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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Learning Ally has Changed Our Home!

My boy can’t stop reading.  I never thought that I would say those words but I am.  I LOVE it.  Actually, the situation is quite humorous.  Sawyer loves lives to read.  She reads all the time.  The boys find her love for reading quite annoying.  They want her to play and to finish her school work so that she can play.  Of course, she gets so engrossed in a story that she cannot stop.

Well, the situation has shifted a bit since Christmas.  One of our family gifts was a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.  Mainly, the tablet is used for school.  The bonus of the tablet is that it is large like an ipad so that you can read on it as well.  In the past, Sims would pick up a book to read occasionally, and he would listen to the book using Learning Ally on my phone.  With the tablet, Sims can read the book and listen to it on the tablet.  Not only does Learning Ally have the text available now, but the text is highlighted as it is read.  I am excited that Learning Ally added this feature.  I know that they have had it for a while, and we did not take advantage of it.

Now, we have house full of readers.  Sawyer still loves the feel of a book, and she does read ALL the time.  I cannot keep up with all of the books that she reads.  Parks likes to use the kindle to read on so that he can make the print a little larger and a little more spaced out (this is they way that I like to read as well).  An now, Sims is reading like a madman on the Samsung tablet.  (In fact, the house is quiet right now with EVERYONE reading.  Those are also words that I thought I would never say.”

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 more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go” Dr. Seuss

I feel like I say this a lot-and I will state it once again.  This was a crazy week.  We started the week off at Linville Falls where Dad gave the kids several lessons on erosion.  Of course, this was not officially part of school-but we are nerdy that way.  The kids looked for signs of erosion in the dirt, on the paths, on the handrails, and in the falls.

Checking out the root structure and comparing it to the tree we found last week Erosion Checking out more erosion Learning about water pressure Exploring in the creeks An awesome fairy house Linville Falls

I knew this week was going to be crazy so we just planned on having a project week.  Sims and Sawyer take part in a homeschool book club once a month.  In November, the book club decided to read Pippi Longstockings as the group book.  In addition to Pippi, the kids each picked a book of their choice to read and present to the group.

Sawyer is my mystery reader.  She loves Boxcar Children Books, A to Z Mysteries, and anything with an animal and mystery to solve.  She read constantly.  Her biggest obstacle to this project is to narrow down which book to write about as she has read probably 15 books since the last book club meeting in November.  She finally decided upon a Boxcar Children Book.  She wrote a report and is now making a diorama of the setting.

This is how we find Sawyer most days

Sims, as you know from my previous posts, is not my most ambitious reader typically.  However, this project got him very excited.  He wanted to read a book about Mount Everest (ever since we finished Three Cups of Tea, he has been interested in climbing).  He chose the book Peak.  Peak is a teen fiction book.  He had to get it from the Young Adult section which immediately made me nervous.  Thanks to Learning Ally, he was able to read the whole book.  He was hooked from the time he started it.  Not only did he read it but he also comprehended the whole book.  He wrote a terrific report and is now working on his project.  For those of you with kids with dyslexia, you know the excitement I feel.  After finishing this book, he immediately went to the library to pick out another book on Everest.  Peak

Parks,inspired by his older brother and sister, decided to read his first chapter book.  He decided upon Mercy Watson Goes for a Drive.  He is still reading so he has not decided upon his project but he is ready to start!

Mercy Watson

A cabin for the forest Everest coming to life. The beginning of Everest The lake in the forest They did some dissecting this week too. Examining Class at Latta