All Girls School

Quick update
October 2, 2008, 9:42 pm
Filed under: art, Bubba, curriculum, games, history, math, reading, science, writing

We’ve been studying the respiratory system. I’m a little disappointed because the curriculum that we’re using for science is a little too superficial for Bubba’s level. I find myself quickly scrounging for supplementary items online or in our book and DVD collection to feel that she’s getting something out of the lessons.

Our printer is broken, so we’ve been doing a lot of online math games. Bubba told me that she felt weak on her analog time-telling skills. We found a few games that dealt with that and within thirty minutes or so she was getting all of the questions correct. She needed a refresher from last year and I had no idea. I guess we have mostly digital clocks in the house because I felt like her time-telling was great. I’m glad she was able to tell me that she felt weak in an area and we were able to work on it together. She also requested that we play more games with math, so we’ve been playing cards and Yahtzee lately.

In history we’re hitting Ancient Greece. This is one of my favorite periods in history, especially coming from an art history background, so there are lots of tangents to hit. We’re gearing up to read a bunch of the Greek Myths, but I’m having a hard time putting our regular reading book aside. We’ve been reading The Mysterious Benedict Society. It has been a lot of fun for us as we guess the solutions to the different puzzles. Some of them are over Bubba’s head, but so far she has either been able to figure them out or understand them after we find the answer(s). We’re only about a fourth of the way in, though, and any of the negative reviews state that this is where it starts slowing down. I already see what they say about it needing some editing as there are a lot of passages that are unnecessary and some feel redundant, but the story has been intriguing and fun. We’ll see where it goes from here.

We’ve been doing a little handwriting because she has this block about the number 4 and the number 9. She always makes them backwards. It’s like she knows that she always writes them the wrong way so she overthinks them when she writes them and they are consistently wrong. I have to remind her to use clear and legible handwriting whenever we have written assignments. She hates taking the time to make her letters correctly. I wouldn’t mind if she used a quicker and more comfortable style of writing, but she really never mastered correct writing in the first place. You have to know the rules in order to break them. For our more structured writing lessons we’ve been discussing how to research a topic. We’ve been over the Dewey Decimal System at the library and I’ve been working with her on how to find things on the internet. We’ve also discussed the importance of making sure your sources are legitimate and that she never decides to just go Googling without her dad or I there with her.

In art we are working on shape. Bubba finished the line section two weeks ago. I like the curriculum that we draw from because there are a couple of projects that deal with the technical aspects of the element followed by a couple of really creative projects that incorporate the same element. We have a new project every Monday and then she has the week to complete it. This way she’s been able to take her time and not rush through any of them and the results are much more finished-looking pieces than when we tried to complete them all in one day.


Current Activities
September 4, 2008, 10:18 pm
Filed under: art, baby, Bubba, curriculum, guitar, history, math, music, phonics, preschool, reading, schedule, science, sewing, spelling, writing

Spelling – a list without a pretest. Bubba was struggling with the pretests last year as she’s such a perfectionist and there’s really no point in testing her on things that she hasn’t been taught yet. I almost feel like we should let our spelling instruction come naturally through our writing tasks. When I thought about that more, though, I really want the writing tasks to focus on content and structure and I don’t want to point out every misspelled word and distract from the actual writing. So, structured spelling lists it is. There are supplementing pages that are actually kind of fun and a little bit challenging, so she doesn’t HATE spelling this year. (four days per week)

Phonics – I detest this subject as I think it is super super boring. So does she. I think we’re going to nix phonics or at least skip to the few items in the book that would be instructional and useful to her. I’m going to have to look through our book a little more to weed out the busy work. (once per week, but maybe not at all.)

Science – We’re doing a unit on the human body with lots of activities thrown in. She’s also doing quite a bit of writing by logging our daily tasks and making little booklets and stuff. We’ve checked out a bunch of human body books from the library and she has been reading them with and to her little sisters and taking them in the car when we go pick up Mimi from school. The other day she was reading about the heart and we ended up having a great conversation about the relationship between the size of an animal and how quickly its heart beats. We’re planning on a trip down to the Science Museum to see the human body exhibit before it leaves next month. (twice a week)

Math – Right now we’re doing mostly review of addition and subtraction of multiple numbers. I’ve found lots of fun activities that incorporate these. I’m going to work with her on a sewing project to work on our measuring skills (and estimating skills, as I am a laaaaazy sewer). We’ve also done some cooking and we practice our fractions. I expect that the cooking will increase as the holiday season gets nearer and we’ll do a lot of practical math like doubling recipes and figuring out the metric system and equivalencies. She really wants to move on in math and get to multiplication and stuff, but I am feeling that we should ease back into the subject. (three times per week)

