Our Current Language Arts Curriculum

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that your curriculum can be as regimented or eclectic as you want. Additionally, you are able to tailor your approach to your child’s needs and interests. For us, that meant zero worksheets, copy work, and “boring” assignments.

Em is a lot like me – and I never responded well to worksheets or rote work of any kind. I will admit that my first internal directive was to require worksheets as “proof” that she was learning, but I quickly realized that homeschooling language arts had to be different if I was going to hold her interest.

In other words, the following is my approach. Which may or may not work for you and yours. My goal is to raise a capable writer. What she does with that knowledge, whether she pursues a career in writing or simply has the capacity to write effectively, is up to her.

Weekly Spelling List

At the beginning of each school year, I download the grade-appropriate spelling list from k12Reader. It consists of 36 weeks of spelling lists, and the lists grow from just eight spelling words per week in first grade, all the way to 21 spelling words per week in 5th grade.

At this point, we have just 11 weeks to go on the 4th-grade spelling list. Since we homeschool four days a week, year-round, with plenty of breaks here and there, I will just go straight into the 5th-grade list on the week of June 5th.

On the first day of the spelling test, she reviews the words, writing them while spelling them out loud. I administer the test, and whatever words she misses I write in cursive next to the word.

Use of Dictionary and Thesaurus

We recently began going through the list and defining the words as well. I usually tell her it is time to test me. If she doesn’t know a word, I try and explain what I think it is, and then we look it up in the dictionary. Growing up, when I didn’t know a word, my dad would always say, “Look it up.” I hated that, but I also value the information a dictionary gives me so I’ve arrived at the compromise of giving it my best guess (which is usually accurate) and then participating in looking it up. Em has quickly learned how to find the words and it has promoted good dictionary use. Occasionally we grab for the thesaurus as well, in case the definition gives us trouble.

“Spelling Words Gone Wrong”

The last part of the weekly spelling list on Day One is to make a story out of the spelling words Em missed. She can incorporate any of the other spelling list words she wants, but she has to include all of the missed spelling words in her story. We refer to this creative adventure simply as “spelling words gone wrong.” I typically ask Em to “fill a page” with her story.

This fall when I teach a spelling bee/writing oriented class at our homeschool co-op, I will incorporate Spelling Words Gone Wrong into the activities. It promotes creativity and has been a great deal of fun!

Mix of Printing and Cursive

Em finished her cursive handwriting practice book at the end of 2016, and while I like to have her continue to practice those skills, when she takes the spelling test she tends to make small mistakes if she writes the words in cursive. For now, I’ve just asked her to print them. I write in cursive the correct spellings next to the mistakes and ask her to do the same when she practices writing the words correctly.

Introduction to Editing

Next week I plan to add an additional element to Em’s language arts curriculum. That dreaded aspect of the writing process…editing.

I want it to be as fun as possible, and as low-stress as possible, so I’m still working out the details. I may edit her work the first few instances, probably by first reproducing it on the computer, and then showing her some aspects of Microsoft Word (including how spell-check and grammar check work) and then the basics of writing dialogue (new paragraph with every speaker) and other tips.

Em knows how to type by touch, something I insisted on, so now is the time to establish her writing portfolio on the computer as well as practice those typing skills while she learns how to edit.

Promoting Without PUSHING

Ah, reading. By the age of ten, I would have happily spent my entire day reading. But Em is a different bird. I have to respect those differences, but also encourage her to read more, because it will make a difference in her life. So I promote reading without pushing it.

I have yet to find the magic combination that will unlock a thirst for reading. For now, I keep showing her new books, in a variety of genres, and buying plenty of graphic novels for her to read. She responds best to those.

Feed your child’s interests!

Support Materials

Journaling – I also try to have Em journal at least twice a week. Recently Aldi’s had art/coloring journals for sale and I wish I had bought all three! Em loves to color in them and also write on the lined pages.

Letter and postcard writing – I ask her to write to family and friends. Sometimes this works out to once a week, other times it is once a month. Recently, on a trip to *Barnes and Noble, we picked up some coloring postcards. She loves these. She colors the postcard on one side and then writes a short note to a friend or family member and then mails it.

