Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More kids, Less curricula

   Obviously we do more than that pile of books. ;) Hopefully you're not tired of dancing pictures yet. Honor and Grace have grown SO much since we started taking them to the classes at a swing club. I ♥ this picture of them. The instructor has started asking Honor to help her with demonstrations occasionally; I've never seen him walk so tall! Grace had the opportunity to take some spins with a champion (literally) this past month. He gushed about her natural talent as much as she gushed about dancing with him.  (Justice is in the background by the curtain.)

 Mid-week we checked out one of our favorite parks. Just because.  

    Joy went on her first backpacking trip with her BSA Venture Crew. They hiked in 3.5-4 miles, camped with only what they could carry on their backs, and hiked back out. She came home worn out and LOADED with stories.

    Sunday we were running behind and did not get to church in time. Justice went with friends to their church and got back before Valor and I had even bathed. Slow motion rut. After we were suitable for the general public we went to the closest park. The little ones played. Justice mostly held down some grass with me, enjoying a fat book. We sat in the grass and had our own Bible lesson between serious playing.
Left to right: Grace, Justice, Valor, Honor, Faith (Joy wasn't back from her backpacking trip.)
    We started Training Hearts Teaching Minds by Starr Meade all over at question 1 (protestant catechism), and did a lesson from Long Story Short by Marty Machowski. 

Sweet Valor. How can someone this little and darling be ready for kindergarten??

Just waiting for us to finish school still wears the lad out. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Dance Dance Dance!

Grace at the dance club - She's picking up west coast like a pro!
Honor tearing up the floor - Love the confidence!!
Bilbo the scaredy cat
Camping gear makes a cozy spot for a nap.
Boy Scout camp
I got tired of the kitchen being SO DARK. Two walls have that wood paneling halfway up the walls.
I'll put a graying/aging coating on top of the blue stain.
How Valor "hangs out" at American Heritage Girls
Honor at a performance
Valor was feeling anxious and only made it ten minutes into this show.
Honor and Justice dancing with ladies from the audience
Joy dancing cha cha
WWII Christmas. Faith and her partner are so. bloody. cute.
Valor the clown before the show began.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Homegrown Lit Courses: Harry Potter's Bookshelf edition

     Our next venture in homegrown courses is building an inspiration of J.K. Rowling course, based on Harry Potter's Bookshelf by ..... wait for it... John Granger. Detective stories, some Austen, Bronte, boarding school stories, fabulous classics, and more. The more difficult works could be watched on DVD and analyzed through discussion, and the more accessible books still numbered more than he could probably read in a school year. Honor specifically asked for something like this for his seventh grade year, and the deeper I got into the preliminary planning, with Joy excitedly peeking over my shoulder every chance she got, Joy and I noticed there could be a large overlap with her British literature plans for next school year. I had plenty of the more difficult works marked DVD for Honor, that would be great for Joy to read herself. Joy and I used a list of commonly studied British literature and marked the books that correlated to Harry's Bookshelf, and from there we could see the holes in British literature. We made a list of titles to finish a broader coverage, and I'll work those books into the calmer areas of the Bookshelf plans. Thus, I will be writing two completely different versions of this course, each with its own syllabus.

      At first Honor wasn't so excited about Joy jumping into his idea, but the thought of enjoying the movies and discussions with big sis won him over. He may not readily admit it, but he really admires Joy. There ought to be ample opportunity for them to watch the movies together, and of course we'll have to add some Hogwarts recipes and fun activities. This will be Honor's first "Official" literary analysis course, and having big sis to bounce ideas around will be a blast. He'll see. ;)

     Harry Potter's Bookshelf has ten chapters that will serve as ten distinct units of study. Some have richer reading lists than others. Chapter 2 will be all DVD for Honor, and chapter 10 only has one easier fairy tale to read. Knowing those together will take less than a month, we have approximately a month for each of the other units. Here's a sampling of what we'll be doing.

