Thursday, February 28, 2008

Weekly Report

This week's theme is "Carnage Comes to the Barbie-arians".

Eleanor: More of the same in grammar, spelling, science and French. We're still reading "Black Beauty" which I'm finding to be a much easier read than "Little Women". For writing she re-told the story of Cincinnatus. Her dictation came from "The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies"; "The Song of the Daffodil Fairy" pays homage to the daffodils are blooming in our yard.

I'm everyone's darling: the blackbird and starling
Are shouting about me from blossoming boughs;
For I, the Lent Lily, the Daffy-down-dilly,
Have heard through the country the call to arouse.
The orchards are ringing with voices a-singing
The praise of my petticoat, praise of my gown;
The children are playing, and hark! they are saying
That Daffy-down-dilly is come up to town!

This week in history Eleanor continued to learn about the Romans. We opened our "Lift the Lid on Gladiators" box. This was very exciting for Eleanor and she played with it for a good long time. The gladiator was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Barbie for a while but spent most of his time changing his attire to reflect different styles of gladiator fashion. We still have to explore the game and set up the Colosseum.

We completely hit a wall with Singapore 3A and now I'm reading that it might be better for a kid to start 2B before 3A even if some things are review simply because of the different methods taught in the earlier we're starting 2B. I have to say that math is the only area where I really question my ability to teach these kids (don't tell anyone!). I'm just not sure what is best for them at this point.

Henry: He had a rough week. Right now he is resting on the couch and isn't feeling very well which might explain his recent peevishness. We'll be finished with Dr. Dolittle today. He's nearing completion of "Explode the Code 3" and we are nearly finished with our mammals study. We are still back and forth between Singapore and modified-Saxon but sometimes just take a day to do a few drill pages and some word problems.

Susannah: Still totally adorable and working on her letters/phonics.

All in all a pretty good week with great weather. The changes that I implemented in January are really adding to our enjoyment of school/life. I'm feeling very positive about our direction (in spite of math) these days. I know it won't last forever, there are bound to be times when things won't be going as well, so I'm going to enjoy this while I can.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Green Hour Challenge: Week Two

Week Two's challenge was as follows:

1. Read page 15 in the Handbook of Nature Study. (The Field Excursion) Read page 23-24 in the Handbook of Nature Study. (How to Use This Book) Make note of any points you want to remember.

I found the following points most compelling:

"It is a mistake to think that a half day is necessary for a field lesson, since a very efficient field trip may be made during the ten or fifteen minutes at recess, if it is well planned."

"Make the lesson an investigation and make the pupils feel that they are investigators."

2. Challenge yourself to take another 10-15 minute "excursion" outdoors in your own yard again this week. Before setting out on your walk, sit with your children and explain to them that when you remain quiet during your nature time, you are more likely to hear interesting things.

This made me very nervous. My children are pathologically loud. It worries me because my mother is also insanely loud. What are the odds that it skipped a generation? Exactly.

But, the talk was had and we headed into the tiny backyard to listen, look and touch. Here are some of the things we saw:

The branch in the tree is some flotsam from a recent series of storms. It broke off of a tall redwood tree in the corner of our yard. Apparently someone's dryer duct also found its way there. Hopefully not ours. But probably ours.

3. After your walk, challenge your children to come up with words to describe the following things:
One word to describe something they heard. (For example: rustling, snapping, crunching or chirping)
Two words for something they saw. (For example: tall trees, frozen water, red birds)
Three words for something they felt. (For example: freezing cold wind, rough sticky pinecone)

We came back inside and talked about it over a snack to keep it very casual. Here are their answers:

Eleanor heard "Cawing" - saw "Redwood branch" - felt "Smooth, hard sap".

Henry heard "Ruffling"* - saw "purple flower" - felt "Hard, spiky pod"

Sadie heard "Tweety" - saw lots of things and didn't touch anything.

Henry had to be urged on a bit with his descriptors. No problem. Barb's point is that with continued exercises of this nature they will learn to come up with their own words to describe their environment.

*Ruffling is the sound of me pulling the redwood branch out of the bushes.

We did not do the optional journal entry this week. Everyone had great fun and we are looking forward to next week's challenge as well as to getting out on our own.