Q&A a Day – A few years ago I bought Q&A a Day for Kids and also Q&A a Day for me. These are just short questions and answers that we do on an intermittent basis. They certainly are fun to look back on from year to year!

*Barnes and Noble has the Educator Discount Card which gives you 20% off all purchases.

As I mentioned above, we homeschool year round. In order to somewhat match the schools, this means that I start a new school year each August 1st and run it through the end of July. We still have plenty to do before the “end” of the fourth grade. The writing and reading is so important. I believe it sets the foundation for everything that follows – critical thought, creativity, and communication. If I can create a strong base of writing, then we will be able to focus with greater intensity on the other core subjects at a later time. Meanwhile, I’m tackling math, science, social studies and other non-core subjects on a daily to weekly basis, but with less intensity. Language arts come first.

Posted in Homeschool - Language Arts | Leave a comment

Raising Future Adults

A post by a friend on Facebook got me thinking, and not for the first time, on that inevitable day in the future when my little one flies out of the nest.

She wrote…

As I think about my sweet oldest child turning 16 this year, I thought I’d ask a question of the hive. What are the things a person needs most before becoming an adult? I’m feeling like time is short and I want to give my kids the best gift I can before they leave home– how to make it out there.

He knows how to cook and wash his clothes. He knows how to balance his check book and file his taxes.

How do you prepare for college? Not the coursework, but all the rest?

What do you wish you knew during the ages of 18-24?

My dad has always said, “I wasn’t raising a child I was raising an adult.” And while he could have gone just a little easier on treating me like an adult (which magically reversed when I hit my teen years and he removed all freedoms I was used to having and didn’t want to be taken away), he had a good point.

What is it that we hope for from our future adults? And what steps or lessons do we need to engage in to get them there?

When Dee was little, maybe age six, she couldn’t tie her shoes. She would come to me and ask for me to do it. As I tied them for her one day I asked, “When do YOU think you need to know how to do this?”

She shrugged and said, “I don’t know. When I’m eighteen?”

I couldn’t help but laugh, shake my head, and then proceed to not only set her straight but start her working on that particular task – tying her own shoelaces then and there. It also set the stage for many discussions on the subject of parenting, age-related goals, and her future as an independent adult.

Adulthood doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t even magically happen at eighteen. It is cumulative – a gradual training to let go on the part of the adult, while simultaneously preparing the child for the transition.

The answers to my FB friend’s question above have been thoughtful, kind, insightful and practical.

I wrote…

Learn to listen to your gut. If a decision feels wrong, even if it is promoted by someone older or (supposedly) wiser than you, take it in, consider it, and then make your own decision. And never allow another human being to tell you who you are.

The basics are important, it is essential that our children know how to:

  • Cook
  • Clean
  • Care for their body
  • Understand finances and maintain a budget
  • Find employment and keep it

What else is important? As Melanie asked, what do you wish you knew at the age of 18-24?

Posted in Daily Conversations | Leave a comment

Cello Practice – Tears and Farts

We are so lucky to have an amazing music program here in Historic Northeast Kansas City. I want to say that first because, in the end, that is the most important part of this little homeschool story.

Em was in the first group of students to begin in January 2014 at Harmony Project. As residents in what is considered an economically depressed area of the city, all of the students who attend music class at Harmony Project are given free music lessons, equipment, and musical training. No matter what the parents earn, or what economic status you are, if you live in the community your child can participate as long as they maintain good grades, are well behaved in class and don’t miss too many classes.

After learning how to read music, participating in the choir, and being introduced to the recorder, Em chose the cello and received a child-sized, gorgeous, shiny new stringed instrument in August 2014.

Did I mention that this was all free of charge? Including the equipment?!

There have been ups and downs – in practice (which happens less than what is needed) and sometimes in interpersonal relations with the other students. In the first months of Harmony Project, Em was the ONLY homeschooled student. Now there is a total of five students who are homeschooled, while the remaining children attend public or charter schools. Before the other homeschoolers joined her, she was teased by the other children.

“You can’t learn at home, you have to go to school. Homeschooled means you aren’t learning anything.”

