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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

For all those who are wondering how we "do School", I'll explain. Disclaimer: I am not responsible for those of you who get sucked into the vortex!

I would say, for me, the hardest years to school are the 1st through 4th grade years. The kids need nearly all your time and you are dictating or working orally 90% of the time. Starting in the 4th grade we work towards more independent learning. By this time they can read on their own and so can do a lot of the learning on their own.

In 4th through 7th grades we still do math and English lessons orally and then they do practice problems on their own. For reading, we are at the library about 2 times per week, sometimes more, where we choose books to read. I do give tests for all subjects and we correct and grade them. If they do horribly on a test (less than 80%), we redo that section and take the test again. That's the beauty of homeschool; we don't move on until they completely understand it.

For the other subjects (social studies, history, science, etc) it depends on the kid and where their interests lie. Abby (grade 8) likes the physical sciences so we bought a textbook curriculum. It is actually a 9th grade level textbook because they really don't make lower level textbooks on that subject. We chose a curriculum which has a lot of experiments since she is a "hands-on" kid. She and Nathalie do the experiments together and have fun with it.

For Abby's social studies we are doing a book about critical thinking. She reads an historical article and then learns how to determine its accuracy by analyzing generalizations, primary versus secondary sources, and cause and effect assumptions, among other things. She just finished studying world history from the 1300's to present times. She didn't like all the dates but she did like finding historical fiction about the time periods as we studied them.

Abby's Language Arts is a little different from the other girls. She is using a curriculum that combines writing, spelling, grammar, and literature into one unit. I like it because it exposes Abby to literature genres that she would otherwise avoid.

Hannah (grade 4/5) is working on an anatomy course for her science. Unfortunately the only textbooks I could find were on a college level. She really likes it though and is learning more than I ever thought she could at her age. We have supplemented with some lower grade level books from the library and we found a 3rd grade level activity book that is full of paper models you cut out and put together.

For social studies we are studying American history and are currently on the Constitution. We found a curriculum that uses several of Jean Fritz's books as the base on which to build. It includes vocab words, making bulletin boards, places to visit (even if just on the web), writing projects, and other books to read. Hannah has now memorized the Preamble to the Constitution and what each of the 27 amendments are about! We found a movie which re-enacts the discussions and debates that went into writing the Constitution. It really shows how hard it was for all the states to come to a compromise and create a government that has been able withstand over 200 years of history!

Nathalie (grade 6) is studying Astronomy for her science. She is very interested in the stars and the planets, but we are widening her horizons, so to speak, by adding in the technological, chemical, and biological aspects of space.

She has recently finished North American history from pre-explorers up to present time. She has a knack for dates and places that is uncanny. So we went with a similar curriculum that deals with the history of South America. When she finishes that there is also European, Russian, and Middle Eastern histories in the same series. This series is a textbook style with vocab words, map exercises and critical thinking type questions. There are tests with each chapter and a cumulative test every three chapters. Nathalie really likes coloring in the maps and I bought some large laminated versions that we use dry erase markers on. She gets to "teach" the other girls what she has learned.

We are always doing art or music in our house. My mom is a professional artist with a studio and gallery http://data.fineartstudioonline.com/dataviewer.asp?keyvalue=4379&page=Works&startrec=1&displayperpage=9999 and she is always encouraging and teaching the girls. Abby and Hannah take piano lessons and Nathalie took saxophone for a while.

For "gym", Hannah runs as she is trying to enter into some races this spring/summer. When the weather gets better we walk the town green whenever we go to the library. Hannah volunteers weekly at gymnastics classes for special needs kids. Abby babysits for a 1 year old every Wednesday. Nathalie goes with my friend Nancy to the local nursing home to sing and spend time with the residents every Thursday.

See, school is easy once you find what works for each kid. Come on in, the vortex awaits!
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