Our "school year" tends to move on a January to January basis, instead of the public school September to September route. We kind of moved into this rhythm last year. It seem to work well for us, although I really have to think when someone says "What grade is your daughter in?" Um...well...
Ms. D seems to love history. Because of this, we tend to reference many subject through the learning of that subjects particular history. So far, this has made any given subject come alive for us.
Up until this year, we have taken a rather unschooling approach with very little sit down formal work, unless it was desired for some reason or another. However, at this point in Ms. D's education (age 11) we are finding routine is being craved, and learning is taking a more formal direction out of necessity and desire. This may change. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Who knows. Stay tuned is all I can say.
Reading/Writing/Grammar: These three subjects all seem to work together, don't they? You may be familiar with Ms. D's issues on reading.* We really like Spell To Read and Write.
This method covers around 29 English spelling rules and the English phonograms, or sounds, that make up the words we speak. I was always told English didn't have many rules, but this method helped me make sense of English and improve my own spelling. While Ms. D was busy training her eyes (see below) and reading more, we began some simple spelling. This method also incorporates some amount of Grammar. If I had to do it over I may have used All About Spelling. Very similar methodology to Spell To Read And Write. And it seems more user friendly. If nothing else, there are some wonderful articles on their website. Alas, I only have one child to teach...
Speaking of Grammar, because Ms. D wasn't reading well, it didn't seem prudent to start the subject of Grammar. I"m also a bit of a proponant of delaying Grammar until the reading/spelling/creative writing come together a bit more. Of course, we talked about grammar and parts of speech and as she started to read, she could see and imitate these. Now the "why" part of the puzzle needs to be uncovered. We will be doing this with Junior Analytical Grammar (JAG). The website is here, and you may like to peruse it a bit. Right now it's a bit hard to navigate, but I have heard from the author that they will be re-vamping soon! (See also: Bravewriter under Creative Writing and Lit)
In the category of writing. I love Getty Dubay Italics.
I think it is beautiful, easy to use, easy to transition from printing
to cursive. Unlike traditional D'Nealian or Zaner-Bloser methods the
capitol letters of printing look just like the capitol letters in
cursive. Ms. D is a lefty and this seems to work good for her. While
there is some right slant to the letters, she can easily tackle this,
but more often than not her handwriting has a straight up and down
look, which still comes across as readable and pleasing in Italics. Here is a PDF comparison of various handwriting methods.
*The fact that she had no interest in reading even at the age of 8 caused me concern. If that had been the only issue I would've let it go and let her go at her own pace. However, she could read a word perfectly one day and stumble over it the next. I could tell dyslexia wasn't an issue, but I didn't know what was. She had 20/20 vision after all and her optometrist said her eyes weren't the issue behind her reading. I tried various curriculum...nothing was working.Enter a most lovely online friend, Val, who had some experience with her own children along the same vain. She suggested I talk to a developmental optometrist. I could spend PARAGRAPHS on this topic. Suffice to say, if you have any doubt about your childs reading and you have ruled out dyslexia then check with a developmental optometrist. It may be hard to find one. It may be poo poo'ed by your optometrist,and it may be an outlay of cash if insurance doesn't cover it. But do it. Because I can NOT believe the difference in Ms. D in six months. Through vision therapy and it's exercises Ms. D LOVES to read. Within 6 months she was reading everything in sight. And well, too. The improvement is vast. If your child is in public school there is even more of a reason to look into this route. Usually these type of eye issues are not addressed in the average school eye exam. It is often that children with these easily correctable eye issues are labeled LD. Don't get me on my soapbox.....here are a few websites I encourage you to check out.
On Track Reading (great info on all sorts of reading issues and articles on dyslexia and VT)
There is controversy over vision therapy, but it worked for us. I can't argue with results.
Creative Writing/Literature: Ms. D has a creative bent to begin with. Despite her late blooming reading, her creative writing has never been an issue. She can weave a darn good story. She seems to instinctively know some of the basic elements of a good yarn. Symbolism, illusion, foreshadowing to name a few. We enjoy reading aloud and listening to story's on CD and that has certainly enhanced her creativity. We learn by copying, right? However, I wanted to hone her writing skills and love of literature at the same time. Enter Bravewriter.
