Saturday, April 6, 2013

This Week's H/School Journal

It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted a weekly update, and I've missed writing it...if just to help me remember that we have been doing something!  This week was another full one - I'm beginning to think that there is no such thing as a not-full week when one has three children to occupy and educate!

Places we went and people we saw...
...The week began with Easter and it was a great weekend around here...full of family things, extended family events, church activities, chocolate egg hunts, extensive consumption of Easter bread (Paska) and chocolate, and other related activities.  As I've mentioned already, we hosted Easter dinner here for my side of the family and we pulled out our dining room table to full length to accommodate everyone.

...My brother was in town for the Easter weekend, which was great.  I've mentioned before that my kids love him (likely has something to do with the chocolate that he brings them every. single. time. he visits...and he went waaay overboard with an Easter bag of candy).  On Saturday evening last weekend, as I was tucking Lizzie into bed, she said with absolute confidence, "Uncle David loves me the best."  I couldn't help but chuckle but then I asked why she thought that.  Her response, also with utter conviction:  "Because he knows me.  And I know him."  It is likely quite true that she has her uncle wrapped around that teeny but determined little finger of hers and he obediently toted her around as she clambered after and all over him.  :)  Anyway, it was nice having him here.

...we were on a vacation from gym class this week, and it was kinda nice to have the break from programming...though I missed having an hour to hang out with the other moms who schlepp their kids to the university every week for the class.

...we enjoyed a fun play date with a friend and her boys (thanks again T!) and despite the volume generated by five kids, it was awesome.  We ate my friend T's homemade bread with all kinds of yummy stuff, and Matthew brought some of his homemade and delish peanut butter cookies to munch on at snack time.  My kids learned to play charades there and we've been playing it ever since - it was a real hit!

...a long time friend of mine is in town from Arizona and so I got to spend my Thursday evening out with her, catching up.  There's nothing quite like connecting with a friend after a lengthy time apart!

In our homeschool this week...
...we had a fairly productive week.  Monday and Tuesday were a little tough because they were the first days back to school after a very full Easter weekend and a more laid back week than usual last week as we prepped for Easter.  Monday evening saw Matthew and me hunched over the books as we attempted to complete the agenda that he'd been unable to complete during the day simply because the transition was so hard for him.  Friday was an awesome school experience, though:  For the first time in months, Matthew said upon completion of breakfast:  "Mom, let's do school now, ok?  I want to get it done."  I was so shocked at his willingness (and, dare I say, enthusiasm) to do school that I almost fell off my chair.  I immediately took him up on that, leaving all dishes and food on the table as they were as we raced to the dining room to start school.  Just under an hour later, he had finished his day's work (Math, English, piano, reading, etc).  We only had Bible left to do, which we did as a foursome after lunch.  He didn't need a break, he asked to keep going, and was positively cheerful throughout - WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!!!  Then he asked if we could do school the next day, too, (on a Saturday) because he just finds it so hard to start up again after even a day or two of not doing school).  Huh.  I couldn't believe how much easier/lighter/faster the day went with being able to get through school with no meltdowns/tantrums/rages, and with a positive attitude throughout.  It used to always be like this with two years ago!  Unbelievable the difference it made in our day.

...It's been working well that I start the week with a daily, defined plan for each makes my week so much easier than making a plan early in the morning before each school day.  And Matthew in particular likes to see his list for the week and to cross things off as he completes them.  So I'll keep doing this.  It takes 1-2 hours of my weekend to thoughtfully put a schedule together and pull together all of the supplementary materials, but it seems to help my week flow a little better.  In case you're wondering why I wouldn't always do this, the answer is simple:  It hasn't often been possible to get through a day's agenda, much less a week's agenda...when I've attempted weekly (even monthly) agendas in the past, I'd just end up frustrated because I'd just end up having to alter it daily to reflect the reality of what we'd accomplished (sometimes more than I'd planned for, but usually less).  For now, however, a weekly agenda seems possible.

...Matthew's school work this week involved:

  • He worked a little more on fractions and is pretty comfortable with them now.  He has also begun working with greater than/less than fraction comparisons and equivalent fractions - these aren't required of a grade 3 student, but he seemed ready and eager to learn more about them, and so we have done some work there, too.
  • He also spent some effort memorizing his 2 Times table and I think he has them mastered now, up to 2x12.  Again, this is also not required of a grade 3 student, but I figure why not?  In fact, as I understand it, memorizing the Times table is not required at all anymore in the school system, but we're going to do this just makes life a little easier later on, in my opinion.  Matthew likes thinking of it as a fast way of adding things together and so he doesn't mind doing a bit of memory work.  Though I think he has the 2 Times table mastered now, he wants to do one more week's work on them to make sure he's got them before moving on to the 3 Times table.  I'll have to think of some more creative ideas for the 2 Times table for next week; this week I taught him how to make a Cootie Catcher (otherwise known as a fortune teller origami-type of paper thingee) and I wrote the 2x table in it to make memorizing more fun.  I also found 2 Times table multiplication wheels and a few other fun games to play to help solidify them in his brain.  So now he knows the 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10 Times Table.  Even if we spend a month on each new number, I figure he'll know them all up to 12 by the end of the calendar year!
  • Finally, he learned about 2-D Polygons, Vertices, and Congruent shapes.  He seemed to enjoy these things and caught on very quickly - even catching the nuance between what it means for shapes to be congruent vs equal.
  • We spent a bit of time every day learning more about Nouns.  We've covered these before, along with Verbs, Adverbs, Adjectives and Prepositions.  But this stuff is tough for Matthew to remember over time (and who can blame him - it's not exactly fun!).   So I decided to back up a little and just spend more time on each of these areas.  What's the rush?  I asked myself.  There's no reason we can't just take our time a little to solidify the learning - what we do now will just make future years of grammar learning a wee bit easier.  So this week the focus was on nouns (and next week will be, too).  I found some great worksheets online for grade 3 students and so he cut and pasted things into categories of: people; places; things; ideas.  He also took word lists and was able to identify them as being/not nouns.  Next week he'll focus on identifying nouns in sentences, and on differentiating between common and proper nouns etc etc.
  • Matthew also read out loud every day.  It's such a joy for me to listen to him read and he's getting better and better.  Just a couple of months ago he wasn't interested at all, but it's been progressing every week.  The kid who could read at about a grade 1 level two months ago is now reading late grade 2 materials; I think he's not far from reading at 'grade' level (however relevant that is).  The difference is only that he's interested now.  He's been reading lots of short stories - about a full typewritten page in length.  Since early January, he's been reading these stories - sometimes on my ipad, and sometimes on sheets that I print out for him; for each story, he also answers comprehension questions, and I'm delighted that he's really good at remembering what he's just read.
  • Matt's continued to practice his printing by copying out Bible verses - an awesome combination of things, I think!  Whereas in the past couple of months I've had him write out different verses every day, I started taking a different approach this week.  Each day this week, he wrote out the same verse, and for the first two days he also practiced writing out a few of the harder words in the verse.  What happened was that by Thursday he had memorized the verse (great!) and he had also learned the spelling of the words - so by Friday, he wrote out the whole verse without even having to look at the Bible for reference.  He felt very proud of this accomplishment and I was so pleased for him.  We'll be doing this going forward for the next while.
  • Piano practice, Awana, a bit of art.  All other activities were on vacation!

...Seth was a little 'off' of school this week...likely because he has a minor cold (yes, the boy who never allows himself to get sick actually has a bit of a cold!!).  He was uncharacteristically grouchy a few days this week, and let out a few groans and wails when it came time to do school.  So I readjusted his week for him and kept things simple.  He worked on penmanship (both letters and numbers - up to 30), some addition, and going through letter sounds.  He is still haunted by memory blanks at times, though not nearly as often as just a few months ago; it's quite striking now when a memory blank hits, and I'm so terribly thankful that they are not nearly as pronounced as a short time ago.  The current blank is around the number twenty.  He can write the numbers 0-19 and from 21-30, but 20 is just brutal.  Every day when he arrives there, every single time he counts to 20 (even within seconds of me helping him with it again), he says something like "you never teached me this before."  Said every time with the same certainty.  It's quite frustrating, but again, he's come so far!

...Lizzie, usually so interested in school, was less so this week as well - there's a good chance she was taking her cues from Seth.  But because she's only five, I don't need her to do school yet, so I spent energy on occupying her with things I thought she might like.  And of course, she's always one who loves being read to, so that was something we spent a fair bit of time doing together.  The little schnerp is starting to want to read words.  When we read books together (especially Dr. Seuss books, with those large print letters) she points to a word and tries to sound it out.  She finds the word 'and' on every page of every book we read, and this week she sounded out a whole bunch of other words (with a little bit of guidance about which words to choose and a bit of help on some sounds):  can; ant; this; and a number of others.  She's pretty quick about it, too:  Once she recalls a letter sound and strings them together in a word, she's remarkably quick at cramming them all together and coming up with the right word.  I wonder if this is what people mean when they talk about their children teaching themselves to read???

...something that we started this week was a book called Who Is God? by Hay and Webb.  It's a book recommended by another h/schooling friend and we went through Lesson 1 this week.  It's a little over Lizzie's head, but not by much and she's certainly caught bits and pieces of what we're talking about.  The accompanying colouring books are great, too - all three of my kids like to colour while I read and we all talk.  I really enjoyed the week's conversations about topics raised in the book.  My hope is that we'll have opportunity to examine various perspectives on matters of faith/non-faith, and that we'll be able to talk through lots and lots of questions...questions that I don't always have answers to but that are great discussion and thought points.

My favourite thing this week was...
...Friday morning, when Matthew was eager to get into his school work.  The load that this lifted from my head and heart was just made everything so much easier and doable.  It was the kind of day that I'd envisioned would always be the case for us as h/schoolers but which hasn't actually materialized that way for a long time.

What's working for us...
...though our weather continues to be unseasonably cold for this time of year, the kids have pulled our scooters and bikes and have been setting up ramps in the yard to careen down.  They've been having a blast outside over the past two weeks.  We've also started going on spring walks, wearing rubber boots and stomping/riding our way around our neighbourhoods via puddles!

Things I'm working on...
...I'm thinking about things such as an Aboriginal studies unit, a plant life cycle unit, and things like that.  And I still need to finish up our unit on Canadian wildlife; note that I say 'finish up' but we're really only a third of the way through (I don't know what's up with that b/c I have all of the materials ready and the kids are interested...I'm just lazy about it for some reason).

I'm cooking/baking...
...not much this week.  After last week's emphasis on Easter baking and cooking, this week has seen a little set-back in this area.  We enjoyed leftover salmon from Easter, had hot dogs another night, and we enjoyed bacon and eggs for dinner one other night when I just didn't feel like cooking.  It was a pretty minimalist kinda week in the kitchen.

I'm grateful for...
...a week off from all of the usual programmed activities.  I think we overdid it a bit in January, by signing up for so many things...there's just such a fine balance between doing too little outside of the house, and doing too much.  And the boys are so different in this regard, too:  Matthew is very much a homebody and easily overwhelmed by too many activities/transitions but simultaneously bored if he's home all of the time; Seth, by contrast, has a huge need to be stimulated and 'out and about' and complains of boredom readily if he's left to his own devices for more than a few moments.  We're working on this divergence, but it can be quite challenging to find that balance.  Lizzie, incidentally, is somewhere between the boys - she's honestly just happy if she has my lap to crawl onto and she has proven that she can do this pretty much anywhere!

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