We’re on week 8 of school and it wasn’t until I read my last entry that I realized how much I’ve adjusted since we started.
Math: Last week I ditched Saxon 5/4 and began a combination of Beast Academy 3A and Singapore Primary Mathematics 3A for Peter. He was dreading math and it was depressing me because math is the last thing I find boring and the problem was that it was mind-numbingly dull for him and rarely challenging. Looking ahead, the problems were going to cover more new material but it never looked interesting. Last week he went through half of Beast Academy’s first chapter on polynomials while I waited for the Singapore materials to be shipped. Since BA won’t be released quickly enough for him to use that indefinitely, my plan is for Singapore to be his spine math program and we’ll do Beast off and on to break it up. So far this week, Peter’s finished the Singapore pages I assigned long before Leo finished his math, so Peter’s gone over to Beast and done a few pages there too both Monday and Tuesday. Today his Singapore problems took longer so he stopped with that. Saxon has made me feel that it’s important to really know math facts so I’ve been giving Peter three options daily – he can do the Singapore mental math sheet from the Home Instructor’s Guide (there aren’t enough to do this daily), he can do Xtramath online, or he can go over x3, x4, and x5 flashcards with me. So far, he’s chosen flashcards twice and the mental math once. Since the first two Singapore chapters cover most of the same stuff he’s been doing in Saxon so far, I’m having him just do the Intensive Practice book for those 2 chapters, all this week. Next week he’ll start chapter three, with multiplication and division up to x5 and we’ll slow down and use the textbook and workbook too. I was excited to realize that he’ll be doing long division before Thanksgiving. Cool! Leo will be sticking with Saxon 2 until it’s done in February. I’m letting him choose between his fact sheet and Xtramath. Although Xtramath takes much longer, he’s chosen that over his fact sheet. Screen time vs. writing, I suppose. He almost has all the addition facts memorized.
Science: Nature study wasn’t working for us. It’s depressing when your kids whine about going outside to look at bugs. I switched to using “Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding”, which is a very wordy book geared towards teaching K-2nd grade but can be adjusted for older kids. It covers biology, chemistry, physics, and earth & space science in a fundamental way without cheesy experiments. Lack of cheesiness was a requirement at our house. Thanks to Pinterest to help me find them, the wordy book has been summarized, fleshed out, and explained in various blogs. There’s a lot of flexibility in what “thread” of science to study, so long as they balance out eventually because they all build on each other to an extent. The intention is to cover the 41 topics over three years. We’ll probably do it in two since the kids are older, but I like knowing that however long the material takes, we can take. There’s a 3rd-5th grade volume that incorporates more writing but this one is mostly talking to the kids, getting them asking questions, and doing demonstrations. We end up covering science once or twice a week depending on whether we go to a nature center or other field trip instead some weeks. It works wonderfully to have science toward the end of the day when the boys are getting squirrely. I’m hoping to write out what exactly we’ve done so I have a good record of it when Tim’s old enough and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Today we were all whiny and tired so I introduced gravity by showing them a 20 minute “Magic School Bus” video and then having them drop balls of different weights off the couch. I don’t plan to do that often, but on a sleepy day, I was glad for the option.
Writing: It took one day of Leo writing out his key word outline retelling for me to realize IEW wasn’t going to work for him this year. He just flipped out over writing four sentences at once and it wasn’t worth the fight to force that multiple times a week. I’m sticking with it for Peter but with Leo, I’m doing two days of narration (I’ve been reading him about a chapter of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and stopping to have him tell it back to me every 2 or 3 pages) and two days of copywork. So far for copywork, I’ve given him a long sentence to write with things like capitalized names to make note of. Last week we talked about nouns and I started having him underline the nouns. I’m realizing now that the long sentences tend to be trickier to pick nouns out so I think I’ll switch over to a couple short, easy sentences. I’d like to work him up to about four sentences in a sitting by the end of the year. I won’t do a formal grammar program with him, but we’ll do some basic parts of speech within the copywork.
Music: Piano lessons have been more sporadic than we intended because the boys don’t want to play what Dan assigns to them, but they’ve been playing random other things. Not ideal, but we’ll have to figure out whether we want to force them to do it right or let them just mess around on their own. They’ve been learning about various composers and really getting interested in them. They ask me to turn on the classical station in the car and at bedtime. We went to a kids’ concert about Beethoven, so now they’ve been reading about him. I got a wonderful book called “How They Croaked” that explains in wonderfully-gory ways how a bunch of famous people died and we’ve all learned a ton from that one. Yay for soap and antibiotics. So my formal read-about-a-composer-each-month and listen to their music plan isn’t happening exactly, but whatever is happening is better.
Reading: I began assigning daily literature for them to read. They have to fill out the “did I like this?” form afterward, but otherwise they don’t narrate them or do any sort of report. Peter generally gets a chapter a day from a Newbery award winning novel. Leo I give mostly picture books of various levels of difficulty. I try to remind them about their books while I attempt to get Tim to nap and most of the time, they read their selections then. Peter tends to read more at a sitting but less often. Usually about halfway through his books, he speeds through the last half while in bed instead of waiting to read it over a second week.
The biggest hurdle so far has been getting through all the subjects I feel we should cover on days when we aren’t home the whole time. I didn’t sign them up for too much but I neglected to realize how many things come up and need to be worked around. I’m on the board of my MOMS Club, so I have to go to the monthly business meetings. Some months our board meetings can only be scheduled during the day, too. Peter started speech therapy at the neighborhood school, which is currently 25 minutes once a week, but it ends up eating an hour in the best part of the morning. Thankfully, his speech improved a lot over the summer (with no help from us) and he’ll be graduating out of therapy this fall. Some doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments need to be during the day. It’s just tricky to avoid everything. One extracurricular that’s going much better than I expected is swimming. Swimming runs 10 Tuesdays from 4:35-5:05 and if we get there early, they can have free swim. There is only one other kid in Peter’s class and 2 others in Leo’s. They’re getting tons of attention and the locker rooms are nearly empty. It’s much less chaotic than going on Saturday and it’s late enough to finish school time and let Tim nap. Tim seems to be phasing out naps and then at least I’ll be able to schedule things at 2pm without worrying about messing up naptime. I signed them up for wrestling late November – early February. I know nothing about wrestling but it’s once a week, low key, at the same time for both boys, cheap, local, and an appropriate time to climb all over people. Sounds perfect. We’ll probably return to swimming in the spring. We’ve gone to Homeschool Day at the indoor climbing wall both months and they LOVE it. They have a homeschool team for kids 8+ and a not-just-homeschool team for 6-7 year olds and if it didn’t cost a fortune, I’d probably sign them up. They can both get to the top of the 4 story walls no problem.