Lesson Learned

As we approached lesson 20 (and the first test) of Calvert 7, I kept telling Ani that studying outside of school time is very important and really paying attention to her lessons and taking notes and what not is a must. She’s gotten better about that in the last week or so and that shows in her checkpoint (short daily quiz) scores and in what she did well on her test (pretty much everything recent she is fabulously on).

Unfortunately, Sonlight was WAY too easy and superficial for her. She never had to try to do anything nor did she have to actually learn anything. Basically, she coasted and was taught to do the least amount possible. Unfortunately (well, fortunately, really), that just won’t work for Calvert. Calvert requires deeper thinking and real learning. And, of course, tests every 20 lessons so you can’t just listen, not really learn, and forget everything you heard.

She didn’t do terribly. She got mostly B’s, but did get a couple lower. She definitely could have done better. But, particularly since it was the first test, I didn’t expect her to do an incredible job. She’s never had tests like that before. Now she knows what to expect 20 lessons from now. She learned an excellent lesson about school and studying and learning. And now she’s looking forward to lesson 40 and her next test. She’s sure she’ll ace that one.

Our New Plan (aka the super long post)

I have finally gotten everything planned and figured out in my mind and so now I can write it all out to share. Some things are being phased in, some things we’ve already started using, and some things we will start using on Tuesday when we go back to school.

The biggest thing is we are dropping Sonlight. This has shocked many of my homeschooling friends, but no matter how much you love something as the teacher, sometimes you have to take a hard look at the kids and if it’s not working, you need to make a change. I really like the history rotation, but it just isn’t working out for Ani and Cameron. Ani has declared that she hates history. That just hurt to hear because I love history so much. Two years of chronological world history has just been too much. My kids are very much spiral-y children. They like to touch on something, move to something else, touch on the first thing a little more deeply, move on to something else, and so on. Slogging through the same thing on and on has just driven them crazy.

And so, in about a month (since I do want to finish Core 2, at least what we are still using of it) we are moving on. I am using the Core Knowledge (What Your X Grader Needs to Know) series to figure out what subjects to cover. In February we will be doing family history. After that we will be doing citizenship. After that… I’m not quite sure. I’ve decided not to plan too far in advance. My brain was reduced to mush trying to figure out everything for a year. And then I realized I just plain don’t need to do that. I can plan a little at a time. Allow for random interests while still covering everything on my master list. That realization led to my Relief! post.

And now I am totally excited about school again. Too often I’ve felt like we are doing school to get through the lessons rather than doing school for the joy of learning. It’s time to get back to that joy of learning. So our new plan…

Our religion lessons will stay pretty much the same. We’ve been reading the Church’s scripture stories, one section a day, and doing a scripture notebooking page on that section. We are almost done with the New Testament so in a few days, the kids will each have a book of synopses of the stories in the Bible, written by them. We’ll also do Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. After that we will move on to Discover the Scriptures’ Book of Mormon (which also uses the Church’s scripture stories). We’ll continue learning the scripture mastery verses, continue reading the scriptures for the kids’ primary lesson, and continue practicing primary songs the kids are learning at church (if there are any). We are adding the Keepers of the Faith character trait booklets. We were using them at night at family scriptures time, but that didn’t work out so we are moving it to during school to see how that goes.

We will be doing art, music, and home ec on an actual schedule. Art appreciation, using the How Artists See… series, will be once a week. We will do a lesson in ARTistic Pursuits once a week. We will be doing some sort of music appreciation once a week. The first thing we’ll do for that is a Mozart lapbook. After that we’ll learn about the lives of various musicians. The children will have a musical instrument lesson once a week using Alfred courses for early elementary students. They got to pick the instruments they wanted to learn. Ani chose the drums and Cameron chose the guitar. Weeks that we have 5 days (which is a maximum of every other week since Jamie works a compressed schedule and has off every other Monday), we will do home ec. We will start with a basic cooking lapbook. Then we will learn some basic hand sewing by making felt animals. I also have some ideas kicking around in my head using Alton Brown’s cookbooks and Good Eats episodes.

We will continue to do PE daily, three to four times a week. Still just random physical activities. Once a week we will do health (required by our state to be covered). We will start that with a healthy bodies lapbook. We will likely continue to just do lapbooks to cover the health topics.

