Note: I apologize for the state of my sidebar! The typepad design editor has not been working for me very often. Sometimes my content disappears, sometimes it turns up again, and it never really goes where I put it.
I don't have to turn in any end-of-the-year paperwork to the state this year, but I thought I would like a wrap-up anyway. Nothing we did was revolutionary -- mostly it was just trying to hang on -- but maybe somebody needs to see what it means to just hang on in the early years. Lately it seems that I have heard many newish homeschoolers with young kids really stressing out about first and second grade (or kindergarten) curricula and I always want to tell them to relax.
So, anyway, this is a review of what I can remember that we did. I'm combining my 7 and 5 year olds because they mostly did things together. Technically my five year olds were not in kindergarten because their birthdays come in October, but it didn't seem to make a difference to them. I decided to declare our year over about a week ago, and we'll start back up in July when it gets hot. Although we did about as well as we could this year, considering, I am hoping that next year is better, and really thinking hard about homeschooling styles, balance, and this marathon that is raising (and homeschooling) a large family.
Somehow my five year old twins (and my three year old, too) learned all their letters and letter sounds this year. The twins and I occasionally sat down with Phonics Pathways (known in our house as The Big Book of Letters) for formal reading lessons, but mostly -- I am somewhat embarassed to say -- they learned these things from Starfall. I felt a little guilty about this for a while, and then I thought, why not just be happy it was so painless. The twins are blending, doing a little reading in McGuffey and Bob books, and Chipmunk is spelling STOP signs. Pop is upset that he cannot yet read Star Wars chapter books. They seem to get that words in books can actually be read, and that they ought to be able to apply the skills they're learning to books they want to read, or coupons, or whatever. My second grader, on the other hand, is still convinced that letters are meaningless squiggles only designed to give him a hard time. We made it through long vowel sounds this year, and we have been using Phonics Pathways (and Modern Curriculum Press Phonics A ) methodically. In fact, I think a little too methodically; in April I became concerned that "reading" had seemed only to become a school subject for him, so I ditched the texts and just asked him to read to me from our large collection of early readers (Gareth was eight and a half when reading finally clicked for him, so I have amassed quite a few). He chose to read from our sets of Brand New Readers, which are not strictly phonetic little books, but the stories are funny and Katydid loved them, too. They're short enough and repetitive enough to give him a sense of accomplishment, which he needs at this point.
Pip and Pop used Handwriting Without Tears. Sort of. Both have problems with fine motor skills, and neither has the concept of "just do one page". Or "wait and let's use this neat little chalkboard". This was not something I required, just something I had on the shelf for them to do when they wanted.
Farmerboy (grade 2) has beautiful handwriting, especially for a leftie, and completed Copybook I from Memoria Press. When I say "completed", I mean he did all the writing. This child does not like to illustrate his work, so we just left all the "draw a picture here" pages blank.
I'm including this as a topic because I know people are interested in it, and I tried to do it more formally this year with Farmerboy. I have to tell you, narration in my house is a little exhausting. As soon as it becomes a formal process, no one wants to tell me anything. If I am sneaky - or if we have a genuine discussion - my kids demonstrate excellent comprehension. (Educationese for: they like to talk about books.) If I ask directly for someone to narrate or retell immediately after we read, I am usually met with rolling eyes. I understand that doing formal narration eases kids into writing later on, but the energy required to sustain the process is often something I just don't have. On the other hand, I know my kids pick things up just from listening to books and talking about them; the other day I sat down with Pip to read Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms and after I had read the first page, he said, "But what's the problem? Books usually have a problem."
Yep, kiddo, a story without conflict would be boring. (And Fletcher does actually run into a "problem", but not on the first page.)
Fairy Tales and Folk Stories
I stuck with something simple this year, and that was a good thing. For some reason I had a really hard time keeping a regular read-aloud time, even for the little ones. I did not write this plan down; I did not decide ahead of time which stories or books I would read; I just decided that this year I would try to read the younger kids more fairy tales. There are many, many lovely picture books illustrating single fairy and folk tales, many of which we own, but we stuck primarily to collections this year. (The boys loved the Tiger and Rabbit stories in this collection.)
There were more read-alouds and books on audio -- including marathons of Redwall books -- but nothing terribly organized. In fact, I think Ill remember this year primarily as "The Year of Biggles, Redwall, and Harry Potter."
I meant to do the whole year in review all at once, but at this rate its going to take me until 2012! Sheesh! Cross your fingers and maybe I'll get to Science, Math, and History before the next presidential election!