That lasted until she pulled out the multi-syllable words, led the class in modeling responsible behavior and won the hearts of the teachers. After that, kids didn’t tease her and she made friends.

Practicing has always been difficult, however, more so now that her training continues to accelerate 18 months later. And today, she was in tears, and not for the first time.

Her teacher is intense, but I know she also has kindness in her, as do all of the Harmony Project staff. Em was frustrated over her own lack of progress and worried that her teacher Ms. Ezgi would be disappointed in her. We talked about it, and she tried one of the pieces again, only to end up crying even more. “She’s going to be mad at me!”

“Ms. Ezgi wants for you to do well, Em, just as much as we do. And I know you want to do a good job as well.” I counseled her, “Would it help if I talked to her?”

She shook her head miserably. We tried another piece. As she played, I did what I promised I wouldn’t do, I sent a letter to the director, Ms. Carmen Espinosa, and told her of my plight…

Carmen-

Em was practicing today on her cello and was in tears. I feel very bad even telling you, because she asked me not to say anything to you or Ms. Ezgi.

Over and over we say to her, “The best way to get better is to practice.” She knows, and she is trying, but is very, very discouraged right now.

I know that the arts are demanding, and I will understand if the following request is out of line with the teaching etiquette, but if there is any way that Ms. Ezgi could take Em aside and tell her she recognizes that Em is trying, and improving, it would give Em the “atta girl” she needs to keep trying. But please ask Ms. Ezgi to NOT say anything about me emailing.

If this isn’t appropriate, I understand. I just want Em to stay in the class and learn more about music. She has such a love for it, but she is also a little girl who wears her heart on her sleeve and feels that she is failing Ms. Ezgi and the rest of the class because she cannot seem to learn as quickly.

I will work with her on practicing more. No matter what, please do not say anything to Em about me emailing you. She is determined to fix this on her own. I just wanted you to have a heads up.

A few minutes later, I received a response…

Hi Christine,

I really appreciate you telling me this. It´s hard for me to keep track with so many students…

I will talk to Ezgi and I´m sure she will have some encouraging words for Emily today. And we will all keep your email a secret.

And also… I know Emily is a very sensitive girl, and we know she is practicing hard. And we are proud of her. But please please please tell her that music is supposed to be fun, as frustrating as it might seem at times. The frustration should never overcome the joy of learning music, because if it does, something is not right, and we have to figure out what that is.

Let´s hope she gets more motivated after class today.

And please keep me posted… I appreciate it, because I really care about my students and hate to see them cry!

Thank you!

Carmen

I felt so relieved! Just a few words of encouragement from her teacher will keep this little girl practicing more than ever.

As I read over the email silently, Em’s bow work across the strings of the cello made a distinct fart sound. We both had a good giggle over that!

This evening as I picked Em up from her class, I asked, as I always do, “How was class?”

“It was GREAT! Mama, you were right, all of that practicing paid off and I got all of the notes right and Ms. Ezgi was happy and she told me I did really, really well!”

Broken promises or not, that’s one I don’t feel bad about breaking. It was just what my little girl needed! Harmony Project, and its teachers and support staff are such a gift to our neighborhood. We are very, VERY lucky to have them!

p.s. I’m finally finding an approach that works when Em practices. I don’t know if this will work for other parents, but feel free to try it!

  1. Be Present – We are present during her practice. Either my husband or I sits and listens while she plays.
  2. Give Limited Feedback – I know nothing about music – I can’t read it and I have never played an instrument, but I wing it. “So that last bit right there, it seemed kind of hesitant. Or perhaps off. Do you find it difficult? Perhaps you can focus on that?”
  3. Encourage Practice – As a child, I was told I was smart, over and over. Which resulted in me completely losing it when I was presented with a challenge. Instead, I tell Em, “Practice and practice and practice. With repetition comes improvement.”
  4. Encourage challenge – When Em hits a part that she finds challenging, I often suggest she work on that small part a little more. “Choose what is most challenging to you, and play just that.” This hones her focus on the trouble areas.
  5. Encourage Honest Self-Assessment – Instead of answering Em’s question when she asks, “Did I do it good enough that time?” I ask her, “What do you think? Is it the best you can do right now?” She isn’t playing to please ME. I want her to reach out and stretch her abilities, and feel proud all in her own right.
  6. Mix it up – Have them play outside, in the park, for their friends, after dinner, or in different parts of the house. Music is portable and who knows you might meet along the way.
  7. Have FUN! – I’m taking Carmen’s advice to heart. We giggle when the cello “farts” and we revel in the long finishing sounds at the end of a piece she is currently practicing!
Posted in Community, Homeschool - Music | Leave a comment

