Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moving Along, Slowly

With my roller-coaster health issues creating fits and spurts of action and complete exhaustion, a regular schedule has always been a challenge for me. We get into a groove that works for a week, and then too many errands, a lacrosse game, and teaching CCD puts me back in bed Monday through Wednesday. And well, there goes the "groove." My health is stabilizing and I am trying to protect my schedule and conserve my energy this school year.  I am hopeful that we'll be able to get into a routine that works for our family.

I've read many many places that children like predictable schedules when so much else in their lives is unpredictable and new. S seems to like this new routine a lot. This week we've had way fewer tantrums and fewer tears. Flue practice has been much more productive, and we've had more smiles and many more positive comments. Ahhh. My stress level has already decreased. I am hopeful that I can keep my health stable enough that we can make this routine ours.
We are learning the parts of the flower. I've introduced this nomenclature before, but this year, I have a different science scheme planned out. I pulled from Janice VanCleave's Biology and Plants books and put together a sequence of explorations (can't really call them all experiments) for the kids. I think that there are near 23 activities, and I plan to do 1-2 a week.

This lesson sequence is inspired by Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind. For our ages she suggests reading from science encyclopedias, outlining, and doing hands-on science experiments. We are still in Story of the World Vol 1: Ancients, so this fall, I am planning to do plants and the human body. I don't know that we'll have time for a real animal investigation. Next spring when we transition to Story of the World Vol 2: Middle Ages I think we'll work on earth sciences. The Story of the World is our history text.

This is Bloomers: Parts of the Flower from the Plants book. If you end up doing the activity, you'll notice that we didn't follow the instructions exactly. I thought that somewhere we MUST have yellow and green pipe cleaners. NOPE. We used brown pipe cleaners and then colored them differently on our drawings.

 S's is on the left and T's is on the right.

This is what happens when we come back from the library.

Okay, I don't think any of the kids are reading what I call an "assigned reading" book. Each week I pick out a selection of library history texts, science texts, and fiction I think are appropriate, further explore the topics we are covering that week, and contain complete sentences. We have a designated "assigned reading" time each day, and the kids are allowed to choose multiple texts from that special pile. They don't need to read all of the books in that pile and they don't need to write about all of the books they read either. I instituted this "assigned reading" time to encourage them to read quality texts in addition to the other books they tend to choose.
D has decided that he is going to start in on the graphic novels as well. This print is so small he uses a magnifying glass to see it. I think this is Bionicle which is a Lego thing. They look a bit like transformers to me. Not really an easy-reader for kindergarten, but D can read and understand most of the words.
This year, we are starting Latin. We are using Latina Christiana from Seton Publishing. I like the teaching manual because it is easy to understand and well laid out. There are 23?? lessons in this first level? I think. I figured we'd go as quickly as the kids wanted and were willing to go without pressure to finish this text by the end of the school year. This week, our first week, is shaping up to seem like we'll do a chapter a week. On the fly, I've created a bunch of copy activities to go along with this lesson plan and I can share that in a later post.  We recite and write a lot. At this point, T and S are the only ones I'm working with, but D likes to "hang around" and listen and recite with us.

We are also memorizing the Rosary and Mass prayers in Latin. A bunch of the prayer words also pop up as vocab words in this text. It will be interesting to see if the kids catch those.
D is reading, reading, reading through the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  At this point, he is reviewing sounds he already knows, but I am sure it will get more challenging and then we can slow down a bit.

He seems to like this book. I just let him read the text because it is too difficult to make little illustrated booklets like MBT did for her two. D goes through about 7 lessons in one sitting.
Humn, these look like T's hands. I think this is him doing his spelling work. (See, a lot more book work this year.) We use the Spelling Workout books.  D works in book B, S in book C, and T in book D. Book B is described as a 2nd grade level text. The kids whip through the exercises in each lesson, so after a week or so, we review. 