The idea of Bravewriter and The Writer's Jungle is so much more than I could ever begin to describe here. And we use only a portion of it. There is something for all ages and abilities on this site. Grab some tea, head on over and take a peak. There is a Home Study Course, A Language Arts Course, and Online Courses. Be sure to check out Friday Freewrite, Tuesday Tea and the Bravewriter lifestyle. Ms. D and I have availed ourselves of The Arrow. I could not describe it better than the site does itself:
Each month, the Arrow features one classic novel. Four passages (one
per week) are selected and included in full, from the novel....
First, you and your child will read the passage outloud to hear the
musicality of the language, to notice the correct use of apostrophes or
semi-colons, to note new vocabulary and tricky spellings, to pay
attention to the grammatical structure or the special dialog
punctuation. The Arrow supplies you with notes to help you notice what
you might overlook in the passage.....
After you’ve enjoyed the passage together, your child will either
copy it into a copy book attempting to reproduce it exactly, paying
close attention to all of the spelling and mechanical demands of the
passage (copywork), or you will read the passage to your child and he
or she will write it out onto a sheet of paper while listening to you,
attempting to remember how to punctuate and spell the passage
correctly. Copywork/dictation done about once a week over several years
does more to increase your child’s ability to punctuate and spell
correctly than almost any other practice I’ve ever run across. The
French swear by it and use dictation from Kindergarten all the way
through lycee (high school).
Consistent dictation practice allows you, the home educator, to use quality literature to cover the aspects of writing that you care most about without the tedium of workbook sentences isolated from the context of real writing.
In the Arrow, with dictation passages already selected, explanations for why the passages were chosen as well as teaching tips for grammar, spelling and punctuation, parents like you have discovered that they can cover the mechanics of writing through literature.
Ms.D loves history as I've mentioned and we've been delving into the history of the English language a bit. I highly recomment Ellen McHenry's website. We've downloaded the free portions Excavating English and love it! I look forward to buying the rest of it.
To further our enjoyment of literature we've used History Scribe biography worksheets and reading logs. Ms. D loves filling out a reading log after she's read a book. In her words "It's kind of like being a book critic!"
Math/Math History: Ah, Math. I've written about that before, and won't go into too many details, however I believe pretty much what this says.
We are in flux right now. Trying to figure out what works for us. I highly recommend checking out Living Math. As much as Ms. D loves and responds to history this site takes a chronological look at Maths and how it developed over centuries in different cultures. Thereby we are exposed to various mathematical thoughts and ideas. Living Math also has hard copy unit study's for purchase. Or you can just avail yourself of the great resources outlined on their site. Wonderful!
We loved the style of Right Start math,the pace, the focus, and the new way of looking at Math. At the point, however, we are checking out some other options in math and playing around with those. For example,we recently picked up Galore Park Junior Maths and are perusing that.
Ms. D feels the pressure of having to have one "right" answer and following a logical line of thought to get that answer. She wants to jump ahead to find the answer, to guess, without putting one foot in front of the other. Ideally, this is how she learns best. And when it comes to math....gathering the parts to make a whole just doesn't work. And it saps the confidence. So we are concentrating on building confidence and learning that one step at a time really works!
I have also used the tests that come with these and Ms. D seems to enjoy those. But what we really love, are the audio versions of the book! At
this point in time I am trying to figure out what to use as an overall
review of the history we've studied thus far. Something that pulls what
we've learned together before we move forward in our 2nd cycle of
history. I like Short Lessons in World History, but have recently been reviewing Brimwood Press' What Every Child Needs To Know About Western Civilization.
recently asked someone on a forum what she thought of What Every
Child.. as an overview after SOTW, and I will copy/paste her short
First of all, it will not replace SOTW. It is self described as a quick
fly by or fly over approach to history whereas SOTW is a slow wagon
ride. You need both; SOTW to go over the details and Western
Civilization to put it all together. For instance, I am amazed both by
how much history my kids know and yet again by how they really don't
know how it flows. Did Alexander the Great come before or after the
Trojan War? Was Cleopatra an Old Civilization Pharoah? These questions
they got mixed all up. But Brimwood Press's Western Civilization is
tying this all together.
