Finishing up the school year

We are winding down our school year. In some ways that’s too bad because they’ve really been interested and doing well in the lessons recently. Richard has 6 lessons then his final test in reading and language arts. Once we finish them, I can focus more on finishing other subjects. Hopefully we’ll be finished with everything by the end of June.

His math has 7 lessons left. He’s doing well so I may skip some of the review. However, today he said he was having so much fun with a lesson on double digit multiplication that he wanted to do all the pages in the lesson by doing some each day. That’s fine as long as he gets the regularly scheduled work done too.

I’ve not been following the history schedule very well so I’m not sure what’s left. He’s up to early 20th century. We’re behind because I spent the first part of the year finishing up last year’s program. After he finishes the language arts and reading, we can spend more time with history. I don’t want to continue it until the fall again.

Both Richard and Karen have mild colds this week. Yesterday I got Richard to do work by giving him 15 minutes computer time for each lesson he completed. He actually got all 3 subjects done. Today we did math, health, and and are now working on an art lesson.

We haven’t done art in a long time. It’s one of those things that keep getting pushed aside. It will be nice to do more of it in the next few weeks. We’ll probably work on it through the summer. He said he wants to continue with this art series (Art With a Purpose, aka Art Pack) next year.

Karen’s right where I was hoping she’d be in reading and language arts. She did 2 math lessons today. She enjoys Math-U-See. However, her brother keeps confusing her by trying to link her lessons to what happens in higher grades.  She is only about halfway through her math book. Since she’s starting to understand it better, we may move a bit faster. I’d like to finish Primer before she starts Alpha in the fall.

We’re excited to be finishing the year. It’s been a great year. They have both learned so much, not only academically, but spiritually and physically as well. Karen is gaining confidence and budding out of her shy shell. Richard is exploring everything around him. I can’t believe he’s finished with the primary grades and will start upper elementary. We’ll take it easy this summer. They have nature and Bible camps planned (including an overnight camp-out for Richard), but that’s all. We’ll start school again sometime in August.

I’ve finished my curriculum plans for next year and can’t wait for ordering. Allotments are available starting July. We’ll get a lot more money next year because Karen will officially be in kindergarten. I just hope the science program I want to use (Exploration Education) is approved so we don’t have to spend our own money. Monday is the used curriculum swap. Usually the Christian Light Education representative is there. I missed the Abeka ordering last week due to car trouble. The next one is in July.

Math in the mirror

8+6=14 +6= 20  That was the message awaiting me on the bathroom mirror this morning. We have foam numbers and math symbols the kids play with in the tub. Well, my son used them to leave me this message on the mirror sometime late last night.

Yes, that’s right, but what started him thinking about it in the middle of the night? Silly boy.

A great week

This week we had a great week for school. Both of them were ready to learn each morning. I didn’t have to prod them very much to complete their tasks. They both got everything done I had planned. I think last week they were still getting back into learning mode and our daily routine from having a week off. This week was much better.

They both had some tests and did well. Richard had 3: Bible, language arts, and reading. Karen’s was reading. He likes test days because the tests are shorter than the lessons. This is the first test I’ve had her take. She’s had a few quizzes where I’ll help her, but this was the first test that I didn’t help her. She struggled on one page. I told her to skip the difficult problems. By the end of the page she figured out the problems and went back to write the answers.

We did a few extras this week. They had to get their regular school work finished before we did them. On Tuesday afternoon, the school district had a homeschool ski and nutrition day at our local cross country ski park. Thursday we had a field trip to the library. Today’s mail had their wildlife magazines.

On Monday, Karen will start Learning to Read 105. This is where Christian Light Education starts Language Arts 1. Now that they can read simple sentences, they start learning basic grammar. I pre-viewed both workbooks with her, and she is excited to start. It covers consonants and vowels, capital and lower case, is/are, and periods. There’s also handwriting. Each LA lesson is 2 pages so it’s not going to add a lot more to her day.

We’re starting to plan for next year. Richard has made a lot of progress this year. This afternoon, while looking through the levels and targets they need to do, I realized he has completed level 3 reading. I am waiting to find out what assessments are necessary to move him to level 4. He’s already completed a few targets within level 4.

