Saturday, April 20, 2019

Winter Term 2018-2019 Wrap-Up...

As the grass begins to green outside my window, I can look back at this photo from mid February and see the beauty. However, setting an all time record snow total of 54" for the month of February was not beautiful at the time. As a matter of fact, many days were just pure survival mode. More than 30 cows freshening throughout a month of subsequent blizzards was interesting to say the least. We even ended up with a couple calves in the basement for a short period of time. It was a 6-year old's delight! There were many snow forts and tunnels to be had.

But, this was absolutely not the case for anyone able to shovel.

Then, the week before the Vernal Equinox, the barn that stood for a century, fell under the weight of the rain. Coupled with existing ice and snow, it was just too much to bear. Fortunately, no one was injured and nothing of great value destroyed in the collapse.

All of the weather phenomena, along with Ruben continuing to recover from his accident, made for an interesting Winter Term. In spite of it all, we did persevere with academics and we did manage to finish some books.

First, here is a preview of the resources I had scheduled....

Year One
Year Eight
Year Nine
Morning Time

Next, you can find our Fall Term Wrap-Up here, which will give you some perspective on how we proceeded with the Winter Term.

Morning Time

For the most part, our Morning Time moved forward as planned. One change was that we did Morning Time in the evening. There is much darkness here in WI in the winter months. My people love the daylight and need daylight to do chores. There was not only the shoveling I referred to above, but checking and feeding cattle, making sure we had ample firewood, and I needed to have plenty of food ready to feed these working people. Evenings were our down time when we would gather round. It was much easier for the kids to focus on the readings and the atmosphere felt more relaxed at that time. More often than not, we headed off to bed after great reading and thoughtful discussion. It was a good way to end the day.

Regarding books used in Morning Time, I ended up swapping The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos for DK The Children's Illustrated Bible by Selina Hastings, which is a Veritas Press recommendation. We will pick up the Vos bible again in the fall. In addition, we finished In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. Other books listed under the Morning Time link above were continued into Spring Term.

Year 9 - RileyAnn

RileyAnn continued to move forward with her plan. She finished reading The World of Captain John Smith and picked up George Washington's World, both by Genevieve Foster. In addition, she began reading Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober and John Adams by David McCullough. For science in the Winter Term, Riley finished The Chemical History of the Candle by Michael Faraday with lectures and Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman. She also completed The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen as part of her High School Community.

Year 8 - Ruben 

Ruben also made progress in his plan while recovering. The first six weeks of the Term were hard! Initially, Ruben had tremendous pain and was unable to focus. In addition, he had so many appointments that it was difficult to find time for academics. Once healing began and he could concentrate for periods of time, Ruben really took off on his reading. He managed to complete The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark by Gail Langer Karwoski, The Boy of the Alamo by Margaret Cousins, Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody, and the Landmark book Gettysburg by MacKinlay Kantor during the Winter Term. Ruben and I worked together to finish Secrets of the Universe by Paul Fleisher along with the Sabbath Mood Homeschool Physics Study Guide.

One area we fell short was math. His RightStart Mathematics lessons were intermittent and we didn't make as much progress as scheduled. I will explain more about where we landed with math at the end of our Term Three Wrap-Up, once we finish our school year.

Year 1 - Levi

Oh my dear Levi! I ended up shuffling his books yet again in the second term. Due to the care and appointments needed after Ruben's accident, my time was even more limited than before. I had to find something that I could put on autopilot in order to ensure it would get done. In my Fall Term Wrap-Up post, I mentioned switching to RightStart Math and Alpha-Phonics. They are both excellent programs, but because there is no lesson plan, you just do what comes next. This made it very hard for others besides me to implement if I was gone. Therefore, somewhere around Week 22, toward the end of our Winter Term, I switched to Memoria Press's First Start Reading and I LOVE it!! I already had the Teacher Guide, which I found at a thrift sale for 25-cents so just needed the Student Workbooks. It's straight up phonics with a plan. :)

I actually went back to the Kindergarten level because I wanted Levi to start from the beginning. I also felt their reading lessons were a bit advanced, especially since we chose not to do Kindergarten at age five, but rather, waited to begin formal lessons until age six. I bought the Curriculum Guide, which is amazing and was worth the money to me. As a matter of fact, I purchased the K, 1st, and 2nd grade Curriculum Guides so I could see the progression of the program. I had been using some of Memoria Press's Art, Music, and Enrichment anyway. The Curriculum Guides also lays out a plan for teaching those subjects.

We have since changed math to Rod & Staff Beginning Arithmetic 1, which is also recommended by Memoria Press, and Levi loves it! It's funny how each kid learns so differently, even when birthed from the same womb. Ruben struggled so much with workbooks due to dyslexia, that it prompted me to find another way. This is what led me more toward Charlotte Mason's methods. However, Levi really likes workbooks and doesn't care for manipulating objects. I have always been intrigued by Rod & Staff math. I think it's because it's the way I was taught math and I feel it worked. The sequential mastery approach is very appealing to me.

For now, Levi's math comes in fits and spurts, which I am not worried about. After reading the Benezet experiment, along with other delayed formal math research, I'm OK with waiting on math until the child is developmentally ready. It's a subject that's easy for Levi at this time so we do it more for fun than academic reasons. He also plays with math in the day to day and gains much of his math knowledge that way.

After beginning the Beautiful Feet Books Early American History Primary level, it was soon apparent that Levi wasn't quite ready. I used this study with Riley and Ruben when they were 3rd and 4th grade, which I feel is a much more appropriate age, even though Beautiful Feet recommends it for Kindergarten - 3rd grade. The D'Aulaire books are amazing at any age, but I feel it's better to wait until the student can fully grasp the stories presented in them in order to better appreciate them. Also, Levi is a young 1st grader, with a summer birthday so the writing/notebooking proved to be too much. Instead, we have read many picture books together on a variety of topics, including science and history.

For now, my focus with Levi is phonics and reading. He continues to participate in Morning Time. We also finished reading Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and began Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater in the way of chapter books this term.  Overall, the changes made have been working and academics are actually getting done!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Life Lessons From A Picture Book...

Last fall, I read aloud Columbus by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire to Levi. I was very excited at the prospect of reading this series again, which has been reprinted by Beautiful Feet Books. This is my second go around with this particular picture book. However, it's been quite some time and I had forgotten some of the details. On this second reading, I was especially awestruck with the following passage from page 10....
When Christopher was thirteen, he left his father's house and sailed out in to the world to seek his fortune as a seaman. He felt free as the gulls as he saw his native town fade out of sight. Soon he rose above his shipmates, for he was clever and capable and could make others carry out his orders. He was still a very young man when he became captain of a ship. For many years he busily sailed his ship back and forth across the Mediterranean Sea and had little time to wonder whether the world was round or flat, small or big. 
Just think, Columbus left his father's house at age thirteen! I had a 13-year old boy at the time of re-reading so this idea really struck a cord with me. One of our goals in home educating is to nurture competent and capable adults. I would be heart sickened to see my thirteen year old leave home because I'm not ready to let go and yet, I feel he is quite able to do so. Our current culture holds young adults back from responsibility that they are more than capable of taking on. Don't be afraid to give your children chores. You are doing them a favor!

In reading this passage, I was also prompted with thoughts of our current culture's young people having failure to launch issues. I can't help but wonder if they were reading more stories with good moral character, virtue, and motivation, that they would gain those qualities as well and not fail to launch. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of picture books. They often give much food for thought!