There are many resources included in the product. First there are cards that the children put in order during each lesson (these cards contain historical people). At first, they get them all confused,but you, the teacher do not correct them. Then as the lesson goes on, day by day, they learn the correct order of people and therefore, events. We review the cards every day to remember the major events each one depicts. Also, Brimwood provides stickers for each card. These are reminders of the achievements and events of the civilization. (For example a parthenon sticker for classical greece, a ziggurat for ancient Sumer.) These stickers are placed on the back of the card and we review these each day.
Next, Brimwood provides a sticker for the Calendar Quest story that is to be placed on the timeline. This is good for the visual display of how much time has passed in the story.
There are so many really great history resources out there, it's hard to choose. But we've really liked Story of the World. Of course we use various history resource books to, like Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and Usborne.
In terms of U.S. History. Hmmm. That has been a harder row to hoe. I am very picky when it comes to U.S. History. I do not care for a nationalistic bent that I find in so many U.S. History books. I do know that this particular bias is inevitable, however, less is more in my opinion. Joy Hakim's History of US is very popular and workable. While I think this would make a lovely reference I did not choose to use it as a spine or curriculum. So I"m still in flux. I have been using various books we've picked up here and there as a springboard for learning about the start of U.S. History. Meanwhile, we are starting with All American History Vol. 1 by Celeste W. Rakes.
I also purchased the Activity Book. So far, we are both enjoying the book, but we are not very far. I'll let you know!
A Young People's History of the United States Vol 1 is also on my wish list.
Another resource that we love, combining art, history and essay writing is anything from History Scribe! Check it out! Of course, we also use various historical atlas', maps, movies, documentaries etc.
Geography/Geog History: Ugh. I've had a hard time finding the "perfect" geography book. So far, the biggest success has been Evan Moor Daily Geography.
We breeze throught his pretty fast but Ms.D seems to really like the format. As opposed to The Complete Book of Maps and Geography, which we have tried but Ms. D HATES. I have no idea why, it's just not working for us. The same can be said for Cantering the Country and Trail Guide to Geography. You may want to check the links out, however, as many people love these guides. They have free samples to download, also! What is working for us, in addition to Evan Moor, is Mapping the World by Art by Ellen McHenry. It's not quite finished yet, but you can download the first seven chapters for free!
I am intrigued by Galore Parks So You Really Want To Learn Geography? I am waiting to find a used copy to peruse. We also have several resource/atlas type books with lots of maps. We refer to these often in the course of learning history and so forth. It is inevitable that by doing so, we learn about physical, topographical, political maps/latitude and longitude and so forth.
has been a joy to use. Please download a sample and take a peak. It is
set up for easy teaching and easy use. There are lists of resources and
lab tools all in one handy spot. This was great for when Ms. D was
younger, but now we are ready to move on to something a bit more in
depth. I'm checking out Real Science 4 Kids and think I would like to start us in Chem 1. But I also really love what Ellen McHenry has once again done with The Elements, Carbon Chemistry and The Brain. Then there is Galore Park again with So You Really Want to Learn Science.
And for Science History? We are very happy with our first peak of Joy Hakim's The Story of Science.
We own Aristotle Leads the Way and Ms. D will pick this up and read sections. I would love to incorporate it more fully into our studies, but it may just end up being a great resource to have on hand.
Art/Art History: We have so many art books around the house. Art history's, art manuals, art biography's, history of art. We particularly love Usbornes Introduction to Art, Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, and The Annotated Mona Lisa.
I still stand by my high reccomendation of Artistic Pursuits.
Well worth the money in their approach to teaching kids art technique and appreciation without dumbing it down or insulting the students inherant creativity.
I would also recomment Short Lessons in Art History and Simon Schama's Power of Art. The later is a documentary style discussion of eight of history's most profound art and artists. It's powerful and intense, perhaps too much so for some younger viewers, so preview and watch at your own discresion.
