Friday, August 24, 2012

What We're Doing for Elementary School This Year

Dear friends,

Blue orchids!

We're just finishing up our second week of "back to school" at our house.  This year, two of our children are in the elementary grades -- one in public school and the other at home.  We also have two in middle school at home, two in high school (one of them dual enrolling in college, the other at home) and two others in college.

First Day!
My 4th grade son has returned to our neighborhood public school, where he went most of last year, and we're all pretty happy with that choice.  He says his teacher (who just graduated from college) is strict but he likes her.  He has homework every night, so I still get to be involved in his education.  They are doing Florida History this year, so I know he'll be going on a field trip to St. Augustine this year. (See Florida Field Trips #1: Historic St. Augustine)

He is supposed to read from a book of his choice for 20 minutes each evening, so he  was thrilled with the National Geographic Reptiles and Amphibians and the Exploring Your Solar System books my sister (who home schooled two of her kids for several years) just sent after cleaning off her shelves.  He had a choice of what to do with his spelling words yesterday, so he wrote them in graffiti style. :-)

My youngest daughter just turned seven.  She is technically in 2nd grade, but it's more like 1st/2nd since she has an August birthday and is a bit of a "late bloomer" anyway when it comes to academics.  She was in public school for a few months last year but didn't thrive there; they push hard in the early grades and she wasn't quite emotionally ready for that. Even though she learned a lot, she was still behind the other students.  She is, however, very bright, observant and curious, which makes it a lot of fun for me to teach her.  She struggled with reading last year, but really took off in the late springtime and over the summer.  She's my 10th child, and I'd say she's in the normal spectrum of reading skills.  Some of my kids learned to read at age four, and some more toward seven.  They are all strong readers now.  In fact, the child who learned to read at the latest age made top scores on AP tests in high school and starts college dual enrollment next week at age 17.  Some kids just need a little extra time to come into their own. (See my article: Learning to Read.)

Math is the weak link in the chain at the moment, but I'm guessing that will click soon, too.  Her brother was math-resistant in second grade (I could hardly get him to do any!) but shot to the top of his class when he started public school partway through third grade -- again a matter of readiness.  I didn't sign her up for the math class in the home school co-op, so I'm doing a variety of things at home, including ideas from Saxon 1st grade teacher manual, a workbook from a teacher's store, A Beka number pages, hands on stuff like poker chips and penguin shaped crackers (from Aldi), and most of all a free math drill app -- Instant Interactive Math Drills Lite -- on my iPod.  In the photo at left, she matched up two sets of the A Beka number pages on the living room floor (numerals to pictures -- the cards are reversible) and then counted out the poker chips for each one.  This morning we took a pile of six similar science books, counted them, divided them into groups of twos and threes, classified them by topic and cover style, compared the the quantities in the classified groups, etc.  Yes, a lot of our math is impromptu.  If you would like to see more of what I have written about math, read here: Math Skills Checklist from Preschool to 2nd Grade, Math Skills Checklist 3rd-5th Grades and My Own Batch of Cookies (math through measurement). If you want to find out my favorite math resources, read to the bottom of the page here: Math.

Daily Language Review Grade 2   -     
        By: Jo Ellen Moore
Many of the classes in our co-op are multi-grade.  She's in 1st-3rd grade for history and science and 1st/2nd for English.  The teachers chose BJU Press for both history and science.  The English teacher is using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind as her teaching guide.  She sends home worksheets and then the kids do several lessons from the appropriate grade level of Daily Language Review.

We are supplementing all of the co-op classes with additional reading in those subjects at home.  Sometimes I read to her, sometimes she reads to me, and sometimes we take turns reading page by page.  As I mentioned, my sister just sent two big boxes of books, so we should be set for quite a while with Usborne Starting Point Science, Little House early readers, dolphin books, math drill pages, Bible stories, etc.  

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
We also take frequent trips to the library, where we recently discovered the Fancy Nancy readers. (See here for review.) 

Plus we already have hundreds of children's books at home!  One of our almost daily picks is The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is a bit more poetic and artsy than most kiddy Bible story books.  See my review here: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

I keep her current books and workbooks, school supplies, and a notebook for storing in-process and completed papers, in a clear plastic bin I bought for $5 at Walmart.  It has a spot on a shelf in the dining room, but I usually leave it in the living room where we use it most. See my post: "Bin There, Done That" (Or How to Keep School Clutter from Turning You Into a Basketcase)

I also try to extend the co-op themes with outings and activities.  They have been learning about the library and the post office in history class, so off we go.  They are studying plants in science class, so we went to Lowe's, looked at a lot of different kinds of flowers, and bought some marigolds.  (I blush to say we still haven't planted them and they are shriveling up.  Bad mommy!)  We also have a Fun Pass to Sea World, thanks to some help from my mom.  If you pay for one day, the rest of the year is free!

Another area we're trying to work on is basic life skills.  Each of my five younger children (2nd-10th grades) has the same chores, rotated daily.  I help our youngest with hers so she can get trained well enough to do them independently.  Messy bedrooms are still an issue here, so I checked out Making My Room Special: Creative Ways to Decorate Your Room by Emilie Barnes.  The book uses an engaging story and lots of sidebars to teach elementary age girls how to keep their bedrooms clean, well-organized, and decorated, as well as how to successfully share a room. 

That's mostly what we are doing this year for the elementary grades!

If you would like some more inspiration, check out one of my favorite blogs about home schooling,  I susbscribed via Google Reader.  Two of my recent favorite "don't miss" posts are: Bloom’s Taxonomy: A simple roadmap to learning and Designing big plans to work with your every day.

Thanks for reading!  

What are you doing for elementary school this year?  What are your favorite resources?  Leave a comment and share!

Virginia Knowles

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