Thursday, May 24, 2007

Software and Online Games Day

Today the kids were on a math kick. My five-year old wanted to try Funbrain's Math Arcade, so we did it together. My seven-year old also did some. He's choking right now on extra tens -- for instance if he knows 7+2, then 17+2 should be easy. Not so much. I think we'll look at a hundred's chart to see if that helps. P is also really enjoying Timez Attack. It helps that I don't care whether or not he learns multiplication in first grade!

We've also enjoyed Study Dog for early reading skills.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ambleside Update

As we're nearing the end of the traditional school year I thought I'd do an update on how we're doing with first grade. I posted some of my modifications to make the curriculum less religious here. We've continued to use Ambleside Year 1 loosely, and enjoy it. We dropped Aesop's Fables a while ago, but I've tried to substitute tales with morals, although finding as many would have been difficult (and unnecessary, in my opinion)! We liked Pinduli by Janell Cannon, the two Owen and Mzee stories, and also The Quiltmaker's Gift.

We misplaced Tree in the Trail in the middle of reading it, and then the Advisory moved it to next year, so we dropped it and are not currently doing Seabird for the third term. We read Paddle to the Sea in the first term and ended up liking it, although it was tough going for a little while. I try to pull out a map occasionally if something geographical comes up.

We have followed the American (biographies of revolutionaries) and World History (European, mostly British Dark Ages), and History Tales closely. We have added some history, since this is a subject P particularly enjoys. We read some Story of the World (Vols 1 and 2), Diane Stanley's story of Joan of Arc (she is a good children's-level biographer to look for, and is writing currently). I really liked Phillip Steele's Castles book, and usually I don't like factoid books. The Nova documentary called Sieges, which was about building trebuchets, was enjoyed.

We have also enjoyed the Natural History readings (Herriot and Burgess), and the Just So Stories. I've substituted for many of the fairy tales, but I think we've done about the same amount as recommended, maybe more. Shakespeare has not been overly successful, but I'll continue to do some exposure to it. I think I'll try the Bruce Coville adaptations.

I've not yet been overly successful with Nature Study, but I've made an effort to include other science -- simple machines (edhead website, Bill Nye video), human reproduction (It's So Amazing), flight (Wright Brothers video, Air and Space Museum and Center), engineering ( Javier Builds a Bridge), stories of whales (Grayson, and Symphony of Whales, both excellent although very different levels, Mystic Aquarium), Boston Science Museum, a mini unit on the Galapagos, and some other stuff here and there.

I read poetry during occasional teatimes from a number of sources: A. A. Milne, the Barefoot Book of Poetry, Robert Frost, and others. I consider this exposure only! We also looked at some art by Turner and Winslow Homer, listened to Music by Copeland, Schumann, and Mozart, and listened also to Mr. Bach Comes to Call. I wouldn't say any of these things sunk very deeply into any of the boys, but perhaps time will prove me wrong! Most of their exposure to classical music comes from the TV show Little Einstein's -- the radio will be on and they'll tell me "this song is called Little Einstein's!"

We are still in the middle of the third term. Since we started in August, I guess that makes us year round homeschoolers! I like the Living Math approach to math, but we also use Singapore. Cyberchase is an important part of our math curriculum! Recently P's been playing a lot of Timez Attack, which is free multiplication tables software. For reading we've been buddy reading Level 3 I Can Read titles. Recently we buddy read the first chapter or so of a Harry Potter book. He was eager to try it, but it's a bit beyond him, really. I think it's hard for the ideas to stick when he's working so hard to read it. I'm hoping he'll go for buddy reading The Sword in the Tree, especially since he seems to like Arthurian stories. I'm very happy with his reading level. We're working with Handwriting Without Tears for handwriting. I'd like him to master lowercase, but he's not quite there. I'm trying to insist of some practice (a few minutes three times a week) but not stress about it. I'm sure he'll do better as his hand-eye coordination improves with age.

Well, we've actually done even more than that, and I consider myself a pretty relaxed homeschooler! I guess I didn't realize that it would look like so much. I don't follow a strict schedule. I use the 12 week term printouts, and check off work as we do it. Non-reading list work (math, handwriting) can get pretty irregular depending on what other learning I see going on. For instance, if there's tons of drawing going on, and pushback on handwriting, I don't push it. Likewise if he's enjoying math related computer games, then I don't push the math book.

I'd like to add Spanish (which I don't speak), but I haven't seen any material that I think would be a good enough fit. I'm also not sure that I can fit it in on a regular basis -- might work if they like it enough! I'm very happy with the Charlotte Mason approach and the Ambleside suggested books. For next year I'm considering using some of the other Charlotte Mason book lists for additional inspiration, but I imagine continuing in the same vein.

I also have a kindergartner next year. I unschooled P for kindergarten -- not sure what approach I'll take with M.