Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Natural Learning: This Year

In yesterday's post on natural learning, I mentioned that we lost steam in some areas this year and picked up in others. So what have we been doing this year?

Consistently, we have been reading aloud in the mornings, as I described in this post: the Bible story book and a chapter book every day, and most days I also read poetry or the Shakespeare stories. Occasionally we'll add in a picture book, or a few pages a day from Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles. Bantam10 has consistently practiced piano right after breakfast each school day, as well.

(The preschooler and kindergartener color and listen in on our read-aloud time, or not; I read aloud to them separately too. I wrote about their activities here.)

For math, last fall we focused on flashcards and math facts, and then both boys started in a Saxon math book. B13 is doing Saxon 87 (for 8th graders or advanced 7th graders) and planning to finish it sometime next year, as an 8th grader. B10, a fourth grader, is in Saxon 54. They both do a lesson a day, skipping the easy problems that they know how to do and checking their own answers. They like being responsible for gauging what they most need to work on, and I only help them when they ask.

They read for an hour every day. This year, to build their enjoyment in reading, I have let them choose the book, as long as it is a chapter book (vs. picture books or comic books). So they both read Harry Potter books and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Once he finished those, B13 was open to suggestions; he read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Dahl), Hatchet (Paulsen) and Loser (Spinelli). Right now he's reading The Cross and the Switchblade and is really enjoying it!

Last fall we were busy with enrichment classes (described here; they learned so many cool things!). When they ended, we picked a couple of other subjects to add. Both boys began doing one page a day in their Easy Grammar workbooks, and B13 agreed to try a 10-volume American history series, Joy Hakim's A History of US. Now he looks forward to reading two chapters daily and sometimes interrupts his reading to say, "Hey, Mom, did you know this?" (In fact, one reason he didn't want to do the virtual school next year was because he wants to continue with the Hakim texts!)

Most recently, we've added some map skills and geography to our morning reading time. I have flashcards, that I picked up at a used curriculum sale, that have outlines of each continent and all the major countries, within their continental settings. They're really great and the boys have learned them quickly--except they're old enough to include a flashcard of the U.S.S.R. (which the Bantams think is cool because, hey, that's a Beatles song!). We started learning some of the capital cities of various countries too, after B10 wouldn't stop guessing "Paris!" for any country he didn't know.

Those have been our "bare bones" requirements for the year, but learning opportunities continue:

Bantam13's robotics class from the fall ended up extending through the whole school year, as building the 'bot has turned out to be quite a complicated undertaking! He hasn't minded, though; it has provided a lot of bonding time with the other homeschooled boys in the class. The competition, in which their 'bot has to navigate an obstacle course, pick up a ping-pong ball and a styrofoam cup, and "sumo wrestle" another 'bot out of the ring, is in two weeks!

They've taken theater classes as well, for the fall, winter and spring sessions. B10, who likes to move, chose a dance class every time, and this session he insisted that he have his own tap shoes, not borrowed ones--so we are signing up for tap lessons this summer! B13 took Magic, Advanced Drama (the class that performed Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker), and this session he's taking Film-Making, which has exposed him to some documentary and film excerpts that have really made him think and ask me questions in the car on the way home. The film his group is making is pretty lame, he says--but we'll see.

B10, meanwhile, had many rehearsals this spring in his role as the Mayor of Munchkinland in The Wizard of Oz! (In fact, dress rehearsals have been every night this week, with Opening Night on Friday!)

The only thing that I've been disappointed with this year has been our writing project. Both boys have blogs (links in my sidebar), and my intention was that they write, re-write or polish and post something daily, but it has turned out to be more of an occasional thing. B10 enjoys it, if I get him started, but for B13, I may need to teach a writing class for his age group next year, to provide more accountability.

Into the Woulda Been Nice category fall handwriting and keyboarding, which we just haven't got to formally this year, although both Bantams get by passably well. B13 needs to put guitar back on his daily list, too.

All stuff to think about for next year!


Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Jeanne.... this series has been fascinating... I'm so grateful to be learning from you.

Thank you for the time you've invested in these posts... You've contributed to so many families...

My thanks... most especially for YOU!

All's grace,

Jennifer Merck said...

Alan Jacobs is writing a book on reading that sounds like it will be quite interesting. He read a chapter at All Souls recent library dedication. The theme was "Read at Whim!" That reminds me about what your saying with the boys and them picking their books!

Mrs. H said...

Thanks for the update! I've been waiting to here more on your natural learning adventure.

Mrs. H

tonia said...

thanks for sharing all this jeanne! i've read the series with much interest, as you can imagine. the hardest part of this whole thing is trusting that God is filling in the gaps, those places where we just can't get it all done.

i'm glad to have your accompaniement on the journey.