I’ve written up tentative curriculum lists for next year. There’s no big changes. Mostly they will do the next level of the current curriculum. Karen will be adding social studies and Bible. Richard will be using a combined history and science program from Winter Promise called Adventures in Sea and Sky. I can’t wait until the homeschool curriculum fair next month. Many of the companies offer free shipping if you order at the fair. CLE ordering will be a few weeks later. They come to the used curriculum swap.

I hope next week goes as well as this week did. They even did chores without too much fuss.  🙂 Perhaps it’s anticipation of finishing this year that’s gotten them excited about learning now. Perhaps it’s because this language arts unit for Richard deals with poetry. Perhaps it’s a boost in self confidence for her reading. Perhaps it’s the nice weather and longer days. No matter why, I’m just glad to see them enjoying school again.

Homeschool ski day

Yesterday our school district had a homeschool ski and nutrition day at our local cross country ski park. The kids were divided into 2 groups, those 5th grade and up and those 4th grade and under. My two are in the 4th and under. There were about a dozen k-4th grade students. I don’t know how many older ones there were.

The younger kids started the afternoon in the auditorium doing a nutrition activity while the older kids skied. Then they switched.

I went out skiing with the younger ones. The district PE adviser and I were the only adults skiing with them. My son was the only one in that group who had ever skied before. What a lot of fun we all had! I’m glad I brought my skis. We were out about an hour.

The adviser showed them how to get on their skis. Then they all skied to the end of the flat area where she showed them how to fall and get back up. Down to the other end where they were given poles. At the other end she showed them V for uphill and downhill (snowplow). Finally a few more trips back and forth before it was time to get the skis off.

I didn’t have much idea what was supposed to be going on. My help consisted of keeping the kids from running each other over, keeping them from going down side trails, and giving encouragement. I’m glad I was there though because my son was ready to explore the side trails (hills!) and likely some of the others would have followed him. He was a bit disappointed he didn’t get to try the nearby hill, but still had a good time. When we were leaving, my daughter asked if they have races there. When I said they did, she said she wants to do that. I guess we’d better get her some skis.

Saturday school

Sometimes if the kids haven’t finished their work during the week, we finish up on Saturday. Today was such a day. It was supposed to be just finishing up with Karen. Instead, both kids spent a lot of time learning. It was a great “school” day.

We did a little review and finished the “v” lesson in her workbook then did some reading. I let her choose what to read. She wanted to read the second set of Scholastic readers. She’s never read them before. I told her if she read all of the first set, then she could do them. Well, she read the first 11 of them right away in my lap! I didn’t have to help her very much. Then she took a break.

After lunch, she read me the last book in the set. We looked at the second set but decided they were a little too hard yet. Instead, she read 5 of the K4 Abeka readers. Finally, she was getting tired and making too many mistakes so I convinced her to stop for awhile. She’s read a total of 17 short books today! How exciting it was for us both to discover how much she can read.

She’s almost finished with the 4th workbook. There are 10 total before second grade. I’m glad we’re going slow. It’s a lot less stressful for us both. She starts the language arts workbooks along with her next reading workbook (105). We’ll continue to go slow for the rest of this year then pick up the pace a little for first grade. The goal is to have the sixth workbook done by the end of this school year. I hope to have the Christian Light first grade reading and language arts finished about halfway through next year. Then we can spend the second part of the year reading beginning books with First Favorites from Veritas Press.

I’m a bit nervous about next year when Karen will be doing more subjects.  Early on will just still be math, reading, and language arts. Later I’ll add Bible, a little social studies, and science. However, if I stick to the weekly schedule I made up it should be fine. Afterall, I had the same worries when Richard was finishing kindergarten.

She also did some math today. I was trying to do a lot of other things at the same time, so she didn’t do very much. She’s only half done with the math workbook because I haven’t devoted enough time for it recently. Now that she’s caught up in reading, we can get back to our regular  schedule again until swim lessons next month.

Richard did some kitchen science. We get fresh raw milk on Friday evenings. The jar we got yesterday had a lot of cream on it. I carefully scooped it out into a jar. Then we all took turns shaking it to make butter. We got a nice lump of butter and enough buttermilk to make biscuits. He then read the unit about milk and cream in his science book. I’ll have him measure and mix the dough later for dinner.

We had a lot of fun being silly and learning. I wish we had more days that went this smoothly.