I’ve already said what we are doing for part of social studies. We will also be continuing to use Geography Songs. In a couple months we will start a major US geographical journey, learning some things about every state. I think we will start with Maryland since we live here and then move on in the order the states were admitted to the union. I want the kids to know where each state is, the capitals, and major land features across the country. I also want the kids to learn about all the presidents, but I have solidified when or how to do that yet. As with most subjects, we will be making a lot of lapbooks. This month, while we finish up world history, we’ll be making a lapbook on William Shakespeare.

We will be reading poetry and learning about poetry. I’ve never been good at poetry. I just don’t get symbolism and imagery and all that stuff. When people would say to picture something in my mind I just couldn’t (I have worked on that and have gotten better, but it is still difficult). I see words, not pictures. I want my kids to understand poetry. Ani has already shown a strong interest in poetry and has written several herself. She loves reading poetry. I haven’t decided exactly what poems we’ll be reading. My mom has lots of books of poetry, so we will be using those. We will also, of course, be making a lapbook, Preparing for Poetry.

For the last few months we have been using the Young Scientist Club kits for our science curriculum. It has been absolutely wonderful. We do an experiment every day and we are covering lots of topics. We generally only stay on any given topic for about a week. The kids are loving it. Once we finish those kits, I’m not exactly sure what we will do. We definitely want to continue to do lots and lots of experiments. We have quite a few more kits to go through so I’ve got a lot of time to come up with the next plan.

Language Arts (and reading, writing, and spelling) is changing in some major ways and not changing in some ways. On Tuesday the kids will start Shurley English. Ani will be doing level 4 and Cameron will be doing level 1. I have come to the conclusion that I really do not like the uber-gentle approach to language arts. Ani is very behind where I would expect her to be at this point. So I chose something very rigorous. I’ve looked at it off and on for a long time and decided to take the plunge. A friend of mine uses Shurley with her daughter who is about 6 months younger than Ani. I am quite impressed with what her daughter has done with it. We’ll see how it goes for us. I am prepared for a few battles with Ani because she does not like to do anything that doesn’t come super easy to her and, at least while she is catching up, I don’t think it will be very easy. In addition to Shurley English, we are changing what the kids do for reading. We are no longer doing the Sonlight readers. The pace was too fast for Cameron and the comprehension questions were rather useless for Ani. So Ani will be using the Teacher Created Resources literature guides. Tuesday she will be starting Little House in the Big Woods. After that she will do Island of the Blue Dolphin. I think she will do The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Not sure after that. Cameron will be continuing Progressive Phonics. He really needs the intensive phonics instruction. So far it seems to be working for him and the price (free) is definitely right. Writing and spelling will not be changing at all. Ani will continue working on Write Your Roots. Cameron will continue daily journaling using writing prompts. They will both continue using Spelling City. Cameron’s words will continue to come from the Dolch sight word lists, but Ani’s words will come from the literature guides for the book she is working with (if she runs out of those words, we will continue to use the spelling bee words).

The kids started doing Singapore math a few months ago. It is going super well. Ani is almost done with level 3B. She has loved it and now knows the metric system very well. Wil is slowing going through level 2A. Like reading, math is not easy for him, but he works hard at it. Additionally, Ani has been doing Life of Fred for a couple months. It’s funny and Ani is learning that she needs to pay attention to every word. Many things are mentioned just once, sometimes in a side note, but are very important to remember. She complained a lot that she had to have two maths and Cameron only had one. Because addition and subtraction are so difficult for Cameron, I decided to try him on higher math concepts, but use something fun to do it. So Tuesday he’ll start playing with his ZomeTool and start learning about geometry.

I have added two daily workboxes labeled FUN. What I put in those will range from file folder games to crafts to Draw Write Now to building with Legos. The kids also will continue working on a lapbook of their choice. Starting Tuesday they will both be doing a Bakugan lapbook that I made. Once Ani finishes that, she will do a lapbook using the book The Care and Keeping of You. We will also throw in some unit studies here and there and just generally make learning lots of fun again.

In addition to the big kids, the little boys both will be doing tiny tag along activities now. For Fritz, that means about 20 minutes a day of school. He’s already started teaching himself how to read and he knows several numbers by sight (but can’t count out loud – he says 1, 2, 8 every time now). He knows his colors and shapes. He’ll be doing some lapbooks and file folder games and just generally learning through play. For Adrian, school will be about 10 minutes a day of guided play. Nothing fancy for him. After all, he’s still a baby (okay, toddler, but I call him the baby)!

So there it is. Our new plan. It looks like a lot more written out like that than it really is.