Chapter 1 - detective stories and the Dickens orphan
  • classic detective stories like Agatha Christie, Poe, Sherlock, Hammet (Maltese Falcon), Dorothy Sayers
  • A Child's Machiavelli - This one is not mentioned by Granger, but the name Machiavelli is thrown around enough that a basic familiarity will be helpful. 
  • Oliver Twist (DVD), David Copperfield (Honor), Great Expectations (Joy)
  • this unit will likely go over the one month mark, we could easily sub DVDs to get all the characters in
Chapter 2 - Austen connections
  • Pride and Prejudice - DVD for both (Joy has already read it)
  • Emma- DVD for Honor, book for Joy (Maybe adding Clueless for comparison?)
  • Mansfield Park - DVD (maybe book for Joy)
Chapter 3 - boarding school novel patterns
  • Famous Five by Blyton
  • Tom Brown's School Days by Hughes
  • plenty more recommendations if Honor wants to go further
  • Joy will just read Tom Brown and fill this month with other Brit lit
 Chapter 4 - Gothic romance
  • Bronte - Joy will read, Honor will watch DVDs
  • Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde for Honor
  • Dracula DVD (the Stoker story)
  • Rime of the Ancient Mariner audio book
  • maybe Castle of Otranto
  • more Poe read aloud
Chapter 5 - Postmodern epic, how monsters are represented then and now
  • newer "monster" movies, if you can call sparkly, misunderstood vampires real monsters...
  • read Wizard of Oz, Tempest, and such
  • DVD heavy otherwise
  • The Eyre Affair for Joy
Chapter 6 - Satire
  • there are so many good, worthwhile examples this one is hard to whittle down to a month!
  • Honor: Canterbury Tales retelling (McCaughrean), Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm, Huck Finn (probably DVD), George Cruikshanks cartoons
  • Joy: Watership Down, select parts of Canterbury Tales, Erewhon, Cruikshanks cartoons, 1984
Chapter 7 - Allegory
  • Honor: Pilgrim's Progress retelling, 
  • Joy: Brother's Karamazov, Idylls of the King
  • Phaedrus
  • Everyman play
Chapter 8 - magic
  • Nesbit! 
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett (DVD probably, to give more time to Nesbit)
  • a chapter from Unlocking Harry Potter
  • Dante retelling (familiarity of Odysseus and Aeneas could go here, but we have that covered already)
Chapter 9 - alchemical magic
  • Shakespeare, several plays, Shakespeare Stories I and II by Leon Garfield for Honor, some originals for Joy, a DVD play for both
  • The Chymical Wedding for Joy
  • Tale of Two Cities if there's time
 Chapter 10 - secret of the mirror and magic eye
  • Elizabeth Goudge
  • The Last Battle by Lewis can just be discussed, both kids know it well

    They're both excited, and I can't wait! I want to start reading down this list myself. :)

    To prepare myself to teach this course I've read Harry Potter's Bookshelf and all seven Harry Potter stories obviously. I have Unlocking Harry Potter (Granger), Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts, and Looking for God in Harry Potter (Granger) on my personal reading list. There are so many interesting looking books out there about HP that it's hard to decide which ones!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Back to Basics with Little Bit

     Faith is a delightful little girl. Truly. She is an absolute blast to parent. She also happens to be one of the most stubborn determined and decisive people I know. When first grade rolled around I had some ideas on how she'd do first grade, and she had her own ideas on how she'd do first grade. 

     My typical first grade sequence is First Language Lessons 1 (the older combined 1/2 book), copywork from literature, a spelling book if they're already reading well, maybe some targeted penmanship practice, First Favorites literature (Veritas Press), a solid math book, and a pile of random resources and books for covering science and history gently.

