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: 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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No Curriculum Required

No Curriculum Required

Around here it is the time to look at curriculums, schools and plans for next year.  This time of year always gets me thinking.  Are we in a good spot?

Are the kids learning new information? how to learn?

Are the kids happy?

Are they engaged?

For the first time ever since I became the parent of school aged kids, I am content.  Yes, we are in a terrific spot.  We are not stuck on curriculum.  Life is learning.  When the kids are interested in something, they go with it.  They delve into the subject finding out all that they need.  They laugh daily. They argue daily.  They are learning so much more than information in books.  They are learning about being a good neighbor and citizen, nature, being a good friend, being a loving sibling, emotions, cooking, health, money, reading, math, and being a teacher.  They are engaged in life.  They plan.  They make goals.  All of the important information that they are learning comes from life.  No curriculum can teach all of this.

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Wrapping up the year! Math

Believe it or not, we are pretty much through all of our curriculum for the year!  Obviously, we did not do enough fun stuff.  We are still trying to figure out the best methods for homeschooling that work for us (of course, I know this will be an ever-changing piece of our lives).  However, this week I am going to focus on math.

Last year we used Singapore Math for everyone with Montessori and Waldorf exercises in the mix.  Parks was the only kiddo who really enjoyed this method.  Thus, Parks continued with the Singapore math mixed with Montessori and Waldorf.  He finished up his level 1 A and 1 B books by the end of January.  For him (1st grade), Singapore worked well.  The book had a lot of pictures and not an overwhelming amount of information on each page.  For me, it was very easy to tie in bead chains, the multiplication board, the hundred board and the Waldorf stories into the Singapore Math curriculum.

Now with the older two kiddos, we did a complete change.  They did not want to continue with Singapore, and they also did not want to continue Saxon which we did the previous year.  Where to go? Looking at our schedule and considering that now I had three levels to teach, I decided to go with a computer based math program.  We chose Teaching Textbooks levels 3 (Sawyer) and 5 (Sims).    Yep, I handed in the towel on math-my favorite subject.  However, I freed up a lot of time and put a new responsibility on them.  Initially, the kids were excited but unsure of whether or not they were going to like it.  In the end, they loved it and asked to do it again next year.

My opinion of it-well, it definitely freed up some time.  The kids took ownership of the program, and they were very good about asking me when they did not understand a concept.  I do not think that either child was challenged much at these levels.  However, at this time-a challenging program was not the goal.  In their end of year testing, they each scored average on their computation skills (straight addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), and they scored amazingly well on their applied math skills.  So I am happy that the program seems to be teaching the math in an applied way.  We will continue to work on straight comupation skills, but understanding when and how to use those skills is more important in my mind.  Beginning in the middle of May, I plan on getting them each started on the next level.  Now that they are comfortable with the program and using the computer (My kids are not on the computer much so this program required them to also gain some basic computer skills), we will work on challenging their math brains a little more.

In addition to their basic math curriculums, each kiddo continues to work through the Life of Fred series.  Parks and I started back at Apples and we just finished Butterflies.  Sawyer worked through Cats, Dogs and Edgewood.  Life of Fred is her favorite way to learn math!  Sims worked with Parks on Butterflies and is now working through Goldfish on his own.  Life of Fred is the only curriculum that my kids all ask to do-even on the weekends.  The books are funny and entertaining.

What math program did you use this year?  I am always interested in what others are using and how it is working for them!

 

Making the Curriculum Work for Us..First Grade

As I have stated in several past posts, we do not follow one set curriculum. We are very eclectic with our choices. I also do not follow each curriculum exactly the way the curriculum recommends. I tweak each one to work for each child. We have not gotten into all of our subjects yet with my older two kiddos. We are easing into the year this month.

Last year, my littlest guy worked through Melissa Neilson’s first grade Waldorf program, Waldorf Essentials.  He was only in kindergarten but I felt the material would be good for him.  Now starting first grade, what do I do?  He is not ready for the saints and the second grade curriculum so I had to look for something else.  I decided upon the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language Writing Program as our main lesson book.

I am 90% sure that he has dysgraphia as my oldest son and I do.  He still has a difficult time orienting letters and numbers, spacing letters, and getting his thoughts down on paper (yes, I know he is only 6..smile).  The PAL’s program begins with letter formation using stories to give clues for the letters.  We used Handwriting without Tears for my older kids and it worked fairly well.  However, my little guy could not grasp the concepts for some reason with the HWT’s verbal commands.  I was concerned how the new program would work.  Well, so far he loves it.  He is enjoying the writing portion of his lessons and he is writing his letters beautifully and in the lines!  Small steps make a big difference in later years.

