Friday, September 25, 2009

Week Two Wrap-Up

There was an interesting thread at Real Learning about "high school expectations". A mom mentioned that after seeing what was expected at a local high school, she wondered if her homeschool expectations were too high. A lot of people chimed in. Anyway, my "thought for the week" as I embarked on the second week of the K12 curriculum was that in our typical DIY relaxed mode days, we did a LOT, more than it would have seemed on the surface. It's odd because I was afraid that K12 would be overwhelming for us. But not so. In some ways it's heartening to see once again that in our mode of past years we did things differently, but not the "easy way". Unschooly types and eclectic classical or CM-y types, take heart! You are probably doing way more than you think you are ;-0.

We settled into more of a routine this week. Our new schedule of more rambling mornings, with read alouds, a warm breakfast, art or project time and then nature walk is working well. We eat an early lunch and then settle down about noon to get through the bulk of the other things to do.

This is more doable for us now that we have X amount to get through. It's easy for the kids to see what's assigned for the day and where they are in finishing it. You can't really "cheat" and do things the shallow way because there are assessments to show mastery (though you CAN postpone the assessments if you don't think the child has it down, especially in the younger grades.

Paddy still has restless moments but has more of a sense of what's involved so he isn't quite as distracted and irritated when I call him to work. I think also it has helped that he has built up a store of knowledge, so it is partly review and not all new and foreign.

Topics Covered with Paddy:

Phonics -- digraphs -- review to him in one way, since he can read, but new in that he is not used to thinking about the sound elements that make up words. This is really basically a spelling lesson. We work with word tiles mostly. We do rhymes and "word chains" where you change one sound in the word and read the new word formed. Then we practice handwriting for a few minutes, usually along with whatever drawing or coloring projects are supposed to be done.

Mathematics -- well, we're past numbers up to 12 which he has known since he was 2 or 3! Most of this unit was learning how to write the numbers. Next is simple addition, which he has known about since he was 4. The teacher said we could target the assessments and move through quickly.

Language Arts -- I mostly like this course. It's divided into literature, grammar, and composition. The literature is folk tales and childrens' classics and a heavy emphasis on poetry. Whenever there is a new story, say Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, it is reread over a period of three days (like Five in a Row) and there are little projects and discussion topics associated with the readings so you develop basic lit ana skills. You do literature responses through pictures and verbal discussions. Some of it I modify a bit to make it closer to something that will seize his imagination. .... a more narration-oriented approach.

The grammar strand is right now concerned with "types of sentences". I downloaded some old English Lessons books from Google and used their lessons as topic starters because they intrigued him more than the sort of basic sentences that were provided.

History -- we are just finishing a unit on the world. ... continents and major oceans, some landforms, and cardinal directions. Then there was a story that introduced the words "history" and "historian". The next lesson is about archaeology and that wraps up the unit. Then we move to Ancient Egypt. He was squirrelly and restless at first with this subject. I tried to make it more interesting by hiding a chocolate chip and telling him where to find it by means of N-S-E-W, finding a few computer games to reinforce continent names and locations, showing him the globe and talking about where different people were and different things took place -- that kind of thing. He started getting more with the program as the unit went on. He did a great chalkboard narration of the landforms, sketching them and describing what they were like. When he wants to get on board, he does a great job.

Science -- units of measurement. This was not particularly interesting to him at first, either. He had no reason to care much what units of measurement were used for measuring length, mass, temperature or volume. Each type of measurement had a lab component. It helped that Kieron is doing a parallel but more complex unit at the same time, so some of their labs overlapped. There were a couple of messy but pretty intriguing volume labs in the kitchen. Today he measured temperatures and we had a "class" for his Bionicles. He much preferred answering questions posed to the Bionicles than to himself.

Art -- an introduction to looking at works of art, with a focus on lines and how they evoke mood. A lot of these classes are a bit more aggressive in having the child come to a given conclusion than our usual CMy, unschooly, discursive approach. I wouldn't be talking about types of lines and the emotion they evoke with a six year old under normal circumstances. But I'm going with it. The art is good quality art; we've never been successful with art appreciation in the past in any form. It has always gotten pushed to the back burner. So it's like I am out-sourcing and just supporting what is taught, even if I'm not on exactly the same page.

Music -- we are just getting this off the ground.

Almost forgot! Our reading time -- in the morning I read Lord of the Rings to anyone who's around. At lunch time I read Paddy's Language Arts stories or else something else we are going through. At bedtime he has a bedtime snack and another reading time that stretches out to his bedtime. We're reading Thornton's Burgess's Animal Book, some story anthologies, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, and something else I can't remember. Just before sleep time I read him a bit of non-fiction from What Your First Grader Needs to Know. I tease him that I'm trying to bore him so he'll fall asleep. So of course, then he tries to stay awake to listen!


I've run out of time, so I won't go into much detail with Kieron. He has his own student site associated with mine, but his own. He goes there and looks up his assignments. I spend a fair amount of time helping him and making sure he doesn't skip through the parts he doesn't want to do ;-). Sometimes we change the parameters of the assignment a bit. The rule is that we avoid changing them downwards. If we make a modification it has to be a step up, just more suited to his interests. For example, he was supposed to make a clay and shoebox miniature of an art gallery. I let him change it to a science museum. He met and exceeded the parameters and worked on it much more seriously than required. If I help him by typing out the responses to the study questions in history, I extend them by asking extra questions and discussing details to make sure his understanding isn't just a "fill the blank" type one.

He was reading a LOT of books from our shelves and last week wrote a nice 3-page story, the best he's done yet. It was called "The Lair". He was quite happy with it.

This weekend I'm going to plan our religion component. It dropped to bare bones while I was getting the hang of the K12 thing,


  1. You know, in many ways what you are doing now sounds rather freeing and get not that different than what you did, just less brain work preparing. Or perhaps I am wrong?

  2. I read the whole thread, Willa. I always did wonder about that 8th grade algebra. We did it, but I wonder how much my daughter really understood. I figure we'll have to relearn it during algebra II.

    Now that she's taking several outside classes, I'm seeing that the schedule is taking priority over the work itself. I dislike that intensely, but I'm tolerating it for now because she's trying some things she never would have tried before (essays with a clear thesis, for example), and I think it will be good for her confidence for her to know that she can do them. We'll see how it settles out over the semester before we decide how much it helps/hurts overall.

  3. You're right Erin, that is the way I feel! I don't know if it will last or if I will end up getting restless. Right now my brain is enjoying the break.

    Also, Laura, I'm glad in a way to know your life is taking a new turn, too. I think you're right that knowing you CAN do it can help with confidence.

    I thought Kieron wasn't ready for Algebra, but the book the school is using moves a lot slower than Jacob's which we used with the other kids. He's getting it fine and building confidence. I think it may actually be a middle school algebra book if there is such a thing. I think he'll probably have to do some review at a high school level, too.

  4. I was kind of thinking the same thing Erin said ... there is not really more content here, just less labor intensive for you. :-)


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!