Buzz, Buzz, Sez the Bee

Last week I took Em and her friend Emma (the two Em’s!) to see a free showing of Akeelah and the Bee at the Westport Presbyterian Church. They have movie night every 2nd Friday and this was the first time we had gone.

I laughed, I cried, and I tried to spell every one of those words. The girls sat in the pew in front of me. As the final national bee came to its suspenseful conclusion, the girls were clutching each other in excitement, eyes riveted on the screen.

“Pulchritude,” said the judge on the screen and I quickly recited it out loud.

We clapped along with the audience on the screen and grinned happily. Em had tears in her eyes. “I loved that movie!” She said, wiping at the tears.

“Me too!” I told her, a huge grin on my face.

It brought back such happy memories. In the sixth grade I participated in the school-wide spelling bee and nervously lost to the word carfare. I tried spelling it carfair.

The next year I made it to the county level, and the same the year after that. I don’t remember what word I got wrong in the first county bee, but I do remember the second…alcoholism. I stuttered on the ‘h’ and they thought I said it twice and disqualified me.

And then I was off to San Francisco, to private school, and they didn’t participate in the spelling bee.

After watching the movie, and smiling every time I thought of it and my own childhood experiences, I put out a note on our local homeschool group about it, asking how (or if) homeschool groups could participate.

And before long I was paging through the Scripps Spelling Bee website for details on how to get started. It turns out that for $145, our group of homeschoolers can participate in the spelling bee, all the way to the National Bee, if luck is with us.

Em is not a huge fan of spelling, so I don’t have any pie in the sky fantasies about standing next to her winning the National Bee. What I do hope for is this:

  • That together with some other interested moms, we can encourage those spelling-minded kiddos to learn more about a wide world of words
  • That we can help build better reading, writing and spelling skills through the study and practice of words
  • That we can jump into the etymology of words and discover some of the history and trivia behind their meanings.
  • That we will build everyone’s vocabularies and enjoy expanding our knowledge base.

So I’m planning on that for LEARN SCENE classes this fall, and possibly in the spring semester as well. Who knows where this could take us?!

Posted in Advocacy, Community | Leave a comment

Kitchen Sink Homeschooling

I sometimes struggle with what to call our approach to homeschooling.

Calling it laid-back homeschooling somehow implies at least some small degree of laziness.

Calling it eclectic homeschooling seems negated by regimented aspects such as flash cards for math and spelling lists downloaded from k12reader.com

Organic homeschooling was a winner for a while…

or·gan·ic

ôrˈɡanik/

adjective

 

  1. 1.

    relating to or derived from living matter.

    “organic soils”

But in the end, it just seems to include everything “and the kitchen sink” under the homeschool umbrella.

As I read from What’s Happening to My Body for Girls, Emily listened intently, while coloring in her new coloring journal from Aldi’s. As the text described the different parts of human ovaries, she colored in the words “Believe in Yourself” in a rainbow of colorful choices.

Her spelling list aced for the week, she puzzled over a math problem from Life of Fred Honey and we reviewed how 2 to the power of 4 worked. She wrote the answers down in the same notebook as the spelling words, her numbers sprawling over the page.

As I read from the Time Life for Kids reader Freedom Quilts, she added more details to a drawing of her new character Bumblebee and described her in detail, along with her alter ego.

We watched two TED talks – one about how the Litterati app is enacting social change while cleaning garbage up and about how there are only two hospices in the country for dealing with pediatric end of life. That one made us both cry.

The next day, we went on a long walk and picked up and filled to grocery bags full of trash and disposed of it in a public trash can. I find myself deeply invested in helping Em learned social awareness – championing the rights of the disenfranchised, improving our immediate environment by picking up litter, and generally promoting good citizenship.

