My, how the school year is just flying! I swear it was just a few weeks ago I was looking at Abigail’s schedule and wondering how on earth we were going to spend six weeks on World War One, and just like that, we’re through it, the roaring twenties, and we’re moving into the second of six weeks on World War Two. We’re moving into Week 27, and with a 36 week course, that means we’re in the home stretch, the fourth quarter, and looking ahead to next year is well underway.
School’s been going very well this year, and I figured I was about due for an update anyway. Both kids have really been enjoying their new Science programs. Zander started out with a weather study, which was good, but most of the experiments we have to hold off for nicer weather so we can spend time outside. This last week we learned about Louis Pasteur and all next week we’re going to spend it doing experiments with bacteria and fungi. He can’t wait! Abigail spent her first few weeks with NOEO learning about cells and using a microscope. She’s really enjoyed that, and next week we’re hopping around within the curriculum and beginning a four-week study on the human body. She really wanted to do that first, but I thought studying cells and microscopy would lay a good foundation for the body study. Her first week will be studying the cells of the body, so that was a good move to make.
French is still going well. I’m a bit confused by the curriculum we have- it’s moved into using visual cues and something called a diglot weave to help learn French, and it makes no sense to me- it almost looks like morse code- so I’m spending time going through the lessons in the book, trying to figure out how to pick out the phrases and such we want to learn. In the meantime, we’re reviewing phrases we’ve already learned- and mastered- and also learning basic vocabulary. French basics like numbers, the alphabet, animals, etc. I think it’s a good balance, and a good introduction to a foreign language. After the school year is done, I may do some research and see what else I can find to help us better grasp the language. I’m just not sold on the immersion approach, but we’ll see.
A few weeks ago we came to Zander’s read-aloud of the Wizard of Oz, and since Abigail has never read it, nor have either of my kids seen the movie, we adjusted our school day so that both kids could sit in on the read-aloud, and then we watched the movie. They really enjoyed both the book and movie, but both agreed the book was so much better. Of course, we find that with pretty much everything we read and then watch an adaptation, but I love hearing my kids say that. We read Wizard Of Oz so fast, that we had extra time, so now we’re reading The Voyage of The Dawn Treader as Zander’s read-aloud, and of course, they’re both enjoying that immensely too.
Speaking of adding in Read-Alouds, I wanted to give some thoughts about the Core that I had Zander do this year. Last year at this time, I was really going back and forth as to what I should have him do for first grade. Really, it was most important that we nail the basics well for a good foundation- the reading, writing and arithmetic. He’s come a long way with his writing ability, and of course, his reading and math abilities are off the charts. He really just needs confidence in his ability to read long chapter books, because he can do it very well, he just gets overwhelmed by looking at all the pages and the words. He could totally read something complicated like Tom Sawyer, and even understand much of it, but his confidence isn’t quite there yet, that’s what we’ll be working on next year.
Anyway, back to my choice of core for his first grade year. I went with Sonlight’s Core K, because despite the “K” designation, it is recommended for ages 5-7, and I heard a lot about how a lot of kids on the younger age spectrum were troubled by some of the content. Looking down the long road through elementary school, and knowing I wanted a good three years before we came back to Core 3, Core K was our best option. And it’s been wonderful for the most part. The History and Geography is light, it’s presented just a bit at a time, and it’s really been a great introduction to the world around us- and how the world has changed over time. The read-alouds have been great for the most part. Two come to mind that we didn’t care as much for so far, but many have been wonderful. Some have been so wonderful that we read them more quickly than scheduled, and then dashed to the library to pick up any and all sequels and squeeze them in as well.
The sheer volume of books that Zander has read this year is staggering. He’s easily read to me upwards of 60 books- and most of them are the introduction to chapter reading type books. Books that are still picture books, but divided into chapters. Yet we still will take a day and read classic Dr. Suess or Eric Carle, and discovered that he loves Beatrix Potter too. It’s been great fun pulling books of the shelf and rediscovering them with him- and seeing his delight. We read a small, single book of Peter Rabbit, and Zander commented about how awesome it was. So then when I pulled out the complete anthology of Beatrix Potter that we have, I thought his eyes were going to roll back into his head.
But one thing that I have not been happy with, in regards to Core K, is that it seems like it could almost have been tweaked a touch more to make it either a solid kindergarten curriculum, or a solid first grade curriculum. While the books have been perfect for first grade, every week there are suggested activities that I wouldn’t even do with a preschooler, and are definitely more geared to the younger crowd. Things like finger-painting, sorting beads, cutting out shapes and such. Things that, honestly, if I suggested to DS we do them, he would be insulted by being asked to do such baby-work. Even calendar work is ridiculous for my son. He knows the days of the week, the months, the seasons, the hours of the day and so on. So we skip all that. So while we have loved Core K, and it was a good fit, in my mind, I feel a tiny bit like there was some waste, that maybe those extra activities could be packaged up as a “kindergarten add-on”. Of course, this whole discussion could be a waste of time, because the rumor is that Sonlight has finally decided to re-name the cores for the coming year, and Core K will no longer be Core K.
Either way, I’m really looking forward to moving on to Core 1 with Zander next year. I think he’s ready for something new, something exciting, and the first of two years of world history will be so exciting to him. He’s going to love studying a little deeper about the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. For Abigail, next year we’ll be doing an in-depth study of the Eastern Hemisphere- content that most school students don’t get at all unless they take specific classes in college. We’re both really excited about that, though a little sad to put American History behind us for a few years.
But for now, we’re focusing on the next nine weeks, which may be done without a break. I’m still considering a spring break of sorts, but at the same time, it would be awesome to just keep going and get done a week earlier than anticipated.
Abigail will continue with World War Two, and then we’ll quickly make our way through the rest of the 1900′s. We’ll touch on The Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam, Civil Rights, the many presidents along the way, and finish up the year with a study of Canada. Zander will continue with reading his missionary stories around the globe, and then after spending the year learning about the people from around the world, we’ll spend the last few weeks learning about the natural world around the globe. The climates, the animals, and the vegetation from all over. I think he’ll really enjoy that, and it should tie into his science very nicely as well.
One of these days, I’m going to do a post about little, simple tools that we use to make our days run more efficiently. And another day, I still really want to do a photo-heavy post about what our day actually looks like. Because when I say we homeschool, I think people automatically get an image in their head of a school-at-home experience. Mommy as the teacher, at the blackboard, while the kids work diligently in their workbooks. That’s not our day At. All. We spend much of our days curled up on the couch, reading to one another. We take a geometry study on angles and turn on the Wii and load up the billiards/pool, and learn how we can use the study of angles in real life. We spend some time learning about wind direction, and then we’ll pull up golf on the Wii, and use the wind speed and wind direction to help us determine how to swing the golf club. That’s our school day. We may finish with our bookwork early in the day- doing the math, the writing, and the grammar, but it’s what we do afterwards and in-between that encompasses how we view homeschooling. Every day is a learning experience just waiting to happen. It doesn’t have to be done in front of the blackboard or seated at the table. It doesn’t at our house.