Wrapping Up Week 22 (2016-17)
As is often the case when returning after the holidays, we’re making a few changes for the rest of the school year, the biggest being that we’ve decided not to return to the Classical Conversations community we were a part of in the fall. Due to some minor concerns with my pregnancy, I am taking my doctors’ advice to cut back on activities and will be trying to spend more days at home.
I had considered taking one more week of holiday, especially since we just returned from a family missions trip to Mexico, but I’m a little concerned about completing our school year before the baby comes (hoping she’ll hang on until May), so we plunged back in completely this week.
Arianna (age 5) has been showing so many signs of being ready to move ahead with reading. Although she’s been doing well on Reading Eggs, she lacks confidence, so I decided to start being more intentional with her each day. When we’re cuddling up to read together, I’ll occasionally ask her to find a certain word on a page (she loves things like I Spy and Where’s Waldo books, so to her this is a similar kind of game).
We also started going through a very old Harper & Row reader, Janet and Mark. I learned to read with this series, and my mom used it in her Kindergarten class for decades. She even had the book broken up and stapled into individual story books, which we inherited when she retired, so Arianna is proud to see her progress as she masters each “book” and moves on to the next. They use a whole word approach, rather than phonics, which she already gets plenty of in her Reading Eggs lessons. She is SO excited to finally be reading actual books, and I’m glad these books are helping her be successful.
With the two older boys, we had reached a couple natural “breaks” in our curriculum before the holidays, so things felt fresh and we enjoyed getting to move ahead this week.
Before the break, we had finished up The Light and the Glory for Young Readers and moved on to the next book in the Discovering God’s Plan for America series, From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers. (We’re using the older editions of all the books, which are titled “For Children” instead but are essentially the same, just without the questions at the end of each chapter). That put us just after the American Revolution and the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
This week we read chapters 2 and 3, which covered the migration of people westward toward the Mississippi River and the circuit riders who preached during the great period of revival in that area during the decades after the Revolution.
I want to be sure the boys are getting a good foundation in geography, so we started working on memorizing the states, beginning this week with the original 13 colonies. They used an online geography activity to get started (computer games make everything more fun, right?) and then labeled a map of the colonies from Map Trek: The Complete Collection. This book is an incredible resource for history lessons, with maps that can help build understanding from the span of history. The included CD-ROM includes reproducible student maps, so it’s easy to just print out what you need.
In addition to the map of the 13 colonies, I printed up one of the entire country and had the boys color in the states those colonies became (noting the name changes of West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine). As we continue learning about the expanding nation, we’ll color in additional areas.
To coordinate with our history lessons, our biography this week was Daniel Boone: Bravery on the Frontier from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series. I was hoping to also read a couple chapters about Boone from Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans but it just never happened.
[Note: During the weeks I didn’t write about, we covered John Calvin, John Knox, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Amy Carmichael (also another book on her and the DVD from Torchlighters including the documentary).]
I don’t want to always have our read-aloud books line up with what we’re studying in history, but it seems like that’s what I do more often than not. This week we read the first half of Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell, an award-winning novel about Sacagawea. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, never having read it myself. We enjoyed O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins a few months ago, so I figured we’d give it a try, even though I wasn’t sure if the boys would get into it.
All of us have ended up really enjoying the book, however. They beg me to read more each day, and it’s making me want to read more about Sacagawea on my own. We’re getting into the chapters on her journey with Lewis and Clark now, and I’m looking forward to tying it in with our history lessons (and biography) next week.
For spelling, I’ve made a minor change. Ian has been going through Sequential Spelling 1 for several months now, and it has been incredibly helpful for him, both in terms of his actual spelling ability and as far as his confidence is concerned. However, there are a full 180 days worth of lessons to each level and I wanted to find a way to accelerate him through Level 1 a bit so he isn’t stuck at at this level through next year.
However, I wanted to avoid skipping lessons or making him do multiple ones each day, and this week we tried out what I think will be a good solution. I’ve had Elijah join him in the program, and rather than using the DVD-ROM or having me administer the “test” each day, they take turns with the Student Workbook and Teacher Guide. That way each of them goes through two days’ worth of lists each day and has to concentrate on the spelling of the words, but they each take a turn writing the words down and being the “teacher.” I also selected several of the week’s words and created a list at SpellingCity.com so the boys can play games while getting in a little extra practice.
In writing, we completed Lesson 10 in All Things Fun and Fascinating from IEW. I still have to work with boys pretty closely each step of the way, although they are starting to be able to write their rough drafts mostly independently. Sometimes they get caught up in their writing and skip over things from their outline, but I usually just let that go until we start editing because I love that they’re so focused on getting their ideas written. Then later we go back over the outline to make sure they included everything important and they work through their checklists to make sure they’ve used all the writing elements they’re supposed to have in each paragraph. They’ve both come such a long way since we started using IEW materials last year.
Once we reached the last lesson focusing on teaching multiplication in Teaching Textbooks 4 (lesson 66) back in early December, I had them hold off on moving ahead. Instead, we spent a few weeks just focusing on multiplication facts. We played “Memory” games, where the boys had to make matches of the problems and answers. They played games on multiplication.com and used Learning Wrap-Ups.
This week it was time to start moving ahead, and it was obvious that the time we spent working on memorizing facts was well worth it. They were able to move through the more advance multiplication problems fairly quickly because they didn’t need to stop and look up each fact on a times table.
Independent Computer Work
After lunch, I usually try to lie down and rest with the little ones for a while, so the boys work independently on math and a few other extras on the computer. I’ve tried to give them some variety each day so they don’t get bored, yet I’m trying to be intentional as well. Here are some of the things that found their way on to their lists this week or will in the near future:
- Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course (Explorers to 1815)
- Veritas Press Self-Paced Bible Course on Judges – Kings
- Wordy Qwerty from Talking Fingers, Inc.
- Essential Skills Advantage
- multiplication.com games (free)
- SpellingCity.com games (free)
- Music Ace Deluxe (They have to go through a theory lesson first, but then they can play around. Elijah loves composing.)
- Clever Dragons
- Prodigy math game (free)
- Khan Academy (So far we’ve only used the coding lessons.)
Most of these aren’t free, unfortunately. Some we still have subscriptions to after I wrote reviews, and others we’ve chosen to purchase after getting a chance to try them out because we found them to be so worthwhile.
So that was our first week of school for 2017! I’m looking forward to a few solid months before we switch into baby mode.