18 October 2010

School -- a mid-term evaluation

It is now the third week of October, and we have been "doing school" for about 8 weeks now, more or sometimes less, successfully. In public school, we always had a 9-week evaluation as students. I thought that was a wise idea and that I should do an evaluation of what is and is not working for us in this first year of homeschool.

:: Learning (and teaching) style -- I think so far that I've discovered that both Annalivia and I are interest-led schoolers, at heart. She does really well with learning that she initiates. She does ok with things I ask her to do; she's not resentful or difficult, it's just that she really sparkles with things that she wants to do. And, thankfully, she has wanted to do something with pretty much every subject. It's just a matter of figuring out what really excites her about each.

:: Sonlight Curriculum -- While I love the idea of Sonlight, I've found that, in practice, it's just not a great fit for me. I really like the literature-centric approach in that most of our learning can take place doing something (reading together) that we all like to do normally, but I think I might be more of unit-study homeschooling parent. So far, I like Sonlight's selections, but, for my interests, I want more integrated history, science, art, etc. I am thankful for the teacher's guide that details a schedule, but again, it doesn't really work for us. Most of the time I spend with it is working on adapting it. I think we'll use something else next year.

:: Reading -- Annalivia is doing very well at basic blending. The readers that came with our Sonlight program are very good -- simple and easy with illustrations reminiscent of the Frog and Toad series. And these little books also have a story line, which is really something when they only use words ending in -at and -ad! She likes to read them and does best when I let her initiate the reading and just sit by her to help, if necessary.

:: Spelling -- I bought the Spell to Write and Read program and really like the concept of it, but in execution, it does not fit us very well. Yet. I have thought about it, prayed about it, turned it over in my head a thousand times, and have come to the conclusion that I need to let Annalivia learn to read the way that she is already learning and use the SWR program in a grade or two. I think this may mean that she'll have to re-learn some things, but holding her back from reading to try to get her to work on this program is just creating frustration in both of us.

:: Math -- We started Math-U-See Alpha and I decided we needed to go back and do Primer. I haven't even gotten it out, though, since we are moving soon and I'd really like formal math to be something we do every day. Instead, we are working on writing numbers on the white board, which is just about the most thrilling thing that Annalivia and Daniel get to do, in their opinions, and identifying the plus and equal signs and talking about what they mean. And I'm trying to work informal math lessons into life more frequently.

:: Handwriting -- This and Reading are the two areas at which Annalivia really excels. She LOVES learning cursive handwriting and I love the program (New American Cursive) and the accompanying computer program (Start Write) that allows me to customize pages for her to practice writing. She's learning to write her name in cursive and is doing really well, though having a bit of trouble with the double n's. Dennis was telling me that the n's were always hard for him, too. :) Annalivia loves to practice "pretty" writing. I think it appeals to her artistic side.

:: Bible -- The Bible curriculum that came with our Sonlight core is the Egermeier's Children's Bible. Annalivia and Daniel really like stories from it, and I like reading the stories to them. The stories are relatively short, descriptive, and the interpretive details are good, or at worst, benign. The cd of memory verses, is, frankly, lacking, and a little boring. And, other than making a timeline, there's nothing else included in the program. Personally, I'd like a little more.
We have supplemented the Egermeier Bible with watching the new What's in the Bible dvd's from Phil Vischer. We love, love, LOVE them! They are funny and engaging and very informative. Annalivia and Daniel can tell you that the Septuagint sounds like a sneeze, but is also "a copy of a copy" of the Bible, and they know the definitions of "salvation" (to be saved or rescued from danger) and "redeemed" (to have your debt paid by someone) and they can apply those things to Jesus. And they know the patriarchs, and are learning the judges, and are fascinated by pirates in hot-air balloons who have to use the bathroom. I think this series is worth every penny we will spend on it.

:: Science, Art, Music, and the rest -- This stuff is easy for me to come up with and work on with the kids. Annalivia and Daniel love to draw and paint and things like nature study, art journaling, drawing still-lifes, dancing to music, singing hymns... that's all just part of things here.

Things to think about on the way forward

:: The reason for it all -- Sometimes I need to remind myself that the reasons we homeschool are to experience learning about the life with which God has blessed us, in the family with which God has blessed us, using the gifts which which God has blessed us. We don't homeschool to meet state acheivement test requirements or justify how we spend our days or compete with peers (mine or the kids'). I can get out of focus so easily. I need to tattoo these things backwards on my forehead so I read them in the mirror each morning, you know? :) There's a lot of grace in this...

:: Impending events -- the upcoming arrival of Peter, the complications I've experienced from my previous c-section (serious muscle separation resulting in three hernia necessitating "limited activity" from me) and the moving into of the house (we get to start moving next week, hurrah!!), not to mention the holidays, are going to change how we do things even more. I think we're going to cut to bare-bones (Bible, reading practice, handwriting on-demand only) until after Peter is born. Or, on the other hand, we may do a couple of unit studies on Thanksgiving and Advent. I could get excited about those.

:: Incorporation of Daniel (and Emmeliese) -- So far, Daniel has been in peripheral attendance, but he is getting interested in "doing school" too and I need to start working with him more intentionally. Emmeliese LOVES to draw when the other kids are drawing, and needs to be incorporated...somehow. Otherwise, she's just a screechy pest. :)

:: Curriculum -- I'm going to be deconstructing the Sonlight core and trying to figure out how to put together something a little more interesting to all of us. And I need to plan to attend some sort of curriculum preview/ homeschooling fair this year. Extensive internet research is helpful. To a point. Then, I just need to spend some time with some materials and find out what works. And doesn't.


Tonya said...

I LOL'ed at the "screechy pest". It's too bad we don't live closer. She could play with my screechy pest. Mine wants to go around and grab everyone's pencil out of their hand and write on whatever it is they are working on. And then, of course, she screeches when they don't let her do it.

The rest of this post sounds so familiar to me. Trying this and that and finding out what works for your family. If you can find one or two things a year, you're doing good, in my opinion.

~liz said...

i love this post so much. thanks for taking the time to share it with us! i hung on each and every word!! i felt the same way with sonlight. i loved the idea of it, but i ended up not going with it our first year and now that we are an eclectic/classical/charlotte mason/unit study/lapbook kind of learning family, i like the freedom of picking different approaches to each subject.
thanks again for the description of the veggie tales dvds. i should really look into them!
and "the reason for it..." YES! i need this daily reminder to focus on the big picture, and not the little daily annoyances that can chip away at the real reason we do this.

April said...

Thanks, you two! I appreciate the encouragement!