Music/Music History: As with art, I couldn't begin to give a complete run down of everything we are exposed to and use for Music and Music History so just a few will have to suffice. The Teaching Company's Great Masters are a wonderful resource. Ms. D especially enjoys listening to these. Naxos has some wonderful CD's and downloads. I have purchased, used, a few college courses in Music and Music History. We use these, now, for reference, and later, as Ms. D is older, we will use these for a Music Curriculum. There are about 1 gazillion classical music websites that have great ideas and downloads. Just google.
I tried Beautiful Feets History of Classical Music and we were all "eh." over it...but you may find it useful! It relies on some wonderful music books for it's spines.
Typing: Ms. D has just starting take a strong interest in typing as a way to stay in touch with friends/family. We are going to be trying Typing Tutor as soon as mommy gets an Amazon order together.
We've also been recommended BBC Typing Mat and are going to give that a try.
Life Skills/Library Skills: Ms. D is at the library at least once a week, if not more. Needless to say, by necessity, she has learned to use the library and it's resources. She is on a first name basis with most the librarians and is always free to ask questions.
D participates in public speaking activities, preparing and delivering
reports on different topics. Ms. D is getting very good at preparing
meals! She is proficient in using the stove, and enjoys cooking. She
has started and interest in learning to bake. Interesting how that came
up...I said I was going to make cookies and kept putting it off. Next
thing I know, she's pulling out the ingredients and starting to follow
the recipe. I'm telling you, Moms, there is something to be said for
procrastinating. Don't feel guilt over that. They learn self
sufficience. I'm only partially kidding.
Volunteer Work: Ms.
D participates in various volunteer activities. Two name just two she
helps out at the library. She takes the initiative to approach various
professionals in lines of work that interest her. She is always eager
to talk to them and learn more. Recently, Ms. D had a conversation with
our vet, who invited her to come and spend a day at the Vet office this
summer. She is very excited about that, and they have even mentioned
she can observe a surgery!
of this writing, Ms. D is still having some Vision Therapy and some
Occupational Therapy to help with the above mentioned (see footnote)
vision issues. We will be cutting these back to twice a month as she
has improved a great deal and just needs some tweaking.
Swimming/Horse Riding: Ms.
D continues her swim lessons and horse back lessons. Swim lessons
throughout the spring, and horse lessons in spring/summer as we have
time and money for!
When I first started this homeschooling thing I wanted this boxed up
perfection of a pre made curriculum. I wanted someone else to do it for
me. I quickly figured out that wasn't the road for us.( Luckily BEFORE
I purchased one.) For starters I liked one company's history and
grammar scope but didn't at all care for their literature package. Then
I started to chafe at the thought of HAVING to accomplish the lesson in
a proscribed set of days and feeling under that type of pressure. There
are some of you who realize I don't work good in that kind of
environment at all. I also wanted to be able to tailor a curriculum to
Ms. D's needs which, to me, was a huge reason I wanted to homeschool.
After much research and thanks to B, who turned me on to The Well Trained Mind
I realized that I could put together my own curriculum based on our needs and likes/dislikes. Which I promptly did for the basic "R's". It's very interesting to watch how this has all morphed over the last couple years. We've dumped some subject curriculums for others, and sometimes put together our own through on line resources, worksheets and library books when we can't find what we need. I know this is apt to change the minute I say it, but this is the first year I feel like we've really discovered who we are in terms of learning and the flow of our days.
On one of the side bars I've notated (or will) what we use for each subject . I know that this isn't really going to do much for those of you who aren't homeschooling or are past this age and you may not truly care. So skip anything marked curriculum. But for those of you who are curious or perhaps experiencing some down time at work and can't find a truly interesting blog to visit except this one, well, this is for you. I might add that homeschooling or not some of these materials and sites are awesome. There is SO much out there. I'm terribly addicted to trolling for new ideas and curriculum and oy! the amount of bookmarks I have for educational kids stuff is a work of art.
History being one of my favorite subjects I was alway intent on finding something really complete for Ms. D. I was (and still do to some degree) trying to follow the trivium model outlined in The Well Trained Mind.