History – We tried to do an entire year of history over the summer, but burned out on it. We got about a third of the way through it before we shelved it until the school year. We are still in ancient history, but Bubba loves it. She really gets into most of the stories and we have some fun discussions after reading them. It is always amazing to me the details and names she remembers after reading. There are some that I have to go back and look up that she rattles off really quickly. This is one of our favorite subjects as we always learn something new and there is always some sort of fun project to go with it and reinforce the lesson. (twice a week)

Writing – Most of our writing is done within our other subjects as Bubba balks at having to sit down and write just for the sake of writing. One day per week we do do some sort of writing task. Lately we have been working on different brainstorming techniques. At first she was lazy and bored with it until she ended up coming up with a really fun and creative story based on some of her brainstorming. Every Friday is poetry day and we do something different. Last week we had a book from the library about rocks (her current passion) and it was a long poem about different types. We read it and then she chose her favorite type of rock from the poem and copied out that page in her best writing. We have a book of Roald Dahl poems for tomorrow that I’m very excited about.

Reading – Every day I read a chapter of The Wizard of Oz outloud to her. When we’re finished with the book we’re going to watch the movie and compare and contrast it to the book. I think we’ll do it orally or I’ll have her write down the main points and present it to Dad or something. I’ve been thinking about all of the different books we could read and then watch the movie to compare and the options are huge. I think it will give her a better idea of how much better the books typically are, too, and promote more reading. She also reads for half an hour to herself or to her sisters outloud.

Music – She practices her guitar every day except for lesson days. She was given two new songs to practice at her last lesson. We were also informed of her first recital coming up in October. I can’t wait to watch her play in front of everyone.

Art – At the beginning of every week we start a new art project. She then has the entire week to work on it and refine it in order to have a very thoughtfully and thoroughly finished piece. The first few projects in each unit are more technical, exploring each element (line, texture, etc.). Then there are a few really creative projects that incorporate the techniques previously studied.

(On a side note, Baby started preschool today, but I haven’t had time to get the photos off of the camera yet. I’ll write about it when I have them on the computer. Suffice it to say that she had a blast and it sounds like the day went really well.)

Mid Year Check Up
December 9, 2007, 7:04 pm
Filed under: Bubba, curriculum

Last summer I looked up the curriculum for first grade in our state. I wrote down the main learning points for each subject and saved them on the computer. Because I knew there would be a long slow learning curve on both of our parts, I didn’t reference it at all. I mean, I remembered some of the items, and I tried to incorporate those, but mostly I just tried to figure out how to make it work for us. But, now that we are hitting the halfway mark in this school year, I felt that it would be a good idea to gauge where we’re at in respect to her peers. I was expecting us to be way ahead in some areas and to not have touched others. I was correct.

We’re well ahead in many areas of math. It has always been her favored subject, so we just keep going and going with it until she’s satisfied. We;re going to continue with fractions for a while longer and move on to multiplication after the holidays. She can do multiplication with her fingers right now, even the bigger ones like 9 x 9, but I’d like her to get to the point where she’s not using her fingers for it.

Her current social studies has centered on learning about different cultures and periods in history. The local first grade curriculum focuses on things closer to home like courtesy, rules and responsibilities. These are things that we’ve worked on her whole life, so I don’t feel very compelled to make a unit study on them. Other things, like map work and identification are things that we haven’t done a whole lot of, so that’s something we can work on after the new year.

I will admit to falling short in science so far. I have no real excuse for this, other than her interests not lying in this subject. As I mentioned before, she chose to study weather for a while, but soon found it held very little interest for her. So, I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to incorporate more science. The local curriculum consists of learning the scientific method and identifying properties of objects as well as observing animals in their environments and watching life cycles. Those are all things that we can easily cover, especially this spring when we can be outside observing these things first hand.

In regards to reading, she’s reading well above her level, but in looking at the curriculum, I see that I need to be going over the specifics of the structure of sentences with her. She intuitively understands these things, but I need to be putting words to the different parts of sentences. Other than that, we’re golden in reading.

Bubba’s writing is good and age appropriate, but I think that if we really work on it, it can progress even farther. Again, just like in reading, I need to be identifying the structure of things so that she can focus on them specifically instead of just writing in a way that feels correct. So, working on reading and writing together should improve them both.

As far as the arts go, she’s continuing her guitar lessons and we do lots of drawing and crafts, as well as some rudimentary biographies on artists.

I hate to compare or progress with that of the public curriculum because I am really happy with what we’ve accomplished this year. But, since there’s still a slight uncertainty that I will always be able to homeschool, I feel better knowing she will at least be at the same level in all of these subjects if she was to return to school. (Plus, I will admit that in my “first-year-of-homeschoolin brain”, I feel better being able to quantify what we’ve done in some way.)

