Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Highlights!

More than another month has sped by! I am still playing catch-up and wonder if I will ever feel as though I am on top of what is happening in school. I am constantly struggling with the "are we doing enough" question; between our being a slow-moving family in the morning, plus building in our music practicing first thing after breakfast, we aren't starting academic work until close to 9:30-10 a.m. most days! I marvel at those homeschooling families that are done by noon. This will likely never be our experience!

"Anakin" (4th grade) will usually do a total of 3.5 hours of work, plus about an hour of reading time (combination of books related to our curent subjects and then children's fiction.) Obi-Wan (1st grade) will finish his work earlier and be done within 2 to 2.5 hours, plus about 45 minutes of reading time and another 15 minutes of typing. This is less than what they would do at school, I know, although by the time you subtract lunch, recess, and all the moving around from class to class from a 6.5 hour school day we probably aren't that far off. But this is one of the hard things about homeschooing, the constant worry and fear that we aren't keeping up!

Then again, our kids have also had the pleasure of unique experiences that kids do not always have the chance to experience in school, such as visiting downtown Chicago to see their dad play in a live recital that was broadcast by the classical radio station...

Chicago Cultural Center, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert!
Proud of dad who did a great job!

...and also practicing their oral communication skills in front of an audience of 1,000 people, helping me speak at the annual Moody Bible Institute Missions Conference! They each shared their name, age, and what they loved about Moody. The students, in turn, loved them and gave them raucous applause!

We also had a fabulous time at the Field Museum in Chicago, checking out their Ancient Egypt exhibit which really brought to life everything we had been reading with regards to pyramids, mummies, and hieroglyphics. I don't think I have ever appreciated an exhibit as much as I did this one!

Amazing mummies and hieroglyphics at the Field Museum!
Shadufs are more fun to see replicated in person than in a book! 
"Pyramid blocks are way heavier than they look!!!"

In addition to our continued focus on ancient worlds, Anakin has enjoyed his science activities about water and air (with the brothers occasionally joining in!)...

...and Obi-Wan has been focusing on the natural world. He has probably enjoyed the study about rivers the most, topped by a visit to the local river closest to our house with his little brother.

Last week we enjoyed an "Egyptian meal" with freshly-made pita bread (Obi-Wan helped to make it!), nuts and dried fruit, cucumbers and yogurt, and various cheeses. We discussed how lovely and refined our flour is compared to what the ancient Egyptians ate. Anakin shared that often the bread from that time had sand in it, which contributed to tooth decay for the people who lived back then! It's funny the details that stick in the boys' minds when they read!

Lastly, Anakin also began reading Exodus with a focus right now on the ten plagues on Egypt. To help them experience the second plague of frogs a little more vividly, I cut out a bunch of frogs from green cardstock paper, and snuck into the two older boys' rooms while they were sleeping, then covered their beds with "frogs."

The next morning, Anakin came running upstairs, having taped a bunch of frogs to his pajamas, and jumping up and down yelling, "Frogs! Frogs! I can't get them off of me!!" Meanwhile, Obi-Wan was content to suffer with frogs in his mouth. =)

We may have our struggles and challenges, but overall, moments like these make it all worth it. =)

Happy fall!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Surviving the First Month!

The first month has felt like hanging on to the back of a speeding train. We started before I was fully prepared, but it has been just go, go, go ever since we began that I haven't had a chance to catch my breath (or catch up!) Here are our first day of school photos...

New supplies always generates big smiles!

Our 1st grader, 4th grader, and Preschooler!

So far the big challenges are dealing with two children who are each supposed to be doing a full day of school, as opposed to last year when Ron was in kindergarten and we kept things light. Adding to the complexity is the fact that Dobby is now in preschool for 3 days per week, so that means we have to incorporate a number of interruptions to get him to and from school. Let's just say we are doing more car schooling than last year!

