After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cousin Homeschool Day!

Monday was our first day of a week-long winter recess, and guess what we decided to do?  Homeschool!  Actually, my sweet niece (let's call her TS 4, shall we?), has been asking for me to homeschool her all year, so we chose Monday to do just that.  She slept over Sunday night and we had our Cousin Homeschool Day Monday.  Actually, it was just us girls.  The boys could not be convinced that it would be fun to pretend to do homeschool on our first day of break.  They promptly parked themselves in front of a variety of screens all day from TV to computer to iPod, until I called for a friend to come over and play.  
 TS 1 checking on spring training news on the iPad

TS 2 playing LEGO Harry Potter on the iPod

When we woke up Monday morning, my niece was so excited to get started.  She told me she was dreaming all night about homeschooling!  We started off with a pancake breakfast, complete with cookie cutters to make fun shapes.  
 TS 4 making a butterfly pancake

TS 3 with her flower pancake

After breakfast, TS 4 helped TS 3 with her morning chores while I got ready for the day.

We started with our usual morning activities: Bible, calendar, reading and writing.  My sister sent a list of CVC words and sight words that TS 4 is working on, and I used those for our reading and writing activities.  

Then it was time for audio book and center time.  The girls listened to Flat Stanley on CD in TS 3's room while I prepared a fun President's Day craft for center time.  I found this Log Cabin idea on Pinterest.

After center time, we had snack and a read aloud.  I read Abe Lincoln's Hat to the girls while they munched on goldfish.  They seemed to enjoy it and asked good questions during the story.

While they played together during break time, I pulled together some activities for math and science.  The girls did a simple addition with pictures worksheet I found online first.  Then I gave each of them a handful of coins to sort by president onto another President's Day sheet I found online.  They each got to keep their coins after, which they loved!  Finally, they practiced their addition facts with the Math Fact Master iPad app that we use daily.  TS 4 was even able to e-mail her results to her mom through the app.

For science, we read a few pages about the nervous system from the First Human Body Encyclopedia I have been working through with TS 3 all year.  We discussed the pages and then watched a couple of nervous system videos I had pinned on Pinterest during lunch.  The boys joined us for that.

We wrapped up our Cousin Homeschool Day with more reading.  The girls each took turns reading a story to me.  They were very proud of their accomplishment!

What better way to end a busy Cousin Homeschool Day than some Just Dance 3?

It was so much fun to bless my niece!  And she was a blessing to me.  About halfway through the day, she turned to me with a beaming smile and said, "Titi Natalie, I am having so much fun, I never want this day to end!"  Thanks for the wonderful endorsement, TS 4!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with the Halfway Mark

Last week, we finished up our second quarter, so we are officially halfway through our school year.  It seems like a good time to recap what each of our three test subjects are up to in homeschool.  (You can check out a complete list of our curricula here, if you're interested.)

TS 1 has moved on to the second book in the Apologia worldview series, Who Am I?  It really holds his interest and is doing a great job of helping him apply biblical priniciples to real life situations. He is still enjoying the Dialectic level of Tapestry of Grace for history.  He did well on the Unit 3 Test, and is keeping up with the readings each week.  We continue to have a discussion at the end of each week plan, too.  We are on to Unit 4 now, the Age of Revolutions.  In Math, he is almost halfway through the Zeta book on Decimals and Percents, which keeps him on course to finish the book by the end of this school year.  This will allow him to move on to Pre-Algebra for seventh grade next year.  We are planning on participating in a Spelling Bee in the near future, so we have put aside our Spelling Power curriculum for awhile to study words from a spelling bee list.  TS 1 is working on writing five paragraph essays in his Following Narnia composition curriculum.  He seems to enjoy writing and this curriculum in particular.   His co-op enrichment class for the second half of the year is Geography and since TS 1 has developed a love for this subject recently, he is thoroughly enjoying this class.

TS 2 continues full steam ahead with the Gamma book for Math.  He has mastered all his multiplication facts and is working on multi-digit multiplication now.  He continues to enjoy history, though not as much as his older brother.  I have found myself reading most of his history assignments aloud this year so that TS 3 can join in with the lessons, too.  We have been focusing quite a bit on improving reading comprehension recently, so reading aloud the history assignments allows for extra practice with this.  While he does a lesson twice a week on SmartTutor for this skill, most of the work with reading comprehension has been accomplished through reading together and asking him to narrate back the main idea, to answer questions about the characters, setting and plot and to give predictions about what might happen next.  I have taken a gentle approach with reading comprehension, in the hopes of increasing his interest in reading.  As a result of this approach, coupled with a very helpful librarian and some high interest books, TS 2 seems to  be looking forward to reading now!  Writing is going well, too.  He has moved from writing his compositions with me to writing on his own with my edits and suggestions coming after he has completed the composition.

The boys are studying science together again this year using Apologia's Exploring Creation through Anatomy and Physiology.  It is considerably more complex than last year's study of Astronomy, which has made it more challenging to teach to both levels.  It can be easy to water it down too much for TS 1 or get too in-depth for TS 2.  We are going to try to do more of the hands on activities and experiments in the course and find more related YouTube videos to customize the learning to each boys' level more.  They have just begun studying the Nervous System, and we made models of the brain and a neuron this week.  (I have no clue how that little yellow guy got in the shot- lol!)

TS 3 is my most challenging test subject to teach, which might seem strange since she is only a Kindergartner.  However, she learns so differently from the boys, who seemed to progress in a (mostly) straight line without much regression at any given point.  TS 3, however, will have mastered something for a long time and one day out of the blue seem to have lost that knowledge.  This is a pattern we have seen since she was very small and beginning to learn simple concepts such as colors and shapes.  Because of these challenges, we have changed (or put on hold) quite a bit of her curricula since we started.  Looking back at where we started this year, though, her reading has come along beautifully.  She is reading CVC words, some blends and sight words very well.  She can spell the majority of the CVC words we have worked on, many blends and sight words as well.  She uses context clues while reading and is learning to use different inflections for dialogue, questions and exclamations.  In all, I am trying not to worry when I see regression, and just take time to review until she regains mastery and then return to the curriculum when she is ready.  

We are in the midst of a blizzard tonight, so weekend plans include hunkering down with my loves, good books, movies and comfort food!  

Homegrown Learners