Yes, we really DID do school this week. In fact, because we were still in the break between Parks & Rec 9-week sessions, we probably did MORE school than we usually do, and certainly more than we will accomplish next week.
However… I mentioned that I’ve been sick and miserable; I actually woke up voiceless on Tuesday and wasn’t able to speak at all until Friday morning. So our emphasis this week was on subjects that teach themselves, anything that comes in audiobook form, and anything I could teach in a whisper.
A couple of highlights:
LATIN! The kids are both loving our Song School Latin program. We’re in Week 6, and so far, this program is so light it doesn’t really feel like school. They both beg to do more than one song a week, but I figure we’ll pace ourselves and it’s great keeping it light and easy.
Here they are singing this week’s song with the help of these puppets. The puppets are in the back of the book, but I copied them onto cardstock for durability, and made a set for each kid. I wasn’t able to sing along, but you might hear me croaking in the background.
We actually managed to cover our regular history and then some thanks to the Story of the World audiobook. We’ve had this all along, but usually only listen to it in the car to go over material we have already learned. This week, it became our main history resource, and we managed to cover an entire chapter. Narrated by the talented Jim Weiss, this audiobook makes the characters and stories come to life.
However, I do find that – entertaining as his version is – the story doesn’t sink in for Naomi Rivka as much as it does when I am reading it myself “live”. I had to remind her of several details when going over the questions in the Activity Guide, which I rarely have to do when I have read the section in question myself.
Still, she was able to narrate the sections we “read” and we not only completed the mapwork in the Activity Guide, but she also marked the locations of Phoenicia and Carthage on the wipe-off laminated “Bible Lands Activity Maps” I bought at the beginning of the year. So far, I have only used one map from the set, a generic “middle east” map that shows almost all the areas we have learned about so far. I hope we can begin incorporating these into our studies more regularly.
Covered a bit of “canned curriculum” via the Evan-Moor TeacherFileBox website (currently 30% off at Homeschool Buyers Co-op, by the way!): Daily Science and Beginning Geography. Both are included with my subscription, so I just print off the pages I want and away we go. The geography is a good curriculum that covers the basics and a BIT more, but I don’t really love the science. I feel it talks down to kids and tends to be a bit twaddly. (“Do plants have mouths?" “Write the word OCEAN on the line below.”) They have a better science book on the site that I thought I’d like to try, Read and Understand Science, but it starts to involve so much printing it’s not really worthwhile.
All of these are in addition to two Evan-Moor selections that we are using every day and enjoying immensely: Daily Word Problems (Grade 1) and A Word a Day (Grade 3). If I didn’t have TeacherFileBox, I’d probably find a free way to incorporate a word of the day, but since I do, I like that all the work is done for me. I usually read the word to the kids over breakfast and Naomi or I write it on the whiteboard. The program includes review questions if we feel like doing them once we have learned all 4 words for the week.
The Daily Word Problems are animal-based math questions that are usually very easy and sometimes more challenging. Sometimes, they get super-hard out of the blue, which annoys me to no end. One question mentioned casually that the armspan of an animal was one-and-a-half times its height – in a grade one book which had previously not even mentioned fractions. Oy! I also don’t like the fact that all the measurement examples are in inches, feet and miles. But I like the practice with word problems, and she generally enjoys translating the questions into number sentences. At the end of the week, there’s the reward of three or four silly animal “trivia” facts, most of which she knows already, so I ham up the educational value of these facts.
The Word Problems book is in addition not only to our regular JUMP Math 2.1 book, which she’s enjoying a lot, and also to the Verbal Math Lesson book, which we continue to work through at the rate of about 20-25 problems a day.
After I blogged enthusiastically about a sample I’d looked over, they sent me a free PDF, as promised on their site, but I decided it would cost so much to print that it was worth investing in a (cheap) hard copy of the book. I’m very glad I did, though some people would probably enjoy this as an eBook they can just scroll through on their eReader, Kindle, Kobo or whatever, and take on the go. My Kobo doesn’t love PDFs, sadly, so we are enjoying this resource on paper.
Naomi generally enjoys the Verbal Math lessons tremendously, though when I had Ted take over for me one day this week, she burst into tears when he asked her to count backwards from 100 to 30. Generally, though, she hates doing “school with Abba” because she feels like she’s missing out on the tons of fun that they usually have together. So that may have been why she was crying. Certainly, she did the counting very easily once she got started.
Ted also did logic puzzles with Gavriel Zev and Naomi – Naomi worked independently on the next analogies puzzle in her First Time Analogies book, while GZ did a basic one from Color, Cut, Paste Logic. Now that his reading is so excellent, he can pretty much do these all on his own.
GZ also spent some time this week starting his new “handwriting” book – the badly-titled Get Set for School, from the Handwriting Without Tears series. I had this book for Naomi, too, but found that because she was such an eager writer, she didn’t really NEED it and I think we ended up skipping into the next book up pretty quickly. GZ needs it more and enjoyed the first couple of lessons, which were mostly “pick up the crayon and scribble” type lessons. Coincidentally, he also started working in the similarly-titled but unrelated, Get Set for the Code, Book B in the “Explode the Code primer” series. It’s nice to see that this book escalates slightly in difficulty.
