Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2nd Grade Year at a Glance

Here is our 2nd Grade Year-at-a-Glance! I really enjoyed using this as a tool last year to keep us focused and on-track. Plus, I am a big picture person. It truly helps me to know where I am going before I even set out on the journey. Sure there may be some detours along the way (that's part of what makes travel so fun!) but this is our basic "road map".

Here are a few notes about this year:
  • We will phase in slowly over six weeks. This week is actually Week 1 and you can see we just started math. Next week we add logic, the following week handwriting and SOTW... I decided to start with math because I want to finish by the end of May and since we only school four days a week we needed to get a head start here. We added logic next because Thatch has been begging for his Mind Benders all summer! ;) I am so excited about starting this way; I think it will be a really great thing for all of us.
  • The last column on the first page has all the books we hope to read this year (not history or science related). On the second page is some basic Fine Arts info to keep me on track.
  • I do not have our Bible Lessons included here. I will add those plans soon.
  • I tried to do better this year about adding catch-up/review weeks in several subjects. Last year when life happened and we slipped behind, we were constantly having to double up on lessons in one area or another. This year I tried to remedy that where I had a little freedom and add in weeks just to catch up if we were behind, review or move ahead if we were right on track. :)


Sunday, July 27, 2008

SSA '08-'09 School Year

This is a post I have eagerly anticipated writing because it represents the completion of many hours of hard work! Research for second grade started not long after first grade began. All year I kept a running list of ideas, curriculum and interesting books (for the boys and myself) I heard mentioned on the Well Trained Mind Curriculum Board. Then in January research began in earnest. I spent most of the spring asking questions and viewing curriculum. By the start of June I was ready to place my orders. The hunt is one of my favorite parts of not using a pre-boxed curriculum. I get to make what we do custom fit my learners. Yet at the same time that's the hard part, too. There is so much quality material out there that you can lose your mind trying to make the "perfect" decision. It's impossible so I decided to try and take that pressure off myself from the start. I am thrilled with our choices but if something doesn't work the way I think it will we will make changes and move on without missing a beat - hopefully ;) !

Math: We are sticking with what has worked so far - Horizons 3. My only regret with Horizons is that I have not used more manipulatives along the way. This is my fault, not the result of the program; they actually encourage lots of manipulative use in the Teacher's Guide. Math has come relatively easy to Thatcher so far, but I think he would have benefited from slowing down and building that concrete knowledge base with the use of hands-on manipulatives. This year I added this set of interlocking base 10 blocks to our math order to help remedy this:
Later I think I may want to add Cuisenaire Rods and this Idea Book - or one like it:
Logic: Last year I was thrilled with Mind Benders Beginning Book 1. Each day we started our school day by completing one puzzle. It was our "warm up" to get our brain ready for the day's thinking! We will start this year with Mind Benders Beginning Book 2 and then go right into book A1. I also purchased Logic Safari Book 1 (which has puzzles similar to Mind Benders) and Primarily Logic. I love Primarily Logic because it introduces several new logic activities like analogies and syllogisms. We will finish the year with Mind Benders A2 if we have time.
Handwriting: To teach Thatcher cursive I have chosen to use Classically Cursive by Veritas Press. We will use Bible Primer Book I and Ten Commandments Book II. This series starts with a review of each manuscript letter before beginning cursive. The book shows modern manuscript and I taught Thatcher using Zaner-Bloser (Manuscript). We will do the review and simply have him copy the letters the way we learned them. Then once all cursive letters are introduced, students practice their new skill copying books of the Bible, Bible facts, the Lord's prayer and other verses. Then Book II will follow up with a review of all proper letter formations followed by practice copying all 10 Commandments. I would much rather have Thatcher practice cursive copying God's Word rather than, "Sally sells seashells by the seashore." :)

Science: This year we will be covering Earth Science using Jessica from Trivium Academy's custom-made plans following guidelines listed in The Well Trained Mind. Her Earth/Space/Geography plans are only $5.95. Included are lots of suggested books to complement each lesson as well as videos from Discovery Streaming , which we already use for Spanish. You do not have to have DS to use her plans though; they are still terrific without them. Also, here is a link to a post on Jessica's blog that has copywork to go along with each lesson. One thing I have done differently this year than last is to purchase more books and not depend on the library as much. The town I live in has one library and the selection of books is not great. I can use the Harris County Library System (Houston) but even if the libary has 30 copies of a book you are fighting with literally 1000's of homeschoolers who may be also using inter-library loan to get the same book(s). Last year we ended up without the best or just without. I decided that putting only the very best books in front of my boys was too important to leave to chance. I ordered over 60 books just to go along with science this year. The great thing is that I have two more boys behind Thatcher so these great books will be used again and again!