So I wanted something that would suffice for about four years and then go back over the material in depth later. I also wanted to start with Ancient History and move forward instead of the "public school" model which tends to not follow history in a linear pattern. The author of The Well Trained Mind saw a niche for this type of product and came out with The Story of the World in four volumes. To accompany it there is an Activity book which has additional reading suggestions, fictional/literary suggestions to coincide with the lessons, map activities (maps included. I really like not having to run to the computer and print all the time) and some pretty great projects. Per the projects when studying ancient Egypt we made a small model of the Nile and flooded it. (We opted out of mummifying a chicken but it was a great idea. ) There are often recipes and such for one to delve into the particular culture you read about. I also liked that this series touched on what was going on in the rest of the world during pinnacle points in history. So instead of just Greeks and Romans one gets the whole shebang...like what was going on in Africa and Asia.
I think it's obvious to those that know me, that I am not entirely fond of science. I think beyond the teachers I didn't like that happened to teach science, what turns me off is the whole scientific process. It seems so, obvious. You guess, you try it out, it works or not. But NO. Scientists have to break it down to it's minutest forms. It's a HYPOTHESIS, A TRIAL or TEST, A CONCLUSION. Ah, of course it's a guess, let's just see what works. And then they only believe what they see. Hello? I think it's been proven many times that often ideas that can't be proven are later proven. If that makes no sense, just think of the science of medicine. All that anecdotal evidence out there that Doctors won't believe until someone funds a study and they figure out that a million or so people with the same experiences are scientifically correct!
I really didn't want to pass this unscientific bias on to my child. I really wanted her to love science. I looked for a curriculum that would work for someone like me and still be fun. AND wasn't to religious, AND wasn't too secular...needle in a haystack. I'd have to write my own.
I started by following The Well Trained Minds idea of using a spine. I chose the Usborne History of Natural World book. We started going through that and when she had questions we'd go to the library or find worksheets online. I was spending a lot of time online looking for interesting things for her, worksheets and so on. Too much time. And there wasn't much for experiments. I didnt' want to put a ton of time, money and thought into experiments but i wanted something. I finally discovered R.E.A.L. Science for kids. (Actually through an online community. It's amazing what you find when you ask for it. Many have paved the way...) This book comes with hints on how to teach, goes over the material in a easy way and then has very simple projects and experiments. Butterfly farms, worm farms, slug searches, nature walks......I was so happy. We are just finishing up Life Science and I just ordered the Second Volume of Earth Science. The authors idea is to go forward with Chemistry and Physics for Ms. D's grade level and then jump to the next more intense level per the next trivium stage. For some reason, (and I wrote to try to find out) there is a bottleneck and she won't be writing much more. She probably has a life. Although for my sake I'm saddened by this fact. I really like her style. On the other hand, the style is getting simplistic for Ms. D at this point. She needs something a bit more intense. So my search will begin anew. I've got a few things in mind, but haven't found anything definite.
Grammar, Spelling, Writing
For Handwriting we've been using Getty Dubay Italics. I love the look of this method. The segueway from printing to cursive is a seamless and sensible one. I have never particularly liked the Zaner Bloser or D'Inealian method as so often the cursive letters resemble not at all the printed letters. Although, I am sad to think that my grade school teachers penmenship (along with her perfume) would go out of style. But I think that was bound to happen when the children of the 80's started really rounding their letters and making bubbles over their "i"s.
Meanwhile, for grammar a.k.a Language Arts, I've been using the authors of Well Trained Mind First Language Lessons which covers several years and Second Language Lessons. Frankly, we find it a bit boring and are looking for something else. I do like that they stress memorization and that has been fun.
The Well Trained Mind and other classical curriculum's stress not only lovely handwriting, but developing ones skills with written language. The act of writing coherently. Of proposing a well thought out arguement. However, I am looking into two courses that I find exciting in terms of exploring good literature via narration, dictation and copywork. The first Bravewriter, also deeply delves into writing cohesive thoughts out in proper spelling and grammar. The other is Writing Tales, which homeschool mom Amy Oleson has wrote.
I've copied a sample from Bravewriter to see if I want to subscribe. Meanwhile, I'm trying to find a used copy of Writing Tales to see how it will fit for us.