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekly Report

We did lessons this Friday because we took Tuesday off for appointments. It was a busy week and I'm beat and crankier than usual. On Monday, Eleanor and I hosted a tea party for some of her friends. She had two cookbooks that she has been reading and wanted to try some of the recipes so we decided to have a tea party. We had a great time but somehow I didn't manage to get any pictures. We used the china and everything too. Boo. We made cheesy biscuits, fruit tarts, mini banana muffins, cupcakes and heart-shaped sandwiches with a cream cheese and homemade (by my mother-in-law) blackberry jam spread. We served tea (for kids) but no one liked it. The entire bowl of sugar cubes, however, was consumed (sorry to the moms for that one, I should have known).

We're making more changes at the Academy. I am dropping history for Henry for a while. He really just wants to do our animal study. I continued on with history for a while as long as it seemed like he was still getting something out of it but now I don't think he is. He tolerates it and enjoys the maps but its too much investment of our time for 4 minutes of map work per week. We are adding nature study and more time outdoors after our formal lessons as part of our Charlotte Mason-ification of life.

Eleanor: Eleanor is memorizing Emily Dickinson's "A Slash of Blue". Not to blaspheme but I'm not in love with this poem for a third grader. For dictation I chose "The Song of the Almond Blossom Fairy" by Cicely Mary Barker in honor of our almond trees. Its very sweet:

Joy! the Winter's nearly gone!
Soon will Spring come dancing on;
And, before her, here dance I,
Pink like sunrise in the sky.
Other lovely things will follow;
Soon will cuckoo come, and swallow;
Birds will sing and buds will burst,
But the Almond is the first!

In history she is learning about the Romans which is fascinating to her. In science she is beginning her space unit. Our current read-aloud is "Black Beauty" which has been really enjoyable. At bedtime, she and Rick are reading the Fagel's translation of, "The Iliad". Math plugs along with us still doing Saxon but at a much faster clip now that I've cut out all of the things she has mastered. In other good news, we have been getting to French nearly every day since the beginning of the year and we are in the second book in the Power Glide series.

Henry: Henry is memorizing "Halfway Down" by A. A. Milne.

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
Other stair
Quite like
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So, this is the stair
I always
Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up,
And isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
"It isn't really
Its somewhere else
He is still doing animal study for science and we're nearly finished with mammals. He wants to move on to birds which is perfect because I have some books on birds on order to accompany our nature study. We are still reading "The Story of Doctor Dolittle". I'm not sure if he loves it like he loved the A.A. Milne. I think we will start the Thornton Burgess story books next week when we finish Dr. Dolittle.

Susannah: I've introduced her to the website and we've played on that a couple of times this week. No changes otherwise.

We had a lot of time playing with other kids this week. When it rains it pours. It was good because the last couple of weeks have seen a dry spell in that regard. No one seemed to mind.

A Word on Wordless Wednesday:

That picture was taken in the Lake Tahoe area. The bank was next to a driveway and was the result of months of plowing and was taken about a week after a stretch of incredible snowstorms.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Green Hour Challenge: Week One

Today we are starting a new adventure. It seems the online community that I visit is in the midst of Charlotte Mason revival and I don't know if that's concurrent with my recent interest in Charlotte Mason or if it inspired my new interest. Either way, it made for a lovely morning.

In keeping with the teachings of Charlotte Mason, Barb, at The Heart of Harmony, has initiated something she is calling the Green Hour Challenge. We've decided to take part in her weekly challenges and I hope to add more nature study to our days in addition to the challenges.

This week's challenge was for me to read the first 8 pages of Anna Botsford Comstock's, "The Handbook of Nature Study". Done. Excellent read. I actually only ordered the book last night so I won't have easy access to it until tomorrow but it is available to read online so I just printed off the first 8 pages.

The next part of the challenge was to "Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors with your children, even if it is really cold and yucky. Bundle up if you need to. Take a walk around your yard or down your own street. Enjoy being outdoors." Well, it was kinda cold and yucky by Northern California standards.
So, wearing our boots and rain jackets we ventured out. First stop was the front yard where our almond trees are in bloom.

