Thursday, September 25, 2008

Notes From Week Four

NOTE: The following post is long and probably uninteresting to anyone but me. I am posting mostly for my own records.

We are a third of the way through our first term of home education. I am still enjoying myself, and the kids are too, in most areas, but the glossy sheen is starting to fade, just a bit. Here is where we are at as we approach the end of week four:

- We are a full week behind my intended schedule for Spanish, but I think I was overly optimistic at the start. I am slowing it down and giving more time for review of terms and phrases already covered. I really need to get better about using it around the house more in general conversation. They are picking it up and enjoying it, but I forget that even the most basic vocabulary and phrasing is brand new to them. That's ok. We are not in a hurry.

- Both kids seem to like the Book of Centuries we are compiling, a time line in a book that they create sort-of-a-thing. They are noting overlaps in various subjects they are studying. For example, Tano took note this week that Fanny J. Crosby, the hymnist who wrote a song we just finished studying, was about my age when the Civil War broke out. For whatever reason, this made history come alive for him. I'll take it.

- Copywork/penmanship is going very well, I think, and I am seeing fairly dramatic improvements in both kids' handwriting. Elli is just learning cursive for the first time and is picking it up quite naturally, but is frustrated with the pace of her progress. Tano is un-learning some bad habits and learning to form his letters properly, with a consistent slant and spacing. He doesn't really want to spend time on his handwriting as it was "always good enough before," but even he is impressed with the changes, I think.

- Our Shakespeare study is going well, so far. We will be adding two more students (ages ten and eleven) this Friday, and met with them this week to catch them up on what we've covered so far in Romeo and Juliet. I was surprised that both of my kids wanted to sit in on the meeting and seemed genuinely excited to share their new knowledge of old English and the plot of the play, so far.

- Art instruction (Nance is teaching basic drawing techniques) is more enjoyable for Tano than Elli, so far. Tano is ready and eager, whereas Elli is just not picking up on the concepts and feels frustrated with her abilities, comparing herself to the other students, most of whom are quite a bit older than her.

- Science experiments are a big hit with both kids. I need to start working on making Tano do more actual science to go along with the fun experimentation.

- Both kids are using "Dance Mat Typing," the free online typing program from the BBC. They are actually learning to type and enjoy the program.

- Bible has been a highlight of our day. We are able to enjoy it as a family around the table after breakfast. We are reading Proverbs together, bit by bit, most days only covering a few verses, but enjoying lively discussions over them. We are also memorizing a verse each week from Psalm 119 and each person must be able to recite it at breakfast on Friday morning. It has been a real joy for us, so far.

- Nature study is going well. We are spending part of each Thursday afternoon down at the river, where each kid has adopted a particular tree to observe, study and document. They are drawing in their nature journals and Tano is making detailed lists of observations. It is fun to see the leaves changing. The differences are rather dramatic from week to week at this time of year. Today we also added in a short hike down the river bank to a marshy area and admired small and large trees that have been felled by beavers. Along the way, we found lots of neat footprints of animals going back and forth from the river for drinks of water.

Breaking it down per kid:

- Tano really doesn't like dictation, even once per week. He groans when it is announced, but is still willing to give it good effort.

- Tano's poetry study is going better than I would have ever dreamed. He is loving Alfred, Lord Tennyson, his poet for this term. He is taking to poetry beautifully, and enjoys finding the rhyme and rhythm patterns, as well as picking apart the imagery and symbolism. Tennyson rocks.

- Tano's study of Alcibiades, from Plutarch's Lives (Kaufmann's Young Folks Plutarch version) is going better than I would have anticipated, but we are reading such a short amount of it each week that it is hard to get up much momentum and interest.

- Tano has settled into a groove with Robinson Crusoe and is really enjoying it, reading (while simultaneously listening to) two chapters per week, spread over four days.

- Tano has suddenly gained an insatiable thirst for knowledge of WWII weaponry, especially fighter planes. He's doing research on them in his self-directed learning time, taking notes on each plane's specifics, and then building each one out of Lego blocks and photographing it before dissembling it for parts for the next one. The P-38 model was actually pretty cool. He is not studying WWII at all right now, so this new interest has taken me by surprise.

- Tano is enjoying his study of the universe in It Couldn't Just Happen, but is struggling with the the more literature-based Madame How and Lady Why. It is an old book written for British school children and takes a very round-about literary approach to learning scientific principles. I hope the book picks up a bit, honestly. It is a little slow right now, and not completely capturing his attention, even though I can see where it is headed and think the premise is great. I don't want it to become drudgery, though.

- Tano and I both are both enjoying Poor Richard, a beautifully written biography of Benjamin Franklin. We both look forward to each new segment. I loved biographies when I was his age, and this one is particularly well done.

-Tano is also enjoying Minn of the Mississippi, which so far is about the birth and life of one particular snapping turtle. Each chapter is very short, but well written and somehow suspenseful. I caught him reading ahead at one point.

- Tano's mythology study, from The Age of Fable, is starting out slowly. This week, we finally finished the preface and introduction. We are both hoping the book picks up a bit now that the preliminaries are out of the way. He is learning, though, and his new-found knowledge of some basic Greek and Roman gods and goddesses overlapped nicely this week with our art study. This week's print was Botticelli's "Primavera," which features Venus, Mercury, Cupid and Zephyrus prominently.

- Tano had a lot of fun drawing a cartoon version of Botticelli's "Primavera" in art study this week. His rendition of Mercury was hilarious, and his Cupid had his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in concentration, a gesture that the boy himself does frequently.

- Tano is enjoying the history of the American colonies in This Country of Ours, but is frustrated with the slow pace of Johnny Tremain, a historical novel set in the same general time period. I loved Johnny Tremain as a kid and read it several times, so I really talked it up to him, but that was a mistake on my part. I hyped it up a little too much, I'm afraid, and his expectations were too high. I'm learning.

Ok, this has become more lengthy than I expected and I can't sit here any longer. Next time I update like this, I will focus on Elli and what she is up to.

No comments: