Monday, November 09, 2009

Homeschooling: Week 13

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Well, now that we're well over a quarter of the way into our homeschooling journey, I thought it was time for another update!! Here's where we are right now, as we head into Week 13 of our Sonlight program:
  • Storybooks: We've been reading through various books over the past weeks; some have become favorites and others not-so-much . . . I think the top three in Sam's opinion would be Uncle Wiggily, the Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature (I highly recommend this one--it's really an awesome introduction to science, and is a super fun way for kids to learn it!), and Usborne's Things People Do. Besides the Sonlight selections, we've also been reading some other fun books. We recently finished Charlotte's Web, and are currently reading through a Paddington Bear treasury.
  • Math: We are about halfway through Singapore Earlybird A. (We'll be doing books A & B over this year.) Right now we are doing a unit on shapes--easy peasy for Sam. The whole book has been quite easy so far, but I like how it goes slowly and thoroughly builds a good math foundation right from the start. I have to say I am loving Singapore math so far! One thing I especially like about it is that it's bright and colorful, with many fun illustrations.
  • Handwriting: Sam just finished learning to write all of the lowercase letters, and this week we are reviewing all of them. Next week we'll start on capitals. I can definitely see some improvement since we started! Handwriting is not his favorite thing to do, but the lessons are short and he can get through them pretty quickly. He does enjoy getting to pick a sticker for the best letter he writes each day. The handwriting book is short, so we are only doing about 3 lessons every week, and we will still finish it early in the spring. So far I've been very impressed with the book (A Reason for Handwriting) and I'm glad we went with that one.
  • Reading: We just finished lesson 73 in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. This is Sam's least favorite subject, and I'll admit I am in need of advice and wisdom with this. He is actually doing really well with his reading . . . I don't think I am pushing him too hard, but maybe I am. He can read the words . . . when he wants to. The problem is that he has convinced himself that it's "too hard" and is very reluctant when it comes time to do the lessons. Some days are fine, other days (like today) are terrible. Today we had tears and the declaration "I HATE school!" when we were working on reading. I don't want him to hate school!!! I want him to see reading as a gateway to a whole wonderful world of learning. We had a long talk about it and I decided we will take a break from his reading lessons for the rest of this week. Maybe I just need to back off on it, or go back and review some of the easier lessons. I told him he can do some reading practice on Starfall this week if he wants, or if he decides to do a reading lesson after all, that will be fine. I would love some advice from more seasoned homeschool moms or teachers . . . my ears are wide open!! To give you an idea of where he's at, we have mastered basic short-vowel words with no problem and are now working on long vowel words. He's reading (what seem to me) pretty challenging sentences, such as "Trish can fling the length of string and then catch the yo-yo." I know he does not really hate school, it's just that he dislikes putting forth the extra effort for reading. All of his other work is fairly simple and doesn't challenge him a lot yet. Anyway, please comment if you have any advice to share or have been through this with your own kids!!! :)
Overall, I am really happy with the way things are going. This Kindergarten year is turning out to be pretty much what I envisioned--a gentle introduction to homeschooling. I'm happy with Sonlight, although not totally in love with all the book choices . . . but it's good for us to read some books that we probably wouldn't otherwise buy. And I can always re-sell them when we're done, if I decide to. :) One thing I am very, very happy about is that the instructor's guide has everything planned out for me--although I think when I do this core with Julia and Josiah, I will probably use a different schedule which I've seen on a Sonlight-users' Yahoo group. The IG is great because everything is scheduled, but there doesn't seem to be any particular rhyme or reason to the way they schedule things. For example, in the Uncle Wiggily book, we jump around all over the place rather than reading straight through it. It doesn't really matter since the stories can stand alone anyway, but it's just something that's a little strange. I've seen a schedule that is arranged by weekly themes, and I think that may be what I'll try next time around. The only things I have to plan out is our weekly schedule for math, handwriting and reading. It takes me about 5 minutes of planning what we're going to do each week, and then I can always tweak it during the week if needed. Sometimes we do extra math because it's so simple . . . sometimes we cut a reading lesson in half or go back and review one if we need to. The flexibility of homeschooling is wonderful!!!

Well, I have now made this way too long, but I just wanted to share what we have been up to. :) Oh, and this has nothing at all to do with homeschooling, but I was so very excited to read this post from MckMama tonight, after praying for Stellan through the day today. If you want to hear an awesome work of God, go read it!! God is so good. :)


Alicia said...

Man, Carrie. You and I are SO SIMILAR in homeschooling choices! I'm 100% behind singapore math and am hoping to order the first level for Chloe soon. We haven't delved into handwriting yet as Chloe is still just 4 and I KNOW she's not ready for formal writing lessons yet but that curriculum is my #1 choice also. I too pulled back on phonics because it was like pulling teeth to move forward with her.

I don't have any experience with teaching older kids how to read but I know from what I've read in the "Read Aloud Handbook" that pulling back and waiting on phonics is strongly advocated and studies show results in better more excited readers. The author, Jim Trelease, states his case more eloquently than that but you get the picture. In the most advanced European countries they don't even begin reading lessons until 7 or 8. It's hard to go against the grain with all the educational pressure and expectations here in the U.S. Anyways, you should read that book and see for yourself. It's got a huge and wonderful reading list in the back as well.

I've not been following the Stellan thing but I looked at the link since you mentioned it. WOW. God is SO GOOD and is still in the business of healing! So cool to see Him work that way in these dark times!

TwoMuths said...

Carrie, have you tried finding a simple book about something that really interests Sam and just leaving it around for him to look at/read? I know you probably have - if so, what was his response to trying to read something he likes to read about? No experience here, just curiosity about the whole process. I'm glad there are moms ahead of me in this homeschooling thing who can share their wisdom with me! thanks for the comprehensive review!

Linda said...

Carrie,honestly, Sam is doing great! As I'm sure you know he has only hit a temporary wall, but I understand those walls seem insurmountable when you standing at the wall. Your idea of lightening the load for a while is good. Sometimes coming at it from a different direction can be good too. If you think about it he just learned to read one way (short vowels) and now all the rules "got changed" (long vowels) on him. Most boys want the rules to stay the same.

mindee said...

Sounds like you all are having fun! With the reading, I think just pulling back a bit and letting him take his own pace is good. I know, though, that it's a fine line between something being "too hard" for real and just being actually a challenge when everything else is easy. We've talked before about how our first borns are similar. ;) One thing you might try that worked for Levi was getting him books below his reading level, so he could have success. We liked Dick & Jane books for that.

Mrs.T said...

I had the same thought as one of your other readers... try getting a book (that he could read) about something that really interests him (like trains or railroads, etc.) and leave it around for him to pick up on his own.

None of my kids struggled at all with learning to read, but I think Mindee's suggestion of getting some easier books he could be successful with is a great one.

Arlene Grimm said...

Carrie, I enjoy my online visits with your family!!happy Fall!

Tricia said...

Sounds great, Carrie! We love Singapore Math as well. Ian is currently in 2A and it is still going swimmingly. He flew through the first couple of books - great curriculum.

Gina said...

I love to hear what other moms are doing with their children the same age as mine! My daughter is also beginning to dread phonics. I too have just stepped back a little. She isn't as far along as your son and only in short vowel words. I sure don't want her to dread school this early in life! I have had to look at myself and wonder if I'm pushing her just for my own ego. What does it really matter if she learns to read in kindergarten! A friend lent me Reading Reflex. It gave me lots of good ideas of game type activities to do with the children. We are really going over the same material but since they are having fun - they don't know it! Check for the book in the library.
Best wishes, Gina