Thursday, April 28, 2016

2015 Recap and 2016 Planning

Wow. The end of 2015-16 schoolyear is here. No posts about why we homeschooled this year. No posts on plans. No summer reading challenge reports from last year.

The fact is, we are so preoccupied with doing our thing that there's no time (or is it energy?) to write about it. Since I don't want to let a year go by undocumented, I will attempt a recap.

Summer, 2015:

Reading challenge was successful. The boys earned movie and Xbox bucks instead of books, which cranked up the enthusiasm.

Thing1 (9 years old) wised up to the benefits and chose the books with the highest points first (1. The Hobbit. 2. Johnny Tremain. 3. Jack Plank Tells Tales. 4. Woodrow Wilson) He used the same report form as last year.
The Hobbit
Thing2 (6 years old) was still dictating and copying, but his reading abilities were much better!
The Long Way to a New Land

2015-16 School Year:

Classical Conversations. I directed a new community. It consumed me, but we were blessed. I feel much more prepared to take on this second year. I completed my first year of Essentials, and loved it. I see now that the kids need much less prep than I gave Thing1. I have adjusted Thing2's schedule appropriately. Live and learn.

rock study at camper school
Simplify. I made a conscious effort all year to simplify our plans and concentrate on the important rather than the urgent. We will be completing math books through the summer because of this, but the peace and fulfillment we experienced this year are worth it.
  • We did no formal history or science. Every time we went to the library, the boys could pick books from four categories: History/Geography, Science/Math, Literature/Poetry, and Fun. They could check out as many books as they wanted as long as they followed the "rule of 4," meaning their selections were spread evenly over those categories. They read a lot of interesting material, none of it planned ahead. Sometimes they did a "report" on their library books, which could be a letter to a grandparent (Thing2's favorite), a copy of one of the illustrations (Thing1's favorite), or a traditional report. Interestingly, no one ever chose the traditional report. 
  • We set aside traditional school work when opportunities for learning experiences arose, such as camping trips and speech competitions.
  • I held a massive notebook purge, and I stopped keeping every paper. If, one day, I need proof that I actually educate my children, I hope their knowledge will suffice. There will also be standardized test results. In fact, we generate very few papers besides math now that we have simplified.
  • I tried to quit being stubborn about plans that were not working out. For example, I quit trying to do Spelling Power with Thing2 halfway through the year. He was not ready! We concentrated on copywork instead. (He hates copywork! Sit still and pay attention to tiny details? No thanks.) As a result, I see more improvement in his spelling than I was seeing before.
    John Henry and Pony Express Rider
    CHESCO Speech Competition
  • The boys kept "Question and Thankful Notebooks." They wrote something they were thankful for and a question on each page. The goals were
    • to improve attitudes with gratitude.
    • to develop a question-asking habit so that learning continues as a way of life.
  • Instead of me directing our Bible reading, they chose where they read each day. Each of them read a passage aloud, and this doubled as their reading/elocution practice. We listened to Thing1 read Revelations, Esther, Ruth, and Job. Thing2 read mainly Psalms and Proverbs, sometimes the same one day after day. During the second semester, Thing1 and I combined our sentence diagramming practice with Bible time. That was interesting! It was much more meaningful than diagramming random silly sentences out of the book.
  • Thing1 completed his third Memory Master. He has done all cycles, so it will not be on my to-do list any more; however, he is  welcome to do it on his own. Thing2 made it through three proofings with 54%, 74%, and 77% results. Those last two proofings were cause for celebration! He knows the material, but, understandably, he has a hard time concentrating on it for two hours at a time.
Ghengis Khan
CC Faces of History program
Failure. Will I ever finish reading a book out loud to them within a reasonable amount of time? It hasn't happened yet. We have not quit on The Wheel on the School even though it has sat beside the chair for a year and a half. The Phantom Tollbooth, On the Banks of Plum Creek, and The Castle in the Attic are also unfinished. The amazing thing is that the boys can pick up where we left off months after the last reading. They have to catch me up every time because I cannot remember. We will keep chipping away at The Wheel (we are all hooked), but the others are history. We will try again later.

2016 Summer Plans:

First we will participate in the CTP4 standardized test. This is Thing1's second time and Thing2's first.

We will continue doing math lessons as a part of daily chores. Goal: Do an entire math lesson without getting distracted. Be a math ninja.