History: We loved SOTW Volume 1 so much this year. I learned right alongside Thatcher, and I am looking forward to delving into medieval history with him next. There are a few lessons learned from our history studies last year. First, this year I ordered the SOTW audio book. I have a few ideas of how I will use this but may have to try a few different things before I settle on what works best. My initial thought is the first day of history I will read the chapter to Thatcher. The next day he will listen to the CD independently as a quick review before starting the lesson. Next, similar to science, I chose one or two main books to go along with each chapter and ordered those books for our personal library. Last year I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to search books through our library system only to find they were reserved weeks ahead, unavailable, lost or simply our library didn't carry them. I felt like these supplemental books are really where some of the very best learning takes place I spent the money and ordered what I felt were the must-haves. I used recommendations from the Activity Guide, my own research and suggestions from moms on the Well Trained Mind Curriculum Board. I will still try to get even more books through our library but I won't worry if my attempts turn up unsuccessful. I will list the books I chose in a later post if anyone wants to peek.

Another lesson learned is that I need to have materials ready for projects way in advance. I will plan ten weeks of lessons at a time. With that I will not only chose the projects I want to do for those weeks but I will gather all necessary materials and put them together in a designated milk crate ready for the day. Last year we mainly stuck to reading the chapter, doing the color page and mapwork a
nd completing a narration. That was because I do not have time to run to the store, dig for or spend time gathering materials the night before a project was to begin. Hopefully this will help solve the problem and allow us to do more of the really fun stuff! :)

If you need copywork to go along with SOTW 2 Jessica has it all laid out at her blog. SOTW 1 users, see this blog post of mine for copywork as well as aligning History Scribe pages for narrations.

Spelling: We will be using Spelling Wisdom this year. We tried Spelling Work Out per WTM recommendation and it wasn't horrible but it wasn't great either. So much of it was busy work and for a natural speller, I wanted so much more for Thatch. Here is a quote from the Simply Charlotte Mason site that explains this program much better than I could:

Learn today’s 6,000 most frequently used words presented in the writings of great men and women of history! Now you can have the confidence that you’re teaching the words your student needs to know, using the superior method of prepared dictation that Charlotte Mason endorsed.

One of the only things I will add/change is to incorporate some of the activities like in another great Charlotte Mason spelling program, Simply Spelling. The programs are very similar in many ways except Simply Spelling incorporates a short activity each day that focuses on some aspect of the passage. Monday the child may be asked to divide a few words in the selection into syllables. Tuesday they may remind the child that the word in the selection, lillies, is spelled that way because if a word ends in "y" you must change the "y" to 'i" and add "es" to make it plural.

Grammar: This has been a 13th hour addition to our second grade curriculum. We did not like First Language Lessons 1/2 ultimately because it depended almost completely on auditory learning which is not a strength of Thatcher's. We both do better if there is a blank sheet ready to be filled in for a lesson. Then I feel the obligation to teach it and Thatcher has the visual and tactile input to learn more effectively. I had decided to shelve grammar for awhile but have felt recently that I should not do that for him. FLL 3 came out last year and it has a workbook component for each lesson. I loved the "what" of FLL just not the "how". I think level 3 will be a much better fit for both of us. Several moms shared they jumped right into FLL 3 without completing (or even starting in some cases) FLL 1/2 and have had no troubles other than needing to take a few of the lessons at a slower pace. The Peace Hill Press website says as much but it was still good to hear from some moms who have done it and experienced success.

Spanish: We will continue using Discovery Streaming's Elementary Spanish. We loved it last year. It is great to "out-source" something. We aren't involved in any co-ops or regular homeschool groups. It is great for Thatcher to listen to someone other than Mommy and it gives me 30 minutes in our day to focus on the little ones. We bought our subscription to DS through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op (look under "Group Buys") for only $129, a 51% savings over the regular price. This is only good through July 31st so if you are interested hurry and sign up. You can go to the DS site and sign up for a free trial but know that what they offer in the trial is a more expensive version that is not available for homeschoolers to purchase. Still I have been thrilled with not only the Spanish available but the 1000's of videos that enrich all other areas of our curriculum!

Fine Arts Fridays:This year I am determined to add art instruction to our weekly schedule. I am one of those people who truly cannot draw much more than a stick figure. I thought that art was either something you could do or not. I've been happy to learn that while true most of us will never produce a masterpiece worthy of the Lourve, we can all learn to draw - even as adults. I have chosen to use How to Teach Art to Children. If you click here you can see a good chunk of the book. I like that it teaches the seven elements of art (line, shape, color, value, texture form and space) and has lots of fun and simples activities to go along with each section. Also we will work through Draw Squad for our actual drawing instruction. I think it will be a great fit for Thatcher and the combination of both books will provide a solid start to our future art endeavors.

For Art Appreciation we will read a book from Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series each week. We will also use some of the books from the Come Look with Me series.

For music appreciation we will continue listening to our Classical Kids CD's and other classical music CD's we own. I've been very happy with the Naxos collections we've purchased. Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers will be a regular addition to our Fine Arts Fridays.