We then stopped to look at the new daffodils.

We crossed the street and found these seed pods that the kids call "Spike Sugar". We'll find out what they're really called when we get the book tomorrow.

Eleanor was taken with these pink flowers in a neighbor's driveway.

And all of us were quite taken with this dog-shaped tree.

At the end of our walk Henry offered me this flower. All together now, "Awwww."

When we got home and took off our wet things we sat down for a snack and talked about things from our walk. The kids mentioned most of the things pictured here. Sadie also mentioned that she liked "pink fwowers" (cyclamen).

We didn't do a ton of discussion but we did get out and have a great walk and I think we're off to a very fine start.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, February 1, 2008

Weekly Report

Eleanor: Eleanor's doing so well. I'm seeing big leaps in spelling across all subjects, her penmanship is quite good, we've moved from narrations to her completing short summaries on her own and we have conquered, to a large degree, problems with dawdling. We're really hit a groove with Classical Writing. Its not an easy program to implement but once you (the teacher and the student) figure it out its really a great tool to have in the arsenal. I'm very pleased with her writing and the difference between where she is now versus where she was in the fall is a testament to my superlative teaching skills both her growth this year and the efficacy of this program. This week she memorized the first stanza of "The Bells" by Edgar Allen Poe. It was our last week of earth science before we begin our space unit. In history we are in the throes of ancient Greece. She is particularly taken by the story of Alexander.

Our read-aloud, as I've mentioned, is "Little Women" and we're nearing the end. I read this book for the first time in Kindergarten and based on that, decided that it would be an easy read with a third-grader. Reading it now, I have a greater appreciation for why my parents were always bombarding me with complaints about not living up to my potential when I brought home Bs and English. I never quite managed to get across that it wasn't that I couldn't get an A, it was just that I didn't care about doing well in school. Big difference, Guys. I bet you feel silly now that you know that, huh? Anyway, a couple of chapters in I worried that the unfamiliar language would lose my thoroughly modern Millie but it didn't and she loves the book.

I'm not going to let her read the other book that I read in Kindergarten that made a lifelong impression, "Are You There God Its Me Margaret". Hello? Who thought that was a good idea?

I totally lied about switching math programs. We did two weeks of Singapore only and then I got cold feet and called off the wedding. Yesterday both kids worked on drill sheets. Next week we're going to do a modified Saxon week and some more drill before both kids move on to new concepts in Singapore (the math program, not the country). I think we might do that for a while. Use Singapore to introduce new concepts and then Saxon to reinforce and drill. Doing it this way I can skip many lessons in Saxon that were already mastered and were boring the kids to tears.

Henry: Henry continues to do everything exactly right. Its alarming. He's missed about 4 math problems all year and typically just because he wasn't paying close attention to the signs. He has never made a mistake in his Explode the Code books. He'd be the perfect student if it didn't take a team of experts to hold his attention long enough to hear what the lesson is. Its getting better. I'm actually very upbeat about his progress. I truly don't know how this child could have gone to school and learned anything. He needs to be redirected to the lesson constantly and no classroom teacher could be expected to do that. This week he memorized "Brownie" by A.A. Milne. He continues to study animals in science, insisting that we complete the entire book before moving onto our human body study. He tolerates history and its too bad he doesn't really seem to love it because he has an amazing memory for details.

More of the same next week and then we'll have a crazy week and then another partial week. I'm only now starting to lose my anxiety over missing days like that. I have to constantly remind myself that learning isn't about how much time you spend pegging away at lessons. Tea parties and vacations all lend themselves to learning. I'm getting there.

Edited to add:

Susannah: I am still working with Susannah from Kumon books in the mornings but I have delayed starting a formal preschool program. I decided that that was just me rushing along in typical Zelda fashion and that adding another thing to my plate was not conducive to sanity at this time. Even if we were still educating the kids conventionally I wouldn't be placing her in preschool program for a least another year. She knows all of her letters now. Well, she mixes up R,K and X but seems to understand that she's getting them wrong when she does. She is also starting to write some letters independently and will compose notes to us made up entirely of Os, Ss, Zs, Hs, and Fs. She is taking swim classes with Rick on Fridays.