Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekly Reporter - Week 30 - April 26-30

This is a week where I've been more relaxed in my approach. We do get the work done, but not exactly like clockwork right after the other. I find ds is learning a lot anyway (gasp).

In History, we're listening to Chapter 30 in SOTW 1, about Ancient India. Ds colored a page of the Buddha in the Activity Guide, did the mapwork, went over the review questions, and we talked at length about the caste system. We also went online using the Usborne Quicklinks from the Internet-Linked Encyclopedia. Ds knows the symbols of the Buddha now: feet, wheel, tree with empty throne, a stupa, and a column with a lion on it. Ds just reminded me right now that another Buddhist symbol was a tower of fire. Tonight we're watching IMAX India from Netflix. I'd like him to see a scenes from the river Ganges, names after the goddess Ganga. It's sure to be stunningly beautiful, as India tends to be.

I spent the whole week obsessing about Math. Ds doesn't know his math facts forwards and backwards. In fact, I think we have quite a way to go. This is the reason I'm starting to doubt the current program I'm using -- MCP Math. I know that our supplemental program, Miquon, I'm going to make a bigger effort to sit next to him and teach, rather than just hand him a worksheet and tell him to use the rods with it. I explain until my tongue falls off (figuratively, of course) with MCP and he doesn't quite get it yet. Worse yet, he doesn't like math. Maybe it's just a maturity issue. I don't know. I'm confused, but with more research and help from the forum I'm on, I hope to make a decision I'm satisfied with before his second year starts. we backtracked, and I helped him with a few Miquon sheets, and we did one MEP sheet. It went okay. Maybe that's all I can hope for: okay. He does so well in other lessons, that I think that math stands out here.

Poetry has been intermittent here, and I don't mind. We get it done every week, but instead of every day it's been more like 2-3 days a week. We're reading Emily Dickinson's, and ds enjoys them, and is learning new vocabulary.

I enjoyed Music this week. I'd like to think ds did too. I think he did. I read from Mike Venezia's fun Discovering the World's Greatest Composers, where Mozart's opera Magic Flute was explained in some detail. I promptly requested the opera from Netflix (so many versions!), and we watched this last night. I was surprised at how interested ds was. I think it's the fantasy aspect, and the fact that he'd already had an introduction. Score!

Copywork is getting much better. Ds can write nicely, it's a matter of whether he wants to or not. Note to self: motivation needs to be a tad more subtle. I use selections from across our lessons, but I like to shake things up a bit and had him write a letter to his aunt in California last night.

Geography blends a bit into Natural Science. Ds learned about caves a few weeks ago, then the ocean, and next week it's the desert. I give him his own books to read. It's so nice that he's reading at a third grade level. I like Tanglewood Geography, it just a simple collection of 36 weeks of lesson plans that tell me what to do next, but leaves a lot of room for me to stretch out and be flexible.

Art Appreciation (Picture Study). I've hit a dead-end, as I don't know what else to do with Mary Cassatt lol. However, I asked dh to show me her paintings in his book, and he can trace one again, and study a few others.

Natural Science is going well. Our topic is weather and I've been learning right along with him. I find tornadoes and hurricanes awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time, and concur with ds that I wouldn't want to be caught in either. We finish the six weeks with the Eyewitness Explorer: Weather DVD from Netflix. We read books on the couch, and today we spent close to an hour looking at tornado and hurricane footage on YouTube. I want to show him parts of Twister as well! I own that movie, I think it's great.

Health & Safety blended with Natural Science this week, as one topic to discuss was tornado and hurricane safety. Check! :)

Spanish is silent this week, as I contemplate what else to do for next year -- Muzzy?

Gave ds a Spelling quiz today, just telling him the words and having him write them down in a column, and he did all of them right. I'm using Natural Speller and its ideas of copying five time, writing sentences with each word, then quiz. Note to self: try to incorporate Charlotte Mason's imaging system. Will definitely do this as I move to dictation next year.

