2014-2015 Year End Wrap Up: Grade 6

The year is coming to an end, and it is time to reflect on each child’s progress over the past year.  I wrote about our second and fourth grade plans in the two previous posts if you want to check them out.  Sixth grade proved to be a big year for Sims. Similar to Sawyer, he did not rock all of goals but he surpassed my expectations on a few other activities.  Here are the goals that I made for Sims at the beginning of the year (hind sight is always 20/20.  I put in writing goals for the older two but I had no plans work on writing this year.  The plan was to focus on grammar.  Just reminds me to make sure my plans and my goals actually will work together).

Sims (sixth grade): 1) Begin note taking with research 2)increase independence with reading and activities 3)time management skills 4)Vocabulary 5)Independent with writing a well planned 5 paragraph paper 6) Journaling

Wow, did I go wrong with these goals.  In the beginning of the year, Sims did work hard on taking notes, doing vocabulary and writing.  After Christmas, his enthusiasm to write did not remain.  Thus goals and 1, 4, and 5 were not met at a level that I feel comfortable with.  On the flip side, he found the love of reading!!  I will take this over writing any day.  He read more books than I was able to keep up with.  He used to always kid Sawyer about how much she reads during the day until this year.  He read the Hatchet series, the My Side of the Mountain series and many other books.  I must say, once again, that I LOVE Learning Ally (If you have a child with a reading disability, I HIGHLY recommend checking into Learning Ally).  Sims also really stepped it up this year with being independent and managing his time and work load.

Ok, onto curriculum!

Spelling: Sims started the year with Apples and Pears and quickly asked if he could find another program.  I have to admit that this hurt a little bit because he was doing so well with Apples and Pears.  The carry over with spelling into other writing is amazing.  I researched programs and we decided upon IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  He loves it.  The program is simple to use. Overall, Sims’ spelling improved over the year.  Even better than improvement is his awareness of spelling.  He wants to spell words correctly and really started asking how to spell words more this year.

Grammar: Growing with Grammar worked well for Sims as well as the other two kiddos.  He easily read the lesson in the lesson book and then used  new information to complete the assignment.  The assignments were easily modified on days that he did not want to write as much (which were few).  The lessons are written directly to the student so he only needed help when he didn’t understand a concept.

Math: Sims completed the first half of Teaching Textbooks level 6 and quickly became bored with the program.  I guess he is feeling more comfortable looking at other curriculums because he again asked if we could look around for something else.  We ended up with Math Mammoth Grade 6.  He loves is.  Overall, the content is more on a seventh grade level compared to the other sixth grade math programs that we looked at.  The lessons are short but require some mind work.  🙂  He will continue to work through that book next year as of right now.  Sims also used a lot of practical math this year with more hands on projects.

Main Lessons:  We loosely followed the Waldorf Essentials sixth grade curriculum.  Sims really enjoyed the lessons this year though.  He worked through business math using the book Striker Jones which made the subject very interesting and appealing to a sixth grader.  He LOVED Roman history.  We spent way too much time on this and did not get through nearly as much Medieval History because of the amount of time we spent on studying Rome.  Sims also thoroughly enjoyed physics this year.  He worked with his Grandad using the Lego Technics Educational sets.  He also did the physical science program from Education Exploration.  Both were terrific programs.  Sims also worked through geology with the other two kiddos.

Enrichment: Just as the other two kiddos, enrichment takes over!  Sims took Adventure Journaling, hiking classes, survival classes, Boy Scouts, gymnastics team, drumming, art, wildlife biology,archery and horse back riding.

Overall, sixth grade was a year of growth for Sims.  I cannot believe how much he accomplished this year.  He keeps inventing new contraptions and working to improve items that he owns (most of the time, he truly makes improvements-sometimes, the “improvements” cost us).  He fell in love hand crafts such as leather working, backsmithing and wood working.  I enjoy watching him transform into an amazing young man!

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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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First Quarter Update

8 weeks down!  Can you believe that we are done with our first quarter of school?  So what is going well and what had to change, because you know things never go as planned?