And one of the best home runs came today, Friday, March 10th when I suggested she take all of the words she had missed on her first run at the spelling test this week and turn them into a story. Here is the result of that effort…

That’s a little difficult to read, so let me reproduce it, just as she has written it. I have put the spelling words in bold.

The Advenchers of the Sheriff

Vollum: 1

by Emily Shuck

onece there was a sheriff “Next week i will win the rodeo” said the sheriff the next day he packed up the wagon and took it to the train after a while the conducter said “sorry folks this is the end of the line!” “what?!! Said the sheriff “sorry but the railroad is geting worked on” said the conducter so the sheriffdeveloped a plan, on the train the sheriff had seen alot of wild horses out his window “hope yall got saddles!” said the sheriff smileing “why do we need saddles?” asked the other pasingers “you see them carbon life forces?” said the sheriff “we could ride em!” say the other passengers “yeah but do any of yall know the coordinates to the rodeo?” asked the sheriff. “I do! it’s to the south!” said a random person “grat!” said the sheriff after awhile thay came across a clearing in the trees and it was geting dark so thay decided to stay the night there. “i’ll cut down some trees for the fire yall can put the pit in one of the quadrants” a while passed and it was really dark the fire crackled and poped the sheriff looked up “wow an aurora” he said sleepilly the next morning “we shuld tack the charcoal!” said the sheriff. The End.

She has told me this is only part of the story.

If I had known how well she would have done, or how much it interested her, I would have done this a LONG time ago!

Posted in Daily Conversations | Leave a comment

History With Gramps

Years ago I picked up a stack of Time for Kids books on a variety of historical subjects. They have sat on my homeschool shelf and been mainly ignored.

I pulled them out the other day, some 20, perhaps more, and took them downstairs. “Dad, I’m going to put these on your bedside table and I’m going to ask Em to read them out loud to you as part of her homeschool each day.”

He nodded and I took a few moments to show Em. They started on The Berlin Airlift yesterday and today she read several pages of it. The books aren’t long, perhaps 10 pages in all. As she read, I tidied up and dusted, moving through the rooms listening.

Later, as we drove to LEARN co-op I brought it up.

“The story of the Berlin Airlift is fascinating. I didn’t know any of that history. But it makes me remember when the Berlin Wall came down in the late 80s. I can see why the wall was built, and why the German people wanted it to come down and the sides to be reunified again.”

Em nodded and then said, “Gramps corrects my words when I mispronounce them.”

“I noticed that. I guess that’s where I get that habit.”

“I don’t like it.”

“He’s trying to help you, Sweetheart.”

“We are taking care of him, though.”

“Relationships go both ways. Gramps is having nearly all of his needs cared for by us. I help him get dressed. I bathe him, cook and clean up after him. But we all want our place in the family. Even you want to feel helpful, right? You help check his glucose levels, fetch and carry things. He needs to feel useful too, like he is contributing. And Gramps knows stuff. When you read to him, he can tell you stories that will add to what you are reading and learning.”

She sighed. “But he’s annoying, Mama.”

“He’s annoying because you aren’t used to him. Be patient, be kind, and be firm. It is up to you to define your own relationship with him, but this is an opportunity for us all. Be open to that.”

In my wildest dreams (or nightmares) I could not have imagined this scenario happening to me and my family. That said, my dad presence in our lives, while annoying and stressful at times, is a reality. I’m determined to make the best of it.

Posted in Bonding, Homeschool - History | Leave a comment

A Life Well-Lived

Last night we fixed steaks, shrimp and sauteed mushrooms for dinner and enjoyed a movie and family time.

Because that’s how we celebrate Valentine’s Day around here apparently!

I had wanted to see The Arrival since before it hit the theaters, but life got in the way. And for the inexpensive price of $1.63, we got it from Redbox, popped it into the DVD player and sat back.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I will not give away any spoilers. Suffice it to say that it dwells on not just aliens, but the very real reality of death.

This morning I woke Em early. The home health nurse was on her way and Em needed a bath. Later, after the nurse was gone and we had both eaten breakfast I set her the task of reviewing her spelling words while I vacuumed upstairs.

