.  You know that I am not a big workbook lover, but in this case-everyone was content.  No one really complained about grammar.  It was very straight forward and well explained.

Math:  Sawyer loathes math.  I am not sure why because she is fairly good at it.  She does not feel confident on her math skills but she  does well.  For her main math lessons, she used Teaching Textbooks level 4. She also did a couple of the Life Of Fred books.  She does love Life of Fred.  I am hoping to help increase her confidence in her math skills over the summer.

Main Lessons: We followed the Waldorf Essentials fourth grade curriculum for the most part pulling in the appropriate resources as needed.  She learned geography terms, NC geography and history, man/animal studies, the Norse myths, geology and multiplication.  All of the main lessons were fun and thought-provoking.  Together, Sawyer and I found amazing literature to read about each main lesson.  We also really lucked out with a few local class offerings that taught about the Catawba Indians (a Native American tribe who inhabited our area) and about NC history.

Enrichment: As with Parks, Sawyer took a lot of classes this year.  She took classes in wildlife biology, adventure journaling (following the methods of Lewis and Clark), gymnastics, violin, African drumming, horse back riding, archery, fencing, and art.  She also worked on knitting, sewing and whittling  throughout the year.

Sawyer grew up a lot this year.  I love watching her develop into a beautiful (on the inside and out) young lady.  I look forward to next year and to seeing what she  accomplishes!

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2014-2015 Year End Wrap Up: Grade 2

I enjoy writing this post each year.  I always feel that we could have accomplished more or that we should have worked more on an area until I take the time to reflect.  We had a fantastic year filled with many fun activities.  I will work through each grade over the next few posts.  Now onto the review of how grade two actually went!

My original goals for Parks:

Parks (second grade): 1) Read instructions independently 2)Reciprocity in discussions (he likes to take over the discussions) 3) journal 4)begin reading silently 5)work independently for 30 minutes 6)increase his independence with communicating his emotions and needs

Believe it or not,  Parks met all of my goals (note, that these are not his goals but mine.  He makes his own goals for the year and we discuss them).  He continues to struggle with reading endurance, however he did wonderfully with reading his activities/instructions which allowed him to work more independently than he has in the past (yes, I know he is only in second grade, but I need him to be comfortable with working by himself a little bit).  He also asks people questions and is doing very well with actually conversing with people instead of just talking to a person.  The fourth goal was just recently accomplished-sort of.  He continues to fight me on reading stories himself but he finally opened up to the idea of using Learning Ally to listen to audiobooks on his own.  He loves it!  Goal 6 was Parks’ biggest undertaking this year.  He works through a lot in his brain-ie, it never stops thinking!  He has worked very diligently this year to be aware of his emotions and what he needs.  He can take a break when he needs it and is able to walk away/verbalize when he begins feeling overwhelmed.

Onto curriculum.  I know this is what everyone wants to know about this time of the year.

Spelling: We started the year using Apples and Pears.  He began to complain almost instantly.  We worked through it for about two months and then took a break.  I noticed that he began taking interest in spelling words that he used in daily life correctly so I went with it.  We are now using All About Spelling in conjunction with the cursive Montessori movable alphabet.  So far, it is going well. He is also enjoying Spell Well as an independent workbook.

Math: Parks star year off with Teaching Textbooks level 3.  The work was a good fit but he did not enjoy doing math on the computer.  Thus, we made another switch (the lesson to be learned here is that there is not one curriculum that fits all-unfortunately).  We started out with going through the Life Of Fred Cats books until I found a good fit for him.  He ended up working through the Math Mammoth level 2.  Overall, he enjoyed Math Mammoth.  We did break out the Montessori bank game and beads throughout the year to have some manipulatives.

Grammar:  I know, I know-why is a second grader doing grammar?  Well, mainly because he enjoys it.  He chose to work on grammar first most days of the year.  Everyone used the appropriate level of Growing with Grammar.  We LOVED this series.  Overall, it was very easy to adapt.  Some days, Parks was ready and willing to write out the answers.  Other days, he wasn’t so he could simply cross out what was incorrect and write above the sentence (such as “rewrite the sentence using the correct usage of capital letters) or insert the appropriate punctuation.

