As of this week, we’re approximately half-way through the 2012-2013 school year. I say “approximately” because I’m not sure exactly how many days we’ll end up with at the end of our school year. We aren’t required by MN state homeschool regulations to school for any specific number of hours, days or weeks each year — we don’t even have to track or report the length of our school year. I did plan out an academic year calendar before our school year started, however. I am planning for about 34 weeks or 170 regular school days (not counting the partial school days with one to three subjects we did last July and August).
I’m currently planning on two week-long breaks during the second half of the year — a mid-winter break around President’s Day and a spring break in April. During the first half, we took off two days at Thanksgiving, plus two full weeks at Christmas (and then I “counted” as school a total of five days spent on low-key review/independent work during the holidays). I’m not sure yet if week-long breaks will be the best way to go. Winter blahs/spring fever can strike hard, but it may be that two or three short breaks (4 day weekends?) might end up working out better for us. Or maybe we’ll take fewer breaks and end sooner. Or take the breaks and end sooner anyway. I have the last day of school before summer break slated for May 24th…but that’s written in pencil.
This half-way mark is a good time to re-evaluate our curriculum and see how we’re doing in each subject:
History: We’ve been greatly enjoying our US History studies…in fact, we are “ahead of schedule” based on the outline I created for the year. I think we’ll continue on through the Civil War this semester (I originally thought we would only make it up to the point just prior to the Civil War this spring), and then with the remaining time in the school year (and into the summer) take a detour into the history and geography of our state. We’ll then plan to pick up on US History past the Civil War next fall.
Science: We’ve definitely slacked on our plans to continue with BFSU as a family. Miss M has been working on Sassafras Science Adventures: Zoology and will finish that up in about two more weeks. I wish more than one volume of that series had already been released! We’ve also enjoyed some great science-y shows and videos as a family — SciGirls, Magic School Bus and The Happy Scientist. The boys have had plenty of random science library books, and we’ve taken a few trips to The Works (a local science and engineering museum).
However, with Miss M nearing completion of her independent science curriculum, I feel a bit more compelled to do something with BFSU again. Doing something with the great rock and mineral kits I ordered is first on the agenda. Then after that perhaps I will finally have the courage to try BFSU Vol. 2 — though I think I will start with the C and D threads (physical and earth science) as those look a lot less intimidating than the lessons in the A and B threads in that volume!
Bible/Character Study: I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to take advantage of either the Doorposts products or the “We Choose Virtues” flash cards I purchased. Some of it is just not making the time for it, and some of it is that not all these items worked out for us as well as I expected. The Bible study I got for Miss M was also not a good fit at this time (I’ll save it and try again in a year or two — I think she was just too young to do it on her own). For right now, I am focusing on a more basic goal of making sure everyone reads or listens to the Bible daily. We’ll see if we incorporate other study or character materials, but I am not making that a big goal for the rest of this school year.
Art/Music: I thought we might try out Artistic Pursuits book 2 this year. We haven’t really gotten around to it. I’m not too broken up about it. The kids do plenty of arts and crafts on their own, as well as doing art at our co-op. We discovered the free, monthly “Family Fun Days” at our local art museum, and we’ve attended three of those so far this school year. That provides some direct art appreciation experience!
I didn’t start the year with any music education plans, but we ended up buying Mr. E and Miss M a guitar for Christmas since they both continually expressed an interest in learning an instrument. I am trying now to get lessons set up — but haven’t found a good fit for a class or instructor quite yet. I’m hoping to find something soon!
Math: I’ve written quite a bit about our math ups and downs in my weekly wrap-ups. Starting this week I’m having Miss M take a break from RightStart D. I’ve downloaded Math Mammoth 3-B, as well as putting together a packet of multiplication fact practice and getting some multiplication songs for her to listen to. Three days in — it’s so far so good! Much less stress in the Math department. We’ll re-evaluate in six to eight weeks to decide if we’ll go back to RS for the rest of the year or continue with Math Mammoth.