Well how's that for a long blog post. If any of you made it this far, bless you! :) I needed to post this so that in a few years when Haddon comes along I can remember what I did each year and why I made the choices I did. I don't trust my memory to these sorts of details anymore. Hopefully this nay provide one of you a place to start when you begin your own research!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Can't Do it All

Hello to any readers who still may be there - and I am sure there are few after how infrequently I've blogged in recent months! I wanted to share with you some of the journey I have been on in regards to family, school, and self.

If someone were to quiz me on my priorities I would, without hesitation, say:
  1. Relationship with God.
  2. Dh.
  3. Children
  4. Exercise
  5. School (I would actually call 5 & 6 an even tie)
  6. Our home environment: meals, housekeeping and other mom responsibilities
There are many more on the list, but for the purposes of this blog we end here. Yet unfortunately when you look at my life in recent years you could not see these priorities reflected accurately in my life at all.

Let me digress and say two things. First, because one priority ranks higher than another, it does not necessarily demand more time. Exercise needs to come before meals and housekeeping for me (b/c if I am not exercising regularly I hardly have the energy to take care of the other things on the list). Now obviously cleaning my home, meal prep and laundry is much more time consuming than the amount of time I would dedicate to exercise in a given week. Yet if I have had a crazy few days and haven't run once, when Saturday morning rolls around I can choose to start yet another load of laundry and clean yet another bathroom (that will be dirty in 48 hours), or I can hit the road. You get the idea. ;) Second, these are my priorities and I am making no statement about what I think others need to place as their own. I hope that the first three would look similar if you are a follower of Christ, but the rest is all negotiable! :)

Back on topic, I am trying hard to realign my life to these priorities and let me tell you, it hasn't been easy! Having two babies seventeen months apart and starting homeschooling in the midst of that threw everything off kilter. I am not being too hard on myself. I think most of us moms understand these are unique seasons that don't last forever. Yet now it is time to start moving back to some sense of balance in my life.

In my walk with God I have been the spiritual equivalent of the Sahara Desert. As a mom with two young kids and one with special needs, private time is hard to come by - really hard! I have survived on "spit baths" in the Word for a long time now, but just like in real life, after too long you're going to stink. That's my spiritual life: stinky! :) I need to delve deep into the waters of the Word and reengage those spiritual disciplines that will allow me "to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification in my life." (my paraphrase of what I am learning in the book I am reading right now: Pleasing People: How not to be an "approval junkie").

Now to be completely fair, I must admit that I have had some time. I don't want to completely blame where I am on my sweet boys and mommyhood. Heck, I have posted 98 times in the past year since I started this blog. During all those times I could have been doing something more conducive to spiritual growth. But blogging is fun! Pulling out the Bible, studying, reflecting, memorizing, journaling, praying and such can be just so....well, hard. They require me to engage, think, process, and maybe most painfully to change when God reveals an area that doesn't look like Jesus in my life. Ouch!

So here I am trying to make life reflect the priorites I say I hold. The clincher is that the quantity as well as the quality of time we spend with someone has a huge determination on the health of that relationship. The same is true with God. If I only talked to dh when I needed something our community would suffer greatly (quality). Or if I said, "Dh and I only spend 20 minutes together a week, but oh what a grand time we have in those short moments. We have an amazing marriage," you would think I was nuts (quantity).

So where do I carve time out of an already busy schedule to do all the things I want, and feel called, to do? I seriously considered giving up blogging but truly, I love it. This is my space (back to the mommyhood thing - very few things are sacred when you are a mom. Not even bathroom time is off-limits with little ones around ;) Whether or not I had any loyal readers I would love simply having a place to organize my thoughts. It is an added bonus that sometimes I get to encourage another person along the way! So here I sit saying that I am trying. I really am. Hang in there with me and check back often. I'll get there; it may just take a little time.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Great Series of Science Readers

Sorry I have been absent for so long (again!). Dh and I traveled to St. Louis to spend time with old friends and made some wonderful new ones, too. Once I got back home three of us were struck with a yucky summer cold. We've been sniffling, coughing and generally miserable all week. Hopefully tomorrow will be the turning point back to health.

Tonight though as Thatcher headed upstairs to read before bed he begged to grab a book off his science shelf. We own many science readers but he loves one series best of all. I thought I would share it here! It's the Let's Read and Find Out Science series. We have about 20 titles and my boys love each and every one of them. Level 1 books are perfect for beginning readers and Level 2 books for an average second grade reader, give or take. They are not super consistent in leveling and can vary greatly. Still they are wonderful! One more great thing about them is that many are on the 4-for-3 promotion on Amazon. That means you buy three books for $5.99 each and the fourth is free! Each Christmas for the last few years has found a few of these books wrapped under the tree. If you are looking for good books to fill up a science basket or the like, check this series out. :)