Saturday, December 01, 2007

How school is going lately

It has been a while since I have done a post about how the homeschooling is going. The last time I mentioned it, The Pillowfight Fairy was about to finish up her current spelling workbook. She has finished it now and we have transitioned to what I am calling vocabulary practice.

This involves working our way through a short dictionary that was in her spelling workbook. Each day we do five new words. Most of these are words that she already knows. I have her copy each word, read the definition and a sentence using the word (provided as an example), and then I have her make up her own sentence and write it out. On Friday we do a bit of review by having her copy all of the week's words and then pick out about four of her favorites with which to write sentences. Since she writes the sentences on the back of the paper, this also works as practice at spelling the words from memory.

This is by far her favorite part of her schoolwork (excepting art). I have found that letting her create a sentence, and at the end of the week letting her choose which words to spend more time on, is like a treat for her. She feels like she has a say in what she gets to do for her schoolwork. From my perspective, it also exercises several different skills. She is practicing shaping her letters when she writes. She is practicing writing words correctly. She is becoming familiar with the format and use of a dictionary. She is using her creativity to compose a sentence of her own. She is practicing writing down this sentence without forgetting it or losing focus. She is learning to capitalize the first word of the sentence. She is learning to use punctuation to end a sentence. As I said above, she is getting some practice at spelling some of these words from memory.

All in all, she is doing well with it. I have noticed a couple of things in doing these new exercises. First, she has a fondness for adjusting her "font" to make her letters prettier. I suspect that she will like learning cursive when the time comes for it. Second, she is a little fuzzy on the concept of what makes something a sentence, even though she enjoys making the sentences. I had purchased a lesson book for teaching grammar that I hadn't planned to start until next fall. Watching her good progress with these lessons and the frustration she has when she doesn't come up with a sentence on the first try, I think that she may be ready for the simple grammar lessons the book provides. I think it would help eliminate her frustration, when she understands how words go together.

In addition to this vocabulary work, she has reading practice, math work, memory work, drawing lessons, and piano lessons. My husband has been doing an occasional post on her progress with piano lessons. Since that is his responsibility and area of expertise (music that is), I will leave that to him to discuss. I will simply say that she is making progress and she doesn't hate the piano yet. If anything, she is more interested in playing our many instruments than she used to be.

I have been giving her drawing lessons from a book called "Draw Write Now," which is designed to use art to prompt kids to write. I originally purchased it thinking that she was reluctant to write and doing writing with art might be more interesting to her. In hindsight, she was reluctant to write because I was only having her do copy work, which is admittedly boring. She enjoys the art and doesn't mind writing about her pictures at all. Within just a week or so of using this book, I knew that I had misjudged the issue. She has written profusely in her free time since then (mostly without accompanying pictures). She also likes to type on the computer and print out her creations. She prefers to do creative writing. Art can be a starting point to get her to write. But, just as easily, her writing can be a starting point for what she draws. I think she needs a meatier drawing curriculum. So I am going to soon be doing a close reading of "Drawing With Children" to get ideas about how to progress from here.

I have been having her do memory work where she learns poems from the first McGuffey Reader. She seems to like this, and I recently discovered that her sister, the Adrenaline Junkie, is learning them too. In addition to this she has been practicing her Bible memory verses from her Sunday School class at church. For her age they do one simplified verse a month. She has been learning her verses in a week and then acts bored whenever I mention practicing them again. I think she is ready for either longer memory verses or more frequent memory verses. I am nearly out of poems from her reader. Next I think we will get some poems from "A Child's Garden of Verses". She already has a few favorites from that book.

She is halfway through the Kindergarten Math curriculum we use. She seems to be catching on to the new ideas quickly, but they are more of a challenge than they used to be. Which brings me to the latest schooling issue we are dealing with.

Sometime around her fifth birthday in October, she has gone through a bit of a transition, during which she wants to challenge the status quo. She has to test all the boundaries again. This is calming down a little and has now become a general complaint against anything that isn't either what she chooses or what is easiest. If things aren't going her way, she complains that she is too tired to do what her parents tell her to do (not tired enough for a nap though). Or if anything takes the slightest bit of effort (or doesn't come easily to her), she complains that it is too hard. So I have had to spend some time telling her that she doesn't always get her way and sometimes life is hard. It is so hard to get a kid to understand that as they learn, the hard things get easier until they wonder why they thought it was hard. I've been hearing a lot of complaining lately. I do try to incorporate fun things into the schoolwork. And I try to break up the monotony with a little variety. I also employ jealousy on occasion by doing some kind of "school work" with the Adrenaline Junkie to lure the Fairy in. However, I am of the opinion that some hard work that feels like hard work is character building. The Fairy learns some things easily. Because of this, she is in danger of thinking that everything should be easy for her. I would be doing her a disservice to let her continue thinking that.

So is homeschooling going well right now? I think so, but it is a bumpy ride right now. I've heard many other homeschoolers say that the first year is the toughest in many ways. I consider this my second year, but it is the first year of trying to follow a set schedule with curricula to be followed. She and I are both trying to find our way on this new path. But, even through the complaints, I see the progress she makes. Yes, the results speak for themselves. It is going well.


Andrea said...

I enjoyed a book called "The Art of Teaching Art to Children" by Nancy Beal. You might be able to find it at your local library.

Sheri said...

Oh my! That's a wonderful program of study. I was *quite* surprised to read it is for a 5 year old though. Wow.

I really enjoyed your vocabulary lesson plans. I think we may implement something similar soon. Thanks so much for sharing.