I find it amazing, as surrounded as we are by books, as much as we read, and read aloud, as much as we use books and encourage books in our daily life, our child has had no interest until very recently in reading. I found it upsetting because I loved books at her age and worried about the infamous "getting behind" issue.
Devi seemed to hate anything to do with reading. We used The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading
It was simple but she was struggling. I wondered about a learning disability. I forced, I cajoled, I would out stubborn her and figured she'd thank me later. But neither of us were having fun; we were butting heads. If it was actually working it would've been worth it. But it wasn't working. I tried games. When she asked how to spell a word, to her frustration I would say "Okay the first letter says "Rrrrr" what is that?" until she quit asking for my help. As we were both frustrated we took a break while I searched for some other method.
And then I discovered that the beauty of homeschooling is to let kids learn at their own pace. I discovered some wonderful articles on unschooling that calmed me down considerably. While not fully believing in unschooling in it's purist and most radical sense, I started to relax and trust Devi a bit more. I stopped forcing. I started spelling words out when she was working on her own projects. I stopped testing her. I stopped making her read out loud. She stopped being embarrassed, she stopped balking when reading was mentioned. She began to sit down with books and just look at pictures and attempt to read the captions. She started to pick out words. Oh, she wasn't on fire, but she was at least taking an interest.
I credit two things with motivating her to delve into the written word a bit more. The first is Daniel Handler.
Mr. Handler was kind enough to write A Series of Unfortunate Events under the name Lemony Snicket. These books tickled Devi's funny bone, her sense of drama, her love of language. It started almost 8 months ago when we decided to get the books on tape. After listening to the series she wanted the books so she could see the few pictures that were in them. While listening to the books the second time around she would attempt to follow in certain places. While she had much of the text memorized she was actually following along and noting the words and how they were spelled and put together. She would pick out a book, find a certain part and ask me to read it to her. But first, of course, she had to find the part she wanted me to read. And she did this by.....reading! Not perfectly. But things were clicking.
Enter the second thing I credit for motivating her to read more. The Spalding Method. Otherwise, known as The Writing Road to Reading. The child is basically learning the sounds that go with the letters....so bbbb for B (the sound, NOT 'buh' or 'bee') After learning these sounds you learn (whether mastered or not) some simple spelling rules. For example: The letter C (sound c like cat, sound c like cent) makes the soft c sound only when followed by e, i or y. They spelling rules are simple to remember and start to make sense when used. there are about 30 or so spelling rules for the English Language. We also have a spelling quiz based upon the sounds we've learned and the rules we've learned. We also play games with the phonograms (sounds). We'll quiz and test each others memory. Devi also has an interest in the origins of words, so we go over a few Latin/Greek roots while we're at it.
I decided to go with an easier version of this method using a homeschooled tailored approach called Spell to Write and Read.
Results: not overnight, but interest is certainly being shown in putting together thoughts and sentences in written form. She enjoys writing short reports. She can read various workbook questions and does so without thinking about it too much. When trying to spell she no longer asks me to actually spell FOR her, but asks if her spelling is correct. I tried to interest her in Little House books, which is where I thought her reading level is. She read the first sentence missing only a few words, however, really hates reading out loud. I don't know why that is. Whether or not she's embarrassed or just hates being put on the spot.
Whatever the case, I am pleased that she is going forward at her own pace.
I have noted some advantages at her delayed reading. She has an AMAZING ability to organize her thoughts in a coherent, mature pattern without having to write everything down. Her gift for memory is incredible too. For her talks, she has to actually memorize them with a few words written to prompt her. She is, therefore, a great extemporaneous speaker and can work very well from an outline.
It's very simple really.
David wanted something that taught technique but allowed freedom of expression. (This involves not telling a child "The sky is blue" or any "how-to's " when it comes to art lessons) You would not imagine how hard that is to find in the world of art curriculum's. To add to this conundrum I wanted to mix art appreciation with art technique. Find that! But, lo! I did. After much searching I came up with Artistic Pursuits.
We're not rushing through it by any means. We augment with books on art that we buy and look through together, art appreciation games, and artistic en devours around the house. Devi spends at least a third of her day drawing. She makes amazingly expressive characters. She has stories that are completely mapped out in her head right down to dialogs. And I don't mean just a few stories. She has at the very least 100. When I compare her artwork to other kids her age I am amazed at the difference. I'm not saying she's a prodigy by any means, but she loves it and improves with doing.