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Parks is doing well.  He is enjoying his science program, Exploration Education, a ton!  In fact, I am pretty sure that he will be finished with it before the holidays.  He also enjoys grammar (I know odd, right?).  Reading is starting to come a little easier.  He is open to reading books a lot more this year.  Dancing Bears (our reading curriculum) is also doing a terrific job of teaching him how to break down words.  I started him with the Apples and Pears Spelling program (which works in conjunction with Dancing Bears nicely) at the end of last year.  He is continuing with this program.  He does very well spelling aloud but has a difficult time putting the words down on paper, so that is something that he is working hard on.  Parks is also thoroughly enjoying his heroes and saints block!

Sawyer is working hard on her time management this year.  She is very aware of what she needs to get done each day which was a difficult task for her last year.  She is able to do her grammar (Growing with Grammar) with minimal assistance.  She did not enjoy doing Exploration Education for science, so we made a switch.  I recently read a review of The Gumshoe Archives on Only Passionate Curiosity’s Blog, and I decided to give it a try.  So far (she is only on the first book), she is really enjoying the book.  She is still doing vocabulary with the program and some simple projects.  She is getting the information through reading and not so much hands on which is what works for her.  We are also focusing on poetry with her Man/Animal block which she really enjoys.   Sawyer is continuing to use Apples and Pears for her spelling, and Teaching Textbooks for her math.

Sims had a rough time getting into a groove, but he has found it now and is thriving.  Sixth grade is a jump in the amount of work in most subjects.  He is doing very well with increasing his independence with his work.  He started the year with Apples and Pears spelling, but he quickly got frustrated with it this year (which disappointed me greatly because he does very well with it).  Thus, we switched over to IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  So far, he LOVES it!  He gets to do it on his own which is important to him.  He also enjoys that he has to master the list before moving on.  He is still using Dancing Bears for reading fluency, and I hope he will pick Apples and Pears up again-but I am not going to push my luck.  He is also loving Exploration Education for science.  The projects are fun and do a terrific job teaching the concepts.  He is doing very well with the vocabulary portion of the science as well using the T method.  Math is taking more time, but he is mastering it well.  He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a 100%-he has high expectations.  LOL.  Originally, the plan was for him to do a block on Rome, but he asked to start with business math/economics.  Thus, he is reading through Striker Jones and going over it with me.

Overall, I think we have had a terrific start to the year.  We are getting outside which keeps everyone happy.  Everyone is getting into the groove of doing daily work and an individual unit study.  Let’s hope the momentum continues through the next quarter!

Homeschool Resources for Dyslexia

Homeschooling is a terrific option for many children with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia.  At first, you may think that it is too much to tackle.  However, you have time on your side when you homeschool!  Children with dyslexia and dysgraphia typically need to have information presented in multiple ways.  Children with dyslexia also do much better when information is presented either in a small group or one on one.  Teachers do not have the time or the resources to do these two things even when they really want to.

My son worked with a tutor for one full year two times a week while in the third grade.  After that year, I realized that I could work with him as well.  There are a ton of programs out there for children with dyslexia.  I have tried many and the following is what we have now found that works for us.

Spelling:  We started with All About Spelling and went through levels 1-4.  This program taught/reinforced the spelling rules.  The down side was that the information did not carry over into other writing activities.  Well, it is wonderful to get a 100% on your spelling test but if you can not spell the word in your journal or in an email, then you didn’t get it.  Thus, I moved to another spelling program called Apples and Pears.  This is an open and go curriculum.  We started with the first book and are moving through the second book.  The program appears to have no rhyme or reason initially but as the teacher, you soon realize that the words appear again and the patterns are progressed.  The best part is that the spelling carried over!  He uses the proper spelling throughout his writing.  Note-he still has a LONG way to go, but there is noted progress.

Reading fluency and comprehension:  For reading fluency, we are using Dancing Bears.  He began with the fast track AB book which went through the sounds fairly quickly.  Due to the extensive tutoring, he did well with this.  If you have a reader who is still struggling with the initial sounds, then I highly recommend you begin with book A (we are doing this with our youngest and it is working well).  Again, I find the carry over phenomenal.  Reading fluency in other book continues to improve.  Reading aloud is still a struggle and most books that my son can read aloud are not necessarily what he wants to read.  This is why we use Learning Ally!  Learning Ally is an online program for people who are blind and/or have a reading disability.  Learning Ally has real people record books as they read them aloud.  Note that I added real people.  The kindle and apple programs can read aloud but the voice it automated and lacks inflection.  Real people make the stories come alive, use the proper pausing, and use the proper inflection.  Learning Ally allows Sims to read books that are at his comprehension level, which is much higher than his fluency level.