2009-2010 homeschool Feb update

We’re about two-thirds of the way through our school year. It’s been a good year. Both Richard and Karen have learned a lot.

They each do language arts, reading, and math at their own level. I try to have them both working on the same subject at the same time. This keeps things easier. My new weekly schedule has been working great. This month they started swim lessons twice a week. That made for some disruption to the schedule, but are now getting used to the new routine.

Karen is where I remember Richard being at this stage of kindergarten. She’s reading three and some four letter words. We haven’t finished the alphabet yet, but she’s gaining confidence. She misplaced her workbook last week and we haven’t found it yet so I’m going to skip to the next one. I’ve been having her read short books instead but she’s ready to get back to the workbooks and learn more sounds.

I like the Christian Light Learning to Read program much better than Abeka K4-K5. Handwriting in incorporated in the same workbook. There aren’t a bunch of different workbooks to do each day. Instead she just does several pages in one workbook that covers phonics and handwriting. Soon we’ll add language arts. Then she’ll continue separate language arts and reading workbooks.

She’s learning place value to 100’s in math. Using the blocks for Math-U-See is making it easy.

We’ve been doing science on Wednesdays. Richard reads about it then we all do a project. He’s doing solutions today and we’re making homemade cola. We’re also looking at separation of juice so show liquids can have different layers. I don’t want to have two unrelated science programs. I can have them both study the same thing, but him do more details than Karen. He can read independently and I’ll read a simpler book to her about the same subject.

Richard just started the eighth out of ten workbooks for reading and language arts this week. He’s done a lot of grammar including adjectives, homophones, synonyms, and sentence diagramming. In reading, he’s learned to skim for details in a story.

Richard’s history hasn’t had many projects, but he’s enjoyed the reading. We finally finished the civil war and western expansion. It was rather odd to teach homesteading as history since we do many of those activities. It was almost like reverse teaching since I had to explain why most of them aren’t commonly done today (most people have running water, electricity, small hobby gardens instead of large subsistence ones, etc). WinterPromise also had a section about the Klondike gold rush which I added onto for a little Alaska state history. He was supposed to do a gold panning kit, but my husband wanted him to wait until summer when we can do it for real at a nearby creek that still gives gold. Now he’s studying early industrial revolution.

He’s really picked up on multiplication for math. He’s not using the blocks. He likes to find patterns. One of the boys in his swim lessons asked to learn the multiplication table after Richard told him that he knows it. This week he learned greater than, less than, and equal signs. They have finished the multiplication table and are moving into multiple digit multiplication problems. I really like how Math-U-See integrates word problems rather than just problem sets. They also have things like measurement equivalents (pints and quarts in a gallon, feet in a yard, etc) in the proper lesson instead of separately.

Last week I did evaluations for Richard’s progress report. He was ready to advance in 4 subjects: math, technology, social studies, and career development. I haven’t been having him do math tests until this year so I had him take the district exam. It was over 100 questions! There were only a few questions for each aspect (addition, subtraction, geometry, statistics, etc) but together they added up. I broke it into 2 days with lots of breaks so he wouldn’t have to sit doing math all day. The assessments for the other subjects were descriptions of projects he’s done.

I’m starting to plan for next school year. Richard will be in fourth grade and Karen will do first grade. He’s going to continue with Christian Light Education for Bible, reading, and language arts. She will be finishing the second half of their first grade reading and language arts program (reading 100 and language arts 100). That should take half the year. Then we’ll do First Favorites collection from Veritas Press the second part of the year. They will both continue with Math-U-See. She’ll do Alpha (single digit addition/subtraction) and he will be in Delta (division). I’m not sure about science. I have a basic science program from WinterPromise that I’ll probably do with her. I’ll wait and see what he’s interested in this summer before deciding science for him.

Swimming improvements

It’s been almost 2 years since the kids had swim lessons. We were unable to go last spring because we went on the cruise instead. Last week I signed them up for lessons next month. Richard has advanced by independent practice so he’s at level 2. Karen is somewhere between the first and second pre-school levels so I wrote both with a question mark and see what they do with that. This year we’re doing 2 days/week (Tuesday and Thursday mornings) instead of just Saturdays. We find out the exact times and classes next Friday.