We ended up doing her spelling list there in her bedroom and afterwards we got in a cuddle we hadn’t had time for earlier. Em has finally stopped asking to sleep in our bed, but she does love cuddling with me first thing in the morning or right before bedtime.

As we lay there I found myself thinking of the movie. I told Em, “If I am very lucky, you will live a long, long time after I die. And I hope that you do. I hope that you have a long life, full of love and happiness and children and even grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Em said, “Well, if I don’t, then I hope I die soon after you.” She paused, “I want to believe that there is a pit stop, where we go after we die, but before we go into another body and another life. If there is, will you wait for me there? So I can see you again?”

“You got it, kiddo. I’ll wait there, just for you.”

“I hope I am there when you die, Mama, so you aren’t alone.”

“Me too, baby. I can’t think of anything I would want more.”

She started to cry.

“Death is scary, isn’t it?” I asked her.

“Yeah.”

“Well, it gets a little easier the older you get. It was super-scary when I was a kid. Now it isn’t quite as scary. We all die some day. That is a reality for each and every one of us.”

She snuggled closer.

“The important thing, the MOST important thing is to live your life WELL. Be kind, love others, make them laugh and smile and feel amazing. Learn lots of cool stuff. Enjoy your life.” We snuggled close, “Life is too short. Choose well.”

Posted in Bonding | Leave a comment

Caretaking as Part of Our Eclectic Curriculum

Long time, no post!

Four days after my last post I was getting that fateful call – “Your dad is in a hospital in Panama and he is in bad shape.”

Two days later, on December 21st, I was flying out of the country for the first time. Eleven days after that, Dad and I flew home to the States.

It’s been a month now and a schedule of sorts is beginning to fall into place.

Each time I’ve tried to adhere to a more rigid curriculum in homeschooling, it has exploded in my face. Perhaps it was merely the groundwork being laid for what was to come.

Eclectic homeschooling has never been more necessary and useful than it is now.

As I see it, becoming my dad’s caretaker has benefited our family in a number of ways. Not only does it help him, but it has encouraged me to make a few changes in Em’s daily schedule that benefits all of us. She is now involved in:

  • Coaching/encouraging/directing him to do his daily physical therapy exercises
  • Helping monitor his blood glucose levels (we have all learned to do this, even my needle-phobic husband)
  • Clean up after meals (she is responsible for loading the dishwasher)
  • Helping wash laundry (good living skills)
  • Reading aloud to him (language arts!)
  • Engaging him by watching science and nature documentaries together

Today, when a physical therapist from the home health agency was incorporating some new exercises into his daily regimen, we discussed muscle groups and looked them up in the Anatomy Coloring Book.

anatomy coloring book

The speech therapist has been by to work with him on his cognitive skills and suggested he would benefit from flash cards, so I pulled out some of the flash cards we have been working on. Despite having some delays and mistakes due to hitting his head twice, he was faster than her in the flash card competition.I held up the individual flash cards (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and read off each problem out loud since he can’t see well. At times they were neck and neck, but eventually, he pulled ahead. However, I can see that changing quickly in the weeks to come.

Involving her in his care teaches her valuable life skills as well. It teaches her empathy, patience, and persistence.

I have always believed that children can and should benefit from the presence of grandparents in their daily lives. Dad’s needs are pretty high right now, but that is forcing me to be quite organized and have well-planned days. Slowly I’m adding back in the homeschool basics, and opening ourselves to learning opportunities like the one with the physical therapist today.

I am determined not to let Em’s homeschooling be sacrificed or subsumed by my new role as Dad’s caretaker. As always, we continue to strive towards a decent balance.

Posted in Challenges, Unschooling | Leave a comment

Do We Have Mastery?

Talking About Mastery

I watched a TED talk by Sal Khan a couple of months ago and I have been referring back to it, time and again, ever since. You can watch it here.

Much of the homeschooling we do on a daily basis involves frank discussions. I don’t beat around the bush, I don’t hold back much, and I’m far too busy to delve into the business of figuring out how to trick my child into learning.

Instead, I’ve explained to her that her life will be spent learning new things. That this learning doesn’t magically stop when she leaves this house, or after college, and that she shouldn’t want it to.