The reading challenge, which has blossomed into a favorite summer tradition, is on in three days! Again, they will earn movie bucks, which can also be used for Xbox games or books. They both have Kindles now, which makes it a lot cheaper to own all those hard-to-find books that libraries don't care about.

Let me talk about Thing2's reading! He has finally settled into reading as a hobby. He has finally realized that all those books on Thing1's Kindle are actually entertaining (and now the Kindle is his)! He has finally learned how to sit still and concentrate on written words! Truthfully, he has been learning this since he was an infant, but I can see the fruits now. My hunch that even an active, social person can appreciate literature is turning out to be correct. His list is adapted from Ambleside Online  with some additional fun novels thrown in. I thought I would just use Thing1's list from when he was 7, but it turns out Thing2 has already listened to most of them. He is a well read young man, thanks to audiobooks. I'm not sure if he is ready to read most of the AO titles independently since many of them are meant to be read aloud, but we will play it by ear. This summer he graduates to the Busy Teacher Cafe report form.

Thing1 is transitioning. That middle section of the Well Trained Mind, the one called The Logic Stage, is suddenly very relevant. I have not ignored it, but I have set it aside with the excuse, "It's not time." Well, now it is time. 5th-8th grades is what Ms. Bauer and Ms. Wise call the Logic Stage, and they put together a chronological reading list for these years. Since we have had tremendous success with their book recommendations from the beginning, I'm assigning this list to Thing1. This will be his summer reading challenge that will bleed over into his next two years of reading assignments. Since he has read copiously about ancients this year, I only selected a few titles that fill some gaps for that period, and I would like for him to read them all this summer so that he can start the full list of Medieval titles this Fall. And here's the big challenge: I need to read them, too, so we can discuss them. I have already started. It will take some re-prioritizing to actually get these volumes read...or at least he reads them. Another transition is that he will write me a formal critique, as he learned in IEW's Unit 9, for each book. I don't expect a perfectly polished product every time. How's that for alliteration? But I do want him to become so familiar with the process that it becomes a routine task.

2016-17 School Plans:

The lessons about simplifying and prioritizing came at the perfect time, right before a transition year for Thing1. That is evidence that it was of God because I was too wrapped up in starting a CC community (urgent and important) to realize the changes were imminent.
Thing2 (8 years old)

  • Keep reading, copying, and taking dictation. I have started dictating Dick and Jane to him. It is so simple that it seems silly, but he can take the dictation successfully, which means a lot. We can actually concentrate on periods and commas without worrying about the dreaded spelling aspect. 
  • Keep a relaxed schedule in 
  • Keep a more rigid schedule in 
    • Math-U-See Gamma
    • CC Memory Work
  • Visit the library using the "rule of 4."
Thing1 (10-11 years old)
From highest to lowest priority:
  • Math - I'm leaning toward making the switch to Saxon 65 with the DIVE download. The Husband votes we transition before pre-algebra, which means this year or next. If it does not work out, we can always go back to Math-U-See. See? I am learning about how stubbornness sabotages simplicity.
  • Essentials - Take a step towards independence in writing essays.
  • Read and report on books from The Well Trained Mind logic stage chronological reading list.
  • CC Memory Work
  • Start a keepsake timeline. This one is my favorite. 
  • Piano Lessons
  • Latin Christiana I in preparation for Henle Latin in two years. (What?!?)
  • Rosetta Stone Spanish. He and his dad want to learn, and we know a few people who can help them with conversation.
  • Read science-related topics such as the Aviation books a friend loaned us.
  • Typing Instructor - We love this program. He is getting faster! Hopefully by the time Essentials starts again, he can type his own papers semi-quickly.
  • Handwriting - Practice neat cursive.
Why am I homeschooling again next year? Because it is working and because I do not see any better options at this point. I am thankful to witness slow and steady growth in my children, especially after our "simple year." They can do their chores (the same 5 they have been doing for two years   -  rooms, beds, dogs, piano, and bathrooms) with less than three demerits half the time. Our afternoon "ten-minute pickup," which has been a daily hour-long ordeal in the past, only takes about ten minutes now. Thing1 has realized the satisfaction of having money in his pocket by doing additional commission jobs with the requirement that he "budget" the money he makes into save, spend, and give envelopes.  I watch both of them gradually tackle more difficult literature voluntarily and without dread. The day-to-day is hard, but looking at the big picture while writing a summary like this one convinces me that, by God's grace, we are making a good decision.

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