But it's been a fun year already thus far as well. Here is the curriculum list:

Harry--4th Grade
--My Father's World, Creation to Greeks and Story of the World, Ancient Times
--Singapore Math, 2B/3A
--New American Cursive, Book 3
--Writing Strands 3 and Classical Writing Aesop
--Spelling Power
--First Language Lessons 4
--Latin for Children

Ron--1st Grade
--My Father's World, 1st Grade
--Singapore Math, 1A
--Copybook, Memoria Press
--Writing With Ease 1
--Spelling Workout A
--First Language Lessons 1
--Song School Latin

I try to combine Harry and Ron when possible for history and science, but still they do more separate than together, and that is causing most of the challenge for the year. As for Dobby, well, I have tons of write-and-wipe books, and we also do Ordinary Parents' Guide to Reading when we can fit it in! And he has started cello lessons, which is another added complication this year--albeit a fun one as he follows the steps of his big brothers in music-making! Here is Dobby sitting for the first time with his cello, and his first day of preschool!

We've been having fun enjoying our emphasis on Ancient/Old Testament history, which has included celebrating Old Testament feasts and rituals. We celebrated our first shabbat ("Sabbath") in the company of good friends for Dobby's 4th birthday, which included homemade challah bread with special coverings created by Harry and Ron.

Other highlights include...

Becoming amateur archaeologists...

Studying pyramid and cube structures...

Creating a model of the Nile River...
Even Dobby can help flood the Nile!

Studying trees by doing bark rubbings...

Building a step pyramid out of sugar cubes...

Creating our sukkah for the Feast of Tabernacles...

Reading from Deuteronomy 16 in the sukkah!
There is more to say, but to finally get this up and posted I'll stop here! Let's see if I can get the next post up before November! =)

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Recap from the 2010-2011 Year!

Where did the months go? My son Harry has been wondering why on earth I haven't updated the Trillium Academy site in so has just been that kind of summer!

Let me try to briefly summarize how we ended the academic year...

As usual, music played a big role in our boys' lives this spring. For my birthday in May, Harry and Ron created a "Birthday Recital for Mommy" as my present--what a fun gift!

Then both boys participated in the Betty Haag Academy's annual Orchestra Hall concert at Symphony Center in Chicago. Harry had the chance to do a solo piano piece, and Ron led one song and played  over an hour of music by memory. We were proud of them both!

Not to be left behind, Dobby met his cello for the first time and is excited to join his brothers in what we hope will be a lifelong music-making journey!

In June, I gave both Harry and Ron "final exams" to see what kind of progress we'd made over the year. Some of the highlights...

  • Both boys successfully outperformed their dad in the final world geography test; Ron actually was the high-scorer of the three! I love that at age 6, he was able to correctly identify nearly 90 countries worldwide.
  • Harry scored more than 90% on all the components of his math exam, while Ron aced his addition test.
  • Both boys are making strides with their handwriting...
Harry's 3rd grade cursive

Ron's kindergarten print and cursive
  • And I was pleased with how the boys did in their respective language arts exams, Harry nailing all the definitions of the parts of speech, and Ron demonstrating an understanding of basic rules of writing sentences.
  • Reading-wise, Ron nearly finished Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, then took an assessment test this summer and discovered that he was reading at a level that was well above most 6 year olds, so that was encouraging to discover! As for Harry, since he readily devours all the Harry Potter books, his reading ability does not seem much in question. The only question is whether I can get him interested in reading anything else!
  • As for Dobby, his great academic accomplishment was spelling words such as "hippopotamus." =)
  • Where we need to both do more work (and where I also have to do a better job preparing the boys for their tests!) are in the subjects of Latin and science; I am truly feeling the classic adage from The Karate Kid in which Mr. Miyagi says, "There is no such thing as a bad student. Only a bad teacher!" Whether that is always true, I definitely think I should have been clearer about my expectations for what the kids should have studied, especially Harry, in these subjects. So, this will be an area for us to improve on in the future!
  • One other major project that Harry did in the final weeks of school was to create a presentation on Australian animals; it was a way for him to start learning how to use Powerpoint, as well as to start practicing the art of giving presentations. For weeks, Harry researched different animals, took notes on them, and saved photos he found to use for the presentation. I was happy with how it turned out, and his dad who served as our audience was quite impressed overall! Harry's verbal presentation contained more content than is in the slides themselves, but if you click on the above link, you'll get an idea of the content that his presentation covered!
Overall, it was a great year; I'm pleased with what the boys learned and excited for the new year which we have already begun! Will post that update before another 3 months go by, I promise! Here are a couple of final summer photos of the boys; one in which they met "Dumbledore" at a local museum celebrating Harry Potter Day with the release of Deathly Hallows 2, and one in which the boys are just enjoying a lovely summer day. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weeks 26-30: China, Japan, and Russia

The weeks fly by! It has been too long since my last update. We have continued our tour of the world, stopping by the countries China, Japan, and Russia. The boys have kept up with their daily geography review and I'm pretty sure they can out-name me with their current geography knowledge. This week, we move into Australia and Oceania, with Antarctica the final continent on our list. It's still hard to believe we are already at this point!