Mr. E is still flying through Right Start B. I’m thinking he may finish before the end of the year, and I am not sure how I feel about a Kindergartener in Right Start C! To slow things down a bit, or at least to keep things more interesting, I’ve been throwing in some Singapore Challenging Word Problems book 1 (We tried the regular Singapore 1-A, but it was essentially too boring for him after a short time), as well as some Life of Fred Elementary series (starting with “Apples” this week).
Handwriting practice: Okay, I really have been a slacker in this department with Miss M and Mr. E! Miss M learned cursive last year. At first I thought she would continue cursive with A Reason for Handwriting D…then I thought it would be a better use of time to have her do copywork based on things we are learning for history, science, etc. After a few weeks of me asking her to do copywork, things just never working out quite “right” for her (she didn’t like the format of the pages, the font I chose, etc)…and I just dropped it. At least her printing is looking neater this year? I haven’t decided long-term if cursive is an issue I will push with her. I never write in cursive myself, so I’m hard-pressed to find a strong reason to require it. After some initial enthusiasm with A Reason for Handwriting A, Mr. E has been none-too-eager to practice neat handwriting. I am settling for gently encouraging him to use as many neat lower case letters as possible when writing spelling words, and planning to approach the issue next year when he is a first grader.
Spelling/Writing/Grammar with Miss M: Logic of English Essentials is going great for Miss M! We are mostly doing just the phonograms/spelling sections of LOE and just glancing and the grammar and composition assignments. We’re a little over half way through. I originally thought we might finish this year, but unless we do some extra spelling somewhere along the way, we may end the year with 3 to 5 lessons remaining. I’m okay with that, since lesson 35 (of 40 total) appears to be a good breaking spot and at that point we will have covered all 74 basic phonograms and all but one of the 1 of the 30 spelling rules.
Miss M hasn’t been doing much writing beyond occasional writing for her science notebook, creative writing to practice spelling words, or other writing she chooses (like writing letters). I’m okay with that — I’m already seeing that the more her spelling improves, the more confident she is with writing. We still have plenty of time for formal writing instruction in future years.
Phonics/Spelling/Reading with Mr. E: While Mr. E does not seem to enjoy reading nearly as much as math, he is making fine progress for a K’er. I typically set a timer and ask him to read out loud for at least 10 minutes each day. He’s read quite a few easy phonics readers this year (BOB books, I see Sam series, etc), and is now working on his choice of some Dr. Seuss books with a bit of help.
Soon after the year began I started working through Logic of English Essentials with Mr. E. We made it through about lesson 8 before Christmas break, but I found that I was having a hard time breaking it down into enough small, fun chunks for him…he could do the spelling dictation and remember phonograms for a little while, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of retention. I decided over Christmas break to buy the Logic of English Foundations Beta for Mr. K (more on that below), and as it turns out, starting at around lesson 47-ish of Foundations is a perfect point for Mr. E. Foundations breaks apart the phonics/spelling instruction into small, fun chunks we can do daily — perfect for a 5.5 year old who would rather be doing math or playing legos! I’m guessing we should be able to get through most, if not all, of Foundations before the end of the school year!
Preschool with Mr. K: Mr. K is still three, though not for long — He’ll be four at the beginning of February. It’s my personal preschool philosophy to not get too bent out of shape about what three-year-olds and young fours are learning. Mr K listens in on a lot of what Mr. E is doing, and I print out educational printables when he is in the mood for them. This fall I was doing a pretty good job selecting some classic picture books to read aloud to him (note to self…I need to start doing that again!), and we did some light math once every week or two (usually while the older kids were in their gymnastics class).
For a few weeks before our Christmas break, I had been noticing that Mr. K was grabbing paper and randomly writing any letters he could figure out how to make, and then bringing me the paper with the question, “Mom, what words did I write?”. I decided this was the perfect point to seize upon his interest and start Logic of English Foundations after our break. It’s only been a bit over a week, but I’ve been really impressed so far by how well Mr. K is doing with the program. The initial lessons are perfect for his attention span (we could do an entire lesson in 10-15 minutes). I’m sure our progress through the lessons will slow down at some point, as I notice that the lessons mid-way through the program (where Mr. E is starting) are a bit longer.
That’s where we’re at right now! I’ll be making updates to our curriculum page some time soon…and of course it will be fun to look back at this post come May and see the progress we’ve made!