     Her ideas included a Daily Language Review workbook like the big kids have (level 2 no less, 1 was too easy), a penmanship workbook from the same company (Evan-Moor), a spelling workbook with more practice than Rod and Staff spelling 2 (perfectionist tendencies don't like mistakes on spelling quizzes), writing activities to break up the "plain" copywork (yup, 'nother workbook), buddy reading chapter books like Harry Potter instead of sweet picture books, math, paper crafts, and Song School Latin. This is Faith we're talking about. She's a pretty compliant kid when she feels thoroughly heard. I let her go with it. This ended up being a lot of pencil to paper time for a little one, but she chomped through it like a pro.

     Mid-way through the year Daily Language started getting into concepts she didn't know, but would have covered if we'd done more than just sprinkle First Language Lessons around. I just taught them on the fly, but it irritated her. Her penmanship was awesome enough I told her to drop the Modern Manuscript practice. She declined. The writing activities (Evan-Moor style) ended up annoying her so much she was glad to get back to copywork, and then she wasn't. Her spelling matured right along with her, and wasn't so difficult anymore. Yes, we're adding Spanish, Mom. The big kids are having fun with it and I want to be included, but don't you dare suggest putting my Song School Latin on a shelf. LOL 

      She realized the need for some of these changes on her own. I enforced a couple. We're back to simple without a bunch of workbook parts, and she's contentedly thriving. 
  • First Language Lessons, lightspeed, skipping tons, she memorized two of the poems in a week, I think she could have started in level 2, but she'll finish it by the beginning of 2nd grade at this speed anyway.
  • Dropped the penmanship book. She has adorable handwriting.
  • Copywork, but added Primary Lessons in Language and Composition so it wouldn't feel so plain to her. This is a charming vintage book, and being similar to Laura's lessons from Little House on the Prairie just endeared it to her more. (I write out the assignments directly in her notebook for her to copy. The assignments are in cursive, which she can't even read yet.)
  • Rod and Staff's Spelling by Sound and Structure 2 is a great fit now. She's in lesson 14 and doing well. 
  • Bring on the chapter book buddy-reading! She can read books like Boxcar Children on her own, but won't dig into Harry Potter unless I'm at her side. That Dalek Handbook on the other hand? That's her nighttime companion. ;-)
  • She's over halfway through Horizons math 2. Somedays she gripes that math is hard and she doesn't like it, and then completes the lesson flawlessly. She hardly ever makes mistakes. I can't fathom changing her curricula when it's worked that well.
  • Science has become Magic School Bus DVDs with correlated paper crafts I've found free on the internet. This week she's doing a few desert life lapbook parts every day and glueing them into a composition notebook. She's thrilled with this.
  • Geography has gone well. I scheduled more reading and culture than she gave a hoot about. We ended up tailoring the schedule to suit Grace instead, and Faith just does the mapping and lighter extras.
  • Song School Latin is over halfway through. She remembers her words, uses them in daily conversation, and loves the book. Win-win. I originally intended on holding this off for second grade, but she's had Latin in her life since she was born and was chomping at the bit to have her OWN book. This takes less than ten minutes a day.
  • Spanish is now Song School Spanish. Yes, same format as her Latin. Thus far she hasn't had any problems keeping them separate. She used random online printables and watched lots of Standard Deviants' Basic Spanish before we added SSS. Also less than ten minutes a day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Little More Real for Honor

    After the conference Honor and I had in the last post, his planner was rearranged so he could see the top priorities were writing, math, and Adventures in the Sea and Sky. Everything else was fairly short. We changed up writing to something that would get him back in the habit of writing something daily, added Alcumus for review as needed, decided spelling would be over for this year when he finishes the 5th grade spelling book, and grammar when he finishes the current set of worksheets. Languages were reduced to small daily bites to keep vocab fresh, but not require a  lot of time.

