Well, as promised, here is the rest of my K-2 review. Do you remember the first part? It's only been a month in between!
I've been in a bit of a tizzy lately as I try to finish out the unpacking and setting up so that one day, we don't feel as if we are moving in anymore. I'm not sure when that day will come, but I know the little boys are getting a little bit frustrated with the lack of structure. Now that I don't have to report to the school district at the end of the year, here is my plan.
1. Blog year-end reviews here on typepad.
2. Print out my Learning in Review category and put it in a binder. Let the kids look through it. Look through it myself. Remember that we actually did something in 2010-11.
3. Put the binder on a shelf. Label it with a label maker so I know what it is. (Er... probably I should label it before I put it on the shelf.) One day before I am done homeschooling (good thing I have at least 17 more years) collect all my other homeschool journal/(b)logs and put them on the same shelf. A good thing about having to root through everything you own is that you find little gems here and there that at one time seemed to be rough stones but interesting enough to keep. My homeschool journals are like that. In every single one I find myself questioning whether the effort is worth it. In a word -- yes. The effort is so completely worth it, but sometimes that's not evident until years later when you are trying to figure out what to do with the new kindergartener, or trying to escape the tangle of educational philosophies in which you suddenly find yourself wrapped.
Now, onward. The Review -- math, science, history, geography, nature study. Did we do art last year? Well, not formally. There were many dinosaur pictures drawn, and I did discover Farmerboy's depiction of himself as a paleontologist wielding some ground-penetrating radar.
What, ground-penetrating radar isn't in your art curriculum?
Anyway, really now -- onward.
Next year (which for us begins in early July) I want to do more living math, with more allowance for projects like this:
It's a pattern picture, by Pop. (And it's art, too!) These pictures developed spontaneously from some art the younger boys were doing at the breakfast table.
(We also do science at the breakfast table. Exhibit 1A.
Farmerboy's catapults. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.)
Mostly I either wasn't organized enough or available enough to do much "living math" this year, so we used workbooks in a fairly relaxed manner. Pop is extremely fond of math (my only one, really, although his twin brother likes math pretty well, too) and ran through the arithmetic part of MCP Math K fairly quickly. Not the writing numbers part. Writing numbers is part of math but it is not really math; it is more about fine motor skills, and both twins have trouble with fine motor skills. My biggest beef with early math curricula is that they are mostly about writing numbers, which is frustrating as heck to a kid who can use patterns to add three numbers in his head but can't figure out how to hold a pencil so that he can draw a straight line. That's why, in the early years, I only use math workbooks in a voluntary fashion. I much prefer a Montessori approach to math, but most of my Montessori materials are still out in the garage, in boxes.
In any case, both twins were happy to use MCP Math K and some of the Kumon workbooks on their own terms. They also pounced on the Flashmaster. We used Usborne First Numbers and a 100 chart occasionally, and every once in a while checked out a math-related title from the library. (Mummy Math: An Adventure in Geometry was a big hit.) I am not sure this was enough math for Pop, but I hope to do a better job next year.
Farmerboy, in Grade 2, used Seton's Mathematics 2 for Young Catholics, which is a heck of a lot of drill if you use all of it, but we didn't. Since we were really focusing on reading with him this year, and since it was a year full of a fair amount of chaos, math sort of slipped through the cracks at times. I am not terribly worried about it, because in my experience it's relatively simple to catch up by using Saxon 5/4 in 4th grade.
(See Exhibit 1A above.)
My mom is an engineer. Every year she participates in a program designed by the schools to foster an interest in science and math in middle school girls. Every year she builds something with the girls, and my kids benefit from the leftovers. This year they built spoon catapults. Spoon catapults are the sort of things that fire the imaginations of technically-inclined 7 year old boys. Farmerboy has built a number of spoon catapults on his own using various materials. The one you see above was constructed using a collage tray, a plastic spoon, a screw, a Playmobil basket, a wooden bead, and generous amounts of masking tape. It will fling various small objects a surprising distance at high velocities.
The other catapult on the table in the picture is his birthday present, also from my mom. It will also hurl small projectiles with surprising force. And she gave him the K'nex Bridges kit.
Do you sense a theme here?
