Friday, November 27, 2009

Weeks 10-14! Has it been that long?

I cannot believe how the weeks have flown by. After our Toronto trip, it felt as though we were in catch-up mode and then preparations for Thanksgiving began! I feel like we've also hit a few bumps in our homeschooling journey, nothing too drastic, but it's required some flexibility on my part to manage. I assume this is all completely normal for veteran homeschoolers, but I'm still feeling my way around! But as a result, it's been harder to find time to do the weekly catch-ups. So here is a long overdue summary of the weeks past.

Math: We've made some changes all around. As the material began to become more challenging and unfamiliar, I discovered how hard it is to teach math with distractions. So as much as I like to get more done before lunch, I've decided that Harry's math has to be saved for after lunch, when the little brothers are napping. It's made a big difference to my sanity, and hopefully to Harry's understanding of the material. We're working through multiplication in Singapore Math 1B, and getting ready to start division. I do love how Singapore Math focuses on having the student understand the concepts; it's been eye-opening to see how they cover the basic math operations, very different from how I learned it. I just hope I'm doing the curriculum justice! I'm also finding myself dissatisfied with Right Start A, which I'd been using with Ron, so I'm looking to do a math curriculum switch for him, too, probably to Singapore Earlybird since we're having a good experience with Singapore thus far with Harry.

History/Geography: We've continued through our overview of American history; over the past few weeks we've covered subjects such as the the Revolutionary War, Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, and the Constitution (at a 2nd grade level, of course!). The boys enjoyed making berry ink and using feathers to approximate the quill pens of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as their own versions of Liberty Bells. We also began our study of the fifty states, which began with the first four states to enter the union--Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia--and continues chronologically from there. I thought the boys might start getting tired of the state studies, but they really enjoy learning what the state birds and flowers are, coloring the state sheets that My Father's World provides, and locating the states in the U.S. map. Harry also had a chance to try his hand at some baking in conjunction with our study of Georgia, and made his first peach cobbler.

Science: Speaking of birds, we finally officially began our study of birds and our boys' familiarity with all the backyard breeds we've attracted these past few months has really helped to make the material come to life. The ironic thing is that now that the cold has come, we've seen a dramatic decrease in the number and variety of feathered friends who visit. But the goldfinches (that are no longer bright yellow, but gray for the colder months) and chickadees still visit often--our goldfinch feeder often hosts several at a time! To continue attracting winter birds, the boys decorated pine cones with peanut butter, raisins and birdseed for any lucky fowl that discover them before the squirrels do! Our backyard now features two hanging feeders, a mesh bag filled with free beef suet from the local butcher, all those aforementioned peanut butter-pine cones, and even some orange halves affixed to one of our trees in hopes of attracting any orioles that might be around. I've been completely surprised at how much fun it is to watch for birds and learn about their behaviors. Birds are one of the most oft-mentioned animals in Scripture, and my fellow writing friend Anita Lustrea tells me that renowned theologian John Stott is a lifelong birdwatcher and has done some writing about the importance of birds, so that will be another book I will have to read...someday!


Other Topics: Harry continues to work through his daily lessons in language arts--spelling, handwriting, Classical Writing Primer, First Language Lessons--he can rattle off the list of "state of being" and helping verbs, the definitions of nouns and verbs , and the four types of sentences without much trouble. The contention that classical Christian advocates make, that the "grammar" stage is perfect for memorization, seems to be true for Harry. He is much better than I am at remembering everything from his Latin prayers to his Chinese characters to his growing list of poetry; this week, he finished "The Wind" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Meanwhile, Ron is continuing his work through Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading and becoming better at printing his letters and numbers. He has already expressed his preference not to attend kindergarten at the local elementary school next year; we'll see if that ends up being the way we go! It's still hard to imagine that we may be homeschooling for years into the future, just as much as it now seems hard to imagine a lifestyle back in public school.

Harry's Friday homeschooling co-op is done for the semester, so we'll fill in the time with learning some practical skills, such as typing and Powerpoint. From what I understand, his fellow classmates at his old school begin learning these skills this year, and I'd love for him to do the same. We try to do occasional summary reports for DH, during which Harry gives a presentation on what he has learned and shows his dad the evidence of his work. It's a good way for Jason to get some oral communication experience and keep DH in the loop about what we're doing. My hope is that by the end of the year, Harry will be able to create his own simple Powerpoint slides to accompany the presentations...stay tuned!

Lastly, we spent a number of days on the topic of water (in conjunction with the topic of Jesus, the Giver of Living Water); we've been getting familiar with Tchaikovsky and especially with The Nutcracker Suite, perfect timing for Christmas, and the boys have been continuing with their own music studies. I'll end with this little duet of "Silent Night" they created on their own initiative...a nice way to get into the Christmas spirit!

video
(The boys are really getting into Harry Potter and now even refer to one another as Harry and Ron. I'm still amazed at how quickly the Jedi have been displaced!)