Main Lessons:  We continue to love Waldorf Essentials.  For Parks’ main lesson blocks, he worked on maps, heroes, trickster stories, stories from the Buddha’s Apprentice and geology. During the main lessons, Parks worked on comprehension, narration, copy work and art.  The main lesson times are cherished as they are the most intimate part of schooling.  We have lots of discussions as we each work on our drawing, painting or sculpture together.

Enrichment:  We are a little over zealous in this area.  🙂  Parks took classes on physical science, chemistry, woodworking, orienteering, geocaching, drumming, horse back riding, gymnastics and art.  Of course, he participated in our weekly hiking adventures as well.

I am very pleased with where he ended up this year. Throughout the summer we will continue to work on a couple of activities such as spelling and reading.  I will give an update on those later as we just began three weeks ago on our new curriculum.

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Finding Passion: African Drumming

All three of my children live with music in their souls.  (I am not sure where they got this from because neither my husband nor I are musically inclined.)  No matter, our house fills with music daily – the radio, feet stomping a beat on the floor, singing or an instrument playing.    A friend of ours asked if we would be interested in learning more about African drumming-how quickly can we say, “YES!”

We began taking a class with some fellow friends/homeschoolers in March.  The class was only supposed to last 4 weeks but we are still going strong!  The instructor brings the drums to life!  He teaches the kids about the history of drumming and the importance of drums throughout history.  He teaches the kids how to feel the energy of the drums and how to use the drums to pass the energy from one person to the next.

This week, he explained how the drums are made.  He even had the kids stretch a new piece of goat hide over an old box drum so that they could learn how to make their own drums.  The best part of the drum circle for me is watching the kids go into a trance as they drum.  It is amazing to hear them come together to produce the music.  All you can do dance!

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Friday Morning Hikes

Friday Morning Hikes

I haven’t posted about our Friday morning hikes in a while.  We still hike most Friday mornings.  My kids look forward to these mornings as much as I do.  They are awesome, and this year we committed to them-rain, sleet, snow, sun, cold or hot.  My husband asked me this week if we actually learn anything on our Friday morning hike or if they are just for fun.  Well, both answers are correct!

For the kids, Friday morning hikes allow for exploration in the areas that they hike with their classes.  On Fridays, they explore freely.  For me, Friday morning hikes fill my cup!  I converse with my friends about history, herbs, life and so many topics.  Overall, we all learn something new EVERY single week!

This week, we hiked with our area nature preserve manager.  He is a walking nature encyclopedia.  I really enjoy hiking with him.  Today, we reviewed what poison ivy, plantain, and beech wood trees look like.  We also found a Fowler toad, a slippery salamander, a five striped salamander,  millipede, a cherry bug and hawk pellet (one of the amazing lessons learned today-how did we learn that we found a hawk pellet versus an owl pellet?  An owl pellet has a lot of bones in it, but the hawk pellet did not have any bones in it).

We also discovered a spider nest in a fern.  I love looking at ferns as I hike.  Today, I noticed that several of the ferns had been rolled up with web around them.  We plucked off one and investigated.  Inside of the “fern ball” we found a spider!  Fascinating hike today!  We learned so many new things that I am still trying wrap my head around them such as when the Fowler toad grabs an insect with its tongue it uses its eyes to bring the insect from its mouth down into its stomach!

I am so glad that we have continued with the hikes.  I was worried that the kids would get bored with them, but every week is a new adventure!