    Yesterday Honor and I stayed up late chatting about how school is going. I shared Christopher Perrin's blog post, Classical Education-- The Best Preparation for STEM, with him, to encourage him in an uncomfortable transition in his writing curricula. (Or, having to adapt to writing daily, after a stretch of trying to tailor a "fun" writing curriculum for him, which spread it out and let him get out of the daily habit.)  Honor wasn't quite satisfied with the changes we made, and that didn't come out until we'd been chatting for some time. I nearly swoon over heart to hearts with this boy. We didn't get to bed until past 11, but it was completely worth it. <3

  • He wants to pause Spanish until 7th grade starts. He is excited about the language, and truly does want to work at it, but not right now. He's not very far into Spanish For Children A, so it wouldn't be a big deal to start all over in the fall. He'll still jump in when we work out fables and short stories on the whiteboard as a family, and occasionally play with the Standard Deviants DVDs, but nothing formal for now. Since a few family members are actively working on Spanish he'll still be around it. Green light.
  • Latin is slowing way down, 10-15 minutes a day. I'd like to see him finish the book he's in, which that pace would accomplish by fall, but I get the feeling he will want to drop it entirely when Spanish returns. I'm not too certain he won't ask for this to find the chopping block sooner rather than later. I want him to get as much Latin as he can in before high school... but it's not a hill I'm willing to die on. Wait and see.
  • He needed to make sure he could really be done with spelling for the year after he finishes the 5th grade book, which will be this week. Absolutely, son. Everybody has something they're "behind" in, and that's okay. We'll tackle that 6 book in seventh grade. Green light.
  • And grammar too? Yes, son. That was the plan, though that was assuming he was also getting some in his language studies, which just got knocked down. Go for it. Grammar can wait. I think I'll surprise him and pull it when he finishes spelling 5. Green light.
     When spelling and grammar end, that leaves him Bible, bite-size Latin, daily writing with School Composition (vintage text by Maxwell), Adventures in the Sea and Sky (with the Older Learner guide and extra literature), and Art of Problem Solving prealgebra for the last quarter of 6th grade and into the summer. He wants to double up on Adventures, and/or go deeper into the topics on his own. That math book could certainly handle having more time to spend in it. This will give him more time to add the Civil Air Patrol materials he wants to work through too.  He's happier with the outlook. Here we go!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Keeping It Real

The Honor and Grace edition.

    Every so often you need to regroup, see how far you've come, where you want to be, and face the facts. Is this book worth the time it takes? Is this course realistic? Do we need to readjust priorities? Summer is coming. No one wants to work full steam all the way up to the next grade starting.

   I started with Grace. She is a motivated worker, who can rip through a sturdy stack of work in an unbelievably short amount of time. Then I managed to pull Honor away from his Legos long enough to do the same. He is a strong worker and rarely complains, but he'd really, really rather be in construction somewhere. As we went over their subjects individually we wrote out next week's planner. Their conferences with me were completely separate, but I'm listing them together because there's so much overlap between these two.

