Monday, January 13, 2014

New Semester (Homeschooling Spring 2014)

We resumed 'school' on January 7th. So far, so good. Last semester was rocky, what with my illness and all, then the holidays. But we learned a lot. And this semester, we're applying a little of what we've figured out. I'm feeling very hopeful about the future of our homeschool.

Tristan is in 6th grade. He's using Oak Meadow Grade 6 and Teaching Textbooks Math 6. That's it. It's working out really well. He self-administers the OM. I offer help here and there, but he looks through the schedule and syllabi and makes his own choices with regard to projects. Oak Meadow offers a lot of student choice, which is one of his favorite things about the curriculum. He doesn't complete 100% of the work. I've told him that if he really doesn't want to do a project, or if he wants to modify it to be more interesting, he is welcome to. He does seem to enjoy the Science a lot, the Math the least. (He does the OM in addition to the TT Math.) I like that the two maths, which are both 6th grade, never overlap in subject. It keeps him working on two skills at once- right now, he's multiplying fractions and doing long division.

Tristan's laptop is an important part of his school day.
This semester will be much like last semester. I'm really happy with this setup and he seems content with it, too. It should not be too hard for him to keep up after the baby is born, either. Next year I plan to move him to OM7 and TT7. It will be his first year with American History. 

Kassi is in 3rd grade. We (meaning me and her) chose to retain her last year and she is repeating this grade. This was because we had an evaluation for her last year and she came out of it with new information about why learning to read has been so hard for her. This extra year has been such a gift for her. She has an English tutor who comes to or house once a week and has helped her make enormous advances with reading. It is still very hard for her and will probably never come easily, but Kassi has so many gifts in other areas because of how she sees things differently than most. She knows this. 
Kassi preparing her Main Lesson Books.
We have Oak Meadow 3 for Kassi but have not stuck with it religiously. She does enjoy the stories I read to her. Afterwards, she makes drawings and copies out a short passage from the story to put on the drawing. This element of younger OM grades is really nice and something I will stick with for my littles even if we don't use Oak Meadow. Kassi also uses Reading Eggs, an online reading program. 

This semester Kassi will start Teaching Textbooks 3 for math. I feel like it will be a great fit after watching Tristan with his level. The entire lesson is read aloud and written on the screen, you can repeat audio as many times as you wish. The format for answers is traditional, but the program allows them to try again and again or ask for explanations and hints. I think she will do well with it and hopefully make up for a little bit of a math delay caused by her reading delay. Kassi is very bright and good at math. She also likes math, something I hope won't change on account of TT. 

Next year, Kassi will move to OM4. There are big changes in the curriculum with the jump from 3 to 4. We'll have to see how they suit her. We'll also buy TT4, even if she isn't ready, just to have it. I am fairly sold on TT and plan to use it globally. 

Toly is in 1st grade this year. We have Oak Meadow 1 for him, but it has not been the best fit. I do like parts of it, but Toly doesn't. So he has been doing just a little bit here and there. Additionally, he spends a bit of time each day on Reading Eggs. He really likes computer time. Reading Eggs has been beneficial. It has a built in 'earn eggs to play games' incentive. The idea being you do educational lessons to earn the eggs, then you spend them on less educational game time. The problem with this is the eggs are too easy to earn and you can repeat levels to earn more. My kids figured this out early on and it seemed they only had to do a few minutes of lessons before they were off in the arcade playing games. Now I like games as much as the next person, but my kids have ample game time in their life, and these games aren't even mid-quality. So this semester we have a new system. A timer for 30 minutes educational time, 15 minutes arcade, no matter how many eggs they have. It works so far. 

Toly creating words from letter tiles.
Something huge has happened for Toly in the past week. I told him I would buy a certain Lego for him if he'll learn to read. It was a casual offer and not one I expected him to take me up on, but I guess he wants this Lego. What has happened since really deserves its own post. Let's just say, knowing Toly, I should not have been surprised. He has been reading several beginner books a day since I made the offer. It will not be long before I'm buying that Lego. 

This semester, I may see if he'll do Teaching Textbooks 3 with Kassi. His love for the computer and his blooming reading level may make it appropriate for him. Other than that, he'll keep to the reading. 

Next year I plan to buy OM2, but only just as a guide and to have for future children. I don't see him responding to it. We'll probably keep up Teaching Textbooks (or start it, if we haven't), Reading Eggs or similar to match his level, and writing for fun of he is ready. In my opinion the most important thing he can do in second grade is become a more fluent reader. I feel a lot of peace with the decision not to try to find a curriculum that will work for Toly. He's his own creature. 

Rome is technically enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten, which means he'll also be in K next year. He uses Reading Eggs and we work on some of the Oak Meadow 1 together, but he is not ready for formal schoolwork and is mostly all about play. He does want to learn to read. He is more serious about it than my last two kids and reminds me more of Tristan than the others. But even next year will not be a real 'school year' for him. We'll probably repeat some elements from OM1 next year, if he likes. 
Rome and an audiobook of Frog and Toad.
We have a baby on the way (45 days and counting... Kassi keeps me up to date), so this semester may be similar to the last with its starts and stops. 

Kassi and Tristan will keep fencing twice a week, And both will keep up with their piano lessons in our home. Kassi will continue with her tutor. Toly is taking a sample clay class to see if he likes it. If he does, we may sign him up. That plus two park days per week and we're a busy family. 

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