Theology has fallen to the wayside. I was reading the Bible to him, but I'm not doing that lately. We focused on Easter with Sheila Carroll's fabulous and free Easter unit. Ms. Carroll is from Living Books Curriculum, and I receive her terrific newsletters. If I weren't so set on planning everything, I would be using this curriculum. During the Summer I'm going to recount the story of Moses from SOTW 1 (we skipped it as so far, at least for dh and me, there is no conclusive evidence of Israelites having been in Egypt), talk about the plagues, watch The Prince of Egypt.. it's going to be fun. Ds is in CCD as well, which is Catholic Catechism, and he enjoys it.

Literature is hanging for the last day or two. We just finished Aesop's Fables and now I'm moving into The Mouse and the Motorcycle. We're still reading Detectives in Togas, which is wonderful. I had to read ahead!

Reading is thankfully no problem in this house. Ds reads much of his science, and he enjoys reading the magazine Ask as well. For school he's reading Stories From India, which meshes nicely with our History lessons. They are utterly enjoyable to him, as he spontaneously narrates whole stories to me. His narration skills are improving very much, and I'm happy to see that.

We're plodding along with Phonics. Ds just completes a page from the workbook three days a week. Not glamorous, but I see he's benefiting spelling-wise as well.

Today we're headed to the bank with Cub Scouts to see where money comes from. Ds is going to ask how money grows while sitting there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Look Math, Myself

I often get stuck in my head about things. Let me explain. I've been wrestling with math, as you can see from the post above. However, this may be all in my head. You see, I'm starting to realize that ds will complain some no matter what. As long as he's not crying every day about doing school and is utterly miserable, he just wants to play all day and exert no effort whatsoever. I'm okay with that now. I don't fight it tooth and nail, I don't get stressed or frustrated, I just accept it the way it is. School is not always fun, not always ideal (many times not ideal), and it's still good. Good enough. A concept that I struggle with above all, and need to come to terms in school as well as in life.

But I digress. Math is the one subject that sticks out to me, as it was the bane of my existence for a whole decade. When you're a kid, a decade seems like eternity. When ds struggles with math, I see myself struggling as a child and not understanding the concepts when I was gifted in everything else. It's hard when you're used to not making any effort and things come easily to you, but in that one subject my glaring imperfection shone like a beacon of failure.

When ds doesn't understand math concepts, I get a feeling akin to despair, as he's more important to me as I ever was to myself. I want to fix it -- and now! Is it the curriculum? Is it me? Surely it can't be.. him? Turns out he's a lot like me. He likes History, he loves reading, he doesn't like exerting too much effort.. Hmm.. Through teaching him and trying my hardest to accept him the way he is, I'm taking some tentative steps on the new journey to self-acceptance. Just starting on that road feels liberating, feels wonderful.

So I got stuck in my head that I need to use multiple programs to teach ds. One program can't be enough, right? Maybe he will love one of them! Unconsciously, I think, I may have benefited from seeing things from multiple angles.

My intellectual side comes to the rescue and says there are no panaceas. Ds will not automatically love and enjoy math every day, everything, because of one curriculum and never complain again. I know he will learn to accept it and enjoy parts of it, learn a lot and use it in real life. It's hard letting go of your goals. Keeping yourself in the middle between slacking and rigid perfectionism is a constant effort, but a worthy one.

I asked him, holding up the MCP Math book A and the Miquon Orange Book, "Which one do you like better?" To my surprise, he said the MCP Math. Huh?? "The one. . you.. complain about so much?" I stammered. Yes, I like that one better. We are sticking with MCP and doing Miquon as a supplement. We take a few steps forward and a few steps backward, but we're going forward. More Family Math games are forthcoming too. I will have MEP handy to print whenever I need to present things in a different way. I am at peace.

I hope with all my heart that one day he will look back and that he can feel that love and acceptance I have for him. I hope my anger, frustration and lesser qualities don't eclipse that great, steady, unconditional love that wells inside me when I look at him but never ebbs away.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm baaaack!

I haven't posted since September 28? What a crime. A shame indeed. We've done sooo many interesting projects, read so many engaging books, went on field trips, played games, traveled and now we're here.. 28 weeks into our school year. I still have at least 8 weeks left, and I'm not going to let my previous absence deter me.