I know this all sounds like a LOT of academics for a 4-year-old, but please believe me when I tell you that, all told, it’s still less than half an hour a week. Oh – but he did have one other exciting development, his brand-new Alef-Bais Wiggle Worm, which I’ve left for a blog post all by itself!!!
Because of my missing voice, I had Ted fill in for me two days running with First Language Lessons, which I am finally starting to enjoy. We’re on Lesson 50 of 100 in the book, and we’re FINALLY past the “definition of a noun” stage, which I was warned on the boards is the hardest part of the book to get through.
Yes, it’s important to know that “a noun is the name of a person, place thing or idea,” but most people would consider it torture to make your Grade One student repeat that fact three times a day for 40-some-odd lessons in a row.
The funny thing is, as painful as I found it, Naomi never EVER saw it as a chore, and would (and still does, when requested) leap up from her seat to announce the definition to the world. She also loves reciting the poetry, though the literary quality of the “poems” in this first book is not exactly of the highest calibre. Susan Wise Bauer says this is typical of the logic stage (ie Grades 1-4) - others refer to this as the “poll-parrot” stage, the age where you can fill them up with facts and they drink it all in happily.
Anyway, we’re past nouns and onto pronouns: “a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun.” Ted did two of the lessons for me and I really appreciated the scripted nature of the program, which meant I could just hand him the book, point at the lesson, and let him take over. He seemed vaguely amused to be teaching a grammar lesson, with probably zero background in grammar since his own grammar-school days, but the two lessons he did went very smoothly.
- The Long Winter. We FINALLY finished this Little House book!!! Thanks to an audiobook version, though the narrator had a bit of a strange western accent.
- Fifty Famous Stories Retold. We were able to continue listening to the story of Dick Whittington and his cat, thanks to this FREE LibriVox recording.
- Day of the Dragon King. Another chapter book we managed to complete with the audiobook, which includes the full text of Books 9-16. I still have this out from the library, so we may continue with the audiobook version into our next book while my throat recovers.
- Many, many short “old-favourite” picture books, including Miss Rumphius, Bedtime for Frances, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, Caps for Sale, The Tub People and Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories. What incredible sanity-savers for kids trapped at home by cold weather and a sick mama!!!
Whenever we “read” an audiobook this week, I would try to sit with the kids and hold the actual book, so we can still look at the pictures together. Plus, it would be WAY too convenient for me to go off and do my own thing while they were listening to the story. Sometimes I let one of the kids hold the book, though, so they can turn the pages.
We had to skip science altogether this week, because I didn’t have any audio track to go along with our main Apologia science book. Hopefully, we’ll be back on track with that this week!
Meanwhile, we rounded out our week with one of the near-the-end-of-the-book lessons from Draw Write Now. I think Naomi is really moving beyond the lessons in this first book. I may ditch the rest and move on to Book 8, which we used last week to draw the echidna we’d spotted at the zoo. It was nice to draw the bunny from two different angles, but Naomi Rivka was in a big huge hurry to run back to her room and play with her Barbies, so she only put minimal effort into these.
Here’s last week’s echidna – a bit more of an interesting project, and we were both happy that they turned out looking just the way the one at the zoo looked!
I have totally left out any mention of Jewish studies, but we actually started a new passuk last week in Chumash and managed to accomplish quite a bit in Hebrew as well. I seriously think EVERY Hebrew program out there could learn a ton from Song School Latin – why aren’t my kids begging to learn more Hebrew every single week???
But Naomi is in love with K’tav B’kalut, her new Hebrew-handwriting book, which I’d promised her we’d start in January. This is a collaborative effort between the Handwriting Without Tears lady, who doesn’t read or write Hebrew, and a Hebrew teacher who wanted a program that was centred around the same principles. This program starts as many letters as possible with the basic “reish” shape and adds from there, building vocabulary and introducing gentle copywork along the way.
I am very antsy to finish up Migdalor’s Kriyah v’Od 2. The book has been good enough, but I am very much looking forward to our new program, Shalom Ivrit 2 , and I think Naomi will enjoy it more, too. The book just has a far more contemporary, less cluttered feel.
Our other two Hebrew books continue to be an excellent fit. I’m sorry I don’t mention them more often, because I love talking about programs that work well for us, so I’ll just put in a shameless but happy plug here for L’shon HaTorah (which apparently has its own website now!) and Bright Beginnings.
I emailed a while ago to find out if they were planning any other workbooks in the Bright Beginnings series. This one covers only the first part of Lech Lecha, so is of very limited usefulness beyond this year. Here’s their reply: “the second book is in the beginning stages of production and we would hope to have it finished god willing for the coming school year.” I will follow up with them in a few months, but right now, we’re not even halfway through this book, so it’s all fine with me.
Speaking of next books, however, and bringing us full circle back to the beginning of my post… the author of Song School Latin is planning a new book for “early in 2011,” so one reason I want to pace our lessons and not do more than one a week is to give the publisher time to get the NEXT book out so we can enjoy that one for a while before I decide if we’re going to leap formally into a SERIOUS Latin program.
Until then, Vale – or, assuming I have more than one reader - Valete!