The writing program also uses fairy tales and folk tales to teach writing as does the Waldorf first grade curriculum.  PALs uses a new story each day.  This is where my tweaking comes in.  We are reading a story one day and drawing a picture, painting or sculpting.  On the second day, he dictates the story synopsis to me and I write it down.  We are doing a two-day cycle with the story.  The PAL’s writing program also recommends All About Spelling which we have done in the past.  We are trying out Apples and Pears this year.  I have not started it yet, as he is just now getting his letters down.  We plan to start it soon.

He is very motivated to start reading more this year (we used some rivalry with this one and it worked).  He has not been very interested in reading up to this point.  His motivation seems to come in spurts.  Right now, his motivation is high as he has a cousin who is reading fairly well and he want to be able to read like his cousin.      We are using the reading program called Dancing Bears.  So far, it is very straight forward and carrying over into other areas.  Hopefully, he will remain motivated and be reading like crazy by the end of the year.

Let’s hope the excitement of the past two weeks will continue as we move into more structured days.  For now we are getting our creative juices going and trying to find a new rhythm that will work for us during the school year.

End of Quarter Review

End of Quarter Review

Can you believe we have been in school for 9 weeks?  Amazing how quickly the time goes by.  I decided I would give everyone an academic update and a quick recap of the year up to this point.  We started school officially on August 13, 2012 with three students.  I was definitely slightly nervous about adding one but I also knew somehow it would all work out.

As a group we read To Kill A Mocking Bird (one for me), Charlotte’s Web (Parks’ pick), Swiss Family Robinson (Sims’ pick) and Peter Pan (Sawyer’s Pick).  Sawyer and Sims are in a book club at the library.  They started with The Whipping Boy and just finished Because of Winn Dixie.  Now they are reading The Bridge to Terabithia.

Parks:

  • Reading: He is doing the Primary Phonics program.  He is on the second level which covers vowels digraphs.  He can read most level 1 books and is starting to realize that he can read signs around.
  • Spelling: All About Spelling.  He knows all of his basic sounds and how to spell them.  He is now spelling CVC words and his sight words.
  • Math: He is still doing Montessori Math and he loves IXL.
  • Waldorf curriculum: Through this curriculum he follows a story that integrates folk tales and fairy tales which he then recaps and illustrates.
  • Language: First Language Lessons.  He knows nouns and can distinguish a noun.  He does very well with doing picture studies but his favorite thing to do is to recite poems.  So far his favorites are Caterpillar and The Goops.  He listens to Sims and Sawyer do their poetry and he will memorize theirs too if he can.
  • Art:  This is Parks.  He is art.  If he can build, paint, create or collage something then he is a very happy camper.  I try to make sure there is some kind of art in most of our lessons.

Sawyer and Sims:

  • Reading: Anything Sawyer can get her hands on.  Sims has been into almost anything nonfiction.  He has read about the revolutionary war and animals and is just starting to get into mysteries like the Hardy Boys.
  • Writing: She and Sims are working on a writing program from the Institute in Excellence in Writing.  This week they each did their first independent outline of a folk tale and they did it perfect.  I was very surprised.  They both also journal each day.  This semester they worked on paragraph writing, outlining short stories, writing a poem and journaling.
  • Spelling:  Both kiddos are using All About Spelling.  Sims is amazing me with his spelling.  I love this program, his tutor from last year and Sims’ amazing memory.  Last year, I was worried he would not pick up spelling but now I have no worries.  Sawyer is a natural speller.  She boggles my mind.  She is learning the spelling rules but she generally can just visualize how the word looks.
  • Language: Both are using First Language Lessons (Sims fourth grade and Sawyer third grade).  Thus far, they have learned nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs and how to diagram a simple sentence.  Diagraming-brings back memories of fourth grade for me. 🙂
  • Math: Both kids have been reviewing addition and subtraction and had lessons on Roman numerals.  Sawyer started multiplication, and Sims is starting decimals and fractions.  They both work on www.IXL.com each day also.
  • Handwriting:  Both kiddos asked to learn cursive so that is what we are doing.  I think they will do well with writing in cursive once we get through all of the letters.
  • Waldorf curriculum: Sawyer studied the Saints for the first four weeks and is now onto folk tales and fairy tales.  Sims did animal research and compared several different animals.

We do science as a group except for Sims.  Sims also takes ecology at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.  On the days he goes to ecology, we take hikes and do nature study.  In our science at home, we have looked at matter and investigated the three states of matter.  We have all done lots of animal research.

The school room, which was so nice and orderly in my first post of the year, is now messy and lived in.  There is fabric on the floor, paper all over and books on desks.  Our schedule is hectic but on the days that we are home, we are in the schoolroom  by 830.  They work diligently for about 2 hours and then they crash.  They take a short game break and start working again.  Unfortunately for them , school never ends.  They cook (math), clean (practical life), help in the garden (science), discuss the world and play with unbelievable imagination and happiness.  I am sure that sounds cheesy but for the most part it is true.  They are all full of life all the time.

How is your first quarter going?  What do you have planned for the next 9 weeks?