  • Bible Road Trip and reading about 4 chapters in their Bibles a day - They both gave this two thumbs up. We tried doing every notebooking page for a week within a week, and found it took more time to do well than we wanted to devote to it. Now we just do a page a day no matter what. Their reading won't line up, but that's okay. It certainly won't kill them to back up and reread a few portions.
  • Grace has really, really enjoyed this year's titles. She's currently reading Little Women. No complaints.
  • Honor was boated out. Adventures in the Sea and Sky spent 18 weeks on boats, and only 9 each on aviation and space travel. There aren't as many aviation stories to be found, so I'm mixing more uncorrelated classics to his list.
  • Daily Language Review went well for half the year. They both started making more and more simple mistakes though. I put an old download of a really basic grammar workbook (no longer available) into their binders instead. It presents a simple concept and gives two pages of drill. Honor took to this well. Grace not so much. I jokingly mentioned all those oral drills in Rod and Staff English would fix that. She asked if she could! I pulled one out of the cupboard and she gladly raced through two lessons in fifteen minutes. So it is. 
  • Spelling by Sound and Structure by Rod and Staff - Honor is nearly done with the 5 book (as a 6th grader). We'd originally planned on starting 6 immediately after finishing 5. He is making progress, but we have other priorities. He'll continue to work on it in other subjects, but we'll save the 6 book for the beginning of 7th grade. Grace is racing through book 5 and wants to get to the 6 book as quick as she can.
  • Cover Story writing - Grace is thriving with some simple modifications, but likely won't finish it this school year. She is young for this curriculum, and will likely retake it in a couple/few years. Whenever we get next grade's American Girl stuff kickstarted this summer Cover Story will be shelved.
        Honor and I had to get real. At his current pace he will not finish it before 7th grade, even if he works clear straight summer (which isn't possible with camps, conventions, etc). The lessons that make him balk are increasing, and will increase. He does not like writing that requires creativity. Tell him to write about the Spirit of St. Louis and he'll cover the important details in order, but ask him to write a letter to the editor about it and he'll freeze. When I asked what specifically he does like about Cover Story he said the contests, the videos, and that he can write about aviation a lot. What he does not like is having to write anything that's not real. (His term for writing that even leans to the creative side.) We explored some solutions together, and decided to start working through a vintage school text called School Composition by William Henry Maxwell for next week. After that we'll decide if he should just switch, or if we should cherry pick some Cover Story lessons and stagger them with School Composition lessons. Regardless, he can enter the next Cover Story contest with his aviation haikus.
  • Latin could not get up to the speed it needed this year, but we all accepted that a long time ago. It's okay to just go through it slower. Grace had skipped some exercises instead of saying she needed help. They both need their vocab polished more than it is. We made a plan for a little extra drill, and repairing any skipped exercises. Honor would like a different Latin approach. He'd rather have a piece to read and have to work through with a dictionary than have to memorize words, learn the grammar, and then build something with it. He needs to finish the book he's in no matter what, but I will keep this in mind for fall. 
  • Spanish for Children has gone well. It has more daily useful vocab than Latin for Children did. We're still pretty new to it, and we definitely need more than the provided drill, but this is working out well. 
  • Grace is really, really curious about negatives, exponents, and prealgebra in general. I really, really want her to finish Horizons 5 before she gets too carried away jumping the gun. But she loves it when I pull the occasional problem out of Honor's prealg and work it out with her on a whiteboard. When Honor started prealg she would insist that she'd finish the 6 book before doing that. Now she's more unsure. For now I'm encouraging her to work harder on that 5 book if she wants to see prealg that badly. (She did 4 lessons in one sitting earlier this week. She means business!)
  • Honor had a big burp with Art of Problem Solving's prealgebra last month. We just shelved it and he worked on other various stuff for awhile. Now he's back into it full force, and we've learned to use Alcumus for extra review when it's obvious we won't get to his main book that day. Alcumus at least keeps him thinking rather than just calculating a pile of numbers. I'm not sure if we'll finish this before 7th grade or not.
  • Grace is going to run out of Bite-size Physics before she runs out of 4th grade. I've been stretching it out with some Cartoon Guide to Physics and Exploring the World of Physics. She'll just read in nonfiction books we already own after this, and wait until 5th grade for more Official Curriculum.
  • Honor has been intrigued by the science he's learning in Adventures in the Sea and Sky, but underwhelmed by it's depth. We add more nonfiction reading to solve this, and seem to have found the right balance for now.
  • Grace and Faith fell off their joint geography wagon somewhere, and it's definitely NOT where we want it to be. I started rewriting the syllabus into two entirely separate sets. Grace will start hauling on her own, and Faith will focus on the mapping, holidays, and culture that intrigues her. We talked about the pace needed for getting this done before summer. We want to start American Girl this summer, so this is good motivation. (As a result, we'll start American Girl with separate plans for each girl rather than trying to get them to move as one.)
  • Honor's history in Adventures has gone great. He's absorbed tons, applies it to what he sees in daily life, and has a great timeline in his head. 
    Grace was energized by that conference, and ready to plug ahead full force.  Moose was glad for the prioritizing. We set up his planner to lump his "little bits" together (Bible Road Trip, English, languages), and put the three he really needs to focus on (math, writing, Adventures) together. Back on track and off they go!