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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New School Year!

With the kids finished this past years curriculum for both grades 3 and 5 we are now into the new school year! Already I have one down with the flu/cold. Seriously this has been the worst winter/spring for colds and flus. That said we are greatly enjoying our new materials..well almost all the new materials. A week into the new curriculum we are learning quickly which ones are our favorites and which ones will be tolerated. I have planned a very heavy English workload for the kids this year. I feel like it needs to be focused on more heavily as compared to years past. With my eldest in grade six and the possibility of returning to mainstream highschool looming in the not too distant future we want to have all our bridges covered. So today I am going to share with you our layout for this year.

English:

AGS Globe World Literature: I chose this because I wanted the kids to learn about different genres and to be able to think critically about the works they read. This series is written for a grade 3-6 level and various sites have it listed as elementary and still others as a remedial highschool course. Personally that doesn't matter so much as what I hope they will learn and gain from the program. So far two weeks into the first unit they have already learned quite a bit. The program comes with a disk that has all the workbook materials and 100's of extra worksheets, tests, quizzes and exams. I find the dvd laid out rather poorly. However I am finding my way through it and I am sure it will become easier as time passes. The kids are doing this course side by side and I expect them only to do their own personal best. Sometimes when kids share classes they can become bogged down in the competitiveness of sharing the class with a sibling. I try to take the focus off of the sibling relationship and place the outcome of the work on the individual. In this way the kids see that no matter what their skill level they can still do the work assigned. After all it is better to try and fail than to not try at all.

That said we also have split part of the English class for them each to cover:


This courseware covers grammar, writing, and the traditional basic skills needed for each grade level. Now that said two weeks in we are finding this is going to be our one subject that irks us. The vocabulary time is the most demanding and somewhat needless feature we have discovered thus far. Other then developing word usage and dictionary skills it's not always needed. I am making the kids work through it even with that said. For even rigorous and dull seemingly useless tasks can bear fruit in the end.

Next up in our English for the year:

My fourth grader whose spelling skills are very poor has been given a new approach to work at vocabulary and spelling with Wordbuilder Foundations 1. I hunted around for a while looking for a product that taught morphemes rather than with traditional phonics. So far its been slow going but I have noticed her spelling improving slowly. Just a quick not this program is British based so some of the words have slightly different spellings and/or meanings. ie Torch=flashlight However that's a slight cultural difference which also broadens ones knowledge base.
My sixth grader is and always has been a spelling whiz. I attribute his success in reading and spelling in large part to the long hours of speech therapy exercises he had as a four year old. It gave him a very solid understanding of phonetics. In any event we are using Sequential Spelling Level 3 this year and just pulling words off the word lists to practice. If he doesn't know the meaning to the words I have him mark a star and return to the good old dictionary to get its meaning.


One would think this was enough..but not me...I have added a couple of fun little programs into the English to give breaks from the usual laborious work. Each one leveled at the kids grade levels. The first is Comprehension Detective. Comprehension I have found is often over looked with the regular writing/grammar programs.
The other is Ridgewood Analogies:

So that sums up our English for the year..this time of year finds us doing half day school so we are alternating between English days and everything else days. With the whole year to complete work there is less pressure to do it daily.

MATH:

Oooh Math was my biggest problem last year. For the past number of years I let my son who excels at math gobble concepts. With little need to digest the material for recall of facts he whipped along at an alarming rate. I say alarming because I was barely able to keep up with teaching him and my daughter. My daughter is the complete opposite in learning to him. She needs more materials and takes much longer to get the concepts. So this year I felt like I was on Mission Impossible. However after much reading, researching, and thinking on the subject I settled on Horizons Math for both kids. My son is already three grades ahead so I pulled him back to the Pre-Algebra level to make certain all bases get covered and the material sticks with him well into the future. My daughter is on grade level.

What I like is the full color, the fact it is on or above the usual grade level materials, and that it covers from k-8. I wanted to find a program we could stick with through the years. I think this one is going to work out nicely. The lessons are long with so much repetition I have to allow for an hour a day for the material to be covered. Some days are much less and some days may prove to be longer. Time will tell. But I feel more confident having picked a math program with a good rating and history.

SCIENCE:

This is one area I feel we keep slipping on. It's not for lack of having materials or inclination but lack of time. So many subjects can get hard to manage throughout the year. We have covered a lot in the past few years so I am happy that right now we have a few months covered using Common Sense Press eBook Discovering Earths Landforms and Surface Features. It is covering a lot of area in both science and geography which will keep us busy for the rest of the summer.

GEOGRAPHY:

Also a bit of a challenge as our history course and our science are currently covering geography I haven't picked a formal stand alone curric for this one area.

History:

Having finished this past year looking at STOW (Story of the World) 1 we have decided to continue with this program. I don't choose to do all the crafty activities with the kids. They are far more interested in the reading, map work, and believe it or not the tests. They get excited for testing days. Who am I to change what is working? You like it? You are learning? It stays! This year is STOW 2.

MUSIC:

We have included music with both Theory Time and Colors The Classics. Theory Time has proven to be a bit challenging as none of us has taken formal lessons but we are getting through it. The main goal of learning theory was to see if either child had an aptitude or interest in learning it before deciding on formal lessons. We spent the past four years doing Art class and decided since Art comes in various forms taking a break from the visual arts and focusing music would be fun. The love learning about the different pieces of music and the sometimes funny histories of each composer.


ART:

When we tire of composer studies or music is finished we shall return to the visual arts.

COMPUTER:

This is funny in today's world computer usage is touted as necessary. Yet neither of my kids seem overly keen to do computer studies. Which given the fact that we have so many other things to learn and discover I am okay with. That said I do try to incorporate the computer into each area of study. Mostly with regards to researching. Typing skills can be acquired rather readily when one is ready. My kids aren't ready yet.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE:

We continue to work our way through Memoria Press First Start French Level one. I feel as the program is geared for grades 3-8 that we needn't rush. It is far more important to grasp the material fully.

My son is a lover of knowledge and therefore has asked to get another language program. I secretly have gotten him Latin for Children. He has agreed to work on it after regular school hours.

Our school year is sure to be a very busy one. We find though being busy is far better than idle time wasted. With long winters it's easy to get ahead in our work. Which is why we enjoy our short summers so thoroughly. With summer just around the corner we are eager to get planting some seeds and soaking in the sun.




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