Monday, February 14, 2011

State of the Homeschool Address

Oh my goodness, i can't believe i haven't issued a SHA since October '10! Sheesh! No worries though, we've been movin' right along...footloose and fancy-free! 15 more weeks and schools out for us! Yeehaw!

We've just come from having a week off--not of commitments like dance and swimming, but of school. I think it's done wonders for Cookie and me. We planned fun (subversive learning) experiments this past week, including making homemade butternut squash ravioli. Cookie was enamoured with thee entire process and couldn't wait to show Moose what she had been making for dinner when he returned home from work. :) We also made valentines and Cookie learned to serve & hit a shuttlecock. She'll be a champion badminton player in no time.

One thing has caused us to change our schedules from last fall is the deletion of tap and jazz and the addition of swimming lessons. Like i told Cookie, if you don't learn the advance shuffle brush hop step, you won't drown. :) We found a pool, through many recommendations of our friends, that doesn't use a boat-load of chlorine, instead preferring saline water. Many wonderful things have come from this opportunity: most extraordinary is Cookie overcoming her fear of putting her face in the water! Hooray! She is now the master of the front & back float and doesn't mind putting her head underwater to "dive" for weighted rings in the kiddie pool. Also, we have two unadulterated 30 minute sessions of visiting with our close friends who we wish were our neighbours and we've met a new friend--the receptionist at the pool, who is an adorable German woman and is helping me practice my 2nd language and teaching Cookie a little to boot. The best thing about this program is that it's not just another "certificate of participation" program again...they test the kids on a regular basis and don't not graduate the child to the next level unless they can perform the specific skill. Imagine!?!? So, should she choose, Cookie has 12 levels to pass...and has passed the 1st. We were discussing the commitment to finish all the levels, and so far she hasn't the interest, however i think it would make her the strongest swimmer...especially with all this water here in the Pacific NW.

Another wonderful addition to our schedules has been homeschool bowling. It's a challenge to get to now, as it is on the same day as swim lessons, however a worthwhile endeavour as we get to see some wonderful friends we've met through dance classes.

Currently, she's readying for another feis after St. Patrick's Day--this time in Seattle; time and date TBA. She's coming along smashingly with hardshoe. Watching her is amazing--especially the way her face lights up when she perfects the really challenging new steps.

As far as school goes....

She's performing marvelously. I am working with her on the concept of motivating herself to attend to tasks that she can do alone. So far the only success i've had is with her cursive writing. She *loves* completing those lessons and is almost done with the book. One thing i've been slacking on is dictation, especially because i couldn't find an appropriate source. However, with the discovery of a really cool list of books assorted by grade level, i can find sources of dictation at her spelling and writing ability (which i've discovered doesn't completely match up with her reading capabilities.)

In Math, she is by far learning the most. She's through multiples of 7 now, learning about measurements of volume and distance in English and Metric, and is currently working on adding three digit numbers. Only 40 more lessons to go and she'll have completed grade 3.

Part of staying motivated this late in the year is compiling all the new resources to investigate for next year. In reading about her next math text, it's going to combine 4th and 5th grade level math and is reported to supposedly take 2 years to finish, however so was this year's text. It will be Cookie's first hard cover math text...just like i remember getting in 7th grade! :)

Language arts could be going a tad better. The material Cookie finds very boring. Memorising lists of prepositions and helping verbs. She hasn't completely rebelled yet, so i have to give her credit for her wealth of self-control. Today, i'll be introducing a text that is a daily review of grammatical concepts: correcting punctuation, capitalisation mistakes, identifying parts of speech, and combining sentences using commas instead of "and". I am starting to get a little worried that if we don't review this material now on a daily basis that she will have a hard time remembering it in the future and have a hard time with test questions on her evaluation coming up in 4 short months.

Reading is going well--we are staying on top of history texts, which neatly coincide with some English lit. We must get into Shakespeare soon, before the end of the year! I think we are partly behind in this because we are behind in History. One thing i wish i could put a stop to is the "junk food" chapter books for kids this reading level. These fairy stories are ridiculous and provide no substance. Another reason i am thankful to have found the reading lists. Cookie skipped a lot of wonderful books for 3 and 4th grade reading when we thought she was ready for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Winnie the Pooh, and Mary Poppins. Turns out, those books are considered late 4th grade reading and may have done more harm than good. Whoops. We are jumping into late 2nd grade level books and reading ones that spark imagination--not the babyish books, but books like Frog and Toad, anything by Tomie De Paola, and such. Sticking with classical writers with a penchant for making inanimate objects or animals come alive like Virginia Lee Burton, The Rey's, and Margaret Wise Brown. With these, we are also working on our narration exercises, which Cookie has gotten extremely better at retelling stories in her own words.

Her handwriting is amazing. She has gone from Sloppy Sally to Neatnik Nelly in just 5 months. She's never liked the paper with the special kid ruled lines, so she's writing on regular ruled paper and we can read it! Woot! The cutest thing is that the "girly" gene has apparently kicked in. I's are starting to be dotted with hearts. Swirls have been appearing with regularity for some time now. But truly, when does this phase end? :)

Spelling is going really well for her too. It is amazing the words she can spell. She's completed 2nd grade level and we are just finishing our first third grade section. We've just been taking our time so she can start digesting the spelling rules of English and reiterating them in her own words, especially key now as next year we start in with the Latin curriculum. Yikes! I can't imagine trying to teach both and helping her keep both of them straight at the same time.

We've made a little headway on the second book of our history series, Story of the World. We're dealing with the Middle Ages here, and Cookie is as engaged as ever. She remarked the other day that history is becoming her favourite subject (just like her daddy.) So far we've seen the Roman Empire crumble and replaced by the Byzantine Empire. Now we are moving onto what is happening to countries like India and the Nordic countries during this time. So far, our projects have included illuminating manuscript and making a Monk's supper (which incidentally helped contribute to a stunning weight loss that week of 2.8lbs! We need to eat like monks more often around here!!) This week, since we are in India, i believe we may try our hand at weaving on a homemade weaving loom.

Science is going well too. She's moved from Earth Sci to Astronomy. She's been learning about the space shuttles, missions, and the ISS, and now we are moving onto the solar system and constellations. She's a hound for the stories of Greek and Roman gods, so i have no doubt she'll love the stories behind the constellations. We're planning a trip to an observatory in Central WA once the weather turns better.

Music and Art History is going smoothly too. Both are great subjects for our Tuesdays now that we have swim in the morning and dance in the afternoon. Both of these subjects provide her with just enough school for the day and are relaxing enough to allow her to conserve energy for such a long day. We've made it to Norman Rockwell on of our list and through 7 of our 10 classical music cd's , with Beethoven being Cookie's favourite.

So off we go looking toward May 31st. Please don't let us fall behind now! We are still a few lessons ahead in our core texts (grammar and math), so i am hoping the trend continues so we can get to the fun stuff--gardening and playing in the yard in the sunshine!!

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Thanks for taking the time to read my silly lil musings. Hope you have a wonderful day!