Writing:  I do not use a specific curriculum for writing.  I have him journal and write nature studies that I do not edit.  These are for him just to simply practice writing.  Then when he does have a writing assignment, we do several things.  Some times he will make notes and then dictate the paragraph or paper to me to write.  Other times, he makes his notes, forms an outline, and then writes on wide ruled paper and skipping a line.  We use form drawings (a Waldorf activity) and metal insets (a Montessori activity) to work on sizing, fluid motion, pressure and letter formation.  I use the IEW program as my teaching method for how to write a paper.  We do not do the program, but it is my main go to for lessons on note taking and paper writing.  (I also recommend using gel pens or mechanical pencils)

Math:  Luckily for Sims, math comes easy.  He gets it and he understands how to apply it.  This year we used Teaching Textbooks and he really enjoyed it.  Now the difficult part isn’t doing the calculations.  It is the writing!  In the years past, he has used two methods to keep the numbers in line.  One trick is to use large graph paper (meaning the squares are large).  This is tough to find, but when I do, I stock up!  The other trick we us is to turn a wide ruled notebook sideways.  This allows you to place the numbers in the same column.  Next year, we are going to try using Mead RediSpace paper.

Note taking/Vocabulary: We use two methods for note taking and vocabulary which are used for science and history.  One method is using notecards.  Some people love notecards.  Others do not.  They are simple.  He can put a picture on one side and a word on the other or a definition.  There are many options for using notecards.  The second method is to draw a T on a sheet of lined paper with the top of the T going across the top of the page and the perpendicular line about three inches from the left hand side of the page.  Then either dates or vocabulary words or a main topic can go on the left.  On the right, corresponding definitions, information or notes are written.  Adding color is a terrific option.  Highlighters or using different colored pens are options.

We also do a lot outside.  Thus, we take our learning everywhere.  We listen to audiobooks in the car.  We do tons of nature study, visit museums, visit historical sites and learn from the world.  As I stated in an earlier post, we know that he has dyslexia and dysgraphia but it no longer seems to be a learning disability while he is learning at home.  Thus, the stress is gone!

 

Encoding Breakthroughs!

I haven’t gone away. I am just taking a short break from blogging on this site. However, I did need to take a moment to brag on my boy today.

As you know, spelling is one of the toughest lessons for Sims each day. This year we changed curriculums from All About Spelling to Apples and Pears by Sound Foundations. All About Spelling worked well for him during spelling, but there was not any carry over into other subjects. I heard about Apples and Pears from a forum on homeschooling children with dyslexia. The program appears to Sims to have no rhyme or reason to it, but it does.

The curriculum also requires a lot more writing each day than what he was used to. I didn’t think he would be to keen on it, but he is. He happily does it everyday (in fact, he has finished the first book and is way on his way to finishing the second book). On top of Apples and Pears, I added another spelling curriculum called MegaWords. Apples and Pears is very teacher intensive, which he needs. MegaWords has more independent work for the student to do.

Well, today-he did his MegaWords book (actually, he did two more pages than what I assigned), a lesson with me from Apples and Pears and tonight-he actually asked me to dictate the words for him in his MegaWords book so that could move forward in the book tomorrow! Yep, three spelling lessons in one day!!

New Blocks in the New Year

Well, the new year has begun with a bang!  This was one of those weeks that flew by in some ways and took forever in other ways.

On the academic side, each child is starting a new block.  Parks, first grade, is focusing on reading fluency.  Thus, he is reading a lot of fun stories including Fred and Ted Like Flying and The Bathtub Pirates.  He also is officially using a spelling curriculum.  He just started Book A of Apples and Pears.  Sawyer, third grade, is doing her last block on the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is not her favorite and she is ready to start a new block after only one week, so I am trying to get inventive for the next couple weeks to strike her interest.  Sims, fifth grade, started his freehand geometry block this week.  I am thoroughly enjoying the circles that we are doing right now.  This week has been a terrific introduction to circles and an intro into the vocabulary that will go with it next week.

