12 August 2011

Weekly Update - Week #2

Week #2 has come and mostly gone. It was a pretty good week, even though life is getting hectic with doctor and dentist appointments.

The highlights of the week have been K having four 100% math assignments and one 97% math assignment, H doing fantastic at a trial gymnastics lesson, and the arrival of level 2 of Winning With Writing (WWW).

H has made the decision that she wants to give up horseback riding lessons and try gymnastics instead. Last night we were able to take her to a class to try out. I'm going to see if we can do that again this week, as it took her a while to warm up and participate in the class. I'm hoping that if she goes to one more trial class she can prove to us that she is going to participate in the class. I don't want to pay for something that she's going to end up not doing.

Next week we plan on adding the new WWW program and Sequential Spelling (SS) to K's workload. I kept them out so that we could ease into the year. However, she worked so diligently all this week, I think we can safely add them in without it being an overload on her. With SS, we are going to be continuing where we left off. WWW is a brand new program for us this year, though. I looked through the first 11 weeks of it last night, and was able to eliminate some of the lessons that are too much of a review for her, like subjects and predicates. She could probably handle level 3, but we decided to get her level 2 and just let her work through it at a faster pace, so that she doesn't end up missing out on something she needs to grasp before level 3.

I also made some tweaks to how I'm going to teach Bible Study Guide for all Ages, although we did not try it out this week. On day one, we will go through the drill, review past lessons, and read the story for the lesson. On the second day, we will do the worksheets. This should break it up evenly so that we're not spending so much of our school time doing just one subject.

I also decided to ditch the Excel spreadsheet that I was putting lesson plans on for the girls. The original plan was to use that to schedule a week or two at a time, print it up for the girls each week, and use it as a visual for them to see what they accomplished throughout the week. I would then transfer what they actually did into Homeschool Skedtrack (HS). However, it's too cluttered of a format for me, and makes for extra steps in my day. If they did more than one math assignment in one day, for example, it was hard to tell at a glance what they had accomplished. Instead of a grid, I think I need something that utilizes lists. I also like to give the girls an extra bonus if they complete all of the assignments by the end of the week. This motivates them to not try to save something for the next day. (I'll have to make a post about our reward system.)

So, with the absence of the Excel planning sheet, I'm back to trying to figure out a way to keep track of a week's worth of assignments. Unfortunately, HS does not allow printing of a weekly assignment list, but just a daily one. And I'm also back to entering my lesson plans into HS, though I do think that it will work out in the long run.

Well, that's it for our review for this week and our look-ahead to next week. :)

10 August 2011

Story of the World - Take 4

After attempting to work our way through SOTW for the last three years, I think we are finally to a point where my girls will actually get something out of it. It took the first three years to make it through the first nine chapters. At first, they struggled with listening. When we would go through the review questions, they didn't know any of the answers. Getting narrations out of K was like pulling teeth. We set the program aside for a while.

When we resumed later, they were better listeners and were able to answer at least some of the questions afterwards. I still had to remind them to pay attention while I was reading, though. Narrations were a tad bit easier for K, although she still seemed to not want to do them. H was to a point where I thought she could handle them, but she lacked the ability to retell without me putting a lot of the words in her mouth. We shelved it again.

And a time or two after that.

During our first week of school, we did some review of the first nine chapters. Fortunately, through much drill over the past three years, they still retained key points from those chapters. They know about the Great Pyramid, papyrus, the story of Gilgamesh.

Today we began learning about Ancient China. I was quite impressed with their listening skills, their ability to answer the questions that followed, and yes, even their narrations. Here is what they both told me about the story Lei Zu and the Silkworm:

H's retelling:
The Empress discovered silk by the silkworm. A silkworm's silk cocoon fell into her cup.

K's retelling:
When the silkworm's silk cocoon fell into her cup, Lei Zu's maid went to get her a new cup. The maid helped Lei Zu unwind the silk a million times. The dressmaker turned it into a cloth, which the dressmaker turned into a robe for the Emperor. 

While it might not have been a "million"times, I think we are finally on our way to a productive year of history!

09 August 2011

New American Cursive - A Review of Workbook 1

When I decided it was time for my then six-year-old daughter to begin learning cursive, I began researching all the different options available. I wanted something that was pretty, without being too fancy, and also easy to teach and learn. My search led me to New American Cursive (NAC). The program seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. It was pretty, without being too fancy, and the website pointed out that it uses fewer strokes than some of the more popular cursive programs. There was also a convincing article about why it's beneficial to begin teaching cursive in first grade instead of waiting until third grade. (This was helpful, since the reason for the research was because K asked to learn cursive, and I wasn't sure she was ready.)

In addition to the fact that NAC seemed to be exactly what I was looking for in a cursive program, they also have a StartWrite CD that contains their font so that you can make additional worksheets for your children. This truly seemed the best fit for my needs!

So far, K has made it through the letter Q. I have been extremely impressed with her handwriting since starting school back up this past week. She always rushed when printing, unless I continuously reminded her to use her best handwriting. Now she seems to take pride in her cursive, and takes her time to form the letters correctly and neatly. Below is a sample of a page she did today.

Throughout the first book, the format is typically to be introduced to a letter, practice writing that letter, then do one of the Fun Exercises & Artwork pages, as above. Every three letters, they will also have a practice page to review the last three letters learned. 

Having the CD for extra worksheets has really been an invaluable resource for us. What I am doing this year is having her do the individual letter pages, one per day, and then on the day she is to complete the practice page, I also make my own practice page with words using letters she has used so far. For example, last week, I made a page with all names, so that she could have some more uppercase practice. It included Abel, Lee, Dale, Leah, Elle, Jack, Jill, and Bella. She was up through L at that time, so I stuck with names that included only letters she has learned. Eventually, once she has learned all of the letters, I plan to make copywork pages for history and science. 

We recently received workbook 2, along with workbook 1 for H. Workbook 2 appears to work on transitioning them to smaller handwriting, as well as writing on lines without guidelines. I will come back and review workbook 2 when we have actually begun using it a bit. In the meantime, if you are looking for an easy-to-teach, pretty handwriting program, I highly recommend NAC. 

04 August 2011

The First Week - So Far

We have been doing pretty good this week so far. We are not quite back to our normal "schedule" yet, but we have been plugging along with the school work.

The girls have already gotten a lot of their work completed, and K has already had a math test, which she got 96% on. Tomorrow is her first grammar test in Growing With Grammar.

H has begun learning cursive, which she really seems to like a lot. She has learned through the letter C so far. I will need to make her lots of extra sheets to practice with, I assume, as she doesn't seem to want to take her time with it like her sister does.

Some things I can already see need to be tweaked, and we have not added all of the subjects back into the mix yet, either. We still need to get going on science again, K is going to start writing soon, and we haven't done any Sequential Spelling yet. History this week was a review of the first nine chapters of Story of the World, but next week we will continue forward, learning about Ancient China.

I can also see that the new Bible program needs to be tweaked. It it too time consuming to do it along with all the other subjects and still expect to get the others done without taking all day. I will sit down with it this weekend and figure out a good way to break up the lessons over two days. This will work out nicely, since I had planned on doing just two lessons a week anyway, so instead of just doing it two days a week, we will do four days a week. Once we get our feet wet with it some more, I will probably post a review of the program.