Today we took the kids swimming. Karen took her usual longish time getting used to the water. Richard jumped right in and took off. After swimming some and practicing jumping in, he wanted to do the water slide. My husband told him if he swam the length of the pool and back once he could do the slide. A little while later he came over to me and asked if I could swim a lap with him. I wasn’t really sure he could do it, but went with him to the lap lane. He did it!

So then he was so excited. He went down the water slide lots of times, taking turns with a couple other kids (and me). Then he did the diving board a couple times before deciding he liked the slide better. Back to the slide a few times again before it was time to leave.

Karen made lots of improvement today too. She spent her time first pushing the floating barbell around. She then had me help her swim on her back. After some practice, she got so she could do that by herself and on her front a little too. She also practiced jumping in without holding a hand. This was scary for her, but she did it. That was the big thing that she refused to do last time she had lessons.

Now both kids are excited about swimming again. If they get their school work done on time during the week, we will take them on Sundays. This gives them incentive to study. Also, they have extra chores but with that their allowance is going up. Richard wants to spend his on goggles.

Fun with science: baking soda & vinegar

Today Richard read in his new element books about sodium and potassium. He was very interested in chemical reactions involving them so I flipped through a book and found a couple demonstrations involving baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar. Mixing baking soda with vinegar creates carbon dioxide bubbles. You can do lots of fun things with this.

The first involved filling a jar half full of water the adding 4T of baking soda and 3T of vinegar. Finally, drop in 10 raisins and see what happens to them. The directions have you adding the baking soda after the vinegar. This didn’t work very well. The soda didn’t dissolve fully so the raisins got stuck in it at the bottom. The second time we mixed the soda with the water first until it was dissolved then added the vinegar. That worked much better.

Surprisingly, it was Karen who first figured out what was happening and why. The reaction caused bubbles which stuck to the raisins. They then float the raisin to the top where the bubbles burst causing the raisin to sink. Then more bubbles stick, the raisin rises and falls again. This continues until the reaction no longer is creating large bubbles.

The second thing we did is the classic volcano. However, we didn’t make the mountain. First pour 1/2 cup vinegar in a 2L bottle. Then add 1/3 cup dish soap. We had 2 kinds of dish soap. One was blue, the other yellow. So we played with different combinations of the colors as I filled the measuring cup to make different shades of green. (you’re supposed to add red food coloring, but our “lava” was dark green at this point so we just left that out) Then we taped the bottle to cardboard and took it into the bathtub. Drop in a toilet paper packet containing 1T  baking soda and watch the bubbles rise. Believe it or not, I’d never done this before. The kids played with corking the bottle top and the bubbles coming out a small hole in the side.

These experiments didn’t work especially well for us. Our vinegar is too old. I’d like to do them again with new vinegar. Still, they worked well enough for the kids to get the idea of what’s happening and we had a lot of fun. Not only did we learn about chemical reactions, but also color mixing, math (fractions, counting, and measuring), and geology.

2009 Dec. homeschool update

Hard to believe 2009 is almost gone. It’s been a good year for our homeschool. Unlike public schools, we haven’t taken a lot of days off other than sick days so Richard is halfway through third grade. Karen is slowly working her way through Learning to Read.

While I won’t say Richard’s favorite subjects are reading and language arts, he isn’t fighting them either. Some lessons he does actually enjoy. If fact, a few times he’s worked ahead without realizing it because he was enjoying them. I don’t make him do that subject again until the others are on the same lesson when he does that. He lost his reading workbook for a week so we only did language arts. Then when he found it over the weekend, the next week we just did reading to even them back out again.

They’ve been sick the last week so it’s been about 10 days since we did school last. He has trouble getting back to the books after a break so today is a bit of a challenge. I debated just waiting until next week since Christmas is this week, but my husband said back to school today.

Math is going well for both of them. This year Richard is learning multiplication. I found Schoolhouse Rock on Youtube. They had some fun multiplication/skip counting songs which is helping make it stick. There was Sesame Street “ladybug picnic” about counting to 12, which helped Karen. She’s starting to use the colored joined blocks rather than individual units to represent numbers.

It was a trip down memory lane for me. There’s also language arts and history songs. Remember “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here” and “Conjunction Junction”?