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Finding Passion- Blacksmithing

Finding Passion- Blacksmithing

Homeschooling allows children to explore their interests and experiment/tinker throughout the day.  My children change interests weekly daily-with one exception this year.  Sims sparked an interest in blacksmithing this year.  Again, I thought it would be a fleeting interest.  We went to speak with a blacksmith at a local farm.  He taught Sims how to make nails and gave him some history of blacksmithing.  Unfortunately, he was not able to mentor Sims.  Next, Sims met a farrier.  The farrier explained blacksmithing in his job.  The farrier allowed Sims to observe him for a few hours.  He is a traveling farrier so he isn’t around a whole lot.  However when he is in town, Sims can hang with him for a bit.

Sims has been itching to get his hands on some metal and to work with it.  I began the search.  I found the Virginia Institute of Blacksmithing.  For his birthday, we signed Sims up for a shield making class.  In the class, he learned how to hammer metal, heat metal, twist the metal, hammer rivets and more.  He attended the class with his dad, so I didn’t get to watch him myself.  According my husband, Sims looked very comfortable and at home in the class.  In fact, the two of them are trying to figure out how to set up a forge at home!

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The boy doesn’t love school but he loves to learn. As he get older, I look forward to watching him explore his passions-even if they change daily.




On Tuesday, I wasn’t sure how this week was going to turn out. I hit the mom wall. I am 99% sure that all moms go through it at some point. Luckily, I have one amazing support group. I published my blog Tuesday morning and by lunch time, I had a surprise visitor. A hug and a few laughs go can go a long way. By Tuesday afternoon, I felt much more like myself.

Most of the schools around us are on spring break this week changing up our schedule a bit which was nice. The kids spent the week working through projects when we weren’t at activities. Sims and Grandad built a kayak trailer for Sims’ bike. Sims is looking forward to kayaking in a swimming hole that he found with his friend. Unfortunately, the swimming hole is a few miles into the woods, so Sims is hoping the bike trailer will make it doable.

Parks and Sawyer started a bumble bee habitat. They have been busy researching bumble bees and observing the bees in their habitat. (Yes, this is the girl who is HIGHLY allergic to bees! Thank you for immunotherapy!) They have also been busy building with their Roominate kit. The kit looks a bit girly, but it isn’t. The boys are enjoying it as well. They are building simple circuits to make cars, fans, lights, and other inventions.

The beautiful weather has also allowed for some fun outdoor activities as well. The kids began archery and brought out the water toys. Obviously, kayaking is a big hit (Sims has towed his kayak close to 10 miles since he made the trailer). We also fit in one day at the stables this week. I am glad it is Friday. We can relax today and start again next week. Hopefully, I will be in a better spot mentally and we can get back to business!

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Lessons Learned the Hardway: Fire

I have stubborn children-children that must learn some lessons on their own (I have no idea where they get it from).  Fortunately for us-up to this point in time, no one has seriously gotten harmed.  However, we have had some close calls already this year!

First up-Fire!  As many of you know, my oldest son lives for fire.  He wanted to be a fireman at the ripe old age of 2.  The feeling has intensified.  In fact, now he aspires to be a smoke jumper or an ER doctor.  He feels very confident around fire.  I am sure you have seen in previous posts pictures of him around the fire in our backyard.  He is always the first person to ask about making a fire whenever we are outside and it is a bit chilly or there are marshmallows in the house.

Recently, he and fire met for real.  We went to a friend’s house to go out for a hike.  Near their home, a controlled fire smoldered.  Of course, my fire-loving child desired to investigate further.  Cautiously, he went to look at the smoking pile. In one step, the ground under him shifted (most likely because it was recently on fire!) and his foot went down into a hole.  Luckily, he has excellent balance and he avoided a full body fall into the fire.

So we headed out on our hike.  He asked if we could stop for a second because he had something in his shoe.  Of course, we stopped while he took off his boot to shake it out.  Meanwhile, I notice a hole in his brand new socks.  I asked him if he knew what happened to his sock.  Of course, he had no idea but he did tell me the story above.  I immediately asked him to remove his sock so that we could look at his foot.

Second and third degree burn.

Second and third degree burn.

Uhm…yep.  No hike but a fun trip to the ER and a very important lesson learned.