I've basically made up my own music curriculum based on some fantastic CD's I have purchase online. Most are college music courses that I have tailored for us. Incredible range from Gregorian to modern jazz. I try to pull these together with whatever we are studying in history. Since we've studied ancient history first we haven't had alot of music appreciation yet, must getting into Gregorian type stuff and will be moving into medieval music. We also have used the Classical Kids CD's like Beethoven Lives Upstairs and so forth. She is getting a bit beyond these, but still enjoys them occasionally. I just purchased a group called Libera. Basically modern boys choir. She loves that.
I found a wonderful singing CD that broke harmonies down so that one can learn them individually and then singing with the CD. We've finished it up and I just found another set. Very excited to start this. Devi loves to pick out harmony and instruments in music.
It is my ardent hope that we are getting a piano this year. She is really wanting to learn an instrument and already I feel guilty for not having started her sooner. My bad.
And of course, there is modern music. She adores Broadway music: Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, Music Man,etc and has a big taste for Gwen Stefani, Shakira, The Pogues, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Queen, and Wyclef. That girl can groove.
Devi loves, loves, loves geography. Go figure. We used Evan Moor Daily Geography Practice which forces her to read. Go figure again. She loves to be quizzed about the states and their capitals.
In addition to learning how to use maps, keys, graphs, topo maps, etc....we are also learning states. She is constantly jumping ahead of my plans. Which is fine, I'm thrilled. I'm actually learning that Vadalia is in Georgia, and that the capital of Florida is Tallahassee.
I'm moving towards a more state inclined book to learn the states. More intense learning.
We are making our own Fifty States notebook with pictures of the state, state bird, flower, flag and a couple short sentences about the state. We map it, find it's highlights and move on.
Lit and Lit Appreciation
This hasn't been to hard. Reading great books (and not so great) are part of our lives. From The Bible to Great Expectations. As a way of first exposing her to some great stuff we used books on tape ( I can't rave enough about books on tape...) narrated by Jim Weiss. There is a huge collection and while some find his voice takes getting used to, we really love him.
So Shakespeare, Galileo and Mark Twain to name a few. Last winter Dad was trying to read Les Miserable and read us a couple descriptions from the book. She really remembers those few parts very well. I think just hearing well written literature is a very profound experience for kids. The rythyms and cadences, the descriptions, the build up of the narrative. Kids seem to take it all in and learn from it without even knowing it. So many kids, without knowing it, when writing stories of their own learn to build suspense, or fill sentences full of descriptives without realizing they've even learned to do it.
Right now, through history, we've been discussing Shakespeare. This has led Devi to explore his plays and therefore his literature and writing. We are planning to discuss other authors of the area like Bacon and Johnson. We haven't gotten into his sonnets and I think we'll go that route next.
Meanwhile, she is starting to become interested in classics like Anne of Green Gables and the Little House series.
Math was always going to be tricky. By the sheer fact that I hated and struggled with math myself. Abstract stuff still makes my head hurt. It's supposed to make sense. It's supposed to be sure. But it's never clicked for me.
Of course, I didn't want to give Ms. D any idea that Math was difficult or hard or something to be dreaded. We delved right in with most homeschoolers favorite math curriculum: Saxon. "Yah, Math time!" I would say when Ms. D was in "first grade". Ms. D never looked enthused. I kept it light, I kept it fun, I used manipulative's. She didn't balk, but she didn't exactly thrill to numbers. When she was about seven I started to have a lot of concerns because she was still mixing up numbers and, more importantly to my mind at the time, she wasn't remembering her "facts". Something very simple like 5 plus 2 would make her think and think and think and think. We tried math drills and while she could say them by rote, they didn't really mean or represent anything to her. And she couldn't remember them for long (despite the fact she can memorize a six line poem!) Something wasn't working.
I threw out math all together for awhile. It was partly frustration and misery and partly a gut feeling that she wasn't ready and heck we homeschool she's not in a race feeling.