Yes, there are boring parts of it, but overall, our job is to open ourselves to the adventure of learning, not fight it, and we should try to get the most out of each and every experience that we possibly can.

So I broached this concept of mastery, multiple times, over the past couple of months. When she came to me complaining about the cursive practice she had left to do, I asked, “Have you mastered the letter?” She looked at me and said, “I don’t know. Have I? What do you think?”

She tried to show me what she had written and I just stared back at her. “Yes, you do know. YOU know perfectly well if you have done it to mastery or not. You don’t need me to tell you, you can see it for yourself. So I ask you again, have you mastered the letter?”

She looked down at the page and it clicked. And I do mean clicked. It wasn’t about making me happy. She walked away, sat down, and began filling the page. And after about ten or fifteen minutes of quiet, where only the light sound of her pencil on the page could be heard, she returned, a proud, confident smile on her face.

“Look Mama, I’ve achieved mastery.” The page was filled with more examples than I had ever seen and she was proud of her work. We have had to revisit this concept a couple more times, but now, as she nears the end of her cursive book (just four more letters to learn!) her writing has improved. More importantly, her pride in her work has improved.

Science in the ‘Hood

Today, as we were listening to Story of the World on CD (thank you Lara Hampton, we are really enjoying the CDs) in the art room, I ran across Em’s science experiment. Another friend had brought us Disgusting Science a couple of months ago (thank you Dorri Partain!) and Em pulled it out and reviewed the instructions on one of the experiments.

Pretty soon she had prepared the solution and I had helped her grind up a multivitamin while she took samples to add to the solution. The first few days we had remembered to check on the samples, but they had been forgotten for a week, possibly two. You can see the video here.

Homeschooling These Days

When I realized Time4Learning was not working for us, I was pretty bummed. But it is easier to work with Emily, than it is to try and force her to do what she doesn’t want to do.

We had some frank discussions about homeschooling and settled on an eclectic curriculum that included a core set of studies. I explained the need for each, and we renamed them “The Basics.” They are as follows:

  • Grade-appropriate spelling lists – one list per week
  • Creative Writing through Rip the Page and Leap Write In and Write Back Soon
  • Daily reading
  • Social studies using Story of the World on CD. Once we make it through all four books on CD I might try and locate Don’t Know Much About History on CD as well since Em seems to really enjoy listening while we work on art projects.
  • Cursive – almost done learning the letters and then it will just be some basic practice
  • Math – flash cards – addition through division – I’ll keep doing these with her until she has full mastery. Then we will look at Khan Academy and Life of Fred math.
  • Art – eclectic and interest-driven
  • Science – also rather eclectic and interest-driven – this doesn’t happen every day
  • French – using the DuoLingo app
  • Typing practice – she has learned the keyboard, now she just needs to increase her speed
  • Living Skills – cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing, money and more
  • Music – This is all Harmony Project, but I hope to branch out to include friends who know music. What I would give for jam sessions in my house! If you love making music, just head my way.

And finally, FINALLY, we seem to have a good system in place. One in which we can complete work in 2-3 hours at most, stick to a decent schedule of learning four days per week, and Em seems to be flourishing.

We set a firm “no computers or television before 5 p.m.” rule in place and it has been well received. She plays in her room or reads after finishing her homeschool basics.

Doubling Up

On Monday of this week, however, Em had an issue.

“Mama, everyone I know is getting two weeks off for Christmas. But you said we are only getting ONE.”

“If you want to double up on your basics, we could get them all done this week.”

She thought about it for a few minutes and said, “Yes, I want to do that.”

So we have doubled up on many, but not all things. Flash cards, for example, are still just one pack a day. And she is planning on handling the last of her cursive lessons next week instead of this one. She pulled off learning 32 new spelling words this week (Week 15 & Week 16 of the 4th grade spelling lists) and she has plowed through Social Studies. 

And I have to say, I love this age. She is soaking in knowledge, learning something new each day, and she is so open to the experience. I am feeling as if we have finally achieved an equilibrium of sorts – one in which Emily is the principal architect of her learning adventures. I am merely the support staff.

It is as it should be!

Posted in Homeschool - General | Comments Off on Do We Have Mastery?