The anatomy of a Sonlight Box Day

First you take a picture of the Fed Ex delivery guy and get a really strange look from him. (You get an even stranger look when your kids are jumping up and down at the sight of their Sonlight boxes and you tell the delivery guy that they are excited over their homeschooling curriculum.)

Then you leave the boxes where the delivery guy placed them just inside the door and go back downstairs to finish the school day. The anticipation of opening the boxes is so fun that I always leave them for a little while until just the right moment comes for opening them.

When the time comes to open the boxes, you check to be sure the toddler isn’t already attacking one of them with a knife. Fritz gets excited over the new books, too.

Then you empty out the box (with several hands helping) and gaze happily at the pile of lovely new books. Following this you have your oldest help you go through the books to be sure everything is there. Ani picks up a book and tells me the name and I check it off on the packing list.

Next you place the baby in the big box where he happily plays until the toddler sticks a bunch of books in the box with (and on top of) the baby. Notice the box can be turned into a nifty castle. That’s one of the awesome things about Sonlight. Even the box is useful.

Finally, you put the labels on the books and stack them in groups. Included are some Sonlight books we already had (like Cameron’s readers – Ani used those when we did Core K).

…In with the new!

Yesterday we started Core 1. For the next 10 or 12 months we will be studying world history through the fall of Rome. It looks like we’ll be reading some great books.

As I went through the lesson plans and organized the books, and then our Sonlight order containing the first ARTistic Pursuits book for level K-3 arrived on Saturday, the kids starting begging me to start Core 1 right then and there. I told them, much to their disappointment, that they had to wait until Monday. Now we have begun our journey and we are all excited to learn more world history.

Out with the old…

We finished Core C on Friday. We thoroughly enjoyed our time being introduced to world cultures and look forward to continuing our studies with Sonlight. I say “our studies” because I am learning right along with my kids.

While we weren’t huge fans of Hero Tales, The Light at Tern Rock, Family Under the Bridge, and Mary on Horseback, we absolutely loved Capyboppy, My Father’s Dragon, The Boxcar Children, Five True Dog Stories, and The Real Mother Goose. The other books were quite enjoyable as well, but those were our favorites. The kids loved The House at Pooh Corner, but I missed most of it since my mom read the whole thing to the kids while I was in Utah because she was enjoying the book so much!

She gets kinda antsy

We are just about done with Core C. We have one more week and then on to Core 1. Every time we approach the end of something – workbook, reading book, whatever – Ani gets kind of antsy and wants to finish it.

So yesterday she decided to do lots of school and finish everything she could. She completed Explode the Code 6, Wordly Wise A, her last Illustrated Book of Mormon, and her readers. She still has to do copywork and write a story next week and one more set of spelling words, and of course math (which she doesn’t exactly have a schedule for) and the stuff we do all together, but other than that she is done with Core C a week ahead of time.

Isn’t this a homeschooling blog?

Why, yes, it is. And we actually are homeschooling here. At least we are most days. Being pregnant is more on the forefront of my mind at the moment, though.

We’re still loving Sonlight. The kids love the read-alouds. Cameron doesn’t like learning to read since it’s not so easy for him like sitting and listening to me read is. Ani’s annoyed that Cameron gets to do all of his language arts and math with me while she has to do most of it on her own.

We are currently reading Hero Tales. Many Sonlighters think it is above the heads of their Core Cers. My kids are a little older for doing Core C than most (but right in the range Sonlight gives, actually). They have no problem with the book. It is interesting to read, though, since missionaries means a very different thing to Protestants than it does to Mormons. Our read aloud is Dr. Dolittle. The kids are absolutely loving that book. We’re learning about bugs in science. Of course the kids love that, too.

Cameron’s still having issues with reading. Thank goodness he’s not in public school where he’d be forced to read in their way on their time. He can remember all the letter sounds, but sometimes I have to remind him what the letter is for him to remember what it says. He is not at all consistent with the letters he forgets. He’s getting better at blending the sounds into words without guessing.

He definitely does not “get” the “families” idea that was a huge hit with Ani. Ani had these sliders shaped like something (like, say, a cat) and it would have the family letters (at) and a space for a letter strip before that and we’d move the strip up and down and she’d read all the words (cat, sat, mat, etc.). Cameron doesn’t think that way. For him to read the word cat, he does it the other way. He figures out that c-a says /ca/ and then puts together /ca/-/t/ to make the word. It works for him so I let him go with it. One day I figure it will all just click. In his own time and in his own way.