I meanwhile, started researching other curriculum's. Math U See, Rod and Staff, Singapore and on and on. Nothing clicked with me. I knew that Ms. D had to see reason behind math for it to ever make any sense. Numbers weren't interesting to her so there needed to be reasons for what she was doing. And frankly, at what age do we really need a reason to "do" math?? I just finished a great book by unschooler Nancy Wallace. She never formally taught math. She spoke of money and measurements in day to day life, mostly under her breath, as her two children listened and asked questions. They played games as a family that included math. But she never had a curriculum or taught if formally. One day her son, who was around thirteen, decided he wanted something his parents couldn't afford. This led to a job, which led to his having to figure out his finances. His job led him to figure out how to multiply, divide, fractions and percentages within the span of just a few months. Nancy Wallace remembers how he didn't like doing it but had to sit down and "calculate" if he was going to get anywhere. After a couple days, the light went on. He needed math, he had a reason to know math, he WANTED math. After his experience he saw the value of math and began to incorporate it further in his life. Especially when he wanted to be in a high school class that required algebra. He had to learn algebra quickly and he did. Experiences like these were floating in my mind as I still searched for curriculum.
And then I found Right Start. Use of manipulative's but not coded by color and groupings. Not a ton of manipulative's but enough to make sense of the abstract. A new way of counting. (2 ten for twenty which Ms. D was already doing on her own because it made sense to her)
I bought the curriculum and started up with it. It actually made sense to me. I had to prepare a bit ahead of time because this was not how I learned or thought of math. But i looked forward to math and so did Ms. D. I was also reading information on delayed academics (See one of the links on the side under HS Links...oh my!) in particular delayed math. The Moore's had come up with a whole curriculum based on delayed academics. While I didn't totally agree with the Moore method I could see a lot of sense with it based on my experiences with Ms. D. I also read a great article by the Bluedorn family of Trivium Pursuit. (Let it be said, lest you actually peruse their site and opinions, that I don't agree with everything they say or do. I find them a bit to "school in the home" formally oriented, but it worked for them.) At any rate the whole idea of delayed maths made sense to me.
After moving to Maine working with Right Start math worked very well. But at one point Ms. D clearly became saturated and frustrated again. I put it away. I will be using it at some point, maybe this winter. She likes the abacus, she can "figure" well with it. At this point she is learning (mostly self teaching) to tell time. She really clicked with the idea that there are two ways to talk about time. Ten forty five for instance can also be 15 minutes to eleven. (It took me FOREVER to get that down when I was in school. I was always so confused. I just waited for the bells to ring.)
I can't imagine this method would work for everyone. For example, the five year old who is reading a story with his parents and grouping and multiplying automatically without even thinking of it (you know who you are) "gets" math. He likes numbers. They speak to him in a way that others may not understand. He knows how to manipulate the numbers and make them sing like poetry. I envy that. Perhaps it's the whole left brain/right brain thing. Whatever the case may be this math journey we are on is working for us. I could play the force, cajole, drill game with her, but to what purpose? Who does that work for? I don't have state testing, a boss or a district to answer to with "results" and "scores". And because of that freedom, I can just trust and adjust as needed.
When I look at the Curriculum outline that I've posted and written about it looks so slim compared to what we really do. There is so much augmentation. The "prepared" books we use are so much of an outline. We pull in trips to the library, movies, audio, daily life and field trips. I have gone from a strict "home at school" view to a wider unschooling view. I guess the unschooling purists would hang me if they knew I was using books, so perhaps unschooling isn't exactly a title I adhere to. Perhaps eclectic schooler is more like. Most weeks I just ask her what she wants to do and she does it. I ask her what she doesn't want to do but thinks she should....and then she finds the necessity in doing it. Most of her desires line right up with what I want her to be doing anyway. But if we spend two hours on science and skip history for a week I don't get too hung up on it. I'm trying to relax a bit more and Ms. D is responding. No more tantrums. No more forcing. No more power struggles. (That having been said stay tuned for the posts that will be listed under "homeschooling or childrearing hell"...)
So progress is being made in our way. Rather differently than "state standards". But that is another soapbox left for later.