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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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!

 

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!

 

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.

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.