History doesn’t seem as fun as last year (to me anyway). There aren’t as many interesting activities and more reading. Perhaps that’s because since we’re studying westward expansion now, most of the activities are homestead chores which we normally do everyday. Still, he’s enjoying it. Today was about the invention of barbed wire and he got to draw his own picture. While he was sick last week, he dug through the box and read Cricket in Times Square. I’m not sure when he was supposed to read this, but oh well.

Karen is slowly working her way through Learning to Read. I have given up on the primer. It was way too hard and didn’t relate to the lessons very well. It only made her frustrated instead of confident when reading. Hopefully the new Sunrise edition fixed this, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’m using Bob Books instead, which actually go with it surprisingly well.

We haven’t managed to do lessons with her very consistently. This is working out pretty good though because she gets overloaded if we do too much at once. Then after taking a few days break, the old material has sunk in and she’s ready to move on.

It will definately take a year to work through Learning to Read at the pace we’re going. Today she finished lesson 21 out of 90 and the first 4 Bob Books by herself. We also read the fifth book together. I may start to do lessons with her more often, but don’t want her to get overloaded again. This is just kindergarten after all. I want her to enjoy it, not have school seem like work.

She still sounds out several of the words, but the number of words she can read has greatly increased. Today’s lesson had 31 words to read in a minute. I don’t time her, but we do read the lists. She got through the entire list and read most of them without sounding them out today! Last time we tried this same list she could only get through half of it, even sounding them out.

She’s generally enjoying the lessons. I don’t always do every page in a lesson since there are often several pages of the same kind of thing (again, the Sunrise Edition has fixed this). If I know she understands, I’ll move on. If she’s having trouble, we’ll spend 2 days on the same lesson and do all of it. The schedule has us starting language arts in 2 weeks. Hopefully, that won’t give her too much work.

Since we took the past 10 days off, we won’t take much off for Christmas except Thursday and Friday. After regular school work is done this week, we’re learning traditional, spiritual carols and reading of the birth of Jesus. He’s the reason for the season after all. I feel in the rush of modern consumerist Christmas, we sometimes forget the real reason for celebrating and get caught up in the how. That’s why it’s important to sing songs like Silent Night, Joy to the World, and Oh Come all Ye Faithful instead of just Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.

Fun with science: inclined planes

Since today was another gorgeous Indian Summer day, we did our Fun With Science day outside. The topic was inclined planes, aka ramps and slides. After reading the sections of his book introducing simple machines and inclined planes, my son did the top part of a worksheet I made up. Then I took him and his little sister to 2 parks to measure slides. It was a lot of fun for us all. One child held the measure tape at the top of the slide while the other slid down holding the other end. They took turns as to who slid down and who stayed at the top. We had to adjust the tape to measure the middle of the slide rather than the center pole on the twisty slides. Richard wrote down the results and I helped him measure the heights. We also drew a small diagram of the slides beside each number since only 2 were straight. Once we got home we did the math to figure the mechanical advantage of each slide.

We’re all really enjoying the God’s Design science series. Rather than being grade level specific, I can use it with both kids. I do the basics with Karen and more in-depth for Richard all from the same book and activities. They are well written with a brief, simple introduction perfect for the little one, and more detail in the lesson for older students. It satisfies her wanting to be included in the science fun with her brother without boring him with easy stuff he already knows. And I only have to teach one science lesson.

Here’s the text of the worksheet I made up:

Fun With Science: Inclined Planes

Label the length and height of the inclined plane [drawing of elongated right angle triangle]

Understanding Inclined Planes:

  1. Another word for incline plane is a ____________________.
  2. Why do people use inclined planes? ____________________________________ __________________________________________________________________
  3. What is mechanical advantage? ________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________
  4. How do you “pay” for mechanical advantage? ____________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Exploring Inclined Planes: Length ÷ Height = Mechanical Advantage

A fun inclined plane found at most playgrounds is a ___________________________.

Measure the slides. Hypothesize which has the highest mechanical advantage: ______

  1. Length _____________ ÷ Height ______________ = ___________________
  2. Length _____________ ÷ Height ______________ = ___________________
  3. Length _____________ ÷ Height ______________ = ___________________
  4. Length _____________ ÷ Height ______________ = ___________________
  5. Length _____________ ÷ Height ______________ = ___________________

Do the math. Was your hypothesis correct? ____________