Now that we have assessed Em’s progress in all of the core requirements for 2nd grade, a basic plan of action is, at least for me, the logical next step.
The biggest challenges as I see it is reconciling “what should be taught/understood at grade level” and our deeply entrenched homeschooling ways.
Is it important to be at grade level?
Maybe. And then again, maybe not.
I will admit that I am far more concerned with making sure that Em continues to enjoy learning. I want to find the right mix of “we should at least consider working toward these requirements” and “Hey, this interests you? Great let’s keep exploring it.”
So I’m going to take this by subject again. First up, Language Arts…
Emily needs to be reading more. I’ve seen a huge jump in the past six months, and especially in the past three months, but she still finds the idea of sitting down and reading a book completely and totally unappealing. Hand in hand with this goes writing. She needs to do more of it, but she balks, mainly because she feels that her spelling is not perfect.
We have had the discussion dozens if not hundreds of times. You will not find perfection overnight, it takes time, and effort, and practice to become better at anything. This includes reading and writing.
But how do I get her motivated to do better?
This is the million dollar question.
She will be naturally reading more just in the course of everyday living. When she works on her Khan Academy work (see Mathematics below) she has to read the questions. I’m also going to give her more experience reading labels in stores by asking questions like, “What kind of ingredients are in that?” and so on.
I have also tried to install a “natural reading time” but failed so far. Basically, I would like for us to pick a cozy spot on the couch, pick up our books, and read them to ourselves, while having the other one for company. Still working on this!
One thing she did agree to was to begin practicing cursive three times a week with Teaching Cursive. She actually volunteered to do it more than that, but I suggested we start out with three times a week, just ten minutes a day, and see how it went.
For now, I’m going to turn over the whole reading/writing issue in my brain. I’m sure it’s a matter of finding the right books to read and the right motivator for her to write. She isn’t completely resistant, but there is a significant amount of unwillingness that we need to overcome in order for her to improve.
Two words…Khan Academy. I’ve started her on the K-2 section of it and she has had her ups and downs. Yesterday three short sessions of six problems each reduced her to tears, anger, and depression. She was missing very basic questions because she was unused to the verbage on the site, unused to being tested, and very very upset whenever she got an answer wrong.
It tested my mettle as well, especially when she turned on me in anger and frustration after I tried to talk her through it.
That said, we talked about doing just three sections per day. I’ll start her out with just 3x per week, especially now that she’s good and frustrated with it. She’ll need a break in between!
History & Geography
It’s easy to go really wrong with history and geography. Mainly, that you repeat the same old stuff, making it boring and repetitious. I would discover, far later in my life, that history was absolutely fascinating! In those early years, however, I was bored to tears with facts and figures.
I question too, how important those facts and figures are when compared to truly understanding our past and the modern world we find ourselves in.
I would rather Em be fascinated by strange and obscure stories, delve into historical fiction along with actual non-fiction accounts, and develop thoughtful opinions about some of our more darker moments in history.
There certainly are plenty of them.
So I pretty much don’t give a damn what the 2nd grade requirements are. I see that it is important for her to know the country she lives in (National Geographic’s Our Fifty States), but also the history of the continent (A History of Us series which begins with pre-history), and the history of the world at large (The Story of the World).
History, knowing it, giving an honest straightforward account that is not whitewashed is incredibly important to me. On Wednesday, as we drove home, I turned on NPR and heard an interview with a GI who was there at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. This led to an explanation of what concentration camps were, and how the Nazis were so incredibly effective at first isolating Jewish people (segregation, labels and more) and then murdering them by the millions.
I get emotional just thinking of it. I believe that if we do not learn from history than we will repeat it over and over again. I think too of how many lives, how much potential for such great things were snuffed out, taken from all of us, in those dark days.
But I digress…geography!
Geography, like History, can become boring and repetitious, when it should be a great joy. New places, fascinating destinations, amazing natural wonders!
So we will be hitting this in three different ways…
- 1-3 pages once a week from the Kid’s Almanac of Geography
- 1 exercise per week with the Map Art Lab book
- Any travel/country videos she wants to watch on Netflix or from the library on different world destinations
I was quite pleased with Em’s knowledge of science. She loves science and it shows. I will continue to encourage her to…
- Watch The Magic Schoolbus and/or read the books
- Take her to Science City 1-2 times per month (she also has a week-long summer camp there in late June)
- Enroll her in the LEARN Math & Science Club again this fall
- Review with her our internal workings using the Children’s Human Body Encyclopedia at least once a week.
- Take any KC-CIRCLE classes that include science experiments, or teach our own!
There are things I wish for – the ability to have actually mastered another language is one of my biggies. I have always found it rather intimidating. I’ve learned enough to pass classes and then promptly forgot.
I know that foreign language is an important skill to learn when you are young, but I will admit I’ve dropped the ball on this.
I asked Em if she would like to take a Spanish class or a sign language class and she immediately pounced on the latter option. So I guess that’s what we will be looking for. Hopefully low-cost or free. We shall see.
We are so lucky to live where we do. We are literally minutes away from the Nelson-Atkins! I’ve looked over the list of expected accomplishments/knowledge for 2nd graders for art and found it silly at times, boring in other places, and generally irrelevant for us.
Em needs to be exposed to art.
Done. We’ll try and make it to the Nelson-Atkins at least once per month, if not more often.
This is pretty much completely handled through her Harmony Project KC classes. All I need to do is provide the transportation!
Health & P.E.
Other than involve her in more food preparation, and encourage her to read more food labels (turns out those raspberry fruit leathers from Aldi’s are actually made with healthy ingredients!), she is healthy and active.
For us, homeschooling is life and life is homeschooling. I know we won’t always have smiles and happiness, and she did receive the genetic double whammy of having TWO parents with perfectionist tendencies, making the mistakes when they occur SO MUCH WORSE (I’m visualizing Thursday’s tears and wailing while working on a few math problems with Khan Academy). But for the most part, I know that Em will learn best if I do not push her. If something is boring, we move on, and tackle it later or find another more interesting source of info.
For the next few months, I will focus on taking her to some stimulating destinations – like the Nelson-Atkins, nature sanctuaries, Science City, and more – along with (for now) scheduling in some regular homeschool study activities. We will see how they go.