For the most part, things have been going well. However, ds has done much complaining overall, and we have listened to his complaints. He wanted more projects, we're working hard to offer him even more projects. Who would have thought my son liked hands on stuff? Hands on is not easy for me, but I'm starting to see its educational and emotional value, and enjoying the projects as well. We work on projects in History (SOTW-1), Natural Science (Young Discoverers Series books), and ds is in Cub Scouts, where he does work often on crafts and projects as well.

If I could sum up what ds enjoys doing, it would be reading and projects. This is why I'm seriously considering (but not sold yet) using WinterPromise's American Story I in Third Year. However, I love doing my own thing and planning my own books, as time-consuming as it can be. I may just get a few good project books and have a go without an actual curriculum. Don't fence me in is my motto.

I'm busy planning the following year, ds' Second Year (I prefer using Years as opposed to grades, a la Harry Potter). So far I have lots of juicy living books I can't wait to sink my teeth into and know ds will love (he loved the books selections in Ancient History and literature this year). Here are the sure materials I will be using:

Story of the World Volume 2 - The Middle Ages and Activity Guide (SOTW -1 is a big hit, for both ds and me)
Poetry for Young People Series: Edna Vincent Millay and Rudyard Kipling
The World's Greatest Artists Series (Mike Venezia): Giotto and Titian
The World's Greatest Composers Series (same author as above): Beethoven and Tchaikovsky
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) K-2: 12 more threads
Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl and Teacher's Guide put out by My Father's World
Natural Speller
Young Discoverers Series: Butterflies, Bugs and Worms (Insect studies this year)
Florida Wildflowers
Eyewitness Explorers Rocks and Minerals
English From the Roots Up

Items I'm still waffling about:

Spectrum Phonics 3rd Grade
Spectrum Spelling 3rd Grade
MCP Math Book B
Miquon Math
MEP Math (free curriculum online)

MCP Math is going okay. It just may be that ds just doesn't like math (like I did - oops!). However, I notice he gets into doing math hands-on, I just don't teach math hands-on very well. To me, MCP Math works as a teacher, as the teacher's guide is excellent and provides hand-holding for a teacher who's insecure about teaching math. It fits me to a T. However, I can see how ds would find it boring, and tedious. I'm not entirely sure it gets the job done either. I wonder if he would understand concepts better if he had another program. On the other hand, I don't want to be constantly switching programs and as a result, end up with gaps. I do supplement with Miquon, but I need to step up and read the Annotations beforehand instead of just handing him a sheet. Do the Miquon activities with him, pique his interest, spark his learning. I think with Miquon I can do this. I like Miquon, even if it is a bit baffling at times.

MEP Math. My newest discovery. I'd heard about it, but didn't even give it the time of day as I didn't have a working printer from the computer I normally use. That problem solved, and MEP Math is a very attractive alternative, or supplement. As much I don't like the idea of juggling too many math programs, MEP appeals to me, and I think will appeal to ds as well. A big part of the attraction is that it's free online, so I can test it out, print out as many pages as I see fit, and have a go at it. Not sure how it will work to actually teach, though. What I've seen so far has been intriguing, and the worksheets look very, very interesting and would appeal to my ds.

I'm having ds take the test first, and see where he is. I had him take the Singapore placement test, and I wasn't pleased with the results. He scored as if all our 28 weeks didn't matter at all. as if he could start all the way at the bottom of Singapore. Not pleased at all. This is the reason I'm thinking perhaps MCP is not working as I thought it did. But then I see glimpses of understanding, and I'm not sure anymore. It could be simply that he's not ready developmentally, emotionally, to do the subtraction or to really get a grasp on the subject. I should know this, having been there myself.

Thus far, I believe trying out MEP is not going to hurt, and may even be beneficial. I think continuing MCP could be a good foundation for ds, and adding in Living Math book selections once in a while doesn't hurt either. Ds really digs the I Love Math series so far. We also do occasional Family Math games, which is hard for me to do, actually. I don't know why. When I make the effort, we both have fun.

Would MCP, Miquon, AND MEP be too much? Or perhaps do 4 days of intense worksheet math, and Fridays do a Family Math game, Miquon Math? Can I replace MCP with MEP? Should I? These are questions that I don't see any definite answer to just yet.