Science is Farmerboy's "thing". In addition to building catapults and really intricate bomb release mechanisms on Lego starships of his own design, Farmerboy also worked independently on experiments from the Thames & Kosmos Little Labs Stepping into Science kit and the Thames and Kosmos Little Labs Intro To Engineering set. These kits are mostly very good for the age range suggested (5-7), with a couple of caveats. Kids (ok, boys) tend to be very excited about doing the activities and when they see pictures of scissors on cardboard figures (such as space shuttles), they will assume they know what to cut. But they might be wrong. Before you start on the kits, it is probably a good idea to enforce a rule about reading the directions first. Otherwise, you may end up with an unusable space shuttle. Our engineering kit was also missing a crucial piece for the crane, but that turned out to be a problem-solving opportunity in disguise; I can't remember what Farmerboy ended up using to replace it, but it was pretty creative and worked well, too.
Five year olds will need more supervision than a seven year old.
We also took some field trips with Farmerboy in mind. Farmerboy loves earth science. In late April we drove out to Coon Creek Science Center, about 2 1/2 hours away from us in rural west Tennessee, for their annual member's day. The really cool thing about the Coon Creek site is that all the "fossils" at the site are not really fossilized; that is, the shells were never replaced by minerals (in other words, rock). The shells, therefore, are still shell, just 70 million years old. The museum staff digs some test pits and makes the clumps of mud available to members who attend. It's up to you to excavate the fossils from the clumps of mud. You get to keep whatever you find. It's a devilishly hard thing to keep the shells from breaking, but we did end up with some nice specimens that now grace the windowsills in our dining/school area.
And, of course, there was Meteorite Men. Farmerboy's Christmas present? A metal detector.
(He's looking at turtles.)
Katydid would tell you that nature study is science, and of course she would be right, but I'm following the homeschool mom convention here and separating the two areas. Nature study at our house tends to be informal, but also an integral part of our daily lives. To my children, nature study is a lot like eating. It's something you do every day, and you would never capitalize it and compartmentalize it, as in, "For our Eating Curriculum this year, we had Pizza, Eggplant Parmesan, and Snickerdoodles." On the other hand, sometimes I do have Ideas, and I try them out on my kids. This year one of my Ideas was to use One Small Square books in a relaxed way to investigate our new yard. We went through One Small Square: Backyard and One Small Square: Woods. That was about the extent of formal nature study. Informally, the subject of the year was ANTS ... because we have A LOT of them.
I had a really nice geography curriculum all charted out last summer before we moved, but with all the chaos of C-section complications and moving two months early, it proved to be somewhat ambitious. I had thought that we could at least read some books about each of the states that we drove through from New York to Mississippi, but I didn't have the money to buy the books at the time and getting anything from our local library in New York proved impossible in the month before our move. So we read just a few books from the titles I had written down, mainly focusing on Tennessee and Mississippi: Minn of the Mississippi (still need to finish this one); The Buffalo Knife ; 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi: A Mississippi Numbers Book ; and M Is For Magnolia: A Mississippi Alphabet Book . The kids also enjoyed The Scrambled States of America Talent Show, which we checked out of our library here in Mississippi in book-plus-CD format.
And then we had MAPS -- a lot of them -- when I unconvered the map container out in the garage. (It was just like Christmas.) Recently I was reorganizing our school area... er, kitchen... and I took a couple of pictures. In this one, you can see our large container of maps where it sits on top of the Montessori puzzle map cabinet. (I hadn't straightened the bottom shelf when I took the picture, but it holds a markable map and some children's atlases most of the time.) Most of the maps are from Highlights Which Way USA, which we subscribed to when Gareth and Katydid were little, but we also throw real maps from our travels in there. This spring when the Mississippi suffered its historic flooding, we drove over the bridge to Arkansas to see it (My camera wasn't working at the time, but I think you would have to have known what it looked like before it was underwater in order to appreciate the vast extent of the flooding.) This fired the boys' imagination, especially about Arkansas, so we had a run on Arkansas maps for a while.
The boys seemed to be more interested in geography this year, so mostly history came from the You Wouldn't Want to Be series. (What can I say, I have boys.) These are not the greatest books in the world, but they are very boy friendly.