Not keeping up
October 9, 2007, 6:24 am
Filed under: Bubba, curriculum, reading

Ok, so I haven’t been very good about updating lately. It probably has to do with the fact that it’s my favorite time of year, so we’re outside doing stuff a lot of the time. It’s no longer hot enough to melt the soles of your shoes on the sidewalk, so we can be outside for longer than five minutes at a stretch. We’re working on some landscaping that needs to be finished before winter and spending a lot of time with our friends and family. School has taken a bit of a back burner to real life stuff. We’re still plugging along and all, our hearts just aren’t as into it at the moment, so it’s more of a “let’s get this stuff out of the way so we can hang out and play” type of deal. But, I think we are at a place to move past that now and really get back into our studies.

Over the summer our library hosted a two-person theater production. The play was about Sherlock Holmes. All of the girls loved the play, and Bubba decided that she’d like to hear more stories about him. I have a small book with three Sherlock Holmes stories in it. I was concerned that she wouldn’t find it as riveting as the wonderful play that we saw, and I was right. It’s a little bit old-fashioned and isn’t paced the way modern stories are. She’s following it, but not really engaged. She doesn’t ask to read more of it every day like she does with other books. So, we may just shelve that and move on to something else. I think we’ll start a Halloween unit. She’s incredibly excited about the holiday and our first annual costume party. I think we can come up with all kinds of fun seasonal tie-ins for that.

First Day of School
September 4, 2007, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Bubba, curriculum, guitar

Today went really well. We took the obligatory first day photo:

Now, while I would like to run things more along the lines of unschooling, there are a few things that have caused me to become more curriculum based. The first is, there is no guarantee at this point that I won’t have to return to daytime work outside the home at this point. We are doing our best to keep that from being the case, but you just never know what could happen. So, I have looked at the required curriculum for our state in all subject matters for first grade and I’m making sure that we cover at least up to those points so that if she would have to go back to public school for second grade, she would not be behind anywhere.

Second, Bubba adored her kindergarten and was hesitant to agree to homeschooling. I assured her that we would do a lot of the same kinds of things that she did at school here at home. Some of those things include worksheets. She is a weird kid. There have been times when we’ve been at a store and I’ve let the girls pick out a book or coloring book to buy. Many times she’ll choose a huge book full of math worksheets and spend hours a day working on them, asking us to check over them and then working on them some more until they’re finished. She loves math and I’m thrilled about that, but she has also come to rely on worksheets as her preferred method of learning. Hopefully we’ll be weaning her off of that.

The third reason that I’ve decided to give us a fairly structured day is because we always have a minimum of two other kids running around, sometimes there are up to six. So, to be able to give Bubba some focused time for us to work on stuff and make sure that she doesn’t get shuffled on her own too much while I deal with toy disputes and diaper changes, we have a set routine for the day. I’ve incorporated plenty of free time, but we have a solid two hours for our lessons and plenty of places later in the day to complete them if they run long. We also have a carved out time for reading. She’ll be reading to herself and to me (and probably the other kids who are here) and I’ll be reading to her, too. I let her choose the first book that I’ll read to her, Ramona the Pest. That’s one of my all time favorites from when I was her age.

So, right now I have invested into quite a few workbook materials for different lessons and I’m hoping to gradually phase those out to more learning by doing things. I don’t know, maybe this is the best way for her to learn. We’ll see.

She did some pretty basic number line work today. We also did a couple of word games that focused on following directions. She’s a lot like me in that she’ll skim things quickly and dive right in without reading thoroughly. It was good practice for her. We had a long discussion about writing. I found a nice little book with quite a few writing exercises that build on top of each other to hopefully give her a good foundation for writing. Today we discussed ideas and brainstorming and what to do initially once we come up with our topic. She wrote for a good twenty minutes in her journal. We are planning on learning about all 50 states this year. Today we began with Washington DC. She did a little word search and a code word thing about it. Then we read our DC flash card from the deck we bought and talked about what it means to be our nation’s capital and how it differed from state capitals. Lastly she did what we’ll be doing on the first day of every month and that is decorating the bulletin board. She and I picked out a lot of different seasonal papers at Hobby Lobby when it was all 50% off. This way she gets to express her creativity and get geared up for the coming month and we don’t have to spend money on those cheap borders from the supply stores. She created the September title and surrounded it with balloons and presents since it’s her birthday month.

Speaking of birthdays, her present arrived today. Good thing because tomorrow is her first lesson. She was so excited.