Here are some highlights from the past month...

Some of our most memorable moments had nothing to do with our official schoolwork. We decided to start trying our hand at gardening; there is a raised bed in our backyard that has just lain dormant for years. We have been trying to cultivate the the soil and have learned afresh what the parable of the sower is all about, how important good soil is and much work it takes to get there!

I'm struck by the fact that our role as Christ-followers is to plant the seed, then collect the harvest, while God is responsible for the hardest parts of the process--preparing the soil and growing that seed. As for our own garden, I have no idea if we will successfully be able to grow anything! But we will give it a try and if nothing else, it will be a fun exercise with the boys!

The past month also featured our last evening of AWANA, which the boys have enjoyed immensely. Both boys started midway through the year, with Ron starting in December and Harry in January. Ron did so well in a short amount of time; he learned the second-highest number of verses amongst all kindergarteners, even with his abbreviated year. We were very excited to see how much both boys enjoyed learning God's word!

Easter featured another opportunity for the boys to shine; they volunteered to help lead the singing on Easter Sunday morning at church. Even little Dobby had to be a part of it! And a peek into their Easter baskets...had to include the little Angry Bird for fun even though I know it has little to do with Easter!

We also enjoyed our last day at our homeschool co-op; Dobby did not attend this year but came along for the last day as his dad was busy in Chicago that morning. He had a great time practicing his writing with his faithful friend, Mr. Bear, and his favorite toy, the Leapfrog Scribble and Write. This toy has helped him more than anything else with forming his letters--although I'm not usually a fan of electronic toys, this one gets my thumbs-up!

Schoolwise, a quick summary:
  • Harry has finally finished Writing With Ease 2, which we started this year; we tried to do it twice as fast but just couldn't keep up that pace. We are now moving onto Writing With Ease 3, and I'm sticking with it even though I will confess at times it has caused us both to pull our hair out! But after watching a couple of Susan Wise Bauer's videos on the writing process and dictation in particular, I am entering into WWE3 with a different approach: more patience with as much repetition as necessary to help Harry through it. I still believe in her writing philosophy for children, so we'll stick with the program for now! He is also doing his own creative writing on the side, so he's certainly exercising his writing muscles that way...tens of thousands of words so far this year and counting!
  • Harry continues to chug along in Singapore Math 2B; we will continue into the summer and keep practicing our mental math skills!
  • Ron has somehow managed to pick up a number of skills this year without my being the most attentive kindergarten teacher. His cursive continues to come along, but I think all the cursive practice has also helped him with his print as well; we've taken a couple of weeks to go back to just printing and I've been really pleased with the results. Photos next post. =) 
  • Ron has also started Singapore Math 1A and is solidifying his initial round of addition facts from 1-10. One of the things we do is to do several rounds of "flash-card fun", where I spread the cards out and time him; he tries to get faster each round. He could just sit and do these at a table, and sometimes he does, but being our kinesthetic kid, getting him to move around always helps!
  • Dobby continues to be the only child who shows interest in spelling! I will likely start him on a reading program this summer or fall. Can't wait to get him reading! I had some fun Mom-and-Dobby time with him at the local children's museum recently, and he had a blast:

Lastly, Harry and Ron had a fun field trip this Friday at the local Apple Store! They met with a group of other homeschooling kids, learned how to use Keynote and iMovie, and left believing that Apple is the best computing company in the world. No dummies, those Apple folks--way to start building brand loyalty when the kids are young!

Mother's Day blessings to all! We have four weeks to go and then we are done with the official school year! Thanks for stopping by!

"We did it! We made a movie together!!"