Here we are doing a review list, which is kind of like a quiz though it isn't graded for anything. I dictate the word and the child writes it down. Then he checks his work, corrects any that are wrong, and writes the "trouble" words in the upper right hand corner in a list format. We keep re-writing the "trouble" word list in the upper right hand corner of each "quiz" paper we do. Just for extra practice. At some point, I'll dictate his "trouble" word list and we'll see how many he can spell and which need to stay on the the "trouble" word list. 

They are also reading a bunch more quality and varied literature and I am hoping that this will help their spelling and word recognition a bit too, though this never helped me.
S is doing some sentence diagramming. Somehow this is an activity my kids find super fun. I never did this in school and so I am learning how to diagram sentences right along with them. I find it kind of fun too. But everything I've heard from others is that this was THE lesson they hated in school. Maybe my kids like it because it is like an analysis puzzle. What is this? Where does it go? 

We are using the Voyages In English text from Loyola Press. The kids like the predictable lesson format. I like the practice in the additional practice book. 

I don't like how these lesson progress, and I don't like their definitions for things like subjects and predicates. I just substitute other definitions that make more sense to me. The entire series starts in third grade. T has received the Montessori introductions to all parts of speech and sentence analysis. S has not. We may end up adding in a few Montessori introductions for her and using these texts for review and reinforcement, if these texts aren't "sinking-in." We'll see.
Dynamic addition on the large bead frame. S is doing well with this exercise, though she sometimes loses her place a bit. It's all about organization!! 
D is working on his math facts. Here he is doing some addition. They still look like baby hands to me!
And D is working on his skip counting. He's gotten 9's down!
The headphones are so I don't have to also work on skip counting. He and S like to "dance" with the animal in the video.
And our history text! We are about half way through the Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer. We use the story book text and the Student Activity Pages text. 
I've found that this progression works best for us. I read the story and the kids listen. I use the question prompts in the Student Activity book to help guide our narrative conversation. I'll ask questions like, "Who was Cyrus." "Was he a good King?" "Where did he rule?" And we'll rehash the most important points in the story. Then T and S will write down their narrative. T will write a summary of the story and usually ends up writing almost a page. S usually writes about a particular part she thought was interesting, and she ends up writing about a quarter of a page. D draws a picture first about the part of the story he found most interesting. Then he tells me about his picture and I write down his narrative. Sometimes the chapter is long and we will split it up into two sessions.

In another session we will recall the story and, using the Student Activity Pages as a guide, (there is a script to use for each chapter) we will look at the map (also in the activity pages) and note the land masses and waterways referenced in the story. 

I try to have books on hand from the library for our "assigned reading" time that pertain to which ever chapter we are reading. Depending upon the child's age, they can draw a picture about a part of the book they found most interesting or write a bit about what happened in the story. We aren't going into thesis papers yet. I am focusing on retelling only. 

At this point, I am ignoring most of the "crafting" ideas in the activity pages. There is a lot to get through and I really don't know what to do with three Roman soldier helmets, and three gladiator shields, and three Greek water pots, and get the idea. There are some consumable projects, and if they strike our fancy, I suppose we'll do those. 
It is interesting to note here that Cyrus is holding a trident in Astyages' (ADD-stee-ages) dream. Cyrus the Great was Persian, not Grecian (like Poseiden the God of the Sea) or Roman (like Neptune who was the Roman God of the Sea and someone who we haven't covered yet) and he wasn't a God. Yet, D did remember that the Poseiden's trident was a weapon of power. In the story we read, Astyages dreamed that his grandson would grow up and take his power and his kingdom. Despite great odds, that grandson, Cyrus, did just that. Being a powerful man, it is only appropriate that Cyrus would have weapon of power. What an interesting tid-bit for a five year old to remember. Or, it could be that because food is D's favorite subject above all else, that he thought that Cyrus the Great was hungry and was just holding a huge fork.
This was T's first draft. We later switched some words and made some different grammatical choices so that it read a bit more smoothly. 

These are S's "people." She draws these people all the time. That horizontal line through the nose is apparently a beard. Be sure to stay tuned for more of these figures in roman gladiator sandals and Grecian togas.
And finally, S has been working on the Carnival of Venice. This is an okay run through. She's done better and she's done worse. We are working on consistency. About a year in, this is where we are.

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