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?

P1090298

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!

 

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.

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.

Get Out the Planner….Part Two

In my last post, I spoke about the philosophies we tend to follow in our home in regards to schooling.  Today, let’s get into the nitty gritty…curriculum.

For the first time, we are going to loosely follow a science curriculum.  I have chosen the R.E.A.L Odyssey Earth and Science program and the chemistry program.  Both programs appear fairly hands on with lots of labs-which is a big plus for us.  My plan is to have the Earth and Science curriculum out with all of the needed materials available.  We will go over the big picture lesson together and then they will be able to pick which labs they want to follow up with.  I plan to do chemistry during a block, or maybe two, later in the year. 

The kids are in three very different grades.  This year we will have a first, third and fifth grader!  Parks’ main curriculum will come from the Institute for Excellence’s Primary Art of Language program.  I plan to use the program with a Waldorf Twist.  He will use his main lesson book for the work and we will go through it using folk tales and fairy tales.  For math, he will continue with Singapore math along with Montessori math using materials.  I found a new reading and spelling program this summer that I am very excited to get into.  We already started the reading program and so far it is terrific.  The programs are by Sound Foundations.  The reading program is called Dancing Bears and the spelling is called Apples and Pears. 

The mighty third grader is going to delve into Waldorf Essential’s third year program which focuses on the Jewish religion and the Old Testament.  The fifth grade Waldorf Essential’s program is filled with adventures from ancient civilizations, Greek mythology and geometry.  Along with their Waldorf curriculum, they will do teaching textbooks for math along with Montessori math and Apples and Pears for spelling.  Together, they will also use Institute for Excellence in Writing to begin some more formal writing. 

I am still trying to narrow down which chapter books we will read together.  If you have suggestion, I would love to hear them!  I would love to find a few books with themes that will flow with what they are learning.