On the extracurricular side, everyone’s activities are in full swing.  Parks started winter swim team, is finishing up his basketball season and continues with gymnastics.  Sawyer is performing this weekend in The Wizard of Oz at our local theatre, starting the gymnastics team at our local YMCA, and continuing to dance.  Sims continues with tumble and trampoline and gymnastics.  In between all of the running around this week, we did manage to get out and play in what was left of the ice.

Hopefully, we will get back into our groove soon.  This week felt out of sorts and crazy.

 

The Checklist

We are 61 days into the year.  Only 119 days to go (give or take a few).  I aim for 180 days of documented school days.  I recently printed out my blog up through the beginning of October.  One comment I received from Nick was on the update list.  He likes seeing the items that each child has completed in a bullet point form.  So for those business-like readers, below is for you (ok-mainly, this post is for my hubby so that he can have an update, neat and tidy).

Parks (Grade 1):

1.  Grammar work and language: Fairytales and folktales including: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Ant and the Chrysalis, The Ant and the Grasshopper,Belling the Cat, The Milk Woman and her Pail, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Donkey and the Travelor, Once There was a Treee, The Rich Man and the Parrot, The Story of the Jumping Mouse, Zoomer’s Summer Snowsstorm, Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Goose.

2. Reading Program: Dancing Bears A: Section 1.

3. Writing: Spelling sight words, sentence structure, CVC words

4. Math: Number sense, writing numbers, greater than, less than, adding, subtracting, shapes, intro to adding double digits and carrying.

5. Extra research: Whales , birds, air, weather, clouds

6. Art

Sawyer (Grade 3):

1. Waldorf/history/social studies: Intro to Judaism, The calendar, the Jewish Calendar, Days of Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Israel, the Middle East, Sukkah, Shelters, Continents, Oceans,

2. Reading: Rebecca, An American Girl (Books 1-3 of 6)

3: Writing: The Write Foundations: Creating Sentences- Including alphabetical order, nouns, verbs, contractions, homonyms, proper nouns, compound subjects and verbs, and compound sentences.  Poetry writing: alphabet poetry, concrete noun poetry, concrete verb poetry, animal motion poetry, personal favorites poetry.

4. Teaching Textbooks: Chapters 1-6 (Grade 3)

5.  Extra: Bird research, Geocaching

6. Spelling: Apples and Pears Level B lessons 1-27

7. Art

Sims (Grade 5):

1. Waldorf/history/social studies: US geography, African geography and general history and folklore, Atlantis, Australian geography and folklore, Aborigines, India, Hinduism, Buddhism, The Deer, the Turtle and the Magpie, Persia (Good versus Evil)

2. Reading: Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (Books 1-3 of 6), and Dancing Bears Fast track

3.Writing: The Write Foundations: Creating Sentences- Including alphabetical order, nouns, verbs, contractions, homonyms, proper nouns, compound subjects and verbs, and compound sentences.  Poetry writing: alphabet poetry, concrete noun poetry, concrete verb poetry, animal motion poetry, personal favorites poetry.

4. Teaching Textbooks: He started on TT grade 6 and did the first 2 chapters.  He decided to step back and do grade 5 first so he is trying to work through grade 5. Chapters 1-4 completed

5. Outdoor Leadership class at Latta Plantation: weather, outdoor first aid, map and compass, shelter building

6. Spelling: Apples and Pears Level A Lessons 20-58 (10 lessons until he is onto the next level!)

Together, we read My Father’s Dragon, My Side of the Mountain, The Biltmore House Mystery, White Fang and we are in the middle of The Horse’s Boy.  Overall, the year is passing quickly.  I am teaching a lot more language than I ever have before.  We are focusing a lot on reading, writing, and spelling this year.  The kids are using Teaching Textbooks for most of their math.  Sims and Sawyer are working with Parks on math as well using Waldorf and Montessori materials.  Overall, the year is going well.  